Reykjavik

Buildings

buildings
Alþingi
Kirkjustræti
by Austurvöllur

On the southern edge of Austurvöllur is a small building of hewn stone, but don't let its size fool you. This is the building of the Icelandic parliament, known as Alþingi. The institution has in fact long since outgrown the building which was built in 1881 for a nation of a little over 60,000. Today the upper floors of most houses on the north and west sides of the park also house parliamentary offices. The Alþingi building today houses only the debating chamber of the unicameral institution and the party meeting rooms. When Alþingi is in session it is possible to go up to the viewing platforms and follow the debates, otherwise it is necessary to be part of a group to see the building from the inside.

buildings
Seltjarnarneskirkja
Seltjarnarnes
buildings
Hallgrímskirkja
Skólavörðuholti
Admission to the tower: 500 kr., children (6 - 12) 100 kr.
Mass: Sunday 11am; Church tower open daily 9am - 8pm

This can't miss attraction towers over the city on top of a hill. In front is a statue of Leif Ericsson Leifur Eiríksson in Icelandic, the Norse explorer who sailed to North America in the 10th century. The United States gave this statue to Iceland in 1930, in honor of the 1,000th anniversary of the Althingi, the Iceland parliament.

buildings
Imagine Peace Tower
Viðey Island

Yoko Ono's memorial to John Lennon, projecting a "tower of light" into the air that can be seen from around Reykjavík. The tower is turned on October 9th-December 8th, December 21st-28th, December 31st and March 21st-28th.

buildings
 

Reykjavík has a very eclectic building style, which is mainly the result of bad or no planning. Many of the oldest houses still standing are wooden buildings covered in brightly coloured corrugated iron. Don't be surprised to see that the next buildings down the street are an ultra-modernistic functionalist cube followed by early 20th century neoclassical concrete. Some of the most interesting buildings you'll see in Reykjavík are those you find wandering about. Some deserve a special mention, however.

buildings
City Hall
Tjarnargata 11
on the northern edge of Tjörnin

One of the best examples of late 20th century architecture in Iceland, built into Tjörnin The Pond. On the ground floor, which is open to the public, there is a large relief map of the whole country as well as a café and an exhibition hall.

buildings
Reykjavík Cathedral
by Austurvöllur

The church beside the parliament is Reykjavík cathedral, the head Lutheran church of the country. Similarly deceptive in size, it has been beautifully renovated both inside and out to reflect its original 18th century architecture.

buildings
Perlan
10am - 9pm
on the top of Öskjuhlíð

An iconic building on top of a wooded hill called Öskjuhlíð, to the southeast of the city centre. Perlan is built on top of five hot water storage tanks and offers fantastic views of the entire city both from a viewing platform open to the public and a rotating restaurant at the top. If the restaurant is too expensive for you it is for most, there is also a small cafeteria on the same floor as the viewing platform.

Parks and open areas

parks and open areas
parks and open areas
Grótta
Grótta

At the far western end of the peninsula on which Reykjavík sits there is a small island. This island, called Grótta, is connected to the mainland on low tides and open to the public most of the year. Just make sure you don't get stuck on the island when the tide comes in! The island is actually located in the municipality of Seltjarnarnes

parks and open areas
Austurvöllur
V/ Pósthússtræti

A small park or square, depending on definitions in the heart of Reykjavík. It's many locals favorite place to spend sunny days, either at one of the cafés lining the north of the square or simply having a picnic on the grass. The parliament and the national cathedral both stand by Austurvöllur.

parks and open areas
Tjörnin
Lækjargata

A small lake in the centre of the city where young and old often gather to feed the ducks. The Icelandic name, Tjörnin, literally means "The Pond". Tjörnin is mostly surrounded by a park called Hljómskálagarðurinn Music Pavillion Park which gets very popular in good weather. The southern end of Tjörnin links it to the Vatnsmýri swamp, a small bird reserve with paths open to the public except during egg hatching season. Built into Tjörnin on the northern side is Reykjavík City Hall.

