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The church at Bessastaðir is right in front of the Presidential residence in Álftanes area. The church is open for visitors. A church was first built there in the year 1000, but the current church dates back to 1796.
The church at Bessastaðir has 8 beautiful stained windowpanes, see my picture is of the stained windowpane of Reverend Hallgrímur Pétursson, who wrote our beloved Passíusálmar. Notice on my picture of the altar that on both sides of the altar are tables with the names of the presidents and their spouses, who have passed away.
I believe that Iceland is one of few countries in the world where one can visit a church in front of the presidential residence, where the residence is not fenched off.
I have taken several VT-members to the church.
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The Presidential residence at Bessastaðir.
I had added this tip on the Presidential residence on my Reykjavík page as it belongs to the category of official buildings. It is located in Álftanes town (population ca 2.000) and the closest town is Hafnarfjörður, so I think it belongs here, seeing that I am not adding a special page on Álftanes town.
The church at Bessastaðir is right in front of the Presidential residence. The church is open to visitors but take care not to cross into the private area of the presidential residence.
A church was first built there in the year 1000, but the current church dates back to 1796. In 1805-1846 the Latin School/Learned School (which had been in Skálholt since 1056) moved to Bessastaðir with a short stop in Reykjavík. The Latin School MR is now located in the very center of Reykjavík. Bessastaðir was the property of Snorri Sturluson and after he was murdered in 1241 Bessastaðir became the first property of the Norwegian kings which reigned in Iceland and remained under their reign for 500 years. So Bessastaðir is quite a historical place.
The first president to reside at Bessastaðir after we got our independence from the Danish monarchy was Sveinn Björnsson 1944-1952, our second president was Ásgeir Ásgeirsson 1952-1968, our third was Kristján Eldjárn 1968-1980, our fourth and first female president was our beloved Vigdís Finnbogadóttir 1980-1996 and our fifth and current president is Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson since 1996.
My photos from inside the presidential residency were taken in February 2012 during the Winter festival, when the President of Iceland opened up Bessastaðir to public for one afternoon.
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Inhabited lava area.
Hafnarfjörður is an amazing place as the houses are literally built on lava. Hafnarfjörður is situated on the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the North-Atlantic and Eurasian continents, which makes for a very interesting walk there. While in Hafnarfjörður take a stroll in the old town and you will be amazed, I live in Iceland and I am always amazed when in Hafnarfjörður seeing the proximity of the lava to the houses.
It is said that a whole clan of elves live in the lava here...
The lava fields in Hafnarfjörður is called Búrfellshraun lava and came from Búrfell over 7.300 years ago. Búrfellshraun lava field covers an area of 18 square kilometres.
And as we know The Hidden People live in some of these big lava rocks so they cannot be touched. See my next tip.
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Hellisgerði park - such a lovely park.
There is such a lovely park in Hafnarfjörður - Hellisgerði park. The park celebrated its 90th anniversary in June 2013. It is no ordinary park, it is located in a lava field, which adds to the magic of the park - and of course one can encounter some hidden people here and other mystical beings invisible to the naked eye. Some say that the Royal family of the elves lives here.
Some mediums have seen the elves and a map has been made of where they live in Hellisgerði park. The link I add is the one of the Elfgarden, it is an interesting website. They offer Elf Walks and Elf oracle readings. The tour starts every Tuesday and Friday at 14:30 in the summer time.
I love going here, walking down to the pond and the small waterfall. In the pond is a statue by one of our sculptors, Ásmundur Sveinsson, Yngsti veiðimaðurinn or The Youngest Angler. And up the stairs in between lava formations and into the open sheep cave where people picnic or sunbathe. Hellisgerði is named after the cave "hellir=cave".
There are information signs all over the park with stories and photos from the past and people reminiscing their childhood at this lovely park. They are called "Ég man..." or I remember... There has been a park here for 90 years, since 1923, so there are a lot of stories to be told... I have some fond memories from this park as well.
A small part of the park is a Bonsai park - the northern most Bonsai park in the world :)
On the top of the hill, above the lava field is a statue/bust of the father of Hafnarfjörður, my ancestor, Bjarni Sívertsen, who owned land here at the park.
