Literary Walk in Reykjavík


Literary Walk in Reykjavík

Click on the picture to watch an audio slideshow of Reykjavík in Literature, a guided walk through the city center. The free walk, which takes place every Thursday this summer, offers an insight into Iceland’s world of literature, from ancient sagas about brutal Vikings to modern novels about the nightlife in Reykjavík.

Narration and photos by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.


Reykjavík City Library offers visitors to the capital free guided walks in English every Thursday in July and August. The one-and-half-hour walk takes tourists to the main literary sites in central Reykjavík.

The tours are guided by literary expert Úlfhildur Dagsdóttir and actor Darren Foreman. Dagsdóttir begins the tour by introducing each book and its author and explaining why each stop is relevant to the story.

Foreman then reads a chapter from the book in a theatrical manner, dressed in a costume suited to the main characters. During the walk, Foreman also reads poems by Einar Már Gudmundsson and Dagur Sigurdsson.

The first stop is near Reykjavík City Museum on Adalgata where a settlement exhibition is currently on display. Egils Saga, the saga of the Viking Egill Skallagrímsson, is introduced. It was written between 1220 and 1240, possibly by Snorri Sturluson.

The next stop is in Austurvöllur square, by Iceland’s parliamentary building. There Foreman reads a chapter from the Atom Station (1948) by Halldór Laxness, Iceland’s only Nobel Prize winner. The book is about a young woman who moves from the countryside to the busy city and finds it difficult to cope with urban life.

Thereafter walkers are taken to the City Center School where Svava Jakobsdóttir’s Return (1989) is introduced. The book features a woman returning to Reykjavík after living in the US with her Icelandic mother and American stepfather, who was a soldier in occupied Iceland during World War II.

The next stop is outside the nightclub Kaffibarinn, which is one of the places frequented by Hlynur, the main character in 101 Reykjavík (1996) by Hallgrímur Helgason. At 30, Hlynur still lives with his mother and never leaves central Reykjavík; the 101 area.

At Laekjartorg square, Devil’s Island (1983) by Einar Kárason is introduced, which features the life in Iceland after World War II and the influence of American popular culture on Icelandic values and traditions.

A chapter from the suspense thriller Operation Napoleon (1999) by Iceland’s most successful contemporary writer, Arnaldur Indridason, is read outside the pub Dubliners. The main characters in the book were attacked by hit men inside the pub.

The last reading takes place at Ingólfstorg square, where Dead-End Square (1982) by Páll Kristinn Pálsson is introduced. His novel features Icelandic teenagers during the punk period who liked to hang out and drink in Ingólfstorg.

The walk begins at 5 pm by the library building Grófarhús on Tryggvagata 15 by the harbor.

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