Páll Óskar: “I’m investing in the future”

Musician Páll Óskar Hjálmtýsson is a pop culture icon in Iceland, and around Europe after his memorable performance in the Eurovision Song Contest of 1997. And from the start of the Pride Parade in Reykjavík, or for 18 years, his float has always been one of the most anticipated entries.

Everyone is welcome to participate in the parade and every year we see a rainbow of extraordinarily creative minds, ecstatic joy and love of life as those colorful floats attract thousands of people to downtown Reykjavík. The last float is usually the loudest and flashiest; that‘s Páll Óskar and his hard-working team, striving to outdo themselves every single year.

I think that the whole Pride festival is about being visible. It’s an organized visibility of queer people, once a year, and I just want to emphasize that by being as visible as I possibly can. I want you to see this massive sculpture even if you’re a whole kilometre away. And I want to make as much noise as possible because for such a long time we were invisible in Icelandic society. I even remember that, and I’m only 46 years old, but I remember having no gay role models.” Photo/Allan Sigurðsson
“I think that the whole Pride festival is about being visible. I just want to emphasize that by being as visible as I possibly can … and to make as much noise as possible because for such a long time we were invisible in Icelandic society.” Photo/Allan Sigurðsson

“This year, I‘ll be a unicorn! And I‘m actually mixing it a bit with the Pegasus so it‘s going to be a huge, silver unicorn with wings!”

Páll Óskar sounds excited as he describes how it’ll be able to kick and raise its head and everything. He says that the unicorn is perhaps the most clichéd gay icon you could come up with but he has a good reason to choose it.

“The unicorn is for some reason connected with gay culture and has been for a long time. My theory about that is simply that it‘s not unlike in Icelandic folk-lore, where the society tried to fit gays in with elves and the hidden folk – gay men were simply mythical creatures that were hardly ever seen, much like the unicorn.”

He then goes to find a passage from a book by Skye Alexander, called “Unicorns: The Myths, Legends & Lore”, about the unicorn myths and reads it out loud: “Pop culture has started to embrace, and find humorous irony in the gay iconography, symbolism and culture without coming across as derogatory or un-PC. Why has the unicorn become associated with gay culture? Obviously the horn is a factor but that‘s not the only reason. Traditionally legends have portrayed the unicorn as a rare, independent and untamed creature that doesn’t subscribe to the ordinary rules of conventional society – and certainly some parallels exist there.”

“A unicorn may be the biggest cliché ever but if it is, then this is exactly the right time to bring it to the Pride Parade. You know, go back to basics.”

And Páll Óskar is making a statement with his unicorn. “I think the unicorn is the most beautiful gay symbol because I feel as if it’s simply saying: “You know what, if you’re a unicorn, then BE a unicorn!” It’s as simple as that. A unicorn is filled with pride, it is fearless and it’s not ashamed of anything. It’s made up of many different aspects; it can run and kick – and mine can fly – and you also have to be cautious because it has a horn and could stab you. But no matter what, it is always beautiful; it is always magnificent. So that’s perhaps how a unicorn represents a gay man who’s come out. Because coming out of the closet gives you such an emotional freedom that you feel as if you could actually fly.”

This year’s theme for Reykjavík Pride is “Our History” – that is the history of queer people. And Páll Óskar thinks his magnificent unicorn will fit right in with the theme. “A unicorn may be the biggest cliché ever but if it is, then this is exactly the right time to bring it to the Pride Parade. You know, go back to basics. And it’s just so beautiful to see such a massive sculpture floating among the sea of people in the parade. That’s one of the reasons I always want to have such an extravagant

Diego Basta.
Honoring the settlement queens in 2015 From left: Singer and actor Maríus Sverrisson in the guise of the queen of the mountains (Fjallkonan, who is a symbol for Iceland), Páll Óskar and Eurovision expert Reynir Þór Eggertsson as Brunilde. Photo/Diego Basta.

float and make so much noise, play loud music and put so much energy into it – because I think that the whole Pride festival is about being visible. It’s an organized visibility of queer people, once a year, and I just want to emphasize that by being as visible as I possibly can. I want you to see this massive sculpture even if you’re a whole kilometre away. And I want to make as much noise as possible because for such a long time we were invisible in Icelandic society. I even remember that, and I’m only 46 years old, but I remember having no gay role models.”

