The National Theatre of Iceland is a vibrant and dynamic theatre that reeks of excellence, innovation, and aesthetics. The theatre is in Reykjavik—the Icelandic capital. It was designed by the great Architect Gudjon Samuelson who also designed the Hallgrimskirkja Church of Iceland.

Recommended Tours in Reykjavik

Visiting the National Theatre of Iceland must be on the bucket list of every history and architecture fanatic. The beauty of the building knows no bounds and will take you to seventh heaven. For those unaware, theatres in Iceland are referred to as Borgaleikhusid or the People’s Theatres.

The National Theatre of Iceland embodies royalty and extravagance at its finest. The baronial building’s structure is covered with red carpet floors and encapsulates intricate gilded artworks of gold and silver. Since its inception in the 1950s, the National Theatre has been a hub of brilliant shows and decorated plays. The National Theatre has a huge role to play in making Icelandic theatre and arts popular. Now that we know about the rudimentary aspects of the National Theatre, let us observe the building’s structure.

architecture of Iceland's National Theatre

The National Theatre is one of Iceland’s most long-lived art institutions. It is an architectural marvel that is hard to miss. The original building of the National Theater at Reykjavik comprises three stages, and one stage is at a separate building behind the main building. The biggest is the main stage which has a seating capacity of 500 people, followed by the Black Box that can house 140 people. The third-largest stage is the Theatre Cellar that can accommodate 120 people. The fourth stage—located in a separate building—is Kulan or the Ball, where 80 people can easily sit. If you are a theatre enthusiast and are planning to visit Iceland, then you must visit the National Theatre of Iceland as, undoubtedly, it is a haven for all drama and play lovers.

The National Theatre has a robust performance season. It works with decorated theatre artists from Iceland and abroad and witnesses annual spectatorship of more than 100,000 people. In each season, more than 30 productions are presented.

The National Theatre has won several national and international theatre awards as well. The plays and dramas showcased in the theatre are an amalgamation of old and new dramas seamlessly meshed together. Some of the most famous plays that have been showcased in the National Theatre include ‘Metamorphosis’ in 2008, ‘Off Target’ in 2009, ‘King Lear’ in 2011, and ‘Macbeth’ in 2013. The production of the National Theatre of Iceland also collaborates with dance groups, independence theatre, and other performers to add a more holistic approach to their shows.

 

Trailer for Rómeó og Júlía from The National Theatre of Iceland

 

The National Theatre is sponsored by Iceland’s Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture. The aim is to develop an Icelandic culture synonymous with plays, musicals, dance performances, and classics. Emphasis is also laid on the fostering of Icelandic writing for theatre.

The theatre also showcases various productions for children. But, we must admit that apart from all the magnificent plays that grace the stage of the National Theatre, the monumental structure itself is a sight for sore eyes. It is noteworthy to highlight that the theatre remains closed during the summer months, and most of its productions are in the Icelandic language. But, it is undeniable that the shows are an absolute delight to watch, even for Non-Icelandic speakers.

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF ICELAND

actors performing on stage

Now that we have had a substantial grasp on the fundamentals of the National Theatre, let us glance at a few of the fun facts associated with the place.

  • The National Theatre was inaugurated in 1950, but the original idea to construct a similar structure emerged from Indridi Einarsson in the late 1800s. He published his ideas in a news article in 1905.

  • The Icelandic government had to levy a special tax called the entertainment tax to afford the construction of the theatre via public funds.

  • The first samples of the National Theatre’s design were submitted by Gudjon Samuelsson 25 years prior to the opening of the theatre, that is, in 1925.

  • The construction of the National Theatre began in 1929, three years after Architect Gudjon submitted his drawings. But, the construction had to be quelled mid-way, courtesy of insufficient funds.

  • In 1941, during World War II, British soldiers occupied the unfinished premises of the National Theatre to curb the attacks of German Nazi invaders in Iceland.

  • After World War II, the British Army left, and the Icelandic government made concerted efforts to complete the building. Consequently, the National Theatre was opened in April 1950.

  • Since its inception in 1950, a mere six people have served as the Artistic Director of the National Theatre, namely: Gudlaugur Rosenkranz (1949 to 1972), Sveinn Einarsson (1972 to 1983), Gisli Alfredsson (1983 to 1991), Tinna Gunnlaugsdottir (2005 to 2015), Ari Matthiasson (2015 to 2020), and Magnus Geir Pordarson (2020 to present).

Now, let us observe the location of the National Theatre of Iceland.

LOCATION OF THE NATIONAL THEATRE

 

The National Theatre is located in Reykjavik—the capital of Iceland. It is situated on Hverfisgata 19—an area neighboring and parallel to the famous Laugavegur shopping street. The geographical coordinates of the National Theatre are 64.1471° N, 21.9314° W. You can easily spot the National Theatre building because of its dark-grey stones and its baronial structure that aptly stands out within the round. The greyish and dark themes of the National Theatre sets it apart from the other buildings in the vicinity. As the National Theatre is within walking distance from most of the accommodations downtown, you can quickly reach the place. The theatre is located next to the Safnahusid bus stop.

The National Theatre is 8 minutes walking from Hallgrimkirkja Church and is just 12 minutes from Hlemmur Food Court. Moreover, it is a measly nine minutes walk from the Harpa Concert and Conference Hall. Therefore, reaching the National Theatre is easy and hassle-free.

The hours of the theatre are:

  • Thursday to Sunday: 12:00 pm-7:30 pm

  • Monday to Wednesday: 12:00 pm-6:00 pm

It is noteworthy to highlight that the hours of the actual plays may be different.

