The modern architecture of Reykjavik's imposing Lutheran Church of Hallgrimur (Hallgrimskirkja) is guaranteed to take your breath away. It is a must see in Reykjavik, not that you can miss it anyway, it is visible from anywhere. The Church has a piped organ featuring more than 5,000 actual pipes, measuring around 15 meters / 50 feet in height. The church soars over the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, its scale is also heightened by the vertical rows of descending concrete pillars fixed to each corner. There is an elevator to the top of the tower which I did not take because it was late. For 500 ISK you can get the best views of the city.
This is an architectural achievement and great pride for Iceland. With 90% of the country being protestant, this is a great representation of the faith as well. It is a religious monument that captures the very essence of the Icelandic people. The basalt structure is used by many visitors for navigational purposes, I know it was a focal point as I could tell where I'm by my proximity to the church. It was dedicated to Hallagrimur Petursson a famous hymnal writer from the seventeenth century.Related to:
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík
Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík is one of Icelandic religious attractions. Like the Domkirkjan Cathedral, it is a state church with a history that dates way back. It was built in 1901 using Gothic architecture, and lies in the centre of Reykjavik along the Tjornin River. at night the lights illumminate the river creating an impressive view of the church from across.
In the day, the church's bright green and white draws attention to it, and across the river, swans and other birds feed. The river Tjornin is popularly refered to as the "Pond". Next to the church is a notable Art Gallery for the art lovers.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Stop Four - Thingvellir National Park.
We stopped at an area where you could view a deep fissure where the American and European continental plates are starting to drift apart. There was also a viewing platform with superb views over the lake.Related to:
- National/State Park
This lovely street had a lot of restaurants and bars on one side and beautiful buildings such as Government House on the other side. Arnarholl Hill and the statue of the first settler in Iceland - Ingolfur Arnarson is also hereRelated to:
The old town
Reykjavik's old town is made up of several streets and squares. The streets are lined with colourful houses and the squares are filled with people enjoying the open air. There are many restaurants and bars. The oldest street is Adalstraeti and number 10 Adalstraeti is the oldest building. The House of the Falcons with falcon statues on its roof is in this area, too, as are the parliament building and Domkirkja.Related to:
The Tourist Information in Bankastræti.
I have added a detailed tip on The Tourist Information center in Aðalstræti, but there is another Tourist Information center in Bankastræti, behind Lækjarbrekka restaurant. There you also have a tourist shop and the travel agency The Icelandic travelmarket and Reykjavík Excursions. Here you can get all the information you need on different tours in Iceland and change your money, here I have f.ex. bought Chinese money when travelling to China in 2007, when I couldn't get that currency from the banks.
There is a new (September 2010) addition to this spot here, which fits in perfectly, the house by Bankastræti - it is built in the same style as the older buildings. It houses Islandia souvenir shop.Add to your Trip Planner
More old houses
I am indebted to Regina1965 for telling me about Grjótaþorpið in one of her great tips. Chris and I were keen to see and photograph some of the traditional old houses in Reykjavik, and this was the perfect place in which to find some. The name means “Rock Village”, and it is the oldest part of the city. Rocks taken from here were used to build the Evangelical Cathedral, Dómkirkjan.
Today it is a quiet backwater by day, though I have read that it can get quite lively on a weekend evening. We really enjoyed strolling these few little streets and photographing the brightly coloured houses, especially as the sun shone for us and brought out the rich colours. For a while we would have thought ourselves in a small village, not a capital city.
+++Next tip!+++Related to:
Visit 107 Reykjavík.
Reykjavík is divided into various neighbourhoods, 107 is called Vesturbærinn or "The West town". This is where I lived from 6-8 and here I started going to school, Melaskólinn (see my photo). This is a lovely neighbourhood with Háskólabíó cinema, Neskirkja church, The Chinese Embassy (it just moved, but the embassador resides there), several schools, my favourite hotel, Radisson Blu Hotel Saga, Vesturbæjarlaugin swimming pool and the willas in Ægisíða.
107 Reykjavík extends from Suðurgata from Melatorg to the east, the ocean to the south, Hringbraut street to the north and the town of Seltjarnarnes to the west.
Down by the ocean is Ægisíða with its beautiful villas and here I go visit the bonfire on New Year's Eve. One of the houses there belongs to the singer Björk (Guðmundsdóttir). It is different from the other houses as it is painted black - so it kind of stands out... There are many private houses in 107, but also a lot of blocks of flats. I will add more photos in a travelogue.
