As visitors to Reykjavik quickly discover, the city loves its public sculptures. Whether in parks, squares or adorning public buildings, sculptures honor historic figures as well as the commoners who contribute to the vibrant life of the country. This walking tour begins on the sea shore with a stunning contemplation of sea exploration and ends with an epic view of Iceland's most famous explorer. In between those two points a tour through the thoughts, passions and even quiet moments of everyday life in Iceland.
Below is a map that highlights the major sculptures on this walk. Click on the map to go to an interactive version.
Our tour begins...
We begin our sculpture walk with one of the most famous statues in Reykjavik, The Sun Voyager. It was unveiled on Sæbraut on the birthday of the city of Reykjavík on August 18th, 1990. According to the sculptor, the Sun Voyager represents "the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress, and freedom.
The Musician marks the location of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. This statue was originally in Háskólabíó, but when the orchestra moved to Harpa, so did The Musician. The model for this piece was Erling Blöndal Bengtsson, a cellist, chosen because he constantly played for the artist as she worked.
According to the Landnámabók (The Book of Settlements), Ingólfur Arnarson (IR #135531) came from Norway to Iceland to settle in the year 874 after a blood feud. The statue was completed in 1907, but due to fundraising issues and difficulties with the Craftsman association, it was not erected until 1924.
Location: Corner of Bankastræti and Lækjargata
Paying homage to the water carriers who brought water to every household in the inner city, this statue depicts one of the least respected and lowest paid jobs. The image represents the strength and stability of the people who labored year-round, no matter what the weather.
Location: In front of the Prime Minister’s office (Stjórnarráð Íslands) on Lækjargata.
This statue depicts Christian IX, King of Denmark, handing over Iceland’s first constitution in 1874. While the statue was finished in 1907, it was not erected until 1915 due to Icelanders’ reluctance to honor the King when they were trying to become more independent from Denmark.
Location: North bank of Tjörin, close to the entrance of City Hall.
This popular sculpture of a man holding a briefcase whose head is a cube-like boulder was originally located behind the Borg Hotel. It was moved in 2012 and is now in a more fitting place, on the route taken by many of the city officials on their way to work. This humorous statue is a commentary on the faceless bureaucrat and how everyday life can crush us.
Location: West bank of Tjörnin
Tómas Guðmundsson, one of the most famous Icelandic poets, is depicted as a young man. He is known as “Reykjavík’s Poet” as he loved and was inspired by the city. At City Hall, two verses of his poems are written on the windows.
A special collection of statues has been recently added to include on your walking tour:
The Pearl Necklace/ Perlufestin Statue Garden
Location: West bank of Tjörnin, Hljómskálagarður
At this location is a statue garden of six female artists which opened on June 19th, 2014 to commemorate the 99 years of women’s suffrage in Iceland. The name Perlufestin (“The Pearl Necklace”) comes from the circular position of the sculptures, like a string of pearls.
Boy and Girl (Kata and Stebbi) (1968) – Þorbjög Pálsdóttir
Man and Woman (1948) – Tove Ólafsson
Settler (1955) – Gunnfríður Jónsdóttir
Sculpture (1968) – Gerður Helgadóttir
Son (1920) – Ólöf Pálsdóttir
Mermaid (1948) – Nína Sæmundsson
Location: East bank of Tjörnin, Hljómskálagarður
This sculpture of the poet and naturalist Jónas Hallgrimsson was the first statue erected in a public place by an Icelandic artist. Jónas Hallgrimsson is known as the father of Icelandic romanticism and he helped push for the independence of Iceland. The sculpture was ‘temporarily’ placed (1907 - 1947) on the corner of Lækjargata and Amtmannstígur until moved to its current location.
Location: The end of Skólavörðustígur in front of Hallgrímskirkja church
The statue of Leifur Eiríksson, also known as Leifur the Lucky, was a gift to Iceland from the United States to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Icelandic Parliament (Alþingi). The statue was there before Hallsgrímskirkja, which construction started in 1945 and lasted until 1986. An identical copy of the statue stands in Newport, Virginia.
Here is the dedication inscription under the statue: