On my first day in Iceland, following a late-morning nap at the Reykjavik City Hostel, I headed out along the waterfront in the extended dawn. And after seeing some of the downtown area, I dragged my jetlagged body up to Hallgrímskirkja, the Lutheran church that overlooks the entire city.

Hallgrímskirkja

Completed in 1986, the architecture of Hallgrímskirkja is reminiscent of the basalt lava cliffs at the beach outside Vik. It houses a rather impressive pipe organ, which unfortunately was undergoing some renovations while I was there, so I didn’t get any photos of it. The interior is rather plain compared to a lot of churches I’ve visited, but it has its charm and calming effects.Reykjavik-church

There’s also a celebration of Iceland’s heritage with a statue of Leif Eriksson greeting visitors before entering.church-viking

On my way out, I realized that I could pay about $5 to take the elevator up the tower. As it was sunny, I decided I should go up and take in the view of Reykjavik and see what the small city had to offer.Reykjavik4

In the midday sunshine, the view from the tower of Hallgrímskirkja is beautiful–the buildings spread out in every direction, the mountains off in the distance. Of course, it is a little cold in the tower in January. I found the view of Reykjavik to be more impressive than that from the Empire State Building or St. Paul’s in London.Reykjavik-mts

Other than my final day before heading home, when I spent time in the Blue Lagoon, this was the brightest day during my trip. And the sun in winter is a beautiful sight, especially when you only get about four hours of daylight.Reykjavik3

On the way out of the tower, I had my first conversation in Iceland with a Chinese family–I’m still amazed at how many Chinese conversations I had in Iceland.Reykjavik1

Afterwards, I relaxed back at the hostel before heading out again for dinner and drinks. That was the night I had smoked puffin breast at Þrír Frakkar and tasted some impressive local microbrews.

What are some of your favorite urban views around the world?