I add this tip here as when abroad I always enjoy walking in different neighbourhoods.Add to your Trip Planner
In remembrance of fishermen.
Seeing that Iceland is an island with its main industry for centuries (not anymore though) being fishing then every town and village in Iceland by the ocean has erected its monument in remembrance of fishermen. When travelling around Iceland and visiting towns and villages here I always look for this monument and take a photo of it.
Reykjavík is a bay by the ocean and we have our own monument, not many though, I have only found 2 in Reykjavík, one is by the harbour of the 2 fishermen looking out at the ocean. And the other one is off the beaten path so to speak as it is located by the ocean in Ægissíða. It is called Björgun "Resque" and was made by one of our most known sculptors Ásmundur Sveinsson in 1936. Like many of these monuments it speaks volumes about the life of fishermen and their families in Reykjavík.
On this spot there is a bonfire on New Year´s Eve and I visit here every year. There is a popular walkway here (see my tip on 107 Reykjavík).Add to your Trip Planner
The Sigurjón Ólafsson museum.
The museum is dedicated to the art work of Sigurjón Ólafsson (1908-1982) who was born here but spent 17 years in Denmark.
It is a small museum a bit off the beaten path so to speak. This used to be the artist´s studio. But a lovely walk from down-town on a sunny day and inside the museum there is a small café with a lovely view of the ocean and the city.
Sigurjón´s work is both abstract work and portrait busts and statues. His work is magnificent and he has got prizes and nominations for his work. There are quite few of his statues and work in Reykjavík, f.ex. The Emblem of Iceland in front of Radisson SAS Saga hotel in Hagatorg square (see my last photo). I remember when I was maybe 15 years old a tourist asked me what this sculpture was supposed to represent. Back then there were few tourists here and I didn´t speak good English and couldn´t answer his question, so I just said: "I don´t know" ;) Looking at the sculpture it isn´t quite obvious what it is supposed to represent, is it? I always thought they were throne pillars which the Vikings threw into the ocean from their Viking ships and where these throne pillars came ashore there the Vikings settled. But, no, these pillars represent Odinn playing chess?
Another one of Sigurjón Ólafsson´s work is the Throne pillars by Höfði house. So this might be why I thought the other work of Sigurjón was also throne pillars, they look quite similar, right?
And another one of his work is a 90 meters long relief at Búrfellsvirkjun hydropower station.
They have some complicated opening hours: from June-September they are open every day except on Mondays from 14-17h. And during winter time they are only open on weekends from 14-17h - with a lot of exceptions (have a look at their opening hours on their website).
Admission fee: ISK 500 (with some exceptions). I went there on museum day in February and then the entrance was free.Add to your Trip Planner
The Winter festival in February - Vetrarhátíð.
The second weekend of February The Winter festival is held to brighten up the darkest months here. The festival starts on Thursday night, but the main festivities start with "safnanótt" or musem night on Friday night. It starts at 19h and lasts until midnight.
Reykjavík offers its citizens and guests an evening of free admission to its museums and the museums in the neighbouring towns. It is a lovely tradition to brighen up the "most boring month" here in Iceland. All the museums take part and there are myriads of things to do - one cannot do everything in those 5 hours.
There are free busses which take you from one museum to another, as some of the museums are in other parts of towns and out of town, f.ex. Gljúfrasteinn, the former home of the Nobel prize winner Halldór Laxness, which is in Mosfellsdalur walley (see my tip). Then there is a bus which takes you to the neighbouring towns of Reykjavík, to the museums in Kópavogur, Garðabær and Hafnarfjörður. Another bus takes you from the center of town to the museums in the neighbouring town of Seltjarnarnes. And busses taking you to different museums around Reykjavík.
So if you are ever in Reykjavík around this time of year do take advantage of this free museum night. Reykjavík is crowded during this weekend... but of course this being February the weather can act up. Look up the agenda, I add the link in English. There is so much to do and so much fun.
On the Saturday night there is free admission to the swimming pools and an agenda there. The City hall has got a lot of events - all over town there are interesting things to see and do. Hallgrímskirkja church gets lit up in lovely colours and other buildings have a colour show.
