Just outside of Akureyri town in North-Iceland, you will find a Christmas House - Jólahúsið - in Hrafnagil in Eyjafjörður fjord. It is a must-visit while in this area. It is ever so lovely, like a magical world. And it is very much loved by the locals, I included :)
The last time I visited it was in August and the temperature was 20 degrees C so it was quite strange entering a Christmas House.
Grýla - the mother of the Icelandic Yule Lads
The owners, Benedikt and Ragnheiður, opened Jólahúsið, The Christmas House, back in 1996. It is on two floors and sells everything imaginable related to Christmas.
Downstairs you will find a cave with Grýla inside, but Grýla is a cannibal troll much feared by us Icelanders.
You cannot see her that well but I put my camera inside her cave and got a bit startled when I looked at her photo ;) She is the mother of the Icelandic Yule Lads and eats children who behave badly.
Inside the Christmas house
The owner of the Christmas House, Benedikt, tells children, who ask him why he is celebrating Christmas in the summertime, that he is making sure that Christmas will not get lost :)
I know that people visit the Christmas House only to have a look inside while travelling in this area, but then always end up buying something - one just cannot resist it - it is like a fairy-tale world in there.
You can find Christmas stuff from all over the world (17 countries), but also a lot of Icelandic Christmas handicrafts. And if you wonder what the lovely smell is upstairs, then it is smoked lamb "hangikjöt", which sometimes hangs by the fireplace, called Húskarlahangikjöt :)
A miniature replica of a turf church in the garden of Jólahúsið
The Christmas House area is called Sveinsbær, referring to both Jólasveinar - the Yule Lads, and the house in which the late mother of Ragnheiður lived in Hafnarfjörður town in SW-Iceland, named after Ragnheiður´s great-grandfather, Sveinn. So the name honours her memory, so lovely :)
Around the Christmas House, you will find Jólagarðurinn or the Christmas Garden with benches and a lot of Christmassy "stuff". Behind the Christmas House, you will find a miniature replica of a turf church.
In the olden times, our houses and churches were made of turf and there are only 6 turf churches left in Iceland now. I have written another travel-blog on the turf houses and turf churches in Iceland if you want to see what they look like :)
The Tower by the Christmas house
In the garden is the 6 meters tall Tower with what might be "heimsins stærsta dagatal" or the World's largest calendar.
It is so lovely visiting it. Inside the tower is painted in beautiful colours with different fairy tale paintings. And numbered windows to open - just like on a Christmas calendar - but on a much larger scale.
The big scale Christmas Calendar
The creator of this artwork is Sunna Björk Hreiðarsdóttir (2003).
I had visited the Christmas House so many times, but it wasn't until 2013 that I eventually walked up into the tower.
Also, behind the Christmas House, there is a hidden away WC, very lovely with candles and Christmas music. There is another WC outside on the premises, but this one is ever so lovely and only visible if you walk around the Christmas House.
Inside the Backyard of Tante Grethe
A new house was added a couple of years ago next to the Christmas House. The store inside the white house with the blue shutters is referred to as The Backyard of Tante Grethe - a lovely store with a Nordic atmosphere. Grethe was the Danish wife of Benedikt's relative Jakob, of which he has fond memories and always called tante Grethe - Aunt Grethe.
There are so many nice things in here that I would allow for 1.5 hours to visit both the Christmas House and the Backyard of Tante Grethe. I visit Tante Grethe's backyard every time I visit Akureyri to stock up on my favourite hard candy, which I cannot get anywhere else :)
My must-buy from the Backyard of Tante Grethe
Next to the Christmas House, you will find the lovely Eplakofinn - the Apple Shed, a lovely addition, where you can buy cherry candy glazed apples and waffles on a stick. This is for sure a magical world and I am always in a good mood when I spend time in this lovely place :)
I never visit the Christmas House without buying something as I want this magical place to stay open all year round for decades to come. So let's always leave a little something to support it :)
Eplakofinn - the Apple Shed
The opening hours of the Christmas House are:
June - Agust: 10:00-21:00
September - December: 14:00-21:00
January - May: 14:00-18:00
These opening hours can change, so better verify them before driving to the Christmas House.
The Wishing Well of Unborn Children
You will find a beautiful wishing well opposite the Christmas House in Eyjafjörður. It is called the Wishing Well of Unborn Children - in Icelandic Óskabrunnur ófæddra barna.
The Wishing well is a mosaic artwork by Heiðdís Pétursdóttir. On a sign is written: "Walk to the well and make a silent wish. Touch the surface of the water and your wish will join all good wishes in the wishing well for children of the future".
The Wishing Well of Unborn Children
The white tree next to the wishing well with stars on top of its branches represents unborn children.
In a brochure about the Wishing well, which I got at the Christmas House is written: "The tree that is next to the well is a symbol for the many branches of life, some strong, other weak, but on every branch, there is a star and hope, and a tiny ladder that leads to earth. The path for a star to us".
On a sign is written: "A child is a star in the sky of life. A wish for a child is a wish for a star".
White tree with stars on top of its branches
Both Benedikt's sister and the artist who made the artwork around the well could not fall pregnant without help, but after the wishing well was completed they both fell pregnant I read in an article in the newspaper Fréttablaðið!
I can tell you that one can get very emotional there, especially if you can't have children, like me. But I recommend going there, it is a lovely little grove.
The miniature replica of a turf house by the Christmas House
The Christmas House is open all year round, and it is lovely visiting it both in the wintertime and in the summertime. It is so close to Akureyri that driving down there is well worth the trip. And if you drive a little further into Eyjafjörður fjord, you will find some lovely historical churches.
The Christmas House is located a little over 14 km away from Akureyri. You can either rent a car to visit the Christmas House or go there by taxi from Akureyri as there are no buses going there. You can contact Bifreiðastöð Oddeyrar taxi services to find out the price of a return trip by taxi from Akureyri to the Christmas House.
The latest addition to Sveinsbær - from my 2020 visit
During our 2020 visit, I saw this new addition to Sveinsbær - it is a lovely little café with baked goods and hot drinks.
The owners are forever expanding and adding to their lovely place and making it more welcoming to visitors. I for sure appreciate their effort and always look forward to my next visit to the Christmas House :)
Eyjafjörður fjord just never ceases to amaze me and that is why I have written some 9 travel-blogs on this longest fjord in North-Iceland.
This is Part VII in my series of travel-blogs on Eyjafjörður fjord - now join me on a further exploration of North-Iceland's longest fjord:
Have a lovely time in North-Iceland :)