The Akureyri Christmas House, or Jólahúsið, is a shop and tourist attraction by the capital of North Iceland, Akureyri.
The Akureyri Christmas House is open year-round and has two floors packed with Christmas trinkets. Amongst the extensive range of goods are decorations, food, music, artworks, books, toys, homeware and ornaments, all associated with the Yuletide.
Many of the products are international, representing how cultures around the world celebrate Christmas. Most, however, are Icelandic, with many authentic local handicrafts for sale.
Icelandic Christmas traditions are amongst the world’s most interesting and unusual. Rather than one jolly Santa, Iceland has thirteen, and all are trolls whose antics range from mischievous to malevolent. Their mother, Gryla, is a child-eating giantess whose gigantic pet, the Christmas Cat, hunts for children this season.
There are plenty of souvenirs that represent these fascinating traditions, and a cave on the ground floor with a sculpture of Gryla. The staff are also experts on Icelandic folklore and how it relates to the festive season, and are happy to answer any questions you may have.
There are several buildings at the Akureyri Christmas House other than the shop itself. Firstly, there is a tower with what may be the world’s largest advent calendar; its windows are numbered to reflect the days leading up to the 25th. Its walls are beautifully painted with fairytale images, created by Icelandic artist Sunna Björk Hreiðarsdóttir.
Close by is Eplakofin, or the Apple Shed; here, you can buy sugar glazed apples to help get into the festive season. Those seeking more sweet treats can find a wide range at Svarta Húsið, otherwise known as ‘The Black House’. This shop also sells a range of Nordic products, although they are not all Christmas themed.
The Christmas House is also home to the Christmas Garden, a beautiful festive space. The garden has a miniature replica of an Icelandic turf church, recreated to represent how buildings looked across the country before industrialisation. It is also home to the Wishing Well of Unborn Children, where guests are encouraged to make a wish for future generations.
Beside this is a tree with stars at the end of its branches, meant to represent those yet to be born.
Find out more about the Christmas House, and see more photos, with Regína’s blog.
The Christmas House is easy to reach from the Capital of the North, Akureyri; simply take Route 821 south from the town, and you’ll find it to your left after about ten minutes. If you reach the village of Hrafnagil, you’ve gone slightly too far.
To get to Akureyri from Reykjavík, drive Route 1 north; the journey takes five hours but the road is accessible throughout the year. It is also possible to take flights from Reykjavík Domestic Airport.
Other than the town of Akureyri itself, there are a wealth of attractions in the North that can be visited alongside the Christmas House. The most well-known of these is Mývatn, a beautiful region of lakes, geological marvels and volcanic activity; there are also some popular waterfalls, such as the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss, and the historic Goðafoss.