There is a kindergarten by the park so this is a lively place and so lovely to visit. And photo shoots are popular here, both of students graduating and wedding photos.
Don´t miss if you are in this area, it is so lovely.
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The Viking Village - Hotel Viking.
Opposite the Viking restaurant and bar there is the Hotel Viking. I have never stayed there but I took pictures from the outside and in the lobby just to give you the general idea of what it looks like.
I would say this were an awesome place to stay and if I weren't living here I would definitely try staying there for one night. It must be awesome staying here during the Viking Festival - but maybe a bit too loud as these Vikings know how to party ;)
There are 42 rooms at the hotel and in the year 2012 14 smaller huts were added to the Viking Village.
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The Viking Village!
The Viking village is located in Hafnarfjörður and has a really interesting Viking restaurant and bar and the Hotel Viking (see my next tip for photos of the hotel). The decor is Viking style and the atmosphere is pure "Viking". The waitresses are dressed up as Valkyries and the menu consists of "Viking food".
It is well worth a visit to experience a "different" evening. Have a look at their website for detailed information and the menu. At 18:30 every night starts a Viking show, live entertainment with the Vikings, a glass of beer, shark and dry fish, and a big bowl of meat soup in a Viking way for 30 euros. They celebrated their 20th anniversary this year (2010) and because of that The Viking Festival lasted for 10 days.
At 19:30-01 there is a Viking feast every night and of course you can order other food as well if you don't feel up for the Viking dinner described above :D The restaurants can host up to 400 people, so one can imagine that there is a lot of fun going on there some nights.
The oldest building in the Viking village is Fjaran which dates back to 1841 making it the second oldest house in Hafnarfjörður (the Sívertsen house is the oldest one).
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The town in the lava - Bærinn í hrauninu.
Hafnarfjörður is often referred to as the town in the lava (Bærinn í hrauninu). In Hafnarfjörður is the largest continuous area of timberhouses clad with corriguated iron in the whole of Iceland.
It is so lovely walking in the old part of Hafnarfjörður, especially the west part, looking at all these colourful old houses.
The roads were built after the houses had been built, as there is so much lava here that the houses came first.
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Bjarni Sívertsen - The Father of Hafnarfjörður.
Bjarni Sívertsen 1763-1833 (my ancestor) was a pioneer in Icelandic shipping and trade and a great entrepreneur in Hafnarfjörður from 1794-1830 and owned a fishing business and a shipyard there. He was one of the best known traders in Iceland. He received The Knight's cross from the Danish king and was always called Bjarni riddari Sívertsen from then on (Sir Bjarni).
Bjarni has been named The Father of Hafnarfjörður for his part in saving the town from ruins and for making it into a blossoming town. Part of his former home hosts the Hafnarfjörður District Museum. His home, The Sívertsen House in Vesturgata 6, is the oldest house in Hafnarfjörður, built in 1803-1805 by Bjarni Sívertsen himself . It has been restored to its original state and shows how the "upper-class" lived in the early 19th century.
I met VT-member Kirsten from Australia through VT, she was googling Bjarni Sívertsen, as he is her ancestor. She found my tips here on VT and we stayed in touch for a couple of years. She came to Iceland from Australia to attend the 250th anniversary of Bjarni Sívertsen and we spent a week together here. A very lovely lady.
In 1950 a statue of Bjarni Sívertsen was erected in Hellisgerði park.
Opening hours: June-August: daily from 11-17h. Open by arrangement for groups at other times.
Next to The Sívertsen house is Pakkhúsið house which is also a part of the Hafnarfjörður District Museum. In front of these houses is a lovely square.
Do pay this museum a visit, if only to see a wax-figure of my ancestor and how he lived ;)
Here is how I am related to Bjarni Sívertsen:
Bjarni Sigurðsson Sívertsen (1763-1833) Rannveig Filippusdóttir 25.02.1744-24.08.1825
Sigurður Bjarnason Sívertsen 1787 - 1866
Hans Anton Sigurðsson Sívertsen 1822 - 1872
Regína Magðalena Hansdóttir Sívertsen 1847 - 1884
Bjarni Benediktsson 1877 - 1964
My grandmother 1920 - 1995
My father 1942 - 2008
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The Hafnarfjörður Museum - The Sívertsen´s house.
