International Travel: Hallgrímskirkja (Reykjavik, Iceland)


This is Rekjavik and the Atlantic

We are going to take you back to Iceland this week. This destination has become very popular over the last few years and I IMG_4567have had a lot of friends travel there just this year. With the colorful roofs, amazing natural environment, delicious hot dogs, and lovely people there is so much to love about this island nation. For those of us in the Northwest it has gotten so much easier with our direct flights from Portland straight to Reykjavík on Iceland Air! Join us by hopping in our time machine and travel back to September of 2012 with us! We had just spent a couple of weeks visiting family in England and decided to make the most of our lay-over in Iceland on our way home!

We decided our first day in Reykjavík would be a city exploration day. One of the highlights was our visit to Hallgrímskirkja. The church is the highest point in the city and as you can see in the picture at the top of this post, it gives some amazing views of the mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, and the city, which is much more colorful from the air. The church was DSC_3827designed by Guðjón Samúelsson in 1937. His design inspiration is said to have come from elements of the Icelandic nature. He looked at glaciers, mountains and trap rocks that can be found in and around Skaftafell National Park.

Construction began in 1945 and ended in 1986, with the tower completed long before the rest of the building. There is a crypt beneath the choir which was finished early on and the rest of the church was finished at various points in history.

The church is named after Hallgrímur Pétursson, who was a famous 17th-century Icelandic poet and clergyman. He was the author of The Passion Hymns (Passíusálmar) which are a vital part of Icelandic religious tradition and as they have been reprinted over 75 times since their original publishing in 1666 are a mainstay of local literature. The sunset changed the color of the church

While this is one of the newer churches I have visited in Europe, it was certainly one of the most unique. It is very stark in color, and is light and modern. The white exterior is incredible during colorful sunsets as it will reflect the reds and oranges as the sun goes down. Make sure you look up the hill if you see an amazing sunset. The church can be seen from almost anywhere in the city!


You will be awed by the high ceilings and the beautiful organ. Our son is very drawn to music, and we lucked out being there while the organist was playing. The organ is an engineering marvel. It was designed by Johannes Klais of Bonn and stands an impressive 15m (45ft) tall and weighs 25 tons. This mechanical action organ has 5275 pipes, all designed to reproduce powerful notes. We sat and listened to the organist play for a while and you can feel the notes vibrate in your chest. It is a full body experience!

DSC_3820Make sure you pay the small fee and take the elevator up 200 feet to the viewing area. The 3 bells you will see in the tower represent Hallgrímur, his wife, and their daughter who died at a very young age. The bells ring every 15 minutes, so be ready if you are in the tower – it is loud! The tower is closed on Sundays during mass (10:30 – 12:15).

DSC_3832In front of the church is a statue of Leif Eríkson which was given to the people of Iceland from the United States, recognizing “Leif the Lucky” as the first European to land in North America. Records suggest that Leif landed on the shores of the new world in the year 1,000 A.D. The statue was was designed by Alexander Stirling Calder and was a gift commemorating the 1930 Alþingi Millennial Festival. The festival commemorated the 1,000th anniversary of the establishment of Iceland’s parliament at Þingvellir in 930 AD.


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