Information about Alþingi

The Alþingi is Iceland’s longest running and highest institution of government, having been formed amidst the stunning beauty of Þingvellir (“Parliamentary Fields”) in the year 930AD. The formation of the Alþingi was the country’s first step to solidifying a national identity, creating not only the Icelandic Commonwealth (until its end in 1262), but also, what was arguably the longest running parliament in history. 


Upon the Alþingi’s formation, Viking chieftain and their tribes met for two-week sessions at the Lögberg, or ‘Law Rock’, at the base of what is known today as the North American tectonic plate, to discuss matters of politics in a free and open discussion. At the centre of these proceedings was the Lögrétta, or Law Council. Any law abiding citizen of the land was free to attend and encouraged to do so, as the open air assembly ensured a level of transparency to the meetings. These sessions quickly became the main event of the year’s social calendar, with farmers, merchants, travellers, craftsmen and warriors all in attendance, staying in temporary camps called 'búðir' with their families. 

For two weeks, unifying laws and customs were read aloud by the Lawspeaker to these assemblies, largely by employing the North American tectonic plate as a literal sounding board. Using this method, the Lawspeaker's’ voice could reach all those in attendance. From this position, new legislation was pronounced, political disputes were resolved and justice was implemented. 

In 1262, after nearly two decades of civil war, Icelandic Chieftains finally succumbed to the King of Norway, pledging their allegiance to him. This newly imposed crown rule had a number of consequences, one of which was the changing structure of the Alþingi. Though it still convened at Þingvellir, the lawspeaker could now only pass laws signed off by the Norwegian crown. The Lögrétta was reassigned as an acting court for the region and was held as accountable to the King for any violations to Norway’s rule. Sessions at the Alþingi transformed from the enacting and pronouncements of new law to primarily, the resolution of legal disputes. 

Alþingi Today

This continued upon the formation of the Kalmar Union (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) at the end of the 14th Century, when the rule of Iceland transferred across to the Danes. Denmark was an absolute monarchy and was quick to strip Icelanders of certain ancient rights they had always held close. One of these was the right to assembly, to which the King was highly suspicious. The Alþingi came to an end at Thingvellir in 1798 and was abolished entirely in 1800. The Lögrétta still convened throughout this period at Hólavellir. However, due to an increase in national sentiment throughout the 19th Century, the Danish crown was forced to secede their control and allowed Iceland to re-establish the Alþingi in 1843, in the country’s capital, Reykjavik.

There were a number of changes to the structure and purpose of the Alþingi throughout the early 1900s. However, on the 9th April 1940, Iceland severed its ties with its former colonial master, the then Nazi-occupied Denmark, gaining national independence. In 1944, the Republic of Iceland was officially established. Today, the Alþingi resides at Parliament House, in downtown Reykjavik. It is situated by Austurvöllur field and there is a beautiful public garden behind it which guests are free to visit.

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Attractions nearby Alþingi


  The small and charming Domkirkja church is the central Lutheran church in Iceland.  The Domkirkja is situated at Reykjavik's main pu...



  Austurvollur is a public square in the centre of Reykjavik and a popular gathering place. Around the square are cafés, clubs, sho...


Ráðhúsið – Reykjavík City Hall

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Reykjavík Settlement Exhibition

Photo above from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Heidrunin The Reykjavík Settlement Exhibition is a fascinating place where visitors can disco...



  Laekjargata is a street in central Reykjavik. The street has some of Reykjavik's oldest houses and features several cafés, restaura...


Bæjarins Beztu | Hot Dog Stand

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Reykjavik Art Museum - Hafnarhus / Harbor house

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Tjörnin is the historic, picturesque pond that can be found in downtown Reykjavík. Sites and Activities at Tjörnin This popular s...


Harpa – Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre

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Whale Exhibition Center

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Reykjavík Harbour

  Reykjavík Harbour refers to the Old Harbour and is located close to the centre of the city. It is the main port of departure for whal...


National Museum

  The Icelandic National Museum, located at Sudurgata 41 in Reykjavik, displays objects providing a great insight to the nation's cultural h...



Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church, located on top of hill Skólavörðuhæð in the centre of Reykjavík. At 74...


Sun Voyager

The Sun Voyager (Sólfarið) is a large steel sculpture of a ship, located on the road Sæbraut, by the seaside of central Reykjav&i...


University of Iceland

Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Tommy Bee.  The University of Iceland ("Háskóli Íslands"), in Reykjavik, is Iceland&...


Norræna húsið

Credit: The Nordic House Facebook.  The Nordic House (Est. 1968) is a cultural institution and exhibition space in Reykjavík which aims t...



Askja is a caldera in the central Highlands of Iceland, just north of Vatnajökull glacier. It is best known for its dramatic eruptions, as wel...


Laugavegur (street)

Wikimedia, Creative Commons, Photo Credit: Marek Ślusarczyk Laugavegur is the main shopping street in Reykjavík, renowned for its boutiqu...



Hlemmur is a  long-time fixture of Reykjavík’s capital region, serving for the past century as a central transportation hub. Hlemm...


Tours near Alþingi

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