The Sívertsen´s house is a must see when visiting Hafnarfjörður. It is a part of the Hafnarfjörður District Museum and is the oldest house in Hafnarfjörður, built in 1803-1805 by the father of Hafnarfjörður and my ancestor, Bjarni Sívertsen.
The house has been reconstructed and shows how the elite lived back then. It is on two floors and you encounter several life size wax-dolls, very life-like. For me it is strange visiting Sívertsen´s house seeing the wax-dolls of my ancestors - it is like going for a visit to the past. Extremely well made.
Bjarni Sívertsen, 1763-1833, was a pioneer in Icelandic shipping and trade and a great entrepreneur in his days. He owned a ship-yard and a fishing business in Hafnarfjörður. He had good connections and after the Danish trade monopoly ran its course, Bjarni was the first one to get a trading license in Iceland, which was not a small thing back then.
Opening hours: June 1st - August 31st, every day, from 11:00 - 17:00.
In October 2013 the 250th anniversary of Bjarni Sívertsen will be celebrated with a reception at the Sívertsen house.
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Hafnarfjordur is located on a lava field and has colourful houses nestled next to weird rock formations. Lots of stories about the hidden folk - elves - making their homes amidst the rocks abound. This little park has lots of interesting lava formations, a little pond with a statue, a small waterfall and lots of flowers, not to mention a centre for elves!!
We just looked at the park by ourselves but you can book a tour with local resident Sigurbjorg Karlsdottir. Tuesdays and Fridays at 14:30 during the summer or by request. Price 3900 Isk. Duration one and a half hours. The guided tour was going round as we walked round and she must have been quite entertaining as a guide judging by the laughter we kept hearing.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
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Garðabær - Hofsstaðir Settlement Age farm.
A Settlement Age farm was found in Garðabær in 1986. It is a Viking long-house dating back to ca 870-930, and an unusually big one, 8 x 30 m, which is the second largest long-house found in Iceland. We don´t know who lived here, this was the land of Reykjavík´s first settler, Ingólfur Arnarson, but it looks like a wealthy farmer lived here. It is believed that 20-30 people lived at the farm. An unusual broach was found here, pins, knives and instruments.
One can see the ruins of a long central fireplace, which were typical in these long-houses. There are remains of a weaving room, and many spindle whorls and loom-weights were found here. All cloth was woven in this way back then and during the Middle-Ages in Iceland woven cloth was the biggest export in Iceland.
There is also a pantry here. And 2 boling holes were found filled with burnt animal bones from sheep, pigs, cattle and horses. It was last used in the 10th-11th century. What is unusual about these boiling holes is that they were outside, but usually they were inside. I wonder why.
There are also remains of a pantry here and a smithy.
The Settlement Age Farm was discovered in 1986 when a kindergarten was to be built here. In 1989 further excavation was done and from 1994-2000 some serious excavation was done, supervised by The National Museum. That should have been done earlier, but we Icelanders didn´t think much of these Viking remnants in earlier days. Now a multimedia exhibition has been installed there with very good information on the Settlement Age farm - thanks to Garðabær town. To me the Settlement Age farm is the jewel in the crown of Garðabær town - which is located between Kópavogur (next town to Reykjavík) and Hafnarfjörður.
The Settlement Age farm is always open and there is no entrance fee. It looks like a small park. There are turf walls around it, which were erected later on to show the outer limits of the farm.
This is so interesting, a Settlement Age farm kind of hidden away between the houses and church here in Garðabær. I know that many Icelanders don´t even know that it exists. I stumbled into it on my way to Hafnarfjörður back in 1994+. Back then I had to take 14 years off traveling and my trips consisted of walking from Reykjavík to Hafnarfjörður and back.
I add this tip here as it is close to Hafnarfjörður, but I fear that it might not be seen here, people looking up Iceland will never find this information, so I am going to add the same tip under my Reykjavík pages - off the beaten path.
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The District museum St. Jósefsspítali hospital.
