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  • Einar Páll Svavarsson

Downtown Reykjavík City Center - Miðbær district

Updated: Dec 6, 2022


Reykjavík city center
Reykjavík city center

Reykjavik is the birthplace of Iceland. According to written sources from the 13th century, it is the place of settlement of Ingólfur Arnarson, often referred to as the man who found Iceland. Archeological research has confirmed that a Viking village in the ninth century existed where Reykjavík is now. The result of the study can be viewed at an exhibition in Aðalstræti.

Reykjavík city on the map of Iceland
Reykjavík city on the map of Iceland

Reykjavík City Center is also the center of government in Iceland and much more


Skólavörðustígur shopping street in the city center in Reykjavík city
Skólavörðustígur shopping street in the city center in Reykjavík city

The Reykjavík city center district is the center of government, culture, and commerce in Iceland. The city center has many government buildings and institutions for the Icelandic government and the city. The most prominent building is, of course, the Icelandic parliament by the tiny park Austurvöllur. A flag is waved on the building when the parliament is in session. When the public is offended, Icelanders flock in front of this building to demonstrate and demand changes. It is, in a way, an icon of our precious democracy. Other impressive buildings are the offices of the prime minister, formerly a prison from the 18th century, the city hall, the main church, and the marvelous modern music and conference hall Harpa with outer walls designed by the Danish / Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson.


Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur are two streets you must know and see in Reykjavík city center

Harpa conference center in the city center in Reykjavik
Harpa conference center in the city center in Reykjavik

The city center is crowded with restaurants and coffee houses. At the city pond, the great sculpture “In memory of the anonymous official” by Magnús Tómasson faces The city hall. To the south of the core center and the pound are the main buildings of the University of Iceland. The Reykjavík airport is also in the district of the city center. From the center towards the east is the main shopping street, Laugavegur, initially leading to the hot springs of Laugardalur, where the people in Reykjavík would take the laundry for washing.

From Laugavegur is a turn to Skólavörðustígur, leading to the big church, Hallgrímskirkja; on the hill is Skólavörðuholt. The street is the home of fantastic design shops, galleries, cafés, restaurants, small stores, and artist shops. From the tower of the church Hallgrímskrikja, the view is excellent. In front of the church is a statue of Leif the Lucky, the man whom we claim to be the discoverer of America, by the American sculptor Alexander S. Calder.


All the old marvelous houses we managed to preserve in the City Center of Reykjavík

Residential area in the city center
Residential area in the city center

Alongside Laugavegur is Hverfisgata, with the old museums' house, with standing exhibitions of Icelandic culture and the National Theater, an impressive design by Iceland's most prominent architect Guðjón Samúelsson. The city center is also a great place to live; understandably, most of the houses are old since this is the first district built in Reykjavík. Since other districts didn't start to develop until the twenties and the thirties, the district of the city center is the heart of Reykjavík.

Bæjarins bestu is a famous hotdog stand in Reykjavík City Center
Bæjarins bestu is a famous hotdog stand in Reykjavík City Center

For the residents of the city center, Reykjavík provides good services, like preschool, primary and secondary schools, colleges, and other educational institutions. There is a beautiful old indoor swimming pool built almost a century ago, currently under renovation, with a long-awaited outdoor swimming pool to be added. For people living in the city center, the district is considered the best and most attractive place to live in Iceland today.


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