North of Hafnarfjordur town and just across the Skerjafjordur fjord is a modest group of white, red-roofed buildings. They are Bessastadir, the official residence of the president of Iceland.
Bessastadir has been the presidential residence since 1941. However, the site has a much older history. The Islendinga Saga (Saga of the Icelanders) mentions Bessastadir as a farm belonging to 13th century chieftain and Saga author, Snorri Sturluson. Archeological digs show that some of the earliest inhabitants in Iceland settled here.
When Iceland agreed to recognize the King of Norway, Bessastadir became a royal stronghold and home to the highest ranking official in Iceland. Turkish slave raiders attacked the building in 1627, but the residents luckily managed to thwart the invaders.
The main building was constructed in 1761. Bessastadir housed a school until 1867. Grimur Thomsen, a poet and statesman, purchased it and lived there with his family for almost 2 decades. In 1940, Sigurdur Jonasson purchased the land and donated it to it the state as the future residence for Icelandic presidents.
Today visitors can go inside the church, which has a triptych altarpiece painted by the Icelandic artist Muggur in 1921.
There has always been a church in Bessastadir since 1000 and the church on site was consecrated in 1796. The church received its stained glass windows in 1956 to commemorate the 60th birthday of Asgeir Asgeirsson, the second president of the country.
Is it possible to visit Bessastadir?
Yes, it is. Each year a number of people come to Bessastadir either by invitation or as tourists, and there are also special visiting arrangements for groups.
Where is Bessastadir?
Bessastadir is situated on the Alftanes peninsula, only about 13km from the center of Reykjavik.
GPS: 64.105897 N, -21.995701 W