On the ground floor of Hafnarfjörður District museum are circulating exhibitions. When I visited in 2012 there was an exhibition on St. Jósefsspítali hospital, which I kind of think should be a permanent exhibition there, seeing how big a role this hospital played in the history of Hafnarfjörður.
This beautiful hospital was raised by the St. Jósef´s nuns in 1926. These nuns also built a school in Hafnarfjörður.
The nuns were thrifty and grew vegetables in Hafnarfjörður - there is a film on the sisters at the exhbition (see m first photo).
The exhibition shows the work of the sisters and the surgeon and Senior Physician Bjarni Snæbjörnsson and later his son Jónas Bjarnason became Senior Physician at the hospital. He was my doctor when I was younger.
Both my grandmother and sister have been operated on here at this hospital.
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The District museum - The old toys in the attic.
In the attic/top floor of the District museum is the toy exhibition. I thought it needed a special tip. It is ever so lovely visiting it, especially being up there alone - it can create some very nostalgic moments :)
Here is a collection of old dolls and cars, prams and skis etc. And an old class room and an old camera. This collection is part of a much larger collection, owned by the Hafnarfjörður District museum.
This toy exhibition was designed by the museum and exhibition designers Janvs Ltd., who have won awards for their design.
I visited the V&A Museum of Childhood in London, which is a very big museum with myriads of toys, but taken into account the population of Hafnarfjörður and London, then this toy exhibition is amazing :)
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Hafnarfjörður District museum.
The Hafnarfjörður District Museum or Hafnarfjörður Museum (it kind of goes by two names) is called Byggðasafn Hafnarfjarðar in Icelandic and consists of several buildings, big and small. The biggest one is the Pakkhúsið (the Storehouse), the oldest one is Sívertsen´s house, then there is Beggubúð - these are all in the same place. In other places in Hafnarfjörður, but still a part of the Hafnarfjörður District Museum, are Siggubær, the Bookless Bungalow and the Gúttó (The Good Templar´s Hall).
The exhibitions at the Pakkhúsið Storehouse were so good and informative that I had to divide them into several tips. It shows the main events in Hafnarfjörður history through the years. Beginning with the Viking settlement and then moving into earlier times. One can get informed on the German and English part in Hafnarfjörður´s history, the history of fishing and trade in Hafnarfjörður etc. I have added a special tip on the British Occupation of Hafnarfjörður in WW2.
The exhibitions are on several floors, on the ground-floor is also an exhibition on St. Jósefsspítali hospital. In the attic is an exhibiton on old toys.
Opening hours: June 1st - August 31st, every day, from 11:00 - 17:00. September 1st - May 31st weekends from 11:00 - 17:00.
Entrance fee: Free.
The District Museum has got no website, information is in Icelandic only. But at the museum one can get a very well made brochure in Icelandic, English, Danish and German. It is identical to the information on the Hafnarfjörður website, I wonder why they don´t offer other languages than Icelandic there as well.
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The District museum - The Occupation.
On the first floor (one floor up) at the museum there is an exhibition on the occupation of Iceland during WW2.
The wax-soldiers looks so alive that I was taken aback when I got up the stairs. Unfortunately many of my photos of the soliders were out of focus (no idea why), but they are extremely well made and life-like.
On the 10th of May 1940 the British army occupied Iceland. It was a peaceful occupation as we were rooting for the Allies and although we had declared neutrality we would rather have the British army occupy Iceland than the German army. 2.000 soldiers came ashore, but later the amount rose to 25.000 soldiers - one can only imagine what impact this had on the population of Iceland in 1940. A year later the USA army took over the occupation and stayed here until 2006.
Barracks were mounted all over the place (20.000) as the Icelanders didn´t have enough room to house the soldiers. Some of these barracks can still be seen in Iceland and after the soldiers left Icelanders moved into the barracks. The exhibition at the museum shows life of the soldiers inside the barracks.
Hafnarfjörður was one of the main harbours which the British soldiers wanted to occupy, along with Reykjavík, Akureyri and Hvalfjörður. This was essential in order to guard the North-Atlantic route, which was of great strategic importance.
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