Hallgrímskirkja church in the City Center district in Reykjavík

  • Hallgrímskirkja church
Feb 8 2017

Skólavörðurholt in the Reykjavík City Center district is a hill that for decades and even centuries was the highest point in the town of Reykjavík. That was before the districts of Árbær, Breiðholt and Grafarvogur developed on land with higher elevation, and before Reykjavík became a city.  As early as the second decade of the twentieth-century ideas began to surface suggesting to build a church on the Skólavörðuholt hill. In the third decade elaborated proposals started to see daylight as the State Architect titled House Master of the State, Guðjón Samúlelsson, presented his grand idea about several buildings at Skólavörðuholt.  Ideas that were supposed to represent the highest elevation of Icelandic culture, in any sense of the word. An idea that never came to live apart from the idea of building a church at Skólavörðuholt.

A building that sparked decades of disputes

The State Architect and Hous Master of the State Guðjón Samúelsson is a remarkable person in Icelandic history. In addition to being the architect of Hallgrímskirkja church, he is also the architect of the main building at the University of Iceland, The National Theater in the Reykjavík City Center and many other significant buildings in Reykjavík and around the country.  His work and plan regarding Hallgrímskirkja started around 1937, and construction began around 1945. 41 years later when the church was dedicated and blessed in 1986,  it had initiated a flood of disputes and political battles while under construction. People argued left and right about the cost, the height of the tower, whether the church was beautiful or a blend of ugly contradicting architecture and many other matters as the church stood half built for decades.

Hallgrímskirkja is a very Icelandic architectural phenomenon

At the time when the initial design began, only a few artists, natural scientist, and few people interested in traveling the countryside in Iceland for the purpose of enjoyment, really understood the value of our natural wonders. Guðjón Samúelsson was one of those who knew and appreciated the Icelandic nature. Born and raised at Hunkubakkar only a few minutes walk from Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon and having the mind of an artist and designer, it is not difficult to understand why he sought inspiration to the many natural wonders.  One of the most obvious references is the basalt column that we can see at Dverghamrar not far from his home and also at Gerðuberg and Svartifoss in Skaftafell. Many admirers also see a reference to mountains, icebergs, and glaciers. Although seen as a part of the early 20th-century expressionist architecture it is a very Icelandic phenomenon when we look at the reference to many of our natural wonders.

The name and the historical source

Hallgrímskirkja or The Church of Hallgrímur took its name from one of the most prominent individuals in the 17th century. Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614 - 1674) was a minister at Hvalsneskirkja in the Reykjanes Peninsula and later the Saurbær Church in Hvalfjörður.  His life was quite colorful but an influential pastor at his time. Hallgrímur was also a poet and wrote some of the most important hymns in Iceland.  His work, the Passion Hymns, consisting of 50 hymns dedicated to "The history of the pain and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ," is regarded as one of the most valuable contributions in Icelandic literature.

The great building, a great church and the best-known landmarks in Reykjavík

Today Hallgrímskirkja is one of the most famous landmarks in Reykjavík and probably one of the best-known landmarks in Iceland alongside some of our renowned waterfalls, basalt column sites, iceberg lagoons and hot springs.  It is probably the most photographed item in Iceland.  As a church, it is a wonderful and peaceful place to attend service and find a sanctuary for prayers. It has overcome most of the criticism and is considered by many an important and beautiful construction. The 73-meter tower is one of the most popular observation panels in Iceland welcoming hundreds of visitors every day of the year. Today it is very very difficult for anyone in Reykjavík to imagine the city without this greatly admired church.

 

 

Tours and things to do in Reykjavík Iceland

Find an interesting tour in Reykjavík. A tour in Reykjavík or a day-tour to nearby natural wonders, a scenic drive or an adventure tour if you are ready for action.

Ice Super Truck adventure for a day

This adventurous one-day super truck tour takes you to the South coast with an added glacier activity. 

The day starts off with a visit to one of Iceland’s most famous and fascinating waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss. Here you can walk behind the falling water and experience something different.  But you need to be careful as the trail is narrow and most of the time a bit slippery.  Extra caution is required during winter, and proper footwear is recommended. This is one of the most photographed places in Iceland and for a good reason. During the winter, the waterfall is lit up so you can enjoy it’s magic all year round.

