When visiting Iceland, the highlight for most people is the natural beauty of the island nation. From the Golden Circle, Ring Road, and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, there are some pretty amazing sights to be seen. But we also enjoyed our time in Reykjavik as well with its charming architecture and wonderful restaurants. Among the things that should be seen when spending time in Iceland are the Hallgrímskirkja, which is the church that looms high on a hill above the city, and the Cabinet House (Stjornarrad). The church has an observation tower that provides incredible views of the city, but we were there in winter and it was too cloudy to take advantage of the views.
There is a statue of Leif Erikson, the famous Icelandic explorer, located in front of Hallgrímskirkja that was a gift from the United States. The statue actually predates the church and was erected in 1930 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the first meeting of Iceland’s parliament. Construction of the church began in 1945 and took 41 years to complete in 1986. The design of the church is meant to represent the mountains and glaciers that can be found in the landscape of Iceland. The most prominent feature within the church, other than it’s high arching ceiling, is the large pipe organ that was added in 1992.
The history of the Cabinet House is quite interesting. The original intent of the building was to house homeless people and to find work for them. Instead, the Danish government that ruled Iceland until 1904 turned the house into a prison, which it was until 1816. After 1904, when Iceland was granted home rule, the house started to serve as the home of the government ministers. Today it still houses the offices of Iceland’s Prime Minister. In front of the Cabinet House is a statue of the Danish king, Christian IX, who was in rule in 1874 when Iceland celebrated a millennium of people occupying the island.
Visiting Iceland is definitely one of the most interesting trips that we have taken over the years. The people were extremely friendly and the scenery was absolutely amazing. We certainly recommend spending some time in Reykjavik in addition to seeing all of the natural beauty that the country has to offer.