Named after Reverend Hallgrimur Petursson, author of Iceland’s most popular hymn book, Passion Hymns (Passiusalmar), the white concrete Lutheran church of Hallgrimskirkja is an unmistakable landmark in downtown Reykjavik. Visible throughout the city, its tower offers some of the best views of the Reykjavik skyline and surrounding area.
For a small fee, the church’s elevator whisks you to the top of the tower for 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape: the colorful roofs of the city and nearby snow-capped mountains. Entrance is often included in walking tours of the city.
Other city sightseeing tours (group or private), by bus or Segway, stop at the church so that you can admire the architecture from outside. Hallgrimskirkja is also a stop on most hop-on hop-off Reykjavik bus tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Hallgrimskirkja is a must-visit destination for architecture and history lovers.
- Access to the tower is only by elevator. At the top, there are a few steps to the open-air viewing platform.
- The tower is closed during Sunday mass.
- Hallgrimskirkja is a working church and so may be closed, without notice, due to weddings or funerals.
- Everyone is welcome to join services, but, to avoid disturbance, you should stay for the duration.
- The sweeping columns on either side of the tower represent volcanic basalt.
How to Get There
Standing at the top of a hill in the center of Reykjavik and visible from 12 miles (19 kilometers) away, the church is difficult to miss. Just walk up the hill from any side and you'll be there. It’s a short walk from Reykjavik Town Hall.
When to Get There
The church is open year-round, from early morning to evening (slightly later in summer). From mid-June through mid-August, the church hosts a summer concert series, three times per week, in which you can hear the vast 5,275-pipe organ in action.
Statue of Leif Erikson
Alexander Stirling Calder, famed American sculptor and father of the even more notable Alexander Calder, created the statue of the Norse explorer Leif Erikson (the first European to discover North America) that sits in front of the church. It was a gift from the US in 1930 to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of Iceland’s parliament.