Somewhat a gay icon in Iceland’s history himself, having publicly come out in the late ´80s, Páll Óskar looks back on his own history and remembers that gay men were almost as rare a sight as unicorns when he was growing up. “I think that the first gay man I ever saw on TV was Jodie Dallas from Soap, remember that sitcom? It was such a revolutionary show in the States, breaking all the taboos at once. And Jodie, played by Billy Crystal, was the gay guy – funnily enough he was never seen on-screen with a boyfriend or anything, he was just the gay character. At that time, I had no idea that Hörður Torfason (troubadour, the first person in Iceland to publicly come out) existed back then; hell, in a way I didn’t even know I existed!”

As a child, Páll Óskar was used to being called names; he was reading fairy tales and watching Disney films while the other boys at school were out playing football. “I was only 7 when I was first called a “sissy”. I was a little baffled at first and I learned already as a kid the nuance in the way people said these words, whether they were said teasingly or with acrimony. I didn’t care if people

Always the most anticipated act Last year Páll Óskar’s float was a twelve meter long pink viking ship with a rainbow sail. The year before the float was a huge white swan – an homage to “The Ugly Duckling” the classic fairy tale by Danish author H.C. Anderson. Photo/Sigurþór Gunnlaugsson.

were just teasing me, I saw the humour in that. But if I could hear wrath behind the words, I got a knot in my tummy. But despite everything, I had enough self-respect not to feel bad about being called a sissy. I just shrugged my shoulders and went “Yeah, I’m a sissy!” and just went on with things.”

Páll Óskar says he’s never been afraid, just like the unicorn. He came out when he was 17 because he fell in love with a man. “That summer of ´87 was the summer of love for me. That’s when I lost my virginity and the feeling of being in love was so overpowering and real and solid that I wanted to come out and I didn’t give a rat’s ass about the reactions of my family. I didn’t care what

“ That summer of ´87 was the summer of love for me. I lost my virginity and the feeling of being in love was so overpowering … that I wanted to come out and I didn’t give a rat’s ass about the reactions of my family.”

mummy and daddy would say, what my siblings and my friends would say; I really did everything for love because I was just willing to do anything to make the relationship work out. It then didn’t but that’s another story, I was out!”

Being the youngest of seven siblings, Páll Óskar already had a big generation and cultural gap between himself and his parents. “This was also amidst the height of the AIDS paranoia. The first time I saw an actual gay person on TV, not Billy Crystal in Soap, was when a US panel discussion about HIV was broadcast on Icelandic TV, very shortly before I came out. Some of the gay men there were infected with the virus and were explaining how they were looking after their diet and

A true chameleon Páll Óskar has taken on many guises throughout the years.

exercising to try to live with it for as long as possible. And I was watching this show with my dad, there were just the two of us in the TV room and he blurted out: “Those perverts should all be taken to a desert island and left to die there.” I remember that I didn’t comment but thought to myself “Fuck, this is going to be a difficult battle.” And I was right.

I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad for a long time; when I dropped this bomb on my family, he went berserk and wanted to kick me out of the house. That’s when my mother stepped in. She was like a closed book, we were never confidants and she didn’t say that much but when she spoke, it was important. And that day she gave a little speech. She said that if I, her youngest child, was capable of falling in love, then I had just as much right to invite my boyfriend to her home and sit down by the dinner table to have Sunday roast with all the trimmings, that she’d have cooked – just like my siblings before me, who had turned up unannounced with their girlfriends and boyfriends, eating the Sunday roast without anyone making any objection.

"The first time I saw an actual gay person on TV ... was when a US panel discussion about HIV was broadcast on Icelandic TV. I was watching this show with my dad, there were just the two of us in the TV room and he blurted out: “Those perverts should all be taken to a desert island and left to die there".” Allan Sigurðsson.
“The first time I saw an actual gay person on TV … was when an US panel discussion about HIV was broadcast on Icelandic TV … I was watching this show with my dad … and he blurted out: “Those perverts should all be taken to a desert island and left to die there”.” Allan Sigurðsson.

I don’t think my mother realized that she was putting into words exactly what I feel that our fight for rights is all about. We are simply asking that we are allowed to sit at the same table, eat the same Sunday roast, the same potatoes, the gravy and the peas as everyone else. And I’ve tried to live by that manifesto from my mother ever since.”

