All opinions expressed in this article are those of the person quoted and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the other team members or ESC United as a whole.

As our bus pulled up to its stop in Húsavík, Iceland, a mural between the local bookstore and coffee shop proudly displayed the lyrics to “My Hometown” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.

It was just one of many signs that the American comedy film, a popular pandemic watch that just turned three years old this summer, is a source of hometown pride for the picturesque fishing village of about 2,500 on the island’s north coast.

The town has an international reputation as the island’s whale watching capital, but Húsavík earned another nickname over the past three years: Iceland’s Eurovision capital.

When my partner and I embarked on a vacation to Iceland this summer, seeing the museum and the movie locations was high on our bucket list. We’re two Americans who have been fans of the real-life Eurovision Song Contest for more than a decade.

We trekked uphill on the the same main street that Will Ferrell once ran down in his green track suit, and reached an unassuming, one-story black house next door to the Húsavík Cape Hotel. There stood the only museum in the world dedicated to the Eurovision Song Contest, marked only by an Icelandic flag in the shape of a Eurovision heart above the doorway.

It was a Eurofan’s paradise. With cocktails from the movie-inspired Jaja Ding Dong Café in hand, we took a deep dive into Eurovision history, surrounded by props, costumes, photos and mini-documentaries from both the contest and Netflix film.

Exterior of the Eurovision Museum on a hill with purple flowers.

Eurovision is immensely popular in Iceland, making it the perfect place for a Eurovision museum. Year after year, viewership soars to more than 95% of Icelandic households, and it’s equally as high during their national selection, Söngvakeppnin. It’s the only Nordic country that has never won. However, Iceland has placed second twice, and has given us countless memorable moments, from Daði og Gagnamagnið’s viral “Think About Things” — a big favorite to win in 2020’s canceled contest — to Hatari’s industrial punk performance of “Hatrið mun sigra.”

The Húsavík Eurovision Exhibition, which opened its doors in 2021, pays tribute to Fire Saga and its impact on the town, Iceland’s history in the real-life contest, and of course, the contest itself.

The space started out as the Jaja Ding Dong Bar in Summer 2020, and instantly became a hit among locals looking to spend some socially distanced time outdoors during our first COVID summer. After a successful first season at the bar, renovations on the inside of the building began, making way for a café and exhibition.

Now, the museum has made a name for itself as a tourist destination. A section of the exhibition displaying handwritten notes from Eurofans reveals visitors from the U.S., U.K., Argentina, Finland, and dozens of other locations. We wrote our own note and placed it between a note from some fellow New Yorkers and another with lyrics from Spain’s 2023 song “EaEa” (my personal winner this past year).

Inside the exhibition

Yohanna's blue dress from Eurovision 2009; Páll Óskar's press kit from 1997; A green sweater and keytar from "10 Years," the 2021 Icelandic entry.A wall of posters from throughout the decades reminds visitors that Eurovision’s 68-year history is closely intertwined with European pop culture, linguistics, politics, fashion, and more. Iceland, though one of the smallest nations in the contest, plays an important role that shouldn’t be overlooked.

For example, Iceland’s Páll Óskar was the first openly gay Eurovision contestant when he performed “Minn hinsti dans” (My last dance) in 1997. He placed 20th out of 25 songs, but paved the way for LGBTQ+ visibility in the show. Just a year later, Dana International took home a win for Israel as Eurovision’s first transgender contestant.

As we entered the first room of the exhbition, Óskar’s press kit was one of many reminders of Iceland’s cultural impact since its 1986 debut at Eurovision. We got a close-up view of contestants’ costumes, such as the green sweaters from Daði’s “10 Years” (2021) and Yohanna’s baby blue gown from “Is It True?” (2009), along with items such as Hatari’s leather hammer (2019), and a pair of sparkly silver underwear from one of Silvia Night’s dancers (2006).

Other moments that made our museum trip special were watching a behind-the-scenes documentary about the Netflix movie in a cozy viewing area with home theater seats, seeing costumes and props from the movie, and learning about the town’s campaign to earn its namesake song an Oscar, leading up to Swedish singer Molly Sandén’s live television performance from Húsavík’s harbor in 2021.

For a Eurofan like myself who has never been to the show in person, even small details and experiences such as flipping through official programs from past contests felt exhilarating.

We closed out our trip with lunch at Jaja Ding Dong, where a chef from Puglia, Italy wins over visitors from around the world with her homemade focaccia.

The exhibition’s fact sheet says that both the Jaja Ding Dong bar and the exhibition are temporary projects. I don’t know how much longer it will be there, but I hope it can stick around, keep expanding its collection, and enchant Eurofans for years to come.

Getting to HúsavíkView of Icelandic snow-capped mountains from an airplane window.

  • Remember when I said we took a bus at the beginning of this article? Well, it was actually more like an airport van, with the number of our route on a piece of paper in the windshield. We stayed in Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city that is often nicknamed the “northern capital.” The 79 bus runs between Akureyri and Húsavík three times a day, taking a gorgeous countryside route that passes the Goðafoss Waterfall.
  • Many tourists who visit Iceland opt to rent a car for their trip. It’s a 6-hour drive from Reykjavík, and an hour drive from Akureyri.
  • Reykjavík’s regional airport offers direct flights to both Húsavík and Akureyri. Our flight to Akureyri offered a breathtaking view of Iceland’s mountain landscapes.

What to do while you’re in town

The 2-year-old Eurovision Museum is just the newest of Húsavík’s highlights. Here are a few more reasons you’ll fall in love with the village:

  • Just up the hill from the museum is one of Iceland’s best geothermal spas, Geosea, where locals and tourists alike can relax outdoors in hot pools while staring out at the snow-capped cliffs along Skjálfandi Bay. A bar with a walk-up window in the pool is an added bonus.
  • Húsavík is one of the world’s top whale-watching destinations, in case you didn’t gather that from the song already. It truly is “where the whales can live ’cause they’re gentle people.” No, seriously, one of the tour companies is even called Gentle Giants. Additionally, the town is home to one of the world’s only museums dedicated to whales, the Húsavík Whale Museum.
  • If you’re as indecisive as I am, you might be relieved to know that this town has just six restaurants, four cafés, and one brewery to choose from. Among the fan favorites is Gamli Baukur, a cozy seafood restaurant in a dark brown wooden house at the edge of the harbor. There’s also Hlöðufell, which is known for its sushi and ramen dishes.
  • Húsavíkurkirkja, the local wooden church of “Accidentally Wes Anderson” fame, is a must-see landmark.

Want to see more? Check out more Exhibition highlights in this gallery:

What memorabilia would #YOU want to put in a Eurovision Museum? What is your favorite Icelandic entry? Let us know down in the comments below, or on our forum, discord, or social media, @ESCUnited!

You can find out more about the Eurovision Museum via their Facebook and Instagram channels.

Load More Related Articles
Load More By Luca D'Elia
Load More In General

Leave a Reply

Check Also

Estonia 🇪🇪: It’s Anabelle Ats for Junior Eurovision 2024

Junior Eurovision 2024 now has its second artist of 2024, following the selection of Italy…