Street art: Superb murals by Guido van Helten.
I noticed one day that a big mural of an old man´s face had appeared on one of the houses in 101 Reykjavík. It was painted by the known Australian graffiti artist, Guido van Helten. It is called "afi" or the "grandfather" and depicts the previous owner of the house and the grandfather of the owner living in the house.
I found two other murals by Guido van Helten in Skagaströnd.
And now Guido van Helten is making a series of murals from an Icelandic play - he is painting them on Héðinshús in 101 Reykjavík, opposite where the first mural is located. I will keep my eye out for them and add them to the tip when I see them. They are made by photographs taken by Andrés Kolbeinsson, which he took of the Icelandic production "Læstar dyr" or Locked doors by Sartre from 1961. The Icelandic actors in the murals are Kristbjörg Kjeld, Helga Löve and Erlingur Gíslason, all well known actors.
The "Haunted Walk" is a good mix of facts, fun and folklore and surely one of the best things I did in Reykjavik. It is a guided walk with typical Nordic humour - dry and witty and surely entertaining. In the two hours, you will get some information about places in Reykjavik like the parliament and in the next moment you will listen to a story in which elfs living in a rock stopped a whole construction project. The tour ends on a cemetery where stories about some famous and infamous Icelanders await you.
Some people may be disappointed as this may not be what they expect. It is not a pure comedy tour nor will it scare everything out of you. It is just two hours of good entertainment and walking around in Reykjavik. Still, I think it was worth the price of 2500 ISK (2014) which is pretty high for non-Icelanders but reasonable compared to the prices in the country. The tours run every day (except for Fridays) in the summer season, but does not run at all in the winter.
The statue of Ólafur Thors, Prime Minister
There is a statue of one of our Prime Ministers, Ólafur Thors, by the pond Tjörnin, right in front of "Ráðherrabústaðurinn" where the ministers entertain in Tjarnargata 32.
Ólafur Thors (1892-1964) was the President of the Independence Party for 27 years and our Prime Minister many times: in 1942, 1944-1947, 1949-1950, 1953-1956 and 1959-1963.
Ólafur Thors was the son of the Danish entrepreneur Thor Jensen, who built the Thor Jensen house right opposite the road from the pond. The statue of Ólafur Thors looks in the direction of his former home.
This statue was unveiled in 1969 and made by one of our sculptors, Sigurjón Ólafsson.
Perlufestin "The String of Pearls" sculpture park
There is a new sculpture park which opened on the 19th of June 2014, on Women's rights day. It is in a section of Hljómskálagarður park and dedicated to Icelandic women, who worked as sculptors. We have great respect for our male sculptors and there are museums dedicated to the memory of the Icelandic sculptors Einar Jónsson, Ásmundur Sveinsson and Sigurjón Ólafsson. But women have been kind of left out of this equation.
There are 6 statues by 6 pioneer female sculptors in the park: the Settler woman by Gunnfríður Jónsdóttir (1889-1968), the Mermaid by Nína Sæmundsson (1892-1962), Man and woman by Tove Ólafsson (1909-1992), Boy and girl by Þorbjörg Pálsdóttir (1919-2009), Son by Ólöf Pálsdóttir (1920) and Nafarinn by Gerður Helgadóttir (1928-1975).
These women were all pioneers in their field and all of them had studied art abroad.
There is a story behind the statue of the mermaid. It was originally put in the pond in 1959, but was blown up on New Year´s Eve 1960 by angry townsmen :( Fortunately the artist had made a copy of the statue and that copy is now located in our pond and I think it is a beautiful addition to the pond.
I like this idea very much, to dedicate a corner of the park to women. In this corner of the park Japanese cherry trees have been planted.
Ráðherrabústaður - where the ministers entertain.
This tip is not a "things to do" tip per se, but ... There is a beautiful house down-town called "Ráðherrabústaðurinn". This is where our ministers officially entertain and summon people.
