Hallgrimskirkja, The outside of the church with the statue of Leif Erikson in front

Hallgrímskirkja: a beautiful church in Iceland

A remarkable building in Reykjavik in Iceland is the Hallgrímskirkja. People either love the architecture or dislike it. I personally belong to the group of people who loves the architecture of Hallgrímskirkja church, and a visit should definitely be part of 2 days in Iceland. Read further for some background on the church and need to know information for a visit.

Background Hallgrímskirkja

The name of the church derives from Hallgrímur Pétursson, a clergyman and famous poet. He’s regarded as the greatest hymnwriter of Iceland. The name of the church literally means the church of Hallgrímur.

The architect of the building is Guõjón Samúelsson. Building started in 1945 and was ready in 1986. During construction the design was criticized as being old fashioned and a mix match of styles. It turned into one of Reykjavik’s most famous buildings and a true landmark of Iceland. It’s the highest church building in Iceland, with 74 meters (244 ft).

Some people say Hallgrímskirkja cathedral, but this is factly incorrect, since it’s a Lutheran church. So not a cathedral.

The Outside

The church is built on a hill, which makes it tower over the city. Because of this, it’s visible from afar (at least the top of the church). The building is situated in Reykjavik close to the old town.

The church is shaped in the form of cooling lava, inspired by volcanoes. Basalt rocks form the church into a mountain and/or gletcher. Trap rocks, mountains and gletchers are everywhere in Iceland and this is being resembled in the church. It’s built from white concrete. It fits perfect in its surroundings. The white modernistic, icy look of the church makes it stand clear against the ever changing sky.

Statue of Leif Eriksson, as seen from the side.
Statue of Leif Eriksson

In front of Hallgrímskirkja is a statue of Leif Eriksson, son of Eric the Red. The presumed first European settler on the North American continent. Alexander Stirling Calder made the statue. The USA gifted the statue in 1930 at the 1000 year existence of the AlÞingi.

Hallgrímskirkja interior

The pulpit, with a round stair to it
The pulpit
The inside of Hallgrimskirkja
The inside of Hallgrimskirkja

The inside of the church has a simple, but special interior. Highlights are the organ and the tower. The church can seat 1200 people.

The organ, as seen from below. Standing under it, looking up
The organ
The organ, as seen from the front
The organ

The Hallgrímskirkja organ is built by Johannes Klais in Bonn, Germany in 1992. It’s 15 meters high and weighs 25 tons.

View from Hallgrimskirkja on the front side
View from Hallgrimskirkja on the front side
View from Hallgrimskirkja, with the harbor in the back
View from Hallgrimskirkja

The tower has a beautiful 360° view over Reykjavik, it’s harbor and the coast.

One of the stained glass windows
One of the stained glass windows
One of the stained glass windows
One of the stained glass windows

The church is designed in a way that on every moment in the day, sunlight falls through the windows.


The Church doors, with one door opened, Yuri and Cosette are standing in the door opening
The Church doors

The entrance to the church is free of charge. However going up in the tower, by way of an elevator, is 1000 ISK per person. Hallgrímskirkja hours are from 9am till 9pm from May till September and 9am to 5pm in October to April.

Cosette lifts Yuri up, to watch outside, a round window

The address of the church is Hallgrímstorg 1, 101 Reykjavik. The church is a must-visit and also fun for kids. Our than 5 year old son liked visiting it. He especially loved the waffle stand in front of the church and going up in the tower. We went twice, once in 2006 and again in 2015. Next time we’re in Reykjavik, we’ll probably go again, since it’s just a perfect stop on road trips. Reykjavik is also perfect to visit during Christmas time with one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. Other things to visit are the waterfalls of Iceland, which belong to the most beautiful waterfalls in Europe.

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