On your left you can see the white art deco building of Hótel Borg, which is traditionally considered the city’s finest hotel. You are now in Austurvöllur, a small and handsome square. This square was the original farmstead of Ingólfur Arnarson, Iceland’s first settler in 874 and the founder of Reykjavík in 877. The statue in the middle of the square is of Jón Sigurðsson, the nineteenth-century independence campaigner appear and as such a national hero. He faces two important buildings, though for what they represent to Iceland they are distinctly modest. 

The grey building is the AlÞingshúsið (Parliament House). Having been held outdoors at Þingvellir since 930, the AlÞing moved from that original Viking site to Reykjavík in 1798, and this building became its home in 1881, at a time when Iceland was still a territory of Denmark. Since Iceland’s independence in 1944, the Icelandic government has been dominated by two parties: the Independence Party and the Progressive Party, both of them centre-right. The Independence Party has been in the governing coalition for all but 10 of the 75 years since independence, and in all that time only three governments have been formed without either of those parties: those of Emil Jónsson from 1958 to 1959 (11 months), Benedikt Gröndal from 1979 to 1980 (four months), and Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir from 2009 to 2013 (four years). That’s a total of five and a bit years of left-wing government since World War Two. The current Prime Minister is in fact the leader of the Left-Green Movement, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, but her party governs in a somewhat unlikely coalition with the two big beasts of the right.

The white building between Hótel Borg and the AlÞingshúsið is the Dómkirkjan: Reykjavík’s cathedral. After Christianity came to Iceland in 1000, Iceland had two bishoprics: Hólar in the north and Skálholt in the south. The Danish, who ruled Iceland, replaced both of them with this Lutheran diocese in 1785, when this cathedral was built. Few tourists visit this cathedral, with most of them erroneously believing the much larger and more prominent Hallgrímskirkja to be the city’s cathedral.

Follow Templarasund, between the AlÞingshúsið and the Dómkirkjan, until you reach the city lake.

Next: Tjörnin to Vesturbær