Nestled within the municipality of Fjarðabyggð, the town of Eskifjörður is known locally for its fishing trade, which was the biggest source of income for the area before the arrival of a nearby aluminum smelter back in 2007.
But while big industry has begun to encroach on the identity of the area, the locals have done a terrific job of maintaining the relics of the town’s maritime past. One example of this is Randulf’s Sea House, a wonderful walk-in museum, which acts as a time capsule of generations gone by.
Originally used as a lodging and herring processing building for fishermen in the late 1800s, the building now serves mainly as a place to grab some food during the summer months and for functions in the winter. The Sea House serves up traditional Icelandic dishes like shark and reindeer in a setting that is not unlike stepping back in time.
The first floor of the building acts as the eatery, while the second floor holds preserved fishermen’s quarters. They are decked out in the personal artifacts and other memorabilia belonging to their former tenants. There are books, photographs, and tools, as well as the still-unmade bunk beds. It’s as if the quarters are still anticipating the return of their original owners, a homecoming that will never occur.
The quarters are particularly well-preserved thanks to the neglect of the original owner of the space, a Norwegian man named Randulf. As the herring industry in the area went into decline and the upper chambers were no longer much needed, he essentially left them alone meaning the upstairs area of the building was largely untouched for a period of around 70 years.
In 1980, the East Iceland Museum Society bought into the aging fish house, restoring the exterior and the attached jetty. By the 2000s the museum society had taken over the space entirely, opening it to the public as a cultural heritage space.
Today the building stands as a proud reminder of the town’s past. Behind its unassuming exterior lurks an opportunity for visitors to step back in time to a much simpler period, prior to the industrialization of Iceland and the East Fjords. If you’re planning on visiting Fjarðabyggð, make sure to stop by this quaint little spot for a taste of Icelandic history.