Reykjavík is Iceland’s capital city and even though it’s small, there’s always something going on. Going for a walk in and around the city centre will take you past plenty of interesting sights. In this article, we will name some of Reykjavík’s most interesting landmarks.
1. The Sun Voyager
Sólfarið (The Sun Voyager) is a beautiful sculpture of a Viking ship located by the ocean on a small peninsula by Sæbraut, close to downtown Reykjavík. The sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason symbolises the Viking past of the Icelanders and is an ode to the sun. It serves as reminder of when the first settlers came sailing to Iceland. The Sun Voyager looks its best when the sun is setting, at whatever time that may be. The unforgettable view of the sculpture with a backdrop of the ocean and Mt. Esja is every photographer’s dream.
Standing at 25m, Perlan is one of Reykjavík’s most striking buildings. Built on top of the city’s hot water tanks, Perlan is known for its unique architecture. Inside Perlan, you can visit Wonders of Iceland, a museum with exhibitions spread over multiple levels. A visit to a real ice cave, planetarium shows, a spectacular 360° viewing platform, and exhibitions on Iceland’s history, glaciers, volcanoes, and water are all included in a ticket. Up on the top floor, there are a restaurant and coffeehouse. Surrounding Perlan is the Öskjuhlíð area, one of the many green spaces in Reykjavík, perfect for a walk on a sunny day.
Walking along the coastal path at Sæbraut, you can see a green hill on the other side of the water. It’s clear it’s not a natural formation. This hill is called Þúfa (Hillock), an outdoor art piece by artist Ólöf Nordal. A walk to the top offers a great viewing platform for the Reykjavík harbour area. You will have a great view of the beautiful Harpa Concert Hall. The brilliant glass building stands in sharp contrast to the fish-drying hut on top of the Þúfa, complete with fish heads hanging out to dry.
Hallgrímskirkja church is one of Reykjavík’s most iconic buildings and is visible from almost anywhere in the city. It’s the largest church and the sixth tallest architectural structure in Iceland. The church tower offers a fantastic view of the city. It’s named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Petursson, author of the Passion Hymns. The architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape. Construction started in 1945 and was finished in 1984.
The whole 28,000m2 of Harpa stand at the edge of Reykjavík Harbour. It houses Iceland’s biggest concert hall, suitable for a broad range of concerts and cultural events, a conference centre with meeting facilities and in-house catering, as well as a couple of fine restaurants. Harpa also hosts promotions, plays, and public events. It’s open to everyone, and you should definitely visit Harpa, whether it’s to take in a show, buy souvenirs, go to a concert or have a lovely dinner in one of the fabulous restaurants. Harpa was designed by a Danish firm in cooperation with Ólafur Elíasson, an Icelandic artist, and opened to the public in 2011.
6. House of Parliament
Founded in 950 AD, Iceland’s Parliament, Alþingi, is the oldest extant parliament in the world! For centuries, the Parliament gathered in the open air (on the aptly named Þingvellir, Parliament Fields) but in recent years, they’ve met in Reykjavík. The House of Parliament is a modest classical building of hewn Icelandic dolerite, and it gives Austurvöllur square a dignified look. The Parliament garden behind the building is small but lovely in the summertime.