An Unexpected Pop of Colour in Iceland’s Capital City

Reykjavik view

Before I visited Iceland this summer I had this mental image of the landscape being barren and moon-like, with massive glaciers, windy plateaus and snow-capped mountains.

Of course the majority of the country is made up of these elements, but what I didn’t take into account is that Iceland has some major cities too, the capital Reykjavik being the largest with a population of 120,000.

Reykjavik view

Iceland has some pretty unique cultural exports – Björk anybody? – as well as a rich history full of sagas and legends, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised to find the capital city thriving in beautiful architecture and vibrant street art.

Harpa Reykjavik

Along Reykjavik’s waterfront you will find Harpa, the city’s concert hall and conference center.  The construction of Harpa was quite controversial because it took place right in the midst of the Icelandic recession and was completed with a total cost of 27 billion ISK (approximately 187 million Euro).

Harpa Reykjavik

The inspiration for the glass façade comes from naturally occurring pillow basalt, which forms when lava erupts underwater. At night the building is spectacularly lit up by different colors representing the northern lights that are so often seen over Iceland during the winter months.

Today, Harpa is home to the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera.

Sun Voyager Reykjavik

Following along the waterfront path will lead you to one of the most photographed sculptures in all of Reykjavik: The Sun Voyager.

Although many tourists think the Sun Voyager is a Viking ship, it’s actually meant as an ode to the sun.

Hallgrímskirkja Reykjavik

In the city center stands Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland, which took 38 years to build.  The architect is said to have designed it to resemble the lava flows of the country’s landscape.

Hallgrímskirkja has an observation tower for visitors with a fantastic view of Reykjavik and the surrounding mountains. Admission for the tower is 800 ISK for adults and 100 ISK for children.

Hallgrímskirkja view on Reykjavik

For a country like Iceland that is mostly made up of a palette of earth tones, downtown Reykjavik is surprisingly bright – large murals and colorful street art is everywhere. It’s the sort of thing you might expect to see in South America, but not on a small island in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean.

While I was walking through the streets of Reykjavik’s downtown core I was really drawn to the artwork and kept snapping photographs of everything that caught my eye.

Below you’ll find a few of my favorite photographs from the streets of Reykjavik!

Reykjavik Street Art
Reykjavik Street Art
Reykjavik Street Art
Reykjavik Street Art
Reykjavik Street Art
Reykjavik Street Art
Reykjavik Street Art
Reykjavik Street Art
Reykjavik Street Art
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