Back to the Pride Parade, there’s sometimes been a rumor that Páll Óskar wants to drop out of the parade. “I make that threat every year, don’t listen to me,” he says and laughs. “It’s sometimes occurred to me, that it’s time to stop, quit at the top; that it’s too much hassle and too expensive. I pay for it all myself, we don’t accept any sponsorship. So sometimes I’ve been exhausted because it hasn’t always been easy. But then, when the sculpture is ready, the truck is decorated and the float takes off…” he pauses, then cheekily smiles. “Then I always get up again, I always start planning again. Because I see the Pride Parade as an investment in the future and I’m doing this for so many reasons too.

“I’m doing this to commemorate those who have fallen … those who couldn’t keep marching on and chose to take their own lives rather than keep going.”

I’m doing this for the kids who will grow up and hopefully in 20 years’ time will think that being queer is no big deal at all. We have to stay visible and be strong, especially during these times when we could be targeted, where fascism and racism are being allowed to fester. That’s why it’s so important to do this every year; we have to be careful because as soon as you’ve acquired freedom it can so easily be taken away from you again.

I’m also doing this for the older generations, the pioneers that went ahead of me. I’m doing this to commemorate those who have fallen; to commemorate those who couldn’t keep marching on and chose to take their own lives rather than keep going. And basically, I’m just going to be standing up there, shiny and loud and magnificent, waving to all those who are still in the closet and say: “HI, I’m out! See how easy it is?”

A pop culture icon Páll Óskar’s career spans over two decades and features seven albums and two greatest hits albums. For the past months he’s been releasing new songs, one at a time; songs that have all made it to the top of the charts in Iceland and he says that there are more to come.

Photos: Courtesy of Páll Óskar

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.


Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.


    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.



        Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence.

        With over 4,300 employees in 39 offices around the world, at Nasdaq we all contribute to the success of the company and its culture, and each one of us has the ability to make a difference. When it comes to our core mission and values, we embrace the role of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) as a fundamental driver of our corporate growth, workplace culture and market development. We strive to create a culture that embraces the power of different perspectives—a culture where people’s unique backgrounds and different experiences helps us fuel innovation and support our clients around the world.

        Our unique position at the center of the capital markets allows us to see firsthand how these values have redefined corporate culture and success, deepening and accelerating our own commitment to champion inclusive growth and prosperity, as we strive to create more equitable opportunities to help people of all backgrounds reach their full potential. Most notably, we published our diversity statistics for the first time in 2020. These metrics serve as a quantitative assessment of where we are today and help determine what strategies we need to adopt to enhance diversity in the workplace. We recognize that we have much work to do, but we are steadfast in our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture—one that reflects the communities in which we live, allows all employees to be their true, authentic selves and fosters individual growth and achievement.

        As we move forward together, we will continue advancing diverse ideas and perspectives that help fulfill the promise of a more inclusive and prosperous world. We aim to set the pace for rethinking capital markets and economies anywhere and everywhere. To learn more about the company, technology solutions and career opportunities, visit us on LinkedIn, on Twitter @Nasdaq, or at www.nasdaq.com.

        Blue Lagoon
        - One of the 25 Wonders of the World

        Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater
        comes from 2.000 meters within the earth where seawater and freshwater converge in a tectonic realm of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals—the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

        From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing two hotels, three restaurants, three
        geothermal lagoons, a subterranean spa, a renowned line of skin care, a thriving research center, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

        Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

        The Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

        Whales of Iceland
        - larger than life

        Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

        - leading financial institution

        Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

        The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

        Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

        The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

        Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

        Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

        It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

        Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

        Aurora Reykjavik
        - northern lights center

          Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

          Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

          The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

          Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

          Contact Aurora

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            - get inspired

            Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

            Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

            More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

            VSÓ Ráðgjöf


              VSÓ Ráðgjöf er alhliða ráðgjafar- og verkfræðifyrirtæki sem leggur áherslu á trausta og faglega þjónustu sem tryggir viðskiptavinum hagkvæmustu lausnir hverju sinni, skilar raunverulegum árangri og stuðlar að samkeppnisforskoti.  Á skrifstofum VSÓ í Reykjavík og í Noregi starfar yfir 80 manna samhentur hópur verkfræðinga og annarra tæknimenntaðra starfsmanna.

              - for all your Apple needs

              From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

              Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
              For all your Apple needs. We are here.

              Ísey skyr
              - once tasted never forgotten

              Our Story
              Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

              For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

              Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
              This is our secret and you are in on it

              You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

              - noodle bar

              Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

              All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
              We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
              Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

              Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

              - adventure cruise

              Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
              and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

              The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.


              This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.


              The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

              Birds, possible to spot:
              -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
              -eider ducks
              -white-tailed eagle

              The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
              Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

              Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

              Contact Us

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