Travel Blog : Harpa & Hallgrímskirkja, Iceland

harpa opera house reykjavik iceland

Continuing this Travel Blog Post series on Iceland today i’d like to stay for another post in Reykjavík and talk about two of the most beautiful buildings in this fair city, Harpa and Hallgrímskirkja, both of which can be visited for free and are only about 20 minutes walk apart and take in the high street and downtown parts of the city.

Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church and at 73 metres high and sitting atop a steep hill it can be seen from most places within the city of Reykjavík. It is Iceland’s tallest church and looks more like an modern artistic sculpture rather than a religious building with sharp drops off the edges falling away from its grand entrance (to me it resembles a histogram – maybe I spend too much time in Photoshop?). Opened in 1986 it’s a breathtaking sight to behold and well worth the mini hike to reach it from one of the side streets off the high street.

Once inside the grandeur doesn’t end, with a beautifully modern look from the clean stone pillars reaching up to a criss-cross patterned cream and gold ceiling with simple wooden pews finishing the look, it really is well worth a visit, especially if you have a camera to hand. You are also able to go up to the top of Hallgrímskirkja for a small fee (entrance into the main part of the church is free) however my wife and I didn’t risk it due to the high winds at the time.

About a 20 minute walk downhill (thankfully!) from Hallgrímskirkja is Harpa which sits on the Old Harbour and is another shining modern statement in stunning architecture. Holding the opening concert in 2011, Harpa is covered in various coloured glass and has wonderfully sharp edges and an almost scale-like finish to it at the right angle, inspired by the sea and Icelandic landscape. The building itself is a concert hall and conference centre and has a good range of souvenirs so it’s well worth the trip for more than just a look around the building itself.

About 5 minutes away from Harpa is the downtown area of Reykjavík where you will find a number of ‘trendy’ restaurants and cafes including the famous Laundromat Cafe (very popular so expect to not find a seat, we tried 2 days and had no luck) and Baejarins Beztu Pylsur (‘that hot dog stand’ that the celebrities and Bill Clinton go to ….. no i’m not joking) which is home (arguably) to the best hot dog (expect a long wait but it is well worth it as it’s one of the cheapest meals in Reykjavík and one of the tastiest!).

In the next Travel Blog post i’ll share some information and photographs of The Golden Circle Tour which takes in the geysirs, waterfalls and national park.

If you’ve been to Iceland or are thinking of going i’d love to hear your thoughts, pop a comment in the section below.

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