Pearlan vs. Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland
One of the questions posed to me before heading off to Iceland was to find out if the view from the viewing platform of the Pearlan is better than the view from the top of Hallgrimskirkja church. Well here are the pictures so you can see for yourself…
The Pearlan (photos above) is free to go into, and inside you will find an artificial geyser, which is more of a simple fountain water feature, a cafe, restaurant, the Saga museum and usually an exhibition (or book fair as the case was when we visited). The coffee is good, but the Saga museum is not really worth the 2000ISK/£10/ $15 ticket fee as you can walk round reading all the information in around 20 mins and it doesn’t seem to be in chronological order. You can play with the armour and swords on the table at the end though! The viewing platform encircles the entire roof, which you can enter from the cafe, giving you uninterrupted 360 degree views over all of the city and over towards Hallgrimskirkja itself.
Hallgrimskirkja (photos above) is an imposing church in the centre of Reykjavik, designed to look like basalt columns and lava flows, about five to ten minutes walk from the main shopping strip of Laugavegur. On entering take the second left into the reception area to purchase tickets, very reasonable at 600ISK/£3/$5, and head back to the little lift/elevator. Hit the button for the top floor and you are flung about 200 feet into the air to the clock tower. Climb the remaining few feet via the staircase and out into the viewing room which has open-air windows on all sides to peek out of.
After all that fresh air and giddy heights you will need a coffee pitstop and Cafe Loki is right across from the entrance of the church and has great coffee (or Brennivin if you need something stronger). We had a fantastic budget lunch there consisting of lamb soup, smoked lamb on homemade rye bread plus coffee for around the same price as entry to the Saga museum (1900ISK/£10/$15).
So after a nice hot coffee and pondering the views of the morning, I would give my vote to Hallgrimskirkja, as it is in town (factor in a half hour walk to the Pearlan), you get an excellent view of all the colourful roofs below, and the architecture of the church is visually stunning. If you are short on time don’t go out of your way for the Pearlan, but I have heard people rate the restaurant for an evening meal.