Domkirkjan, the National Cathedral, is an unassuming city church completed in 1796. It stands beside Parliament House in the city’s main square. It was at the National Cathedral that the Lutheran church officially endorsed Icelandic sovereignty and independence in 1845, although the modern Republic of Iceland was not founded until 1944. Today this rather understated church provides an austere contrast to the soaring tower of Hallgrímskirkja and is the perfect place for reflecting quietly or joining locals at prayer.
Step through the imposing wooden doors and into the bright, light-filled interior of this simple, neoclassical church. On the back wall, admire the pipe organ. In front of the altar, look for the exceptional carved marble font by the 19th-century sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. A series of plain glass windows allow light to stream in, giving a feeling of calm.
The church is open to visitors each day and guests are welcome to attend services. Each year, the opening session of Parliament starts with mass at the cathedral.
Next door, the similarly unpretentious Alþingishúsið (Parliament House) is worth a look. It is made from dolerite, a subvolcanic rock. From October to May you are welcome to watch Alþingi proceedings from the visitors’ gallery. Behind the Alþingishúsið, you’ll find Parliament House Garden, the country's oldest park.
Both the National Cathedral and Parliament House look out upon Austurvöllur, Reykjavík’s oldest square. Formerly a hayfield, the square was the scene of the 2008 political demonstrations during the financial crisis. Today it is used as an outdoor concert space and a place where locals come to sunbathe and picnic. As night falls, watch the world go by from one of the square’s many bars and restaurants before heading to a local nightclub.
Domkirkjan, the National Cathedral, is situated in central Reykjavík and is an easy stroll from major museums, the Old Harbor and Tjörnin Lake.