One of the little known facts about Reykjavik is that it is a pedestrian friendly city. Even though the weather precludes pedestrian excursions during certain times of the year, it is a city that invites excursions by foot on days or nights when the conditions are at least passable. While much of the city’s restaurants and bars are clustered on or around Laugavegur Street, the city’s most visible – and iconic piece of architecture is the Hallgrimskirkja Church.
Situated slightly above the city on a slight hill, Hallgrimskirkja Church is visible from most places in the city due to its distinctive architectural style. Constructed from 1945-1986, the building is made of concrete, and is designed to reflect the unique volcanic basalt features present in Iceland, including the “black waterfall”, Svartifoss. Interestingly enough, the architect who designed the church, Guðjón Samúelsson, did not see the church in its completed form, as he died in 1950. The church is named for one of Iceland’s most famous poets, Reverend Hallgrimur Pétursson, and also prominently features a statue of Leif Erikson.
While the interior of the church is not ostentatious, it does feature two interesting items: a gigantic twenty-five ton pipe organ with over 5,200 pipes, and a great view from the church tower. The tower is 74.5 meters (223 feet) tall; and has a spectacular three hundred and sixty degree view of the city below. Access to the tower is through an elevator that is located on the ground floor of the church and a set of stairs. As of 2015, the cost to ascend the tower was 600 Islandic Kroner for adults, and 100 Islandic Kroner for kids.
From the top of the tower, as mentioned above, visitors are treated to a fantastic view of all areas of Reykjavik and its multi-colored roofs, as well as the surrounding countryside. The view alone makes the trip to Hallgrimskirkja worth it, even though the church has a great cultural history as well. Visitors should be aware that the top of the tower is exposed to the wind and elements of Iceland, and on occasion, can be quite chilly to downright cold. Having said that, Hallgrimskirkja is a must visit location for any traveler spending some time in Reykjavik.
Directions: The Church is located at Staðsetningarmerki 1; or the intersection of Frakkastigur, Njardargata, and Eiriksgata. From the harbor, it is roughly a mile walk to the Church, depending on one’s starting destination.