Hallgrímskirkja: Iceland’s largest church in Reykjavik


In Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, there is one building that you will always see. 

It is called Hallgrímskirkja, and it is the tallest church in Iceland. 

It is so well-known that it can be called the symbol of Reykjavik and is a popular spot for travelers visiting Iceland. 

In this article, I would like to explain the main features and history of Hallgrímskirkja.

What is Hallgrímskirkja?

Hallgrímskirkja is a Protestant Evangelical Lutheran church located in the center of Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland. 

The church takes its name from a 17th-century clergyman and poet named Hallgrímur Pétursson. 

The front exterior of the church has a unique design with vertically aligned lines reminiscent of a pipe organ, and it has a simple and sturdy appearance that is devoid of ostentation, giving it a sense of elegance and dignity. 

Hallgrímskirkja is also one of the tallest churches in Iceland and, combined with its heavy concrete construction, it has a strong presence.

The tallest church in Iceland

Hallgrímskirkja is 74.5 meters high, making it the tallest church in Iceland. 

Additionally, prior to the completion of the Smáratorg Tower in 2008, it was the tallest “structure” in the country. 

The top floor of the church has an observation deck accessible by elevator for a fee. 

As the highest observation deck in Reykjavik, the view is truly spectacular. 

The colorful Scandinavian cityscape spreads out before your eyes, and beyond that, you can see the horizon. 

The view also offers a sense of unobstructed 360-degree freedom, as there are almost no high-rise buildings in Reykjavik.

Designed by architect Guðjón Samúelsson

Hallgrímskirkja is a relatively new structure, completed in 1986. 

It is a rarity in Scandinavia, as many buildings in the region are medieval. 

The architectural design was by Guðjón Samúelsson, an Icelandic architect who designed Hallgrímskirkja based on the basalt landscape that stretches across Iceland. 

Iceland is also a volcanic country, and basalt, a type of volcanic rock, can be seen throughout the country.

Construction of the church began in 1945 and was completed 41 years later, in 1986.

The hard exterior of Hallgrímskirkja beautifully reflects the rectilinear, prismatic shape, and massive texture characteristic of basalt. 

The interior of the church is simple

Although Hallgrímskirkja has a massive exterior, the interior is very simple. 

Wooden chairs are lined up in front of the pipe organ at the front of the church, and the walls are decorated simply with white as the base color. 

The most eye-catching feature of the church is the large pipe organ. 

The organ was built in 1992 by Johannes Klais, a German organ builder. 

It weighs 22 tons and has 5,275 pipes. Hallgrímskirkja is open to the public all year round, and many believers visit the church to worship. 

In the summer, concerts featuring the pipe organ are also held.

Bronze statue of Leif Erikson donated by the U.S.

In front of the church is a bronze statue of Leif Erikson, an Icelander who was the first European to reach the Americas at the end of the 10th century.

While the Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492, Leif Erikson reached America 500 years earlier than Columbus.

Leif Erikson may not be a common name in Japan, but he is a very famous person in the world.

The statue of Leif Erikson was presented by the United States in 1930 to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of the first Althing in Iceland.

The Althing was the world’s first democratic parliament held in Iceland in 930, in Thingvellir National Park, which is now recognized as a World Heritage Site.

For more information about Althing and Thingvellir National Park, please see the following article.

Thingvellir National Park: The place where the world's first democratic parliament was established in IcelandThingvellir National Park is a popular tourist destination in Iceland, an island nation located on the fringes of northern Europe. In addition to the natural beauty created by Iceland's unique geography, the park, which is also registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is known as the birthplace of a democratic parliament in 930 AD, which was rare at the time. In this article, I would like to provide a detailed introduction to Thingvellir National Park....


Hallgrímskirkja is an iconic building in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, and its presence is unmistakable in the city. 

As one of the tallest churches in Iceland, it is illuminated at night, creating a magical atmosphere. 

As a popular tourist attraction located in the capital, it is easily accessible, making it one of the most attractive spots for travelers.