Hallgrímskirkja or the church of Hallgrímur is a Lutheran parish church located downtown Reykjavík at the top of the Skólavörðustígur hill. Rising high at 74,5 meters (242.782 ft) it is the tallest building in Reykjavík and one of the best-known landmarks in Iceland. The church is a national sanctuary in Iceland and fascinates anyone who sees it. It took a long time to build and locals often speak of it as the longest ongoing building project in history as it is known to need a lot of renovations but is still one of the most visited places in Iceland especially by tourist that can be counted in thousands every day.
Hallgrímskirkja admission fee
The admission to visit or explore the in- or outside of the church is free but you have to purchase an admission ticket to visit the tower 1000 ISK for adults but 100 ISK for kids. Admission tickets are sold in the church shop.
We do recommend visiting the tower as the view from the top is otherworldly.
Truly one of the best ways to see Reykjavík!
Hallgrímskirkja opening hours
Winter (October – April): 09:00 – 17:00. Tower closes 16:30.
Summer (May – September): 09:00 – 21:00. Tower closes 20:30.
The tower is closed on Sundays from 10:30 – 12:15 since there is a mass at 11:00.
Who is the church is named after?
Hallgrímur Pétursson is one of Iceland’s most well-known poets. He was born at Höfðaströnd in Skagafjörður, N-Iceland in the year 1614 and received education at the famous Bishop residence Hólar in Hjaltadalur.
He later went to Copenhagen and studied at the Vor Frue Skole from 1632 to 1637. Hallgrímur was asked to lead the re-educating of a large group of Icelanders who had been abducted and taken as prisoners by Algerian pirates but had their freedom bought back and were now in Denmark and there he met Guðríður Símonardóttir, known in Iceland as Tyrkja-Gudda and they fell in love. Guðríður became pregnant and they returned to Iceland where she learned that her husband had died so she and Hallgrímur married. Hallgrímur later became the pastor of a church at Saurbær in Skagafjörður (1651–1669). He became well known for his poetry and especially what are known as Passion Hymns (Passíusálmar), recounting the life and death of Christ.
The Hymns of the Passion have been translated into many languages, including Danish, Norwegian, English, German, Dutch, Hungarian, Italian and a selection into Chinese.
Guðjón Samúelsson (1887-1950) was the architect of Hallgrímskirkja which was his final and most recognized work, commissioned in 1937. Guðjón Samúelsson sought inspiration in the famous Svartifoss waterfall inside Skaftafell National park but when compared one does not have to wonder how.
The church was built between the years of 1945 to 1986 and was raised in the memory of Hallgrímur Pétursson the poet. This construction is still today the longest ongoing building in Iceland. The church was supposed to be ready in 1974 when 300 years had passed from the passing of Hallgrímur Pétursson but was instead inaugurated in 1986 on the 200th year of Reykjavík’s existence.
Guðjón Samúelsson other work:
- Sundhöll Reykjavík e. Reykjavík’s swimming pool
- The University of Iceland
- Þjóðleikhúsið theatre
- Hotel Borg
- Landakotskirkja church
- Landspítalinn (the hospital downtown)
- Sundhöll Keflavíkur e. Keflavík’s swimming pool
- Museum of local history in Kópasker
- Héraðsskólinn schoolhouse at Laugarvatn
- Apótekið hotel and restaurant
The organ at Hallgrímsirkja is the largest found in Iceland and organists worldwide speak highly of playing it and take pleasure in doing so. It was inaugurated in 1992 and was constructed by the Johannes Klais Organ Works in Bonn, Germany. The organ is 15 meters high and weighs 25 tonnes. It has 4 manuals and a pedal, 72 stops and 5275 pipes, the largest pipe being 10 meters high. The organ was very expensive but was funded by private contributions and gifts but people were offered the chance to purchase individual pipes. There are still some left to buy and can be purchased at the church’s shop at the entrance. There you can also buy collection pipes to support the maintenance of the famous Klais Organ.
Regular organ concerts are held at Hallgrímskirkja especially during summer time and many make their way to enjoy The International Organ Summer, an annual festival with organ concerts, held from June to August.
The Chancel organ “the small one”
There are two organs in HAllgrímskirkja church, one smaller and less known. That it the Chancel organ located nearest the altar. It has 10 voices and was built by Th. Frobenius & Sönner’s Organ Works in Lyngby, Denmark. It was inaugurated before the Klai Organ, in 1985.
What can you do at Hallgrímskirkja?
- Explore the outside architecture
- Explore the inside, organ, and altar
- Go to the tower and get to see the Reykjavík city from high
- Enjoy concerts
- Go to mass 11:00 on Sundays
The Hallgrímskirkja statue of Leifur Eiríksson
The statue outside the Hallgrímskirkja church is of Leifur Heppni Eiríksson who is known in English as Leif Erikson. The statue was a gift from the United States to Iceland to commemorate the 1000 year anniversary of Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament. The statue was designed by American sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder and has an identical twin statue in Newport, Virginia. Icelanders saw the gift-giving as a sign that Americans considered Leif to be Icelandic, not Norwegian, something that meant a great deal to Icelanders especially considering he is the one Icelanders believe to have found America.
Interesting places near Hallgrímskirkja
- Einar Jónsson Museum
- Skólavörðurstígur a shopping street
- Handknitting Association of Iceland
- Laugavegur the main shopping street
- Ásmundarsalur museum
- Sundhöll Reykjavíkur e. Reykjavík’s swimming pool