It’s that time of year in Iceland again: the weather is getting colder, the unforgiving wind is picking up, and the nights are slowly getting longer at the daylight’s expense. With the Christmas season still just a distant dream it can seem there’s not much to look forward to in the coming months – until we remember a true highlight of the cultural calendar: Iceland Airwaves 2023!
Since its first edition in 1999, Iceland Airwaves has served as a joyful celebration of the local music scene, a place for international fans to discover their favourite new Icelandic bands, and just a fun and raucous several-day party that takes over downtown Reykjavík. Since its pre-pandemic days, Airwaves has shortened its programming from five days down to three, and we don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. It means more carefully-selected acts as well as a cozier festival vibe – and makes it easier for visitors to spend a day or two enjoying Iceland’s nature.
Iceland Airwaves 2023: the basics
When: November 2-4, 2023
Where: The heart of downtown Reykjavík, a.k.a. postcode 101.
Who: 82 musical acts from Iceland and abroad and the music lovers and industry people flocking to see them.
What: Three days of concerts (and conference events, if you’re into that sort of thing).
Why: A great way to find your new favourite Icelandic act, make the most of the autumn in Iceland, and experience the best downtown Reykjavík has to offer in a whirlwind three days.
What to check outThere’s a huge variety of local and international acts at Airwaves this year, as usual, and the best way to decide what to see is by giving all the musicians a listen on the official Iceland Airwaves 2023 playlist.
There are eight official festival venues this year, all of them in the heart of downtown Reykjavík and within a small, walkable radius. Highlights include the charming Fríkirkjan church, right by Reykjavík pond, perfect for an acoustic show, the wonderfully dingy Gaukurinn, a perfect venue for punk, and newcomer KEX hostel, which has often hosted off-venue festival programming in previous years but has now been officially taken under the festival’s wing. KEX will be a double venue, in fact, hosting acts both in its larger downstairs room NÝLÓ and its more relaxed upstairs bar area.
For those who arrive to Reykjavík ahead of the festival and are looking for a good musical warm-up, local label INNI will be hosting a showcase of its artists on Wednesday evening, November 1 at classic downtown venue Iðnó.
For those who want to get familiar with music from an even more remote location than Iceland, the Faroe Islands will also be showcasing four artists: the melodic and sweet Elinborg, fun-loving hip-hop band Aggrasoppar, smooth-yet-edgy R&B diva Marianna Winter, and the groovy Jazzygold. Music Export Canada is also showcasing two artists all the way from British Columbia, singer-songwriter Haley Blais and Wallgrin, the experimental pop project of Tegan Wahlgren.
Iceland Airwaves 2023 tickets can be purchased on the festival website. Single-day passes are available as well as festival passes.
Check out some of our other suggestions for what to do while you’re in Iceland.