Southern Region in Iceland
Ice cave

Natural wonders, ice cave, icberg lagoon, northern lights

The south coast of Iceland is the home of some stunning natural wonders and spectacular places to visit.  This tour highlights the iceberg lagoon Jökulsárlón, the Diamond beach, a visit to an actual Ice cave, and the waterfall Seljalandsfoss.  As evening approaches on our way back to Reykjavík, we start looking for the Northern light’s and make a stop if we spot a glimpse of Aurora Borealis.

 

South Region in Iceland
Aurora Borealis in Iceland

Pursuing the Northern Lights around Reykjavík in a small group

Iceland is a perfect place to see the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis.  If conditions are right, the Northern Lights can be seen in all regions.  Reykjavík and nearby countryside is an excellent place to search for and see the Northern Lights. Come with us as we search for the best place to experience this unique phenomenon.

Reykjavík
2 Day South Coast Tour - Blue Ice cave - Jökulsárlón - and more

Blue Ice cave - Waterfalls - Jökulsárlón iceberg lagoon - Black Sands at Reynisfjara 

Join this tour along Iceland’s south coast to discover the unique landscape, natural blue Ice cave, glacier tongues, icebergs, lava fields, volcanos, black beaches, mighty rivers, and magic waterfalls.

Global Warming and Climate change adventure tour in Iceland

With a combination of travel and lectures, Geocamp Iceland and Hit Iceland offer a unique opportunity to get a view of and understand how climate change is affecting our planet in the form of a tour.  The trip takes you through exotic locations of volcanoes, glaciers, ice tongues, canyons, craters, lagoons, deep highland, small fishing towns, and other relevant and interesting places.  Our approach for this tour is based on geology, environmental science, and changes in nature.  We will also visit fishing villages to highlight how changes in the environment and natural resources affect various communities and their economy.

Northern Lights tour in Reykjavik

Iceland is one of the best places on the planet to see the Northern Lights.  This tour will take you to see this spectacular phenomenon near Reykjavík. We bring you away from the city lights to a place where the likelihood of a spotting Aurora Borealis increases even further. The destination varies, of course, depending on cloud cover, clear skies, aurora strength and likelihood of a sighting.  Visitors should be aware that although the tour endeavors to show the northern lights to as many of our guests as possible, seeing them is not guaranteed.  In winter weather always plays a large part in Iceland.

Golden Circle tour with Secret Lagoon

Step away from the crowd, the rush, and speed and enjoy the top sights and attractions in the south-western part of Iceland, without all the traffic. Take a convenient bus tour in a smaller bus and with a smaller group (max 16) at a time when fewer visitors are around. Why chase the crowds when you can enjoy the wonders of Iceland in a more friendly setting?  This peaceful excursion takes place in the afternoon and lasts into the evening and allows plenty of time to explore, view and photograph all the spectacular wonders.  And remember that evening in Iceland is bright during spring, summer and into the autumn. 

Þórsmörk tour

Þórsmörk is one of the most spectacular places in Iceland.  It is one of the most accessible areas in the Highland, a deep valley, and oasis cornered with glaciers on three sides.  It is truly a place of ice and fire as one of the glaciers; Eyjafjallajökull has recently erupted with glowing lava flowing into two parts of Þórsmörk.
2 presons minimum

Snæfellsnes Peninsula day tour from Reykjavík

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is one of the Regions in Iceland that offers an impressive scenic drive, many exciting attractions and natural wonders.  At the end is the Snæfellsjökull glacier towering over the landscape and dominating the view with its mystical power. A power sensed by many locals and visitors alike and inspired literary giants like Jules Verne and our Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxnes. 
3 persons minimum 

Landmannalaugar

Explore one of the most exciting places in the Icelandic highland in a super jeep day tour from Reykjavík.  Experience the magnificent colors of rhyolite mountains,  visit a beautiful waterfall, meet Hekla the active volcano and take a dip in the most famous geothermal pool in Iceland.   

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