parks and open areas
Hólavallagarður cemetery
on the western edge of Tjörnin pond

The name means "garden on a hill." Overlooking Tjörnin pond, it is one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in Iceland. It offers a rare opportunity to experience an old birch and rowan forest in Iceland. The maze of graves nestles in with moss, lichens, and more than 100 other species of trees and plants. Art historian Björn Th. Björnsson has described it as "the largest and oldest museum in Reykjavik", a place where "a living exhibition and history opens itself to anyone who can read the hand of the sculptor and discern from symbols and types of font the thoughts and deeds of the dead." Many renowned 19th and 20th century Icelanders are buried here. The grave of Jón Sigurðsson, the most important leader of Iceland's independence movement, is found here. Its lack of ostentation speaks volumes about Iceland's egalitarian ideals.

parks and open areas
Klambratún

Klambratún is a park just east of the city centre on an area which remained farmland while the city was built up around it. The area was later converted into one of the largest public parks in the city and often hosts various events. One of the houses of the Reykjavík Art Museum, Kjarvalsstaðir, is inside the park.

parks and open areas
 

Along the southwestern coast of Reykjavík there is a path along the sea that leads from the neighbourhood of Vesturbær and further along the southern coast to the Nauthólsvík beach and Öskjuhlíð. The path continues to Fossvogur Valley.

parks and open areas
 

Along the boundaries of Reykjavík and Kópavogur there is a long, narrow, green area and a path for pedestrians and cyclists; Fossvogsdalur Fossvogur valley

parks and open areas
Viðey

Viðey is a large island in Kollafjörður, the fjord to the north of Reykjavík. It used to be inhabited, and in the early 20th century it had a small fishing village. Nobody lives there anymore apart from the birds, but it's a popular way to get away from the city without actually leaving it. During the summer, a café is operated in one of the houses on the island. The building was built for Skúli Magnússon, an 18th century politician often called "the founder of Reykjavík" and designed by the same man as the royal palace in Copenhagen - although it is not quite of the same scale. Among its more modern architecture, Viðey is home to the Imagine Peace Tower by Yoko Ono see below. To get to Viðey you can take a ferry hourly from Sundahöfn, some distance from central Reykjavík on bus route 5, or from the old harbour in the summer once daily. The schedule and prices can be found here (http://videy.com/en/).

parks and open areas
Reykjavík Botanical Gardens
In Laugardalur
Free

The Reykjavík Botanical Gardens are not large, but they're nice for a short stroll and a good place to see some of the plants that grow in Iceland.

parks and open areas
 

A forested hill that is situated east of Reykjavík airport. It contains the building Perlan, where there are panoramic views over the city. There are many paths in the forest some of which lead to nearby Fossvogur cemetary. During the Second World War the United States Army occupation force built various bunkers on the hill. Remnants of them can be found close to the Bowling alley Keiluhöllin.

Museums

museums
Volcano House
Tryggvagata 11
+354 555 1900
Museum/cafe is free, movies are ISK2,000
8am-midnight daily

Volcano House offers a free museum with library, rock and photos exhibitions, Wi-Fi, a café and gift shop, tourist information, and a booking service. It shows two documentary movies every hour that cover two of the most powerful eruptions to rock Iceland in the last 40 years: the 1973 eruption on the Westman Islands, and the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in South Iceland.

museums
The Culture House
Hverfisgata 15
+354 545 1400
Adults: 700 kr.; senior citizens, disabled and handicapped: 350 kr.; school-age children accompanied by adults: free. Free on Wednesdays except for groups.
11am-5pm daily

This grand building, previously housing the national library, is today home two world class exhibitions. On the ground floor is one of the most important collections of medieval manuscripts in the world, including many of the oldest copies of the Icelandic Sagas. The top floor has an impressive exhibition on the Volcanic island of Surtsey, backing the Iceland's campaign to get it recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is fully interactive and a great introduction to the geological hot spot that is Iceland.

