Information about Alþingi

The Alþingi is located in Reykjavík.Wikimedia, Creative Commons, Photo by Sikeri

The Alþingi is Iceland’s parliament, and the longest-running ongoing representative assembly in the world. It is located in Reykjavík.

History

The Alþingi was formed in 930 AD, originally in Þingvellir National Park (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Park for this fact, found on the Golden Circle). Its creation marked the end of the Settlement Era, and began the Commonwealth Era.

The Alþingi came to be when the 32 clans of settlers, who’d been arriving to Iceland since 874 AD and forming regional assemblies of their own, decided they would rather talk out their issues than fight over them.

Of course, as descendents of Vikings, a lot of fighting was still done when the parliament convened every year, as is recounted in many sagas, but usually, the parliament worked. Icelanders from around the country would come to learn what was happening elsewhere, promote the establishment of new laws, and settle disputes.

In many ways, this was an incredibly forward thinking institution for its time; it sought to keep power local, settled blood-feuds diplomatically, and even granted divorces to women who were unhappy in their marriages. In other ways, it was less so; witches, for example, were regularly tried and convicted at the Alþingi.

There was no ‘leader’, per se, but a Lawspeaker, who would record and read out the commonwealth’s rules from ‘the Law Rock’. One of these Lawspeakers, Snorri Sturluson, is regarded as one of the world’s most important medieval historians, but what is less known is that his tenure was embroiled in civil war, and led to the end of the Commonwealth Era as Iceland was absorbed into the Norwegian Empire.

Þingvellir National Park was the original home of Iceland's parliament.

The Alþing was still an important institution in the country, as the Norwegian kings cared little for the personal disputes of Icelanders, and ran for centuries unchanged. However, when the Kalmar Union collapsed and Denmark took over Iceland’s management, more and more power was taken from the locals.

In 1800, the Alþingi was temporarily dissolved by the Danish king, and replaced by a High Court in Reykjavík. However, a second royal decree reestablished it in 1843, although it too was now in Iceland’s capital.

Since then, the Alþingi has modernised with the times. Enfranchisement grew to incorporate everyone, regardless of income and gender, and eventually, first by achieving Home Rule then Independence, the shackles of Danish Rule were thrown off.

Alþingi Today

The Alþingi today can be found in downtown Reykjavík, next to the city’s cathedral (not to be confused with the much larger Hallgrímskirkja church). It is often photographed as the backdrop to protests, as Icelanders are a very politically active people. Most notable were the 1975 Women’s Day Off Protests and the 2007 Kitchenware Revolution, as well as the response to the Panama Papers in 2016.

Þingvellir is still visited on Golden Circle tours, where guests can learn all about this history while marvelling over beautiful nature and the edges of the tectonic plates. There are no buildings remaining (Icelanders would simply camp here while the parliament convened), but a few crumbling old walls, some submerged in water, reveal a little of what once went on here.

 

Services near Alþingi

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Attractions nearby Alþingi

Dómkirkjan

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Austurvöllur

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

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Ráðhúsið – Reykjavík City Hall

Reykjavík City Hall (Ráðhús Reykjavíkur) is located on the banks of Tjörnin Pond in central Reykjaví...

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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...

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Lækjargata

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

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Bæjarins Beztu | Hot Dog Stand

Bæjarins Beztu Pyslur is a popular hot dog stand in the centre of Iceland’s capital Reykjavík.  The name of the busine...

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Reykjavik Art Museum - Hafnarhus / Harbor house

Credit: Wikimedia, Creative Commons. Photo by TommyBee. Hafnarhús, or the Harbour House, is one of the three buildings which hosts the exhibit...

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Tjörnin

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

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Harpa – Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre

Harpa is Rekjavík’s premier concert hall and conference centre. Opened in 2011, its design was a collaboration between Danish-Icel...

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Hljómskálagarðurinn

Hljómskálagarðurinn is a park in Reykjavík’s downtown area, renowned for its birdlife, sculptures, and serenity. Loc...

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Whale Exhibition Center

The Whale Exhibiton Center is a floating information and exhibition center at Reykjavik harbor. The Whale Exhibiton Center is focused on informing it...

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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...

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National Museum

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

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Hallgrímskirkja

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

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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...

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University of Iceland

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

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Norræna húsið

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

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Whales of Iceland

Photo from Whales of Iceland The Whale of Iceland is the biggest exhibition on whales in the world, located in Reykjavík, which also works tow...

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Laugavegur (street)

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

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Hlemmur

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

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Tours near Alþingi

Icelandic Mythical Walk | Trolls, Elves & Hidden People

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Reykjavik Walking Tour | Explore Iceland's Capital with a Local Guide

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Walking Tour of Reykjavik | The Financial Crash and Recovery

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