GOOD EATERIES NEAR THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF ICELAND

people drinking coffee and eating pie
  1. Julia and Julia café in Safnahúsið – If you adore cakes and quiche, then you should not ignore this café.

  2. Grái Kötturinn – It is the best place for a yummy and cozy breakfast meal.

  3. Hverfisgata 12 or the nameless Pizza place – The pizzas of this place are as inventive as they are delicious. If you love experimenting with food, then Hverfisgata 12 is the place where you should be.

  4. Dill – It is a fine dining restaurant and is the first place in Iceland to be awarded a Michelin star. In case you are looking for a luxurious experience, then Dill is the place to be. But, remember to book in advance.

  5. Íslenski Barinn – If you want to try authentic Icelandic foods, Islenski Barinn should be your one-stop destination.

  6. Mat Bar – It is a delightful and cozy place that specializes in miniature food courses and excellent wine.

PLACES TO STAY NEAR THE NATIONAL THEATRE

view of Laugavegur street in Reykjavik
  • 101 Hotel
  • Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Center
  • Centerhotel Skjaldbreid
  • Centerhotel Thingholt
  • Loft Hostel
  • Reykjavik Residence Suites
  • Theatre Row Apartments
  • B14 – Rooms and Apartments
  • Room with a view Apartments
  • Apartment K
  • Luna Hotel Apartments

ENTICING ACTIVITIES NEAR THE NATIONAL THEATRE

Reykjavik street view in Christmas

The National Theatre of Iceland in itself is a marvelous place. You can watch the site, visit the theatre, and bask in its glory. But, there are a myriad of enticing activities that you can indulge in if you are near the National Theatre of Iceland. You can visit Safnahusid, or shop in the famous Laugavegur Street. You can see Hallgrimskirkja Church as well. The Old Harbor of Reykjavik is also a fantastic place. You can also go to Raudisandur Beach and have a fun day out there. Also, if you love beaches, then the Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach might become your favorite spot. A few other places that you can visit near the National Theatre are:

  • Skolavordustigur Street

  • Arnarhóll Statue

  • Harpa Musical Hall

  • Solforio – Sun Voyager Sculpture

  • Hlemmur Food Court

  • Kolaportið Weekend Flea Market

  • Domkirkjan – Reykhavik’s Cathedral

  • The Parliament House

  • The City Hall

After grasping the nitty-gritty of the National Theatre of Iceland, let us see a few of the other things that can be done in Reykjavik

TOP 7 ACTIVITIES TO INDULGE IN AFTER VISITING THE NATIONAL THEATRE

Hallgrimskirkja Church in Iceland
  1. You can visit Hallgrimskirkja Church if you are around the National Theatre of Iceland. The colossal church stands tall over the center of Reykjavik and is visible from every angle of the city. At the top of the church is a viewing platform that provides a 360-degree view of the entire city of Reykjavik. Apart from offering an ethereal view of Reykjavik, the Hallgrimskirkja church is an architectural wonder with a stunning entrance door and glass art. Goujon Samuelsson also designed the church. In front of the Hallgrimskirkja church is a statue of Leif Eriksson—the person who visited North America in 1000 AD, more than 500 years before Columbus, but we never hear of him in mainstream media. Therefore, after visiting the soothing National Theatre Iceland, you can go to the Hallgrimskirkja church and indulge in a panoramic view of Iceland’s capital.

  2. The city of Reykjavik is as adventurous as it is stunning. You can opt for a scenic helicopter to get an aerial view of the capital. You can also decide to go for whale watching and puffin tours. Horseback riding is also a popular activity that you can partake in during your Icelandic vacation. It is noteworthy to mention that various seabirds also frequent Reykjavik. So, if you love animals and wildlife, then you will be bombarded with pleasant activities.

  3. You can also visit the Harpa Concert and Conference Hall, which is an impressively large glass building located in Reykjavik’s old harbor. It is an iconic building that embodies the best of modern architectural and engineering techniques. It is an excellent place to take Instagram-worthy pictures. If you love opera, then you might want to enjoy a performance by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.

  4. Reykjavik is delightful and cozy that has something in store for everyone’s taste and liking. You can accurately soak up the Icelandic culture by visiting the various shopping streets around the National Theater of Iceland such as Laugavegur, Bankastræti, Austurstræti, Lækjargata, and Skólavörðustígur. You can visit Grandi—Reykjavik’s fish packing district. You can go to the small cafes there, visit museums, and even breweries.

  5. Nautholsvik Beach—located in the vicinity of Reykjavik—is an excellent place to visit if you want to experience some Mediterranean vibes. You can also find the Red Hills and the Heidmork Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Reykjavik. Therefore, after visiting the National Theatre, you will have various choices regarding where you want to go and what you desire to do.
people bathe in Nautholsvik Geothermal Pool

6. The Northern Lights are one of the intrinsic specialties of Iceland. If you plan to visit the National Theatre of Iceland during the day, you must opt to experience the ethereal Northern Lights at night. You can take a tour of the Northern Lights and hunt for the best view of this natural phenomenon with the assistance of an expert.

7.  One of the most sought-after activities in Reykjavik is FlyOver Iceland, wherein you will be given the opportunity to take a flight over Iceland without purchasing plane tickets.

In conclusion, the National Theatre Iceland is a modern-day marvel that deserves all the hype in the world. If you are musing about a vacation to Iceland, don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in a once-in-a-lifetime experience by watching one of the plays showcased in the National Theatre. Moreover, the best part is that after visiting the National Theatre in Reykjavik, you can see the various fantastic places that amply abound from Reykjavik.

Related Blogs and Information