The Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour - Explore the Capital City of Iceland

Reykjavíkis my home-town and the northernmost capital city in the world. It is called Reykjavík (Smoky Bay) as the first Norwegian settler, Ingólfur Arnarson, who arrived here in ca 874, saw the smoke coming from hot springs in this area and thus the name.

Ca 212.000 of us (give or take a few) live in the whole Greater Reykjavík area. The city is expanding and the lines between the neighbouring towns around Reykjavík cannot really be spotted unless you live here. 

I joined a friend of mine, who was travelling alone to Iceland, on a guided tour of the Greater Reykjavík area. The tour started at 9 am and we were driven through the centre of Reykjavíkand the guide pointed out to us the various noteworthy buildings in Reykjavík. 

Bessastaðir - the Residence of the Icelandic President

The Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour - Explore the Capital City of Iceland

As this tour is a guided tour of the Greater Reykjavík area then we headed out of the city centre and drove to Bessastaðir, the residence of the President of Iceland, where we stopped to have a look around and take some photos.

There is a lovely church at Bessastaðir right in front of the Presidential Residence. One can get very close to the Presidential Residence at Bessastaðir, but take care as not to cross into the private area of the Presidential Residence. There are no guards here to guard our President, but out of consideration for privacy one should just stay on the grounds behind the church.

The Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour - Explore the Capital City of Iceland
A church was first built there in the year 1000, but the current church dates back to 1796. In 1805-1846 the Latin School/Learned School (which had been in Skálholt since 1056) moved to Bessastaðir. The Latin School MR is now located in the very centre of Reykjavík and was pointed out to us from the bus, while we were being driven through the city centre.

Bessastaðirwas the property of Snorri Sturluson, on which I have written another travel-blog and after he was murdered in 1241 Bessastaðirbecame the first property of the Norwegian kings which reigned in Iceland and remained under their reign for 500 years. So apart from being the Residence of the President of Iceland then Bessastaðir is quite a historical place. 

The first president to reside at Bessastaðirafter we got our independence from the Danish monarchy was Sveinn Björnsson 1944-1952, our second president was Ásgeir Ásgeirsson 1952-1968, our third was Kristján Eldjárn 1968-1980, our fourth and first female president was our beloved Vigdís Finnbogadóttir 1980-1996. Our fifth president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, was in office from 1996-2016 and our current president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, has been in office since August 2016.

The Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour - Explore the Capital City of Iceland

We got such a beautiful day for visiting Bessastaðirand as we were driving towards it, the buildings at Bessastaðirreflected in the bay. It was such a beautiful, tranquil sight. I wish I had been able to take a photo of it from inside the bus, but I will just have to keep the image in my head.

From Bessastaðirthere is a good view of Reykjavík city. And there is rich birdlife by Bessastaðirin summer time.

Hafnarfjörður town - the Town in the Lava

The Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour - Explore the Capital City of Iceland

Our second stop was at the lovely town of Hafnarfjörður- the town in the lava. We drove through the town and saw some houses with natural lava sculptures in the garden, as this town is actually built on a lava field. Here we stopped by the harbour, but the name of this town, Hafnarfjörður, means Harbour Fjord.

Seeing that there is a lot of lava here in Hafnarfjörður, then there are also hidden people (elves) here. I have written about the hidden people in several of my travel-blogs.

The Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour - Explore the Capital City of Iceland

Hafnarfjörður is built around the harbour, which was once one of the main harbours in Iceland. There is a big stone arch by the harbour. It is a monument in remembrance of the first Lutheran church in Iceland. The church was built by German people visiting Iceland from Hamburg in 1533. It remained a church until 1603 and was taken down in 1608 by the order of Christian IV, King of Denmark. There are some good photo opportunities by the stone arch and the harbour.

Hafnarfjörður is a peaceful and friendly town with great atmosphere. In the old part of town there are lovely quaint little houses and I never get tired of taking a walk there. It is only a ten minute's drive from Reykjavík.

Reykjavík

Now we drove back to Reykjavíkand drove through Laugardalur valley, passed Höfði House (1909), which is best known amongst foreigners as the meeting place between Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbacev in 1986, the meeting which is believed to have ended the Cold War.

Höfði has been the official reception building for Reykjavík city since 1967 and is still used for receptions and a number of well-known people have been greeted here. We didn't make a photo-stop here, but stopped close to Höfði House by the Sun Voyager.

The Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour - Explore the Capital City of Iceland

Reykjavík is surrounded by the sea and we have many beautiful waterfronts.The northern waterfront is a popular place for jogging and strolling. From there you have a great view of Mt Esja, which is Reykjavík's best known mountain. On sunny days you can see the town Akranes glistening in the sun across the bay. 

On the waterfront the Sun Voyager sculpture (Sólfar) is located. It is a big steel-sculpture in the shape of a Vikingship, by Jón Gunnar Árnason. It is a reminder of our history and heritage when the first Viking settlers came sailing to Iceland. This is a very popular photo-stop and I would say that the majority of visitors to Iceland stops here to take a photo. 

Perlan - the Pearl

The Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour - Explore the Capital City of Iceland

By now it was time to visit one of the landmarks of Reykjavík, Perlan - the Pearl. Perlan is built on and in between 6 hot water storage tanks with geothermal water on the hill Öskjuhlíð.

These hot water storage tanks have been here since 1940, and when I was a little girl we would have a picnic by the tanks with my family. My sister and I loved to play hide and seek in between the hot water tanks and run around them. Times have changed and now we visit Perlanto have coffee and cakes at the caféteria and to watch the view from the view-platform.

The Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour - Explore the Capital City of Iceland

Perlanwas inaugurated in 1991 and caused a lot of controversy, especially as it resembles a space-ship, but is now a very popular place to visit, both by tourists and Icelandic people. 

On the fourth floor of Perlan there is a caféteria with exits to the view-platforms, where there is a fantastic panoramic view of the city. Here we stopped for ca 30 minutes and took in the view of the Greater Reykjavík area. My first photo in this travel-blog is shot from the view-platform of Perlan.

On the top floor of Perlanthere is an excellent restaurant. And just recently a Glaciers and Ice Cave Exhibition opened up in Perlan.

The Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour - Explore the Capital City of Iceland

Now our 3-hour-tour was drawing to an end. We were driven to the other landmark of Reykjavík, the biggest church in Iceland, Hallgrímskirkja church.

Hallgrímskirkja is named after Hallgrímur Pétursson, a reverend and hymn writer (1614-1674) who wrote the beautiful hymns "Passíusálmar". Hallgrímskirkja is 73 m tall and stands on the hill Skólavörðuholt. It is situated in the centre of Reykjavík and is visible from all over Reykjavík and the surrounding areas, making it a great landmark.

The plan for the church was to make it resemble volcanic basalt rock formations and I love its shape. Everybody, who visits Reykjavík, visits this beautiful church.

The Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour - Explore the Capital City of Iceland

This guided tour takes you on a lovely tour through the Greater Reykjavík area to places where it is only possible to go by car or by bus, so it is highly recommended if you want to see more than just the city centre. And it gives you a better idea of how spread out the Greater Reykjavík area really is. 

Gray line has changed this tour to Reykjavík City Sightseeing by minibus, but if you want to join a tour similar to this one then the Greater Reykjavik Area, Álftanes & Hafnarfjörður|Evening Tour is an option. Also check out the Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour or go on a Hop-on Hop-off City Sightseeing Tour.

There are many fun guided tours of Reykjavík available, f.ex. the ATV & Helicopter from Reykjavík and the Private Day Tours City Sightseeing to name just a few of the guided tours available in my city.

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