Historical Walking Tour
Historical 2 hours walk
Hallgrímskirkja – Höfði 20 minutes walk
Start the walking tour by walk over the church hill called Skólavörðuholt, walk the street Barónsstígur and pass the Reykjavik swimming pool. Designed by the architect Mr. Guðjón Samúlsson (1887 – 1950).
Turn to the right where you find the shopping street Laugavegur and walk until you find the Hlemmur square where you will find a selcetion of few street food restaurants. At this square the big white house is the main police station and the house in the front of the station used to be call The Gas Station where gas was made from 1910 – 1956. For only 100 years ago this was the end of Reykjavik and there used to be a farm here called Rauðará (Red River).
Take the street Rauðarárstígur (Red River lane) to the left. At the end of the street you will notice a white big house which holds the Masonic organizations. Walk that street up to the right and at the end of the street you will see the Pentecostal Church call Fíladelfía.
Take the Katrínartún street to the left until you will see the famous house Höfði. http://visitreykjavik.is/hofdi-house
Höfði is a house built in 1909. Initially, it was built for the French consul Jean-Paul Brillouin in Iceland and was the exclusive residence of poet and businessman Einar Benediktsson (1864-1940) for many years. It is best known as the location for the 1986 Reykjavík Summit meeting of presidents Ronald Reagan of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The White pole you will see is a part of an antenna which was placed there by the telecommunication company Marconi 1905 which was the the beginning of telecommunications on Iceland and there is an a monument to this placed there, Einar Benediktsson was the agent of Marconi. At this time the house was standing just by the sea.
Höfði – Sun Voyager – 15 min walk
Now you should cross the street at the next street lights by the sea and walk by the beach until you arrive at the Sun Voyager.
Sun Voyager (Icelandic: Sólfar) is a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, located next to the Sæbraut road in Reykjavík, Iceland. Sun Voyager is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun. Intrinsically, it contains within itself the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom.
Sun Voyager – Harpa – 8 min walk
Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre is designed by Olafur Eliasson, Henning Larsen Architects and Batteríið Architects. Harpa has won multiple awards for architecture including Mies van der Rohe in 2013, Best public space – Arkitekturmassan Awards 2012, World Architecture Award 2010.
In Harpa there are two restaurants, Smurstöðin on the 1st floor and Kolabraut on the 4th floor as well as Harpa Catering Service. Harpa shops offer a great range of Nordic design, books, flowers and other gift items. They include Epal, Sterna travel agency, Geysirland and Be Inspired. Guided tours of the building are available daily
Harpa – Arnarhóll – 3 min walk
Arnarhóll translates to Arnar’s Hill or Eagle’s Hill and is thought to be named either after the father of Iceland’s first permanent settler, Ingólfur Arnarson, or the eagles that used to inhabit the country in much greater numbers than in today’s age.
According to the Icelandic Book of Settlement, Ingólfur Arnarson threw his high seat pillars into the sea when deciding on where to settle with his family. Four years later, Ingólfur and his men located the pillars and established there the farmstead Reykjavík.
There is no way of knowing the pillars’ exact location, or how much of the story is legend. Some believe the pillars to have landed on what is now Arnarhólsklettur, which is closer to the ocean, while others assume it was the Arnarhóll in question.
In the early 1800s, Danish vagabond Jørgen Jørgensen infamously declared himself King of Iceland and had his fort built on the top of Arnarhóll, manned by drunkards with canons.
Statue of Ingólfur Arnarson
No matter the exact location of the pillars, the hill was chosen as the location for sculptor Einar Jónsson’s statue of Ingólfur Arnarson, as a reverence to who is widely considered the founder of this country.
The statue shows Ingólfur standing firm by the mast of his ship, holding a shield and a spear, looking protectively over the city he settled.
The Central bank of Iceland is the black house to the left on the hill and the grey house on the street above on the left is the Ministry of Finance and next to that in green the Supreme Court and the grey house above that is our National Theatre build 1950, the arcitect Mr. Guðjón Samúlesson who also designed Hallgrímskirkja designed the National Theatre. Then the beautiful white house next to the Supreme Court is The Culture house build 1906 - 1908.
From here you are only in 6 minutes walk to Hallgrímskirkja but you can also extend the tour a bit and take a walk to the oldest part of Reykjavik, area called Kvosin for about extra 20 minutes
The white old house next to the hill is called Stjórnarráðið The Government house, the first prison in Iceland build 1761 – 1771 but before that Icelandic prisoners had to be sent to Norway serving theirs sentence. Today the house is the Prime minister office.
Both the statue's are made by Einar Jónsson who's museum is steps away from the penthouse next to the church. The statue on the left is Christian lX the Danish king handing over the constitution and the other statue is of the Iceland's first minister Hannes Hafsteinn
Walking across the street Lækjargata (Brook lane) which got it‘s name because of the brook leaking from the pond to the sea but is now under the lane.
Walk straight a head the Austurstæti (East Street) where you pass first on the right the District Court, stone build house.
On the next corner you find Pósthússtræti (Post office street) you will see red house which used to be the main post office, turn right and the next house is also an old prison, called The Stone and is the reason for why we say if prisoners are put in to a jail that they have been „put in to the stone“
Cross the street Hafnarstæti (Harbor street) where you will see the most famous hot dog stand Bæjarins bestu pylsur „The town's best hot dogs“ ideal to have one hot dog now.
