Explore Northwest Iceland
Divided into three sections, Síldarminjasafn Íslands (the Herring Era Museum) expertly brings Siglufjörður’s past to life. The best idea is to start in the Bátahúsið and then work your way on to the old herring factory, Grána, before finishing in Róaldsbrakki, the building which was once home to the herring girls.
Home to a collection of ten ships, the Bátahúsið (boathouse) offers a fine introduction to some of the vessels that operated out of Siglufjörður during the herring era. The ships are dry-moored around a mockup of a quayside as it would have looked in the 1950s, and you can even clamber on board two of them; the largest boat in the museum is the Týr SK33, made of oak, which operated until 1988, when more modern steel vessels made its design obsolete.
Next door to the boathouse, you can peep inside Grána, the reconstructed herring factory. A whole host of machines help to give an idea of how Siglufjörður once produced vast amounts of fish meal and oil for the European market; the oil was used, for example, to light towns and cities across the continent as well as in the production of Brylcreem, Nivea face cream and Lux soap.
The herring girls’ story is brought to life in photographs and exhibits inside the Róaldsbrakki building, alongside Grána. This old salting station once housed around fifty herring girls – you can still see graffiti, daubed in nail varnish, on the walls of the second-floor room where they once slept, alongside faded black-and-white photographs of heart-throb Cary Grant. There’s usually a couple of atmospheric old films showing, too, which give an idea of the conditions of the time and the work that the herring girls carried out.