Iceland is a popular filming location thanks to its sprawling winter landscapes and majestic mountain views. Major films and TV shows including Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Game of Thrones have scenes filmed somewhere in the country. One of my favorite movies of all time, Netflix’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020), primarily takes place in a real, small Icelandic town called Húsavík, and a lot of the movie was actually shot in that location. Following the success of this movie (which features big-name celebrities including Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Demi Lovato, and Pierce Brosnan), Húsavík became a popular tourist destination. A group of locals put together an exhibition on the movie as well as the famous song contest that inspired it, and last week, I had the incredible opportunity to visit it!
To access the museum, you have to pass through a small bar called Jaja Ding Dong. This is a reference to one of the songs performed by Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams’s characters, Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdóttir. The goofy tune became a hit thanks to the performance of Hannes Óli Ágústsson as a Húsavíkian named Olaf, better known as The Jaja Ding Dong Guy. The only thing that makes this curmudgeonly character happy is hearing Lars and Sigrit play that song, and his screaming “PLAY JAJA DING DONG!” became a meme both on the internet and in real life: even now, three years after the movie’s release, people will randomly shout that line at live music performances. At the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest, Iceland chose Ágústsson as their spokesperson, and despite being on live television during the most suspenseful part of the contest, he still shouted his famous phrase. You can watch the iconic moment here. Plus, the Norwegian popstar who represented Norway at the contest in 2021, TIX, serenaded Azerbaijan’s Efendi with an acoustic version of Jaja Ding Dong!
The Jaja Ding Dong bar offers a small selection of snacks as well as six signature cocktails inspired by the movie. I don’t usually drink alcohol, but I ordered a Fire Saga. To me, it tasted like if you melted down a candle from one of Bath & Body Works’s fall collections, chilled it, and drank it; but people who enjoy alcohol more than I do would probably love it! I also ordered two different focaccias, which were super yummy. Inside and outside seating were both available, so I had my first focaccia inside, then the cocktail and my second focaccia outside. While I was eating inside, the bar provided a soundtrack consisting entirely of songs that have competed in the real Eurovision Song Contest, including Together by Ryan O’Shaughnessy (Ireland 2018), Arcade by Duncan Laurence (Netherlands 2019), Friend of a Friend by Lake Malawi (Czech Republic 2019), and LOCO LOCO by Hurricane (Serbia 2021).
Hanging on the wall of the bar is an interesting art installation made out of recycled materials. Displayed on a backdrop of real fishing nets is a collection of framed pictures of previous Eurovision Song Contest participants such as Loreen (Sweden 2012 and 2023), Lordi (Finland 2006), and Måneskin (Italy 2021), each decorated with colorful bottle caps and other plastic bits that often end up in the trash or, worse, the ocean. The featured artists were selected by local school children, who also decorated the frames. With this art for my eyes, Eurovision songs for my ears, and international food for my mouth, this bar filled almost all of my senses with Eurovision!
To enter the museum, you have to pay the admission fee (2000 ISK, which is a little less than 15 USD or about 13 Euros) at the bar, and then you can go through the door to the left of the fishing net art. The first half of the museum is dedicated to Iceland’s history at the real Eurovision Song Contest. Some of the actual outfits worn and props used by musicians who represented Iceland in the past are on display, including Daði Freyr’s iconic green sweater from 2020 and 2021, and Hatari’s hammer from 2019. Further inside, you can find a room whose walls display a timeline of important events in Eurovision history, framed photographs of memorable Eurovision moments, official Eurovision programmes from previous years, and blurbs explaining Eurovision’s cultural significance in terms of music, fashion, politics, language, and society. There is also a place for fans to leave little notes and hang them on the wall. Most people just left short and quick messages, but since I’m a wordy gal, I squeezed the whole story about how I became a Eurofan onto one little paper heart. My handwriting is admittedly horrendous, so allow me to type out what I wrote:
I first discovered Eurovision when I looked up “Fairytale” by Alexander Rybak, which was in a bunch of anime AMVs on YouTube. I saw that it won something called Eurovision in 2009, and in 2013, I watched a livestream of this contest on YouTube. I’ve been a dedicated fan ever since!! My favorite Eurovision song is Fallen Angel by TIX (Norway 2021), and my favorite winner is Lordi. 🙂
I saw at least two other notes from Americans like me, which tells me I’m not the only person in the United States who’s obsessed enough with Eurovision to come all the way across the world for a museum dedicated to it!
The left half of this room consists of a small auditorium with a screen that shows a 30ish-minute-long documentary about the Netflix film. The documentary includes exclusive interviews with director David Dobkin, as well as two of the exhibition’s curators. It also discusses how Sigrit’s song “Húsavík” (performed by Molly Sandén and not Rachel McAdams) was nominated for Best Original Song at the 2021 Oscars, and the promotional campaign that surrounded it. There were only a few other people seated in the armchairs around me, but one of them was the father of one of those curators! Húsavík is a small town, after all. This mini cinema serves as a transition between the section of the exhibition that focuses on the real Eurovision Song Contest, and the section that focuses on The Story of Fire Saga. This part of the museum contains actual props and costumes from the movie, along with written commentaries from the characters Lars and Sigrit. Below you can see the ensemble Will Ferrell wore for the “Volcano Man” music video, as well as three dresses that Rachel McAdams wore as Sigrit (along with framed screencaps of when those outfits appeared in the movie).
I think my favorite part of the whole exhibit had to be—DOUBLE SPOILER ALERT!—the actual prop knife that the elves used to kill Victor, and the disembodied (prosthetic) arm that landed at Lars and Sigrit’s feet when Katiana (Demi Lovato’s character) blew up in the party boat explosion. This showcase is labeled with “THE ELVES WENT TOO FAR” in bloody red lettering, which is what Sigrit says when she realizes her wish of getting into Eurovision was granted at the expense of the other contestants’ lives. Oops!
There is a very tiny gift shop at the museum’s exit, where you can purchase postcards and t-shirts. Unfortunately, this exhibition will likely have to close down after this summer, although the owners are working to convince Netflix to let them keep it open longer. I know that doesn’t give you much time to plan a trip to Iceland, but if you’re a major Eurovision fan like me or even just enjoyed The Story of Fire Saga on Netflix, then this little museum is an absolute must-see. I’m so relieved and grateful that I was able to make this pilgrimage while I could, and I encourage you to try and do the same!
For more information, check out the exhibition’s website. And if you’d like to know more about the ins and outs of the Eurovision Song Contest, check out my guide for beginners!