When eating the hot dog check on the monument between the houses above, it is an old bridge which was the entrance in to Reykjavik when ships was the only travelling way and great people have walk this harbor like kings, queens, foreign prime ministers and presidents. The house on the left to the bridge is our Custom House. One the ground floor of the Custom House you can walk through the Flea Market which is open on weekends. Look for the great mosaic art on the front of the house which is made by the woman artist Mrs. Gerður Helgadóttir (1928 – 1975)
Now continue walking by the side of the Custom House and to the white/grey house next to it, that is The Art Museum an old harbor warehouse, Hafnarhús which offers a progressive exhibition program with local and international contemporary artists. The works of key figures, as well as established and emerging current artists are presented in six galleries.
Hafnarhús is also home to the works of Erró (b. 1932), a significant player in the international pop art scene.
Hafnarhús is located in the oldest part of Reykjavik, where the town’s boats and first docks lay. The building was erected in the 1930s and at the time it was one of the largest buildings in the country.
From the Art Museum cross the street the Yellow house in front of you used to stand on the old harbor‘s side end with a hole in the middle, you can still see some of the old harbor stones around there.
Walk to the other side of the yellow house where you will see the square Ingólftorg (Square of Ingolf) in the front of the yellow house you will see a plate on the sidewalk which is the center point of Reykjavik, all directions are measured from here and all houses on you left have odd number from here.
Now you should stand on the street Aðalstræti (Main Street) which is the oldest street of Reykjavik and at the other end of the street there used to stand the Reykjavik farm and going there you will pass an old black house which is the oldest house of Reykjavik, build 1762. All houses around has been rebuild to it‘s original look but used to contain factories which was the beginning of Reykjavik as a factory and main business place of Iceland and was the start of the capital 1782.
The status next to the tree placed at the oldest cemetery in Reykjavik is of the man we can call the father of Reykjavik Mr. Skúli Magnússon who actually was the man who start the structure of development in Reykjavik as a capital of Iceland 1782. He had the danish crown finance an operation where he started manufacturing wool and more for export and the idea was to make Reykjavik as a great industrial trading town. If you will notice later which is seen from the coast an island called Viðey where actually the John Lennon memorial Imagine Peace Tower is placed an old white house that is where Skúli the father of Reykjavik used to live.
Now walk further this street which is called Kirkjustræti (Church Street) you will pass the Parliament. Stone build house 1881. Next to the parliament is Dómkirkjan the Reykjavík Catherdal, built in 1787-1796 design by Andreas Kirkerup, in neoclassical style. In 1847-1848 it was enlarged in accord with design by Winstrup in post-classical style. In 1999-2000 the cathedral was restored, to plans by Þorsteinn Gunnarsson.
The Cathedral of Reykjavik was consecrated in 1796 and was the first building to be built specifically with the fact in mind that Reykjavík was to become the capital of the country.
I got married to my wife Laufey there 7th of October 2000 😊
Around a century later the Parliament building was constructed right next to the church. In time these two buildings have become one in the minds of the nation and symbolize an unbroken connection between the laws and traditions of the land.
The square you are standing at now is called Austurvöllur park. In the center of the square a statue of Jón Sigurðsson can be found. Jón is Iceland's National Hero, every year on June 17th, which happens to be his birthday, Icelanders pay their respect to him.
The white beautiful building is Hótel Borg, the hotel is build inside in Art Deco style and really worth of visiting. It was build by the an Icelandic wrestler Mr. Jóhannes Jósefsson who got famous abroad and open 1930 and designed by the architecture Mr. Guðjón Samúlesson. The house opposite which now are being renovated as a Hotel as well was also designed by Guðjón and notice how the architect of the rebuilding top floor has made the top floor windows to the same designing as Guðjón did with Hotel Borg.
The great grey building on the next corner was build 1918 and was designed by guess who? Of course Mr. Guðjón Samúelsson. This was his first major house designing and kept for a very long time the Reykjavik Apótek (pharmacy) and today and for the past 20 years Restaurant Apótek and hotel as well. Mr. Samúelsson‘s idea with the tower was to have a grand entrance view from the old harbor at the end of the street but his willing was to build a similar house where the Kaffi Paris is now. Two grand towers which he saw as a great grand look which kings and queens would be seeing when arriving in to Reykjavik.
From here you can extend the walking for another 20 - 30 minutes by walking around our pond which you will notice on the other side of the parliament. On the pond you will see our City Hall and at the south end of the pond you will see many important sculptures but a part of the area is dedicated to women's sculptures. Notice specially the mermaid in the pond which was designed by Nína Sæmundsson (1892-1965) the same women how designed the "spirit of achievement" piece which she made for the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York in the year 1931 and is placed above the entrance
If you don't walk the pond then take the right back to the Lækjargata (Brook lane) walk up the Bankastræti (Bank Street) and take a slide right again where you will find our charming street Skólavörðustígur (School guard lane). Here you will see many design and craftsman's stores together with many restaurants, cafes, book and gift stores. You will pass an old grey stone house, house number 9. This house was build as a prison on the ground floor and city offices at the first floor so actually this is the first City hall.
At the end of the street you will of course see the great Hallgrímskirkja church, 74,5 meter build from 1945-1986 and designed by Mr. Samúelsson. The statue is of Leifur Eiríksson, Leifur the lucky (970-1020) who was the first European to have set food on continental North America.
The church can be seen from anywhere in Reykjavik so for you it's always easy to see where our penthouse is located.
Just before arriving back to the penthouse please notice the yellow house on your left number 35 which is the house where the architect Mr. Guðjón Samúlsson was raised but his father build this house. Guðjón‘s work shop was in the basement
SKÓLAVÖRÐUSTÍGUR NOW AND THEN