During the festival in 2012 I visited the residence of the President of Iceland and the Saga museum at Perlan (see my tip) which is awesome. On that night there are dressed up Vikings who hid with the statues and jump out - they were able to frighten me twice ;). I also visited the gallery of one of our film directors, he opened his private gallery up to the public and offered people hamburgers and Coka Cola. And I visited a couple of more museums. Unfortunately it was influenza time so I was not able to cover everything I wanted.
Highly recommended!Add to your Trip Planner
The Post office.
There is a red building in the very center of Reykjavík. It is the Post office. There are post offices all over Iceland, but in Reykjavík there are only 6 post offices scattered all over the city. The Icelandic word for post-office is "Pósthús" or "Pósturinn".
The post-offices are open from 9-18 and the customs (Tollgæslan) in Stórhöfði is open from 8-17 Mondays-Fridays.
One of my friends told me that she had seen some tourists "posting" their postcards in a dustbin. She lives down-town and she so wanted to run out of her apartment and tell them that they were throwing away their postcards. So better go to a post office and post your letters and postcards there just to be on the save side. The dustbins are green and the post-boxes are red.Add to your Trip Planner
The Christmas town - Jólabærinn.
For the first time in 2009 we had a Christmas "village" in Reykjavík. There has been a very popular Christmas village (Jólaþorp) in Hafnarfjörður town for years now and we decided to give it a go. One can rent a booth there and sell what you like. They were selling candles, Christmas trees, clothes, food etc. And there is music and entertainment. When the "village" opened we called it Jólaþorpið or The Christmas Village, but Hafnarfjörður town protested and said we couldn't use their name as they had a patent for it. So we had to change the name to Jólabærinn - or The Christmas town.
To begin with it is open every day from 13-18h but as it draws near to Christmas it will be open from 13-20h as the stores stay open longer in Laugavegur (22h and on the last day before Christmas until 23h).
The entrance to the Christmas town is both from Laugavegur and Hverfisgata. It is located on what we call Hljómalindarreitur/Hjartagarður, almost on the corner of Klapparstígur and Laugarvegur, our main street. Do pay it a visit if you are visiting Reykjavík in December.
THE CHRISTMAS TOWN HAS GOT A NEW LOCATION NOW, IN INGÓLFSTORG SQUARE (see my next tip).Add to your Trip Planner
Laugardalur valley - recreational area.
Reykjavík´s recreational area is called Laugardalur valley and there you will find the Sports Hall "Laugardalshöll", the Sport Stadium, The Ice Skating Rink, Laugardalslaug geothermal swimming pool and Laugar Spa and World Class workout center, The Botanical Gardens, Reykjavík domestic animals Zoo and Family park.
And in Laugardalur valley you will also find the hot spring "The Washing springs" where the women in Reykjavík used to wash their clothes (it is not functioning anymore) and where the first heating utility in Reykjavík was established. I have added tips on most of these activities. And here you can also find Reykjavík´s camping grounds and a Youth hostel.
In the neighbourhood is Grand Hotel, Hilton Reykjavík Nordica, Park Inn Island and Ásmundur Sveinsson museum.
My first photo is of Fyssa, a present given to Reykjavík by Reykjavík Municipal District Heating Utility on the 50th anniversary of Iceland´s republic. My fourth photo is a monument of Eiríkur Hjartarson, who first started tree growing in 1929 in Laugardalur valley.Add to your Trip Planner
Slippurinn - the shipyard by the old harbour.
Next to our old harbour there is the shipyard where ships are repaired on shore. I remember way back when I was younger and we went on Sunday drives around the city - it was back when we had different licence plates and could recognize friends from their cars and licence plates, not to mention that there were fewer cars - those were the days ;) Then we often drove by Slippurinn shipyard to see the which ship was being repaired.
The shipyard is not fenched off so one can stand very close to the ships. I love doing this when taking a walk down town.
There were talks about shutting this shipyard down, it was during the "good season" so to speak before the crisis. Then the very "rich" bankers and entrepreneurs were planning on building luxury apartments from Harpan concert hall along the seashore straight down to Grandi (see my tips). Actually Harpan was the first building to be erected and was not finished when the crisis hit us. I am actually glad it didn´t come into fruition as the buildings were supposed to be like black walls shutting off this area - much like one can see in other parts of Reykjavík, extremely soulless buildings in my opinion.Add to your Trip Planner
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