Originally this beautiful house was erected in 1892 in one of the Westfjords of Iceland, Önundarfjörður bay, by a Norwegian whaler who owned a big whale-factory in Flateyri. But when business got worse by 1900 Hannes Hafstein, our first minister, bought the house for peanuts (1-5 krónas) and moved it to its current location down-town Reykjavík - which is quite a long way - and the road system back then was nothing like it is now. The house was reconstructed and an other storey was added.
Until 1943 this beautiful house served as a residence for the ministers of Iceland. It now belongs to the Prime Ministry.
In 2011 a man who had lost his home during the financial crisis registered his address here and literally moved in - he was quickly thrown out. And the flaw in the system, which made it possible for somebody to register his/her address in a public building was corrected - thus it is impossible to find the address of this house in the phone directory now.
Leif Eriksson Monument
The statue of Leif Eriksson is probably Rekjavik's best-known monument. It stands in front of Hallgrimskirkja (see separate tip), Reykjavik's and the country's largest church. The monument, desgined by Alexander Stirling Calder, was finished in 1932 and thus predates the Hallgirmskirkja. Some people think that it was placed to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the discovery of America by Leif Eriksson. However, it was a gift from the United states to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Allthing, the oldest extant parliament in the world which had its first session in 930 close to Reykjavik. Leif Eriksson discovered America some 70 years later, probably in the year 1000. He bet Columbus by almost 500 years! Eriksson is onsidered a national hero in Iceland and enjoys a huge popularity is a historical figure in other Nordic countries as well.
The Black Cone monument - Svarta keilan.
There is a giant rock (180 cm high) cracked in the middle, which used to be located opposite our Parliament building down town. It has now been moved a little bit west of the Parliament.
This rock was created by the Spanish artist, Santiago Sierra, and is called "The Black Cone, Monument to Civil Disobedience". The artist cracked the rock with a black cone. By doing so he was referring to the "black cone-shaped hats that condemned persons were forced to wear for humiliation during the Inquisition in the 12th century".
On a plaque on the monument is written: “When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for the people and for each portion of the people the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties.” - which is a quote from the French Revolution’s Declaration Of The Rights Of Man And Of The Citizen (1793).
This monument was raised after the protest by the Icelandic nation in front of the Parliament building after the financial crash back in 2008.
Before you start: Some older guidebooks have this sight listed as being located in the „Perlan“ building complex. The Saga Museum however is not there anymore – it is on the other side of the city close to the harbour!
First, I doubt that the museum can really be called a museum. There were no old artefacts, just life-size wax figures depicting scenes of folk tales. A little disappointing if you want to know something about history, even though the audioguide provides you with some information. Children may enjoy the opportunity to dress up as vikings. 30-45 minutes is enough to get through the exhibition.
The place did not meet my taste and was completely overpriced in my opinion: 2000 ISK per adult (2014). I would give other museums and attractions in Iceland priority over this one. An alternative would be the National Museum which is only half the price for a far better exhibition.Related to:
- Museum Visits
The Einar Jonsson Museum - Listasafn Einars Jónss.
This museum is my absolute favourite, a true gem, the sculptures, the paintings, the drawings and all of his work (all in all close to 300) is amongst the most beautiful I have ever seen, so if you are an admirer of sculptures don't miss visiting this museum.
Einar studied in Copenhagen and lived for a while in Berlin and Rome, which influenced his work.
There is a sculpture garden with 26 bronze casts behind the museum which is open to public free of charge and open even when the museum is closed.
One can see Einar's work in many places in Reykjavík, by the cemetery at Suðurgata, opposite the intersection by The National Museum, is his work "The Outlaw", the sculpture of "Ingólfur Arnarson" the first settler, is located on Arnarhóll, the hill above the harbour down-town, and the statue of our national independence hero "Jón Sigurðsson" (whose birth-date we chose as our National day, 17th of June) is located on Austurvöllur opposite the Parliament "Alþingishúsið". All of these statues are the work of Einar Jónsson, Iceland's first working sculptor. Before his time only one big sculpture could be found in Reykjavík.
