The best views over Reykjavik

Few things compare to the feeling of gazing out at a beautiful view. No matter where we go, it is always worth getting up to a high point and looking around. The good news is that visitors in the Icelandic capital are spoiled for choice when it comes to great panoramas. Here are our picks for the best views over Reykjavik.

Hallgrímskirkja

One can barely miss Reykjavik’s most distinctive church. This 74.5 meters tall Lutheran church is Iceland’s tallest and its stepped concrete façade mirrors the basalt columns that characterizes many cliffs around the country. But there is more to see than the lovely exterior of the church. Let us head inside and ascend the steeple via the elevator. From the top of the lift, climb a few steps to find one of the best viewing points in Reykjavik. Bright rooftops in shades of red, blue and green add a splash of color to the muted tones of the city’s natural setting and accentuate the vivid hue of the ocean beyond. From this lofty vantage point, one can truly appreciate the capital’s maritime setting. But a word of warning – dress warmly as it can be cold up here.

Perlan

Perched on top of the 61-meter high Öskjuhlíð hill, Perlan is one of the most iconic buildings in the city. It is essentially a large glass dome on top of six giant hot water tanks and has been a fixture of Reykjavík’s skyline since the year 1991. It boasts one of the best views over Reykjavik from a 360° observation deck on the fourth floor. From there it is easy to pick out the city’s most recognizable landmarks such as Hallgrímskirkja and Mount Esja. On a clear day, one can also catch sight of Keilir Volcano on the Reykjanes peninsula and Snæfellsjökull glacier at the end of Snæfellsnes peninsula. Photographers of all ages enjoy capturing different reflections in the glass dome. Best of all, there is a highly regarded restaurant right under the dome, called Út í bláinn, offering great views from every seat under the dome.

Mount Esja

This mountain lies about 10 kilometers north of Reykjavik and from its summit, you can see across to the city. It is a popular day out for hikers and climbers who seek to escape from the capital’s hustle and bustle. A couple of hiking paths lead towards its summits: Þverfellshorn at 780 meters and Kerhólakambur at 851 meters. The former trailhead is easily reached by public transport. From Þverfellshorn, a three kilometers long trek across a rock-strewn plateau leads to Hábunga. At 914 meters above sea level, it is the mountain’s highest point. It is not clearly marked, but local guides can lead the way. No matter which path you choose, breathtaking views will greet you at the top.

Harpa concert hall

Reykjavik’s architecture is rich and varied. One of the standout buildings is the Harpa concert hall and convention center at the old harbor. The Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson designed much of the structure, in collaboration with Henning Larsen Architects from Denmark and the Icelandic firm Batteríið Architects. The building opened in 2011 to critical and popular acclaim. In 2013, for instance, Harpa won the Mies van de Rohe award, also referred to as the European Prize for Contemporary Architecture. From the inside, take a look out through one of Harpa’s 714 irregularly shaped glass windows to enjoy views over Reykjavik’s marina and old harbor. Although vastly different in style, the sight is just as fascinating as the building itself.

Of course, to decide where your favorite views are, you will need to visit Iceland and see them yourself. But be warned: Choosing between them will not be an easy task since each spot is pretty special.

Author: Ragnar Th. Sigurðsson