From bars where men shout Play “Jaja Ding Dong!” to calm waters where whales jump from the water in unison, the Netflix Eurovision movie has given us a lot to remember about Húsavík — the picturesque fishing village where much of the movie was shot. But how much of it is real and what can visitors do if they trek to the north of Iceland?
Well it seems like a lot of y’all are eager to find out. Since the movie was released, officials in the town have been riding a high as domestic and foreign interest in Húsavík reaches new highs. But there’s a lot more to love about the village than its connections to Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. Scroll through their Instagram account and you’ll see a place where man and nature live in something pretty close to harmony.
In the movie Sigrit — errr Molly Sandén channeled through Rachel McAdams — famously sings that the waters off the town are a place where “whales can live because they’re gentle people.” These are lyrics steeped in fact: The village is known globally as the Whale Capital of Iceland, and in recent years whales have been spotted in 98% of all whale-watching trips.
We recently sat down with Hinrik Wöhler, the managing director of Húsavíkurstofa, the “Destination Marketing Organization for Húsavík and Surrounding”, to see how the town is coping with all the extra attention — and what y’all can expect if you pay a visit.
Have you noticed an increase in interest in Húsavík — whether that’s your web site or social media — since the movie came out?
For sure, we are noticing increased interest in our small town. We see that visits on our website Visit Húsavík has increased dramatically, most traffic coming from the US and the UK. Additionally, the Nordic countries and our friends down under in Australia are frequent visitors to our website.
To give an estimate, since the movie was premiered we are getting approximately 400% more visits per day than before. Our Instagram (@visithusavik) account is growing, it is a rather new account but we are trying to be active and all posts related to the movie are doing exceptionally well and it is enjoyable to be able to share our content with a larger audience.
The pandemic obviously complicates things, but how does the community plan to capitalise on all this interest?
The pandemic was a huge shock for a town that relies a lot on tourism. The Icelandic borders opened on the 15th of June and they are conducting Covid-tests at the airport, so the borders are technically open. The selection of flights to and from Iceland are not nearly as frequent as it was before Covid. We are quite dependant on that as an island in the Atlantic ocean. Therefore, that is quite complicated at the moment.
However, this movie was a blessing for us. It’s amazing promotion. We are working on setting up props as seen in the movie around the town so it will be crystal clear that this is the Eurovision town. Furthermore, we acknowledge that the interest in the movie will fade over time, but luckily Eurovision is an annual event and I think it is safe to say that the best Eurovision parties and events will be here in Húsavík every May from now on. Hopefully we can have a successful cooperation with the EBU and make Húsavík the capital of Eurovision in the near future.
Is there going to be a Eurovision-themed tour in the future? Is it possible to visit all of the sites filmed in Húsavík?
Lastly, plans are to open a Eurovision museum in Húsavík and I sincerely hope that the plans will be successful with the museum opening in early 2021, but it is a bit early to confirm.
What was it like to be in the town when the movie came out? Was everyone talking about it non-stop?
The movie has received extremely positive feedback in Húsavík (despite some movie critics disagreeing). Everyone is talking about the characters and the songs. Since the movie was premiered we are getting a lot of queries from journalists, both nationally and globally. It is great to hear how many people all around the world have seen the movie.
View this post on Instagram
Although this exact bus from ???:??? ????? ?? ???? ???? is not operating (we wish though), you can see how to get to Hu?savi?k and access other practical information on our website. ???? ? ? #visithusavik #husavik #eurovision #eurovisionmovie #jajadingdong #truenorth_iceland #firesaga #thestoryoffiresaga #bus #volcanoman #willferrell
In the movie, two digital whales jumped out of the water in perfect unison. I’m guessing this never happens in real life?
Well…it was maybe a bit extreme, I can admit that. However, for 25 years Húsavík has been the Whale Capital of Iceland. Whale Watching companies are operating almost all-year-round and offer tourists whale watching in Skjálfandi Bay.
Since then it has become amongst the most popular activities in North Iceland. The humpback whale is the most popular to spot, observe, and photograph. Minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, and harbor porpoises are seen quite frequently. Between April and August, you can go for puffin tours as well. The whale watching companies have around a 98% success rate of seeing whales, so the whales are all around us, but I can’t promise they’ll do a synchronized breach as shown in the movie.
Are there any locals from Húsavík in the movie?
We had our fair share of extras in the movie. Most of the Icelandic actors who play a larger role in the movie are all established actors and not from Húsavík. However, in the scenes which happen in Húsavík, you notice a few locals in the background. In a town where everybody knows everyone, it is fun to see your friends and family appearing, even if only for a split-second behind the Hollywood stars, Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams.
Did the filming of the movie disrupt daily life in any way, or was this something locals were celebrating?
The locals were positive throughout the process. The actors and crew came here for four days in October and turned the town upside down. Húsavík, a town of 2,300 inhabitants, was just one large film set. Although many locals needed to adjust their life to the changed look of the town, I think the majority were aware of how important it is for a small town in North Iceland to get this exposure on a global scale. Especially when a large portion of the town income is derived from tourism.
View this post on Instagram
Húsavíkurkirkja is one the most significant landmarks of Húsavík. Built in 1907, stands at a respectable 26 meters high and looks out across the harbour. ? ? ? @alexis_wandering? ? #husavik #visithusavik #capturethenorth #iceland #northiceland #churches #diamondcircle #guidetoiceland #fridayfact
Foreigners know Húsavík for the movie. But what do Icelanders know Húsavík for?
In essence, it is a small fishing village in North Iceland, almost six hours’ drive from the capital, Reykjavík.
It’s famously known for whale watching like mentioned before, equally among foreigners and Icelanders. Then we have the geothermal bathing, called GeoSea. It was opened two years ago and has been very popular with locals. The baths are based on a cliffside and overlook the bay, so you have a stunning view over the mountains and the ocean. It’s unique and a good way to enjoy the warm water.
To conclude, I guess the town is a great example of a small town with a wide selection of activities and attractions. The domestic travellers I encounter are visiting us for the scenic geothermal baths, proximity to beautiful nature and tranquillity. I guess that is our trademark.
How well did the movie portray the town and the locals?
I think Icelanders, in general, are more modern and cooler than shown in the movie, if I can say so. I can assure you, though, that we do not take Eurovision lightly. It is our unofficial national holiday and we have had the highest viewer ratings in Europe for many years. For instance, among my strongest childhood memories is watching Eurovision.
Back to the movie, I think we realize that they are making fun of us, both Icelanders in general and townsfolk as well. We can take the joke, and laugh along, especially when the movie is giving us this fantastic promotion.
Are you planning a visit to Húsavík? Which part of the town are you most excited to visit? Let us know in the comments box down below.
Learn more at the Visit Husavik web site
Photo at top: Ales Mucha for Visit Husavik, inset courtesy of Netflix