This museum officially opened in 1923 and Einar (1874-1954) had donated all of his work to the Icelandic nation on the condition that a museum would be opened to house his work - in his own house, which is a work of art in itself. The name of the house is Hnitbjörg and it is preserved. For the longest time this house was the only house on the Skólavörðuholt hill.
Do visit the museum's website for pictures of his work and more information on Einar Jónsson. I highly recommend this museum and don't think his inspired work will leave anybody untouched.
Museum hours: Weekends from 13:00-17:00. Closed in December and January.
The admission fee is 1000 ISK for adults, children under 18 visit for free.
Phallological Museum (Pen!s Museum)
You may have heard about it in the media : The Icelandic Phallological Museum has a collection of pen!sses of almost all mammals living in Iceland. This ranges from whales to mice and also includes homo sapiens. A part of it is dedicated to cultural aspects of the pen!s. Somewhere between scientific, quirky and funny it will surely keep you entertained if you are not completely prudish. I would almost include it as a must-do if you are in Reykjavik. However, do not expect something really big. There are not that many species living in Iceland so that it will take you less than an hour to get through the museum.
P.S.: If you have read the webcomic „Scandinavia and the World“: The testicle – lamps are practically everywhere!Related to:
- Museum Visits
Harpa concert hall is a unique experience. The facade mosaic of glass panes provides ever changing views from within. It is fun to roam the interior and look in many directions (don't forget up). If you visit during the day, there are shops, tours, and food at Smurstöðin (my sister enjoyed their "Festive Menu" which included baked "Christmas" pâté, sliced pickled beetroot and peppered bacon (1590 ISK) or Reindeer tartar garnished with wild Icelandic berries, herb mayonnaise and pearl onions (2800 ISK). It is easy to lose time in this architectural wonder.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Arts and Culture
Reykjavík City Theatre - Borgarleikhúsið.
There are several theatres, big and smaller in Reykjavík. The National Theatre is in the old city center, and in the new city center is the Reykjavík City Theatre. It is next to Kringlan shopping center. It was consecrated on October 20th 1989, so it is a relatively "new" theatre and the actors moved from Iðnó theatre down-town by the Reykjavík pond, to Borgarleikhúsið.
There are three stages in The National Theatre, The Large stage can seat 550 guests and has a revolving stage. I have been to one play, where the stage revolved, an awesome show. The New stage seats up to 240 people and The Small stage can seat up to 220 people.
In the foyer there is a bar and sitting area.
I have been here many, many times, and seen so many good plays here, monologues and concerts, in all the stages. I visited it in February 2012, when 550 Icelanders were invited to a show - we all had to sign a contract that the Icelandic phone directory was allowed to take photos of us and use them for advertisements, commercials, on the cover of the Icelandic phone directory etc. So I have been on the cover of the Icelandic phone directory ;)
There was an excellent production on Mary Poppins, which I attended here in 2013.
I have never liked the "shape" of this theatre. It looks like a pile of something, compared to our National theatre.
Seeing that it is adjacent to Kringlan mall then there is a lot of free parking space here, something that can not be said about the theatre down-town. So we actually prefer coming here, just because of that.
In October 2014 I moved close to Borgarleikhúsið and can see it from my window, but at night it is lit up in beautiful violet colour.
Keiluhöllin - The Bowling palace.
Keiluhöllin just closed down in 2015!
On one side of Öskjuhlíð hill (see my tip) where Perlan is located, there is a bowling alley called Keiluhöllin (The Bowling palace). It opened back in 1985 and is very popular amongst the nation.
The bowling alley is the largest in Iceland. There is also a restaurant there and pool, plus arcade games.
Day-prices until 17:00 1/2 hour 1.350 kr. one hour 2.700 kr.