museums
Reykjavik Museum of Photography
Grófarhús, Tyggvagata 15, 6th floor
10-16 (Mo-Fr) and 13-17 (weekends)

A very small museum with a nice library and reading room where you can find some older but good books about photography and current and past issues of photography magazines. It also has a huge collection of Icelandic photographs.

museums
Reykjavík Art Museum - Kjarvalsstaðir
Flókagata
+354 517 1290
Adults: 1300 kr., students under 25: 650 kr., children under 18: free
in Klambratún park

It is safe to say that Jóhannes Kjarval 1885-1972 is the single biggest name in Icelandic painting. Kjarvalsstaðir hosts a collection of his work, as well as hosting other temporary exhibitions.

museums
Reykjavík Art Museum - Asmundarsafn
Sigtún
+354 553 2155
Adults: 1300 kr., students under 25: 650 kr., children under 18: free
near laugardalur

The Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum is dedicated to the works of sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson 1893-1982. Opened in 1983, the collection is housed in a unique building designed and constructed mostly by the artist himself from 1942-1959.

museums
National Museum of Iceland
Suðurgata 41
+354 530 2200
General admission: 1200 kr., senior citizens and students: 600 kr., children under 18: free.
Bus no. 1,3,4,5,6,12 and 14 stop in front of or near the museum

This museum, located right by the University of Iceland campus, takes the visitor through the history of a nation from settlement to today. Includes a café and a museum shop.

museums
National Gallery of Iceland
Fríkirkjuvegi 7
+354 515 9600
800 kr., free for children under 18
11am-5pm daily, closed Mondays
by the eastern bank of Tjörnin

the national art gallery with a large collection of works by Icelandic 19th and 20th century artists, as well as some works by foreign artists including Picasso, Munch and others.

museums
871±2
Corner of Aðalstræti and Suðurgata
+354 411 6300
1000 kr., free for children under 18
10am-5pm daily

Run by the Reykjavík City Museum, this exhibition in central Reykjavík was built around the oldest archaeological ruins in Iceland. As the name indicates, these ruins date to around the year 870. This interactive exhibitions brings you the early history of the area that today forms central Reykjavík.

museums
 

There are several museums of art and of history found around the city.

museums
Aurora Reykjavik: Northern Lights Center
Grandagarður 2, 101
+354 780 4500
Adults: 1600 kr; senior citizens and students: 1400kr; children ages 6 to 18: 1000kr
9am to 9pm daily

This small museum will explain the cultural significance of the Aurora Borealis in different cultures, detail the scientific mechanism for the Aurora, and allow you to see various simulations, videos, and slideshows of the Aurora borealis.

museums
Reykjavík Art Museum - Hafnarhús
Tryggvagata 17
+354 590 1200
Adults: 1300 kr., students under 25: 650 kr., children under 18: free
10am-8pm Thursdays, 10am-5pm all other days

By the old harbour in Reykjavík, Hafnarhúsið hosts a rotating exhibitions of the work of Icelandic artist Erró and temporary exhibitions often showcase other local artists.

museums
Reykjavík City Museum
Kistuhyl
+354 411 6300
1000 kr., free for children under 18
10am-5pm daily between 1 June and 31 August. During winter there are guided tours at 1pm Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
Bus nr. 19 from Hlemmur

In the suburb of Árbær, and frequently called Árbæjarsafn Árbær museum, this open air museum contains both the old farm of Árbær and many buildings from central Reykjavík that were moved there to make way for construction. The result is a village of old buildings where the staff take you through the story of a city. The staff are dressed in old Icelandic clothing styles and trained in various traditional techniques, for example in making dairy products or preparing wool.

Reykjavík's old town is small and easy to walk around. The houses have some very distinct features, most notably their brightly colored corrugated metal siding. Plan to spend at least a couple hours just wandering around, taking in the city. And for further feasts of the eyes, there are several museums and art galleries in the city, most of them within easy reach of the downtown area.