Aðalstræti is Reykjavík's oldest street and thus Iceland's oldest street. We believe that the first settler of Iceland, Ingólfur Arnarson lived here.
The thing is that when digging for new houses in Aðalstræti one is almost bound to come by some antiquities from the Settlement age, builders were building a hotel at the south-corner of Aðalstræti when they came across the remains of a longhouse, that is why that museum is in the basement at the Hotel Reykjavík Centrum. See my next tip on the museum.
In 2005 the hotel was opened and the houses next to it were contstructed in the likeness of their predecessors in Aðalstræti. The hotel spreads over these 3 houses, Uppsalir and Fjalakötturinn. One of them, the red one, is almost the replica of what used to be Aðalstræti 8 called Fjalakötturinn, where my grandfather and Uncle used to work as goldsmiths and I visited so many times. The original Fjalakötturinn was opposite Ingólfstorg square.
Aðalstræti 12 is called Ísafoldarhúsið, The house of Ísafold, and was moved to Aðalstræti from Austurstræti when newer buildings were built in Austurstræti.
The oldest timber-house in Reykjavík is in Aðalstræti 10, built in 1762. There is only one house older than this house and that house is a concrete house and is located in the island Viðey just outside of Reykjavík. Governor Skúli Magnússon resided in Viðey in that house. The house in Aðalstræti 10 was the residence of one of our bishops, bishop Geir Vídalín (1761-1823) and now houses a tourist store called Kraum, specialising in Icelandic design and which won a prize in December 2008 for being the best tourist store in Reykjavík. Kraum buys directly from various Icelandic designers and always has the best of what there is to offer in that field.
The Tourist Information Centre is also located in Aðalstræti, on the north-end corner.
There is a fountain by Aðalstræti 9 called Ingólfsbrunnur, The fountain of Ingólfur, but here used to be one of Reykjavík's main water-springs. I have added a photo of the fountain.
In 1752 Skúli Magnússon, the Icelandic governor, started industry in Reykjavík and in Aðalstræti there were wool-factories and stores on both sides of the street. This beginning of industry in Reykjavík was called in Icelandic "Innréttingarnar" meaning work-shops, and which eventually formed the center of Reykjavík and lead to it becoming a town in 1786.
Fógetagarðurinn park "The Governor's park" is beside Aðalstræti 9 and it is named after Skúli Magnússon and there is a statue of him in the park, see my tip.
Aðalstræti got its name in 1848 but before that time it carried Danish names such as Hovedgaden and Adelgaden which literally means "The Main Street". The Icelandic name Aðalstræti also means "The Main Street" so one can see from the names that Aðalstræti was the center of Reykjavík.
Aðalstræti is Reykjavík's oldest street and lies at the heart of the small grid of streets that still bear echoes of its fishing village past. The name means Main Street, although it has its origins as a simple path, probably linking a farm at its southern end with the sea. That farm is thought to have been the home of Ingólfur Arnarson, the first Nordic settler in Iceland. As the town grew up around this area, , Aðalstræti became indeed its main street, and would have been lined with the homes of important residents, as well as the meeting house and the town’s main well, Ingólfsbrunnur (“Ingólfur’s well”), outside the present-day number 9.
The city’s oldest timber-house, Geysishúsið, is in this street at number 10 (see photo). It was built in 1762. Nearby, at the southern end of the street, is the Settlement Exhibition, which preserves the ruins of a 10th century Viking long house, along with objects and remains of human habitation believed to date from the 9th century settlement of Reykjavík. I wanted to visit this, but time was pressing (the short days of winter are a hindrance in that respect, though they bring such lovely light) and we decided to focus on outdoor sights as the day was so lovely. However, it is possible to peer down through a glass panel in the street to see the remains of the longhouse below, so at least I got a glimpse!
Excavations in Adalstraeti Street have revealed ruins that date back to the Viking era, when the first settlers came to Iceland. In 1752, Treasurer Skuli Magnusson decided it should be the site for various workshops, which eventually formed the core of the town.
Adalstraeti 10 is considered the city's oldest timber house. In olden times it used to be the residence of Bishop Geir Vidalin (1761-1823), who's hospitality was infamous at the times.
Inside the house one can find two displays of old Reykjavik and some paintings of the early times of the city.