Europe, Featured, Iceland, Reykjavík

The World’s Most Beautiful Concert Hall – The Harpa in Reykjavik.

November 2, 2014
Harpa Interior

I know it’s a rather bold claim to make, but I’m sure the world’s most beautiful concert hall is the Harpa, located in Reykjavik, Iceland.

I have a feeling a lot of people agree with me too, as the Harpa has been visited by more than three million people since it opened!

After seeing photos of the building when I researched my Christmas in Iceland and then finally seeing it from my room at 101 Hotel, I knew I just had to make a stop and hopefully even take in a performance.

Walking towards Harpa, I stopped and just stared at it for a while as such an impressive structure demands that you do. Despite extreme cold and fierce winds, I couldn’t bring myself to move. I was captivated by Harpa’s shimmering beauty set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains and choppy Atlantic waves.

Reporter John Carlin words it way more eloquently than I – “I could not take my eyes off the building … its multitude of asymmetric, irregularly framed windows continually changed colours, as if in liquid imitation of the aurora borealis.”

Harpa – Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre

Reykjavik Iceland Harpa Background Nature

Reykjavik Iceland Harpa Background Nature

Harpa – Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre

Construction started in January 2007 and continued despite the severe economic crisis plaguing the country, wrapping up in May 2011.

Harpa now operates both a concert hall and a conference centre and is also home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.

Architectural Design

The design is the brainchild of Henning Larsen Architects, in partnership with artist Olafur Eliasson known for his work on large-scale art installations that make use of light, water and air temperature.

This massive structure rises a mighty 43 metres tall, with the interior spanning 28,000 square metres. Over 12,000 square metres of translucent glass and 30,000 cubic metres of concrete were used in the construction of Harpa.

The Harpa Exteriors

The steel framework is comprised of glass panels of various colours.

Harpa Facade

Harpa Facade

The Harpa Interiors

Cereal Magazine says, “During the day, the pseudo-bricks register all the nuanced shifts in the unique Icelandic lightscape, allowing dramatic shafts of light to penetrate the interior, while offering majestic views of Reykjavík’s sea and mountain scenery. At night they glow gently with differently coloured LEDs.”

After warming up with a much needed coffee, I spent at least an hour wandering on my own through the building.

I absorbed the intricacy of the architectural details, gazed at the streams of lights shining brightly through the glass, and marvelled at the beauty of my surroundings.

Harpa Interior

Harpa Interior

Harpa Interior

Harpa Interior

Harpa Interior

Harpa Interior

Harpa Interior

While the outer area of Harpa takes advantage of natural light and blends in seamlessly into the landscape, Eldborg, the grand concert hall is a contrast in design with a bold, opulent, fire-red interior. The large concert hall seats 1,800 people.

Unfortunately, I was not able to snap a photo. Next time!

Harpa’s Hefty Price Tag

Harpa’s elaborate design does not come cheaply. During a time when the country was suffering through one of the worst economic crises in the history of mankind, the government spent a whopping 1.5 billion Icelandic króna (10 million euros or 150 million American dollars) to build the venue.

Some Icelanders felt that their money could be better spent (and honestly, it could have) but most have come to see the completion of Harpa as significant and herald it as a hope for their continued economic recovery.

Time to Say Goodbye

As daylight was fading, I raced off to take in some more sights. As weird as it sounds, I wanted to feed the ducks and swans at Reykjavik’s city hall (I have a whole blog post planned on that!).

I didn’t want to leave but I knew I’d be coming back. Before I left, I purchased tickets to a short comedy act called How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes, which is still playing!

Harpa Interior

Good to Know

  1. The building is open to the public every day from 8:00 a.m – 12:00 a.m. The box office is open weekdays from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and weekends from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (longer on concert nights).
  2. Guided tours are available for 1750 Icelandic króna, approximately 12 euros or 15 American dollars. Tours include getting access to areas normally reserved for performers, having your photo taken on the grand stage and hearing insider stories about Harpa.
  3. Save money by skipping the tour altogether. Simply wander through the building and take photos.
  4. Read a local’s account about their first visit to Harpa at I Heart Reykjavik.
  5. Stay at the nearby 101 Hotel to get a room with a direct view of Harpa!
  6. For more Icelandic inspiration, view my archive.

Location

Harpa – Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre
Austurbakki 2
101 Reykjavik, Iceland
(+354) 528 5000

http://en.harpa.is/

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18 Comments

  • Reply Christopher November 2, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    OK. Wow. Those windows. I’ve been talking to my students about the new gallery in Paris for the last couple of weeks, which is a hut compared to this. Beautiful. Iceland awaits.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard November 2, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      Hi Christopher –

      Yes, Harpa’s windows are stunning … I love how it looks at different times of the day. The building demands a repeat visit! Go to Iceland NOW! 😉

      Cheryl

  • Reply Vanessa November 2, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Amazing Architecture inside and out. Very clever..this is indeed a work of art.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard November 2, 2014 at 8:53 pm

      Most definitely. The more I stare at the photos, the more I long to go back. I’d love to see the orchestra perform there.

  • Reply Mary @ Green Global Travel November 2, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Wow, it’s very impressive architecture! The windows and colors are amazing! I wonder how it looks during other weather!

  • Reply Franca November 3, 2014 at 4:24 am

    This building is simply amazing, the architect and designer are genius. I know it’s quite different, but for some reason from the inside some corners remind me of the MuCEM in Marseille, have you been there or seen any picture of it? I think you’d love it 😉

    • Reply Cheryl Howard November 3, 2014 at 9:27 pm

      I have not been there yet! I must make a point to visit someday. 🙂

  • Reply kami November 3, 2014 at 6:17 am

    I loved this building! It’s unique, so much different than other Concert Halls I’ve seen! I think seeing it is already a good reason to visit Reykjavik!!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard November 3, 2014 at 9:28 pm

      Yes, it’s so very wonderful. And yes, it’s as good as any reason to visit Reykjavik! Not that there’s not at least 138383 other reasons to visit. 😉

  • Reply Kate November 4, 2014 at 8:55 am

    WOW! I am pretty sure you are right and it is the most beautiful! I still need to visit Reykjavik and this post has inspired me to start figuring out a trip itinerary :).

    • Reply Cheryl Howard November 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

      Hey Kate –

      Thanks for stopping by and when you think about Harpa, WOW is right! Hope you make it to Iceland soon. You’ll love it. <3

      Cheryl

  • Reply Sam November 5, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    It’s also a great place to get free wifi in Reykjavik! I went there for that reason multiple times on my visit to the city, but it is a beautiful building and definitely deserves attention in its own right.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard November 5, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      Sam – Nice. That’s a good tip for travellers! You can stop, have a coffee and get caught up with online life. 🙂

  • Reply Stephanie - The Travel Chica November 10, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Gorgeous!

  • Reply joseph rhodes July 12, 2016 at 5:09 am

    Great article, but your $12 million cost is way off – construction costs were $150 million US: http://bit.do/cbU2m

    • Reply Cheryl Howard July 18, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      Thanks Joseph! I’ve updated the article with the correct information. 🙂

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