Hafnarfjörður hosts the Annual International Viking Festival which will be held for the 14th time this year (2010) in June. This time the festival will last for 10 days. Thousands of "Vikings" from all over the world (mostly Scandinavia, England and Germany plus Icelanders of course) gather here and the fun goes on for several days. They sell hand-made stuff, fur, roast a lamb, fight, dance, tell stories and show us the ways of living of the old Vikings. They teach you how to throw spears, shoot with bows and arrows, there is a fortune teller, wood-carving etc. Iceland is the Mekka of Vikings and this is a must if you are visiting Iceland at this time of the year.
The Vikings put on quite a realistic fight, so don't stand too close as it can get scary. At the end of the fight the Vikings run screaming towards the crowd. Take a look at my next tip for pictures of the Viking fight. There are also pictures in my travelogue.
The Vikings put on quite a realistic fight through out the days, so don't stand too close as it can get scary. At the end of the fight a lot of Vikings lie "dead" in the field, probably on their way to Valhalla, where they can continue fighting. But be aware that they then get up and run screaming towards the crowd. Hold on to your kids and don't let them go too close during the fight.
Most of us Icelanders are decendants of the Vikings, I am one of them :D Take a loot at one of my albums on my homepage about my Viking and Irish ancestry.
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 are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year (2010) and because of that The Viking Festival will last 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
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 ;)
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
There are 2 prominent parks in Hafnarfjörður, the small and lovely Hellisgerði, where the statue of Bjarni Sívertsen is situated, and Víðistaðatún park, which is a big park with a pond, play area for children and a popular place where outdoor concerts are held. There are some other small parks, Hafnarfjörður is built on lava so the nature there is fantastic.
The recreational park of Víðistaðatún is surrounded by lava which makes for an interesting walk.
There is an International Sculpture park at Víðistaðatún with 16 works of art by both Icelandic and foreign sculptors.
There is a lovely church by the north end of the park, Víðistaðakirkja church, see the lovely form of the church from my photos.
There is a campsite and a guesthouse at Víðistaðatún by the Sculpture park, I add the website to the campsite here.
As you will see from my photos from Hafnarfjörður waterfront there is a big lava rock by the waterfront which was left untouched and built around it. There are so many similar places like this in Iceland. The reason for this is that some lava rocks are homes to The Hidden People (elves). Mishaps and accidents will happen if one tries to blow up these rocks as The Hidden People defend their homes. So a medium is contacted which will then talk to The Hidden People and ask them to move or, if they are not willing to move, the road or the project in question will have to be built around the rock.
I should have placed this tip under "customs", but as my photos for 3 tips in a row here are taken in the same street in Hafnarfjörður I prefer keeping the tips together :)
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.
But there is of course a drawback to living so close to volcanos (Stóribolli and Litlibolli), one never knows when they are going to erupt again. The lava in this area is 1.000 and 2.000 old, but one never knows when these volcanos decide to erupt. The distance from the volcanos to Hafnarfjörður and the neighbouring town Garðabær is only 25 km!
And as we know The Hidden People live in some of these big lava rocks so they cannot be touched. See my next tip.
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.
There is a lovely place by the ocean in Hafnarfjörður which I particularly like and I go there often, stop the car on the parking lot by the ocean and watch the sea-ravens. I have not seen so many of them anywhere else in Reykjavík or the connecting towns as on this particular spot.
The sea-ravens are so majestic, they belong to the pelican family and are black with a long beak. So if you love bird-watching or just like watching beautiful birds, like I do, then do visit this particual spot in Hafnarfjörður.
The Icelandic word for a sea-raven is skarfur.
The Christmas Village in Hafnarfjörður is the first one of its kind in Iceland. The village was raised for the first time in 2003 and it is ever so popular with 20 stalls imported from Germany.
The Christmas Village is not big by international standard, but to us it is very cute, with stalls which create a semi-circle, a Christmas tree in the middle and a stage on the southern side of the square called Thorsplan. On the stage there is various entertainment and the announcer is no other than the feared Grýla, the mother of the Yule-lads/Santa Claus. She eats naughty kids, by the way, that is why she is so feared ;)
There is one stall in the Christmas village in particular which is very popular, that is the stall of the Catholic nuns who live in the convent in Hafnarfjörður. They sell "convent-made" stuff and are very lovely women.
The Christmas village opens on the first weekend of the Advent and is open weekends only from 13-18. On Þorláksmessa, which is on the 23rd of December, the Christmas village is open until very late.
Next to the village The District museum of Hafnarfjörður has opened a small exhibition on old Christmas related toys and stuff :) Authors also read from their books for the guests.
Children from kindergarten in Hafnarfjörður help with the decorations of the Christmas village and school children take part in the entertainment :)
There are guided trips to The Cristmas Village with Mountain Climbing. You will get guidance through the village and the center of Hafnarfjörður and sit down in a café to get refreshments. The cost of the tour is ISK 7.000 and the tour lasts 2 hours.
In Reykjavík there is also a christmas village and we named it that way as well, but Hafnarfjörður protested and got a patent on their name, so we had to rename our village - it is now called Christmas town.
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.
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.
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. But some mediums have seen them 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.
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.
Part of the Hafnarfjörður Museum and located in a square behind the museum is the old shop Beggubúð. It is such a cute little shop, I love going there. It is called the Hafnarfjörður Museum of Commerce - so lovely that such a cute little shop has such a big title.
Beggubúð means Begga´s shop (an abbreviation of a female name) and was built in 1906 and used to be located in Hafnarfjörður´s main shopping street. There are still some old houses like this in Hafnarfjörður. In 2008 Beggubúð shop was moved to the museum - lifted up and relocated.
The exhibition in the Museum of Commerce is a reconstruction of an old shop - it is so lovely, I loose myself in there and start dreaming. Here are old toys, a lot of dolls, yarn and yarn goods, clothes and a lot of radios, a TV and different items for the home - all of them from the last century. I remember those cute little shops and miss them and get very nostalgic when I visit Beggubúð.
Opening hours are: June 1st - August 31st every day from 11:00-17:00.
Admittance fee: Free entrance.