Evening and weekend prices are 1/2 hours 1.900 kr. one hour 3.800 kr.
Keiluhöllin is located on the west side on Öskjuhlíð facing Reykjavík domestic airport.
112 Reykjavík - Grafarvogur suburb.
Grafarvogur is the northern-most suburb in Reykjavík with ca 18.000 inhabitants. And this is where I lived for 13 years from 2001-2014. I now live in postcode 108, which is much more central.
There are a lot of young people in Grafarvogur and we have 8 schools here and 13 kindergartens plus a lovely swimming pool which is only a 5 minutes' walk from my home. There is also a big field-house in Grafarvogur with a new cinema. And we have a shopping area called Spöngin, which is a cluster of stores with Bónus and Hagkaup supermarkets amongst other stores. It is a 20 minutes walk from where I live. Where I live we have a small shopping mall. But since the crisis hit us we have had a decrease in service here, all the banks in Grafarvogur have moved out of the suburb and even our only liquor store has closed down.
Grafarvogur is built by a lovely bay and the name "vogur" derives from that. "Grafar" is the genitive case of "Gröf" meaning grave, thus the meaning of the word is Gravecove - nice, hmm... It is named after a farmhouse though, but I have never liked this name. And it kind of mirrors my feeling for this place, it is way too quiet to live here if one doesn´t have kids.
There are some lovely walks here by the ocean, and it takes me only 5 minutes to walk down to the bay with its wonderful birdlife. And there is a lovely church as well by the bay and a library in the same building.
The districts in Grafarvogur are callled: Hamrahverfi, Foldahverfi, Húsahverfi, Rimahverfi, Borgarhverfi, Víkurhverfi, Engjahverfi, Spangarhverfi, Staðahverfi, Höfðar and Bryggjuhverfi. And Gufunes, Geldinganes and Geirsnef (where the dogs are allowed to play, see my tip) belong to Grafarvogur as well. I have added a tip on Bryggjuhverfi.
We have a lovely church with a library, Grafarvogskirkja church. It is the biggest congregation in Reykjavík.
I have lived here since 2001. At first I liked it but for years now I have felt way too far away from the city center. And seeing that I don´t have kids I have no ties to the suburb. It is a great place to raise kids though. What I think is making me isolated here is that to get to Grafarvogur one has to drive up a hill and through an industrial area and down to the bay. Grafarvogur is on a peninsula so it is cut off from Reykjavík, so to speak. When I was little there was only the Reykjavík refuse dump here and no buildings. It was only in the late 1980s that houses were built here and my block of flats was built in 1986. It is very quiet, both night and day there is not a sound to be heard in my condo. I love to walk everywhere I go, but since I moved here I have all but stopped walking. It takes me ca 45 minutes just to get out of Grafarvogur walking by the salmon river Elliðaár. Am thinking about moving closer to the city center... which I did in October 2014 :)
Hallsteinsgarður, aluminium artwork in Grafarvogur
Grafarvogur is the suburb of Reykjavík where I lived for 13 years. It is a relatively young suburb, but is now the second largest suburb in Reykjavík with 18.000 inhabitants. Since 1988 these aluminium art-works have been standing on a hill by Gufunes, and the artist has been putting up more and more through the years. There are so many of them, like a park full of abstract art-work - and I can tell you that we didn't appreciate them when I was younger. But now that I have lived in Grafarvogur for 12 years I have come to peace with them and find them an interesting addition to my suburb. The park is called Hallsteinsgarðurinn park and the artist's name is Hallsteinn Sigurðsson. It covers 1,5 ha.
In 2013 the artist, Hallsteinn Sigurðsson, gave 16 of his art-works to Reykjavík city.
They are so large that you can go inside some of them and sit on them. The view from Gufunes is awesome, so this is a nice spot to sit down and enjoy the marvellous view from Grafarvogur. There you can see Mt. Esjan, Viðey island, the ocean, Geldingarnes island and Akranes town across the bay.
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