Visible from almost any point in the city, Hallgrimskirkja Church sits at the top of Skolavordustigur Street, the central art and design shopping street in the capital. The iconic building is 74,5 meters (240 ft) high, and a visit to the top will reward you with awe-inspiring views of Reykjavik and even Snaefellsjokull glacier on a clear day. For a modest fee visitors can enter the church tower and enjoy the majestic view.
Completed in 1986, the concrete structure took over 40 years to build. The tower was renovated in 2009. The soaring modernist church was designed to resemble the basalt lava flows found in Iceland’s natural landscape, especially the basalt columns around Svartifoss waterfall.
The architect Gudjon Samuelsson designed the church in 1937. Samuelsson often used Icelandic nature as motives. The fascinating shapes of the basalt rock columns surrounding Svartifoss Waterfall fascinated the architect. The church features a gargantuan pipe organ, designed and constructed by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn. The organ weighs over 25 tons. It is 15 meters tall. The organ is driven by four manuals and a pedal, 102 ranks, 72 stops and 5275 pipes. The organ is quite powerful and capable of filling the huge space of the church. The organ’s construction was complete in 1992.
Named after 17th-century hymn writer Hallgrimur Petursson, Hallgrimskirkja is a Lutheran church, as are most churches in Iceland. Services are held each Sunday. The wonderful acoustics and the enormous pipe organ make it an ideal venue for classical music concerts.
In front of Iceland’s largest church is a statue of Icelandic Viking Leif Eiriksson. He was the first European to set foot on the North American continent around 1,000 AD. The Icelandic sagas suggest that Leifur found America 500 years before Christopher Columbus did. They also suggest that he settled there for some time. Archaeological findings in L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland seem to support this. The impressive statue was a gift from the United States on the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of the Althing Parliament in 1930.
How to get there?
Hallgrimskirkja is located in the city center of Reykjavik, so being anywhere in that area, this dominating landmark is impossible to miss.
Hallgrimskirkja Church is open every day 9-21 from May to September, and 9-17 from October to April. The church tower, from which you get an excellent view over Reykjavik and surrounding areas, closes half an hour before the general closing time. It is also closed on Sundays during mass.
Adults pay an entrance fee of 900 ISK for access to the tower. Children aged 7-14 pay 100 ISK.