Hallgrimskirkja – Reykjavik, Iceland - Atlas Obscura


One of the tallest buildings in Iceland, and perhaps, the most visually impressive. 


Rising 244 feet above the streets of Reykjavik is Hallgrimskirkja. The building is situated in the capital city’s center and has become one of Reykjavik’s best-known symbols.

The Lutheran church has a stylized concrete exterior inspired by the distinctive basalt formations found throughout Iceland, such as the waterfall Svartifoss. This gives the building an appearance more akin to a spaceship than a place of worship and makes it a unique feature of Reykjavik’s skyline. Although construction began in 1945, the church took 38 years to build, as many parts of the church were consecrated and in use at different times.

Besides its stunning exterior, its most famous feature inside is a huge organ that was built in Germany in 1992, boasting 5,275 pipes. It is 15 meters tall and weighs 25 tons. Along with an exploration of the inside of the Hallgrimskirkja, the bell tower, which is accessible via an elevator, provides the best views in the city.

A hidden gem is the large stained glass window above the church entrance. From the outside the window isn’t done justice, it’s only when you see it with natural backlight that you really see its beauty. The window is on the tower’s second floor, accessible through stairs on the right-hand side of the entrance.

There is also a statue of Leif Ericksson in front of the church, a gift from the United States in 1930. The statue predates the actual construction of the church and was given to Iceland in commemoration of the 1000 year anniversary of Althingy, the Icelandic parliament at Thingvellir in 930A.D.

Perhaps the best time of year to see Hallgrimskirkja is New Year’s Eve. Icelanders and tourists alike gather in the square in front of the church to count down towards midnight and welcome in the New Year.

A huge fireworks display takes places all across Reykjavik, with a particular focus above Hallgrimskirkja. The results are spectacular and the church really comes alive, illuminated by the dazzling colours.

Know Before You Go

There is an admission fee for the tower, which is only accessible via a lift. It is ISK 1,000 (Icelandic króna) for adults and ISK 100 for children, which is payable at the church's gift shop.

From Around the Web