Hannesarholt in Reykjavík - the Home of Iceland's first Minister of State, Hannes Hafstein

I have been writing about Iceland for 2 years now, but have not written about my home-town Reykjavík at all, so I want to make amends and tell you about this lovely historical house down-town Reykjavík, called Hannesarholt. It was the home of Iceland's first Minister of State, the noted Hannes Hafstein (1861-1922). 

Hannes Hafstein was one of Iceland's beloved poets and a noteworthy man in Iceland's history, the District Magistrate of Ísafjörður and an advocate. Iceland used to be under the rule of Denmark and Hannes Hafstein negotiated with the Danish King and the Danish government in 1904, for an Icelander to represent the Danish ruler here in Iceland.

Iceland gained Home Rule and Hannes Hafstein became Iceland's first Minister of State on February 1st, 1904 and he held that position until March 31st, 1909. He became a minister again in 1912-1914.

Hannesarholt in Reykjavík - the Home of Iceland's first Minister of State, Hannes Hafstein

Hannes Hafstein built the concrete house at Grundarstígur 10 in 1915 after the Great Fire of Reykjavík on the 25th of April 1915. Two men were killed in the fire and 12 houses caught fire, 10 of them burnt to ashes. Only ca 14,000 people lived in Reykjavík 100 years ago and it was a big blow for the inhabitants of Reykjavík when so many houses and buildings burnt down in the heart of Reykjavík. Many more people were living in each house than today.

HannesHafstein was a widower with 8 children at the time since his wife had passed away at age 42 two years earlier. A month after the fire he wrote a letter to the authorities asking if he could build a house as fireproof as possible on Grundarstigur 10. In October he moved in with seven of his children and both grandmothers.

Hannesarholt in Reykjavík - the Home of Iceland's first Minister of State, Hannes Hafstein
Hannes Hafstein built this concrete house after the Great Fire of Reykjavík back in 1915 when Hótel Reykjavík (where the fire started) and 11 other buildings burnt down and two men lost their lives. Hannes Hafstein witnessed this dreadful fire.

Hannesarholt was one of the first 15 concrete houses to be built here in Reykjavík. Icelanders back then were living in turf houses and timber houses, so this house is quite important in Reykjavík's history, a part of our national heritage. After the fire, it was forbidden to build timber houses in the centre of Reykjavík.

Hannesarholt in Reykjavík - the Home of Iceland's first Minister of State, Hannes Hafstein
Arnór Vikingsson and Ragnheiður Jóna Jónsdóttir bought this lovely historical house, restored it and opened to the public in February 2013. 

On the first floor, you will find a restaurant and a café where breakfast and lunch are served daily from 8 am until 5 pm. It is lovely visiting this café, quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Reykjavík, yet so very close to Reykjavík's main shopping street.

Hannesarholt in Reykjavík - the Home of Iceland's first Minister of State, Hannes Hafstein
Here at Hannesarholt, there are so many rooms and some of the rooms on the second and third floor of this historic house are rented out for meetings, lectures etc.

There is also an assembly hall in the backyard, which is called Hljóðberg. Here seminars and concerts are regularly held and guests can watch a short film about Hannes Hafstein and the formative years of the city. Here one can find a Steinway 211 Grand piano, which is one of the best in Iceland and a beautiful painting by Eggert Pétursson.

Hannesarholt in Reykjavík - the Home of Iceland's first Minister of State, Hannes Hafstein
Hannesarholt is quite a Cultural Centre. As it says on their homepage: "Their dream is that Hannesarholt, the non-profit organization borrowing the house, can be a place of nurturing, a place where Icelanders, having sped too hastily towards modernity, can reclaim their roots, cultivate their sense of identity and remember who they are. An abundance has been given to us and quantities have been misplaced; and yet we have an opportunity to retrieve and reclaim cultural riches".

And of course, everybody is welcome to visit Hannesarholt, not only Icelanders :)

Hannesarholt in Reykjavík - the Home of Iceland's first Minister of State, Hannes Hafstein
It is lovely to walk around this historical house, roam from room to room, imagining what life must have been like here when Hannes Hafstein and his family lived in this beautiful house.

Guided tours of the house are available, but it is best to phone ahead to book a tour of the house. 

I went to college for 4 years here in Grundarstígur street (some decades ago) and remember how I used to admire this house, the former home of Hannes Hafstein, the noted poet and our first Minister of State, which we Icelanders hold in great respect! I am so glad that it is now open to the public. This house is so elegant and I love visiting it :)

Hannesarholt in Reykjavík - the Home of Iceland's first Minister of State, Hannes HafsteinDirections for Hannesarholt: Walking up Bankastræti street turn right on Ingólfsstræti street and walk to the end of that street. Turn left on Spítalastígur street and then right on Grundarstígur street.

It is not as complicated as it sounds ;)

Hannesarholt in Reykjavík - the Home of Iceland's first Minister of State, Hannes Hafstein

There are 2 statues in front of our Government House down-town Reykjavík - one of King Christian IX handing over the first Icelandic constitution in 1874, and the other one is ofHannes Hafstein, our first Minister of State.

Below you will see the grave of Hannes Hafstein and his wife, Ragnheiður Hafstein, in Hólavallakirkjugarður cemetery in Reykjavík.

Hannesarholt in Reykjavík - the Home of Iceland's first Minister of State, Hannes Hafstein

To make the most out of your visit to Reykjavík, check out the guided tours available of my city:

You can also rent a car in Reykjavík and explore Iceland on your own.

Guide to Iceland has also put together many self-drive tours starting from Reykjavík with a detailed itinerary, car and accommodations, which might prove to be helpful when planning your Iceland trip.

Have a lovely time at Hannesarholt :)

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