Reykjavík is only a small city, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character and color. Within minutes of walking around the downtown area you’ll notice it’s a city that takes pride in its quirkiness and on skirting away from the norm.
Architecturally speaking, most houses in the city are rather square and uninspiring. This is mainly due to the island’s lack of natural raw building materials such as wood and stone, so most buildings since the end of the Second World War were made from concrete and corrugated steel. Yet where Reykjavík lacks in architectural wonder, its surprising colorfulness brings the city alive.
In the last 75 years or so, most of the color in the city has come from the brightly painted houses and rooftops that you’ll see everywhere you look. But more recently Reykjavík has become a home to a thriving and prevalent street art scene, in part due to a local music festival that takes place in Reykjavík the first week of November each year, Iceland Airwaves. With it’s growing popularity, the festival organizers have in recent years teamed up with artists from all over the world and home/business owners to have colourful, and slightly bizarre, art works painted onto homes, shop fronts, walls peeking out from alleyways, and in some cases even onto the pavement.
Here are 15 of our favourite street art pieces found around the downtown area. They certainly bring a lot of color and joy to those grey and moody winter months.
#1 “Ode to Mother”
This piece can be found on the main shopping street, Laugavegur. Created by an artist known as Caratoes, the artwork is inspired by a song called ‘Óður til Móður’ (Ode to Mother) by Icelandic band Ylja and was part of a series of artworks commissioned by the 2015 Iceland Airwaves music festival.
#2 A Gyrfalcon, the national bird of Iceland.
#3 Space unicorn.
#4 A vampire’s kiss.
#5 Under the sea.
#6 The brightly colored walls of Braud & Co bakery.
There are bakeries all over Reykjavík but Braud & Co is in a class of its own. Their cinnamon buns are seriously out of this world. We can’t recommend them enough!
#7 A fish in the shape of Iceland.
#8 A splash of color and joy!
#9 The eagle has landed.
#10 Yggdrasil, the
tree hand of life.
#11 The wolf mother.
#12 This soup restaurant has a tropical feel to it.
#13 The businessman.
#14 “Heavy stones fear no weather”.
This beautiful pieces was a collaboration between artist Wes21 and Icelandic folk-pop band ‘Of Monsters and Men’. The end-result was this simply astonishing artwork inspired by Icelandic mythology entitled “Heavy Stones Fear No Weather”.
#15 The Berlin Wall.
This 4-ton section of of the Berlin Wall was gifted to Reykjavík in 2015 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of German reunification.
The location is significant in that in 1986 a historic meeting between Ronald Reagan and Michael Gorbachev took place in Höfði, a large white house that sits in the same small park as the wall section. This meeting is said to have lead to the end of the Cold War and ultimately to the possibility of Germany’s reunification.