Buildings of Reykjavik

We remained in Iceland for 2 more days, sailing South to the Capital, Reykjavik.

Fortunately we had 1.5 days in this city as the hop on/hop off bus was almost as unreliable and limited. The ship docked at 14:00 and we once again purchased a ticket for a day i.e. 24 hours. But the bus only runs from 09:00 to 16:30! This meant that we were only able to enjoy 1 stop before we had to get the last bus back to the ship with plenty of daylight left to enjoy. We couldn’t stay in town as it was a 3km walk back, on the flat but a pretty long way unless you are fit.

The first stop was the Courthouse with a statue of Hannes Hafstein in front of it. He was a politician and poet and the first Icelander to be appointed to the Danish Cabinet as the Minister for Iceland. The previous Danish Ministers for Iceland were not accountable to the Icelandic Parliament or Alþhing as Hafstein was. His poetry was also very popular in Iceland.

Icelandic Courthouse monument to Hans Hafstein

The Courthouse and statue of Hannes Hafstein

The following morning, Sunday, we had been told that the bus would arrive at 09:20, the pier being stop 3 but only arrived after 09:30 and by then there were too many for 1 bus. A 2nd one arrived 10mins later but by now many people were irritated as they had connections to make in town and were now late.

Considering how much we saw in Reykjavik I have decided to split our stop in to 2 parts – buildings and statues & aculptures. We stopped at the Concert Hall and Conference Centre known as the Harpa situated right on the old harbour. It is a magnificent building covered in blue glass and even the ceiling is glass. There are 4 concert halls, a large Conference Centre and some shops.

Conference Centre 2

The Harpa - Concert Hall and Conference Centre

Ceiling of Conference Centre

The glass ceiling of the Harpa

Outside on the pavement surround are some sculptures of violins and other orchestral instruments as it is the home of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. Along the harbour wall we marvelled at the number and shapes of the stone cairns which had been built there. There was a particular one which was really interestingly made and as he sat down on the wall to wait for the bus Trevor knocked it over. Fortunately, I had taken a photo of it earlier.

Cairns on harbour wall 2

A variety of cairns

Interesting cairn

The interesting cairn before it was knocked over

In Reykjavik there is a 74m high Church up on the hill and that was where we stopped next. We arrived at about 11am and the people were leaving after the morning service. It was beautiful to see them in Traditional Icelandic outfits. Interestingly, this Church, called the Hallgrímskirkja, is larger than that of Akureryi and is in the biggest city in Iceland but is not the seat of the Bishop. It also has more organ pipes, 5275 to that of 3200 in the Akureryi Cathedral. The organist remained after the service and played some wonderful music while we looked around the church itself. As with the one in Akureryi it is not an over ornately decorated church with simple lines.

The Cathedral 2

Hallgrímskirkja - imposing on the outside but simplicity within

Cathedral pulpit font

Pulpit and font

Cathedral sanctuary

The Sanctuary

Across the road from the church is a traditional café, the Café Loki, where we had some of their traditional Ice-cream and rye bread with grated chocolate mixed in to it, topped with cream and dribbled with honey. Absolutely delicious!

Traditional cafe

Delicious traditional food at Café Loki

In downtown Reykjavik is the original Icelandic Mother Church and Cathedral, the Domkirkjan, a small white building built in 1796. It stands opposite the Parliament Buildings and each year when Parliament opens the Members attend a Mass and then the Pastor leads them into Parliament.

18th century cathedral

The original Cathedral of Reykavik built in 1796

 Parliament Buildings 2

The Parliament Buildings from 1881

We were fascinated to see that a lot of buildings in the city have large murals painted on the outer walls. Many of these are of mythical flying creatures but there are no means of explanation. These are 3 examples.


mural 2
mural 3

Another very interesting building was the Perlan Cultural Centre on a hill just outside the city. This building has one of the most amazing museums ever seen. There is a walk through glacier section for which visitors are provided with suitable clothing, a section which shows how Iceland was formed from volcanoes and movements of the earth’s crust and 3rd one which was not completed when we were there, an observatory showing the night sky of Iceland. These are to be found in the basement and 2 of the upper floors. On the 4th floor is an Observation Deck with magnificent views over Reykjavik, including the airport and harbour. Mention of the airport reminds me of how a friend told me that it was the most disorganised and laid back airport that she had ever been through. As we moved around the Deck we saw a number of examples of various forms of volcanic rock which were clearly explained. Learning while travelling is great fun.

Perlan Centre

The Perlan Cultural Centre

Piece of Tillite

A piece of volcanic rock

View over Reykjavik 6

A gorgeous view over Reykjavik

The final 2 buildings we were interested in were on the far side of the harbour located on Viðey Island in Kollafjörður Bay. It is a house with a small chapel which were built in the 12th Century by Skuli Magnussen, the “father of Reykjavik.” 100 years later it became an Augustine Monastery. Today it is a restaurant. To honour her husband, John Lennon, Yoko Ono built the Imagine Peace Tower, a set of laser beams lit up on certain days, on the island. A ferry takes people to the island which we unfortunately did not have time to visit.

Old chapel house

Viðey Island

In my next blog I shall tell you of some of the many interesting and beautiful sculptures and monuments around Reykjavik.

Organ pipes in Rekjavik Cathedral

Some of he 5275 pipes in the churvh

About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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