Exploring Pond Tjörnin in the Heart of Reykjavik

  • by Yanshu
  • Reykjavik
  • 3 Mar 2023

Tjörnin, a tranquil heart in Reykjavik, offers picturesque views of colorful houses, historic buildings, and a vibrant cityscape. It's a perfect spot for peaceful walks, bird watching, and soaking in the serene beauty of this charming urban lake.

Exploring Pond Tjörnin in the Heart of Reykjavik

As one of the most notable places, a centerpiece in an urban setting of downtown Reykjavik, Pond Tjörnin is a serene lake surrounded by significant buildings such as Reykjavík City Hall and the Parliament Building, and colorful residential houses, and  framed by Reykjavik’s skyline, unique and rising, outlined by the prominent Hallgrímskirkja church, National Gallery of Iceland, and many more notable structures in the city. 

It’s a wonderful place for you to have a leisure stroll amidst the bustling metropolis life in Reykjavik, accompanied by lovely swans, active seagulls, and laid back geese and ducks.

A duck swims in Pond Tjörnin, downtown Reykjavik. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Where is Pond Tjornin Located

Tjörnin, known colloquially as “The Pond”, has become an inseparable feature of Reykjavík, woven into the urban fabric of Iceland’s capital. The lake serves as a mirror reflecting the dance between nature and city life.

For those wishing to chart their course, the coordinates of Tjörnin are approximately 64.1474° N, 21.9383° W.

Tjörnin’s Surrounding Area

Encircling Tjörnin, you’ll find a harmonious blend of natural landscapes and urban development. To the east, the waters edge outlines Vatnsmýri Marsh, a haven for birdlife. Venturing towards Lækjargata, one of the city’s bustling streets, you witness the transition from the serenity of Tjörnin to the vibrance of downtown life. In the backdrop, the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church stands tall, a landmark visible from various points around the pond and park areas.

Pond Tjörnin at dusk, downtown Reykjavik. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Adding a touch of whimsy and humor, Ráðhúsið made a memorable appearance in the beloved Annual New Year’s Eve comedy show, humorously touted as the latest entry in Iceland’s famed collection of geothermal spas—a clever jest, of course. The segment playfully showcased the stretch of Tjörnin Pond adjacent to Ráðhúsið, captured in stunning cinematography that almost persuasively portrayed it as the newest chic spot for indulging in the quintessential Icelandic geothermal soak. This delightful satire resonated particularly well with the locals, tickling their sense of humor by imaginatively transforming a familiar city landmark into the hot new destination for a steamy dip, all in good fun.

Video credit to RUV, Icelandic National Broadcast.

Tjörnin’s Historical Significance

Tjörnin plays a pivotal role in Reykjavík‘s history, serving as a witness to the city’s development from its earliest settlement to the bustling capital you see today.

Origins of Tjörnin

The origins of Tjörnin trace back to the city’s settlement period. The lake appeared around 800 AD, before Norse settlers stepped foot on Iceland, influencing the landscape and farming practices around it. This water body provided sustenance and later became a central part of urban development.

The Icelandic Parliament nearby Pond Tjörnin in downtown Reykjavik. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Nearby Historic Buildings and Structures

Encircling Tjörnin, you’ll find historic structures that tell the tale of the city’s development. The Dómkirkja and Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík stand as significant religious sites, while Harpa, the stunning concert hall, reflects more contemporary architectural endeavors. 

Home to important cultural institutions such as the National Gallery of Iceland, the National Museum, the Living Art Museum, and the Reykjavík Art Museum, these buildings also provide a haven for photographers and explorers of art. 

Adding to this rich tapestry is the Icelandic Parliament, an emblem of the nation’s democratic journey. All these landmarks, overlooking Tjörnin, mirror the city’s transformation and enduring legacy.

Tjörnin is Important for Local Ecosystem

As you explore the ecological side of Tjörnin, you’ll uncover a dynamic environment thriving with bird species and meticulous conservation efforts that maintain the lake’s health.

Wildlife and Birdlife

Tjörnin is a hub for ornithologists and nature enthusiasts alike, boasting a diverse bird population. Birds such as eider, mallard, and scaup are common sights. Seagulls and geese, including greylag geese, often dot the landscape, while unique species like the gadwall and arctic tern add to the variety. Summer months bring a flourish of activity, as hatchlings emerge and birdwatchers converge to observe the vibrant birdlife.

  • Ducks and swans grace the waters, often approaching the embankments for feeding.
  • Gauragangur, a species known for its colorful plumage, can also be spotted here during specific seasons.
Surrounding environment of Pond Tjörnin, Downtown Reykjavik. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Lake Ecosystem and Conservation

Lake Tjörnin‘s ecosystem is a testament to successful conservation strategies. In recent years, efforts have focused on reviving the lake from the brink of ecological collapse, enhancing its role in Reykjavík’s landscape.

  • Nature preservation initiatives around Tjörnin include maintaining the water quality and controlling midges populations.
  • Conservation practices ensure that the lake’s environment supports its fauna, from the smallest midges to the most elegant swans.

By implementing strict guidelines on activities like feeding waterfowl, conservationists are working to preserve the balance of this delicate ecosystem. These guidelines help to prevent overpopulation of certain species, which can lead to an unbalanced ecosystem and the degradation of the lake’s health.

Pond Tjörnin in autumn, downtown Reykjavik.

What To Do When You Are at Tjörnin Pond

Tjörnin, the picturesque pond at the heart of Reykjavik, is not just a scenic spot but a hub of cultural and recreational activities throughout the year. You can embrace Reykjavik’s vibrant life here, from seasonal festivities and art admiration to active community engagement.

Seasonal Events and Activities

In winter, Tjörnin transforms into a natural ice skating rink, where you can glide across the ice while enjoying the serene city backdrop. Make sure to dress warmly and always check the ice conditions for safety. If ice skating isn’t your preference, feeding the birds at Tjörnin provides a tranquil way to interact with nature, even in the colder months. As the seasons change, joggers and cyclists frequent the paths that skirt the water, taking in the beauty of the pond whilst keeping active.

Art and Monuments

The area around Tjörnin is enriched with diverse art installations and sculptures, contributing to Reykjavik’s cultural tapestry. Take a leisurely walk and discover various monuments reflecting Iceland’s heritage. 

Near the pond, the National Gallery of Iceland showcases a vast collection of art. You’re also within walking distance of the striking Harpa Concert Hall, distinguished by its unique architectural design and glass facade which captures the glow of the sunset beautifully.

The National Gallery of Iceland sits right by Pond Tjörninm downtown Reykjavik.

Community Initiatives

Tjörnin is a focal point for community gatherings and initiatives. You’re encouraged to participate in activities that foster communal wellbeing, including birdwatching, where you can observe a variety of avian species amidst their natural habitat. 

The City Hall, positioned on the banks of Tjörnin, often plays host to events and exhibitions that are open to the community, ensuring you remain connected to the heart of Reykjavik’s bustling civic life.

Good to know About Visiting Pond Tjörnin

When planning your visit to Tjörnin, it’s important to consider the amenities and attractions nearby. This central lake, known colloquially as The Biggest Bread Soup in the World due to the frequent feeding of ducks by locals, is surrounded by cultural institutions and essential facilities.

Visiting Tjörnin

Tjörnin is a central focal point in Reykjavik, easily accessible throughout the year. You can enjoy a serene walk around the lake, which offers a stunning view of the Reykjavik City Hall and various museums including the National Museum. Adjacent to Tjörnin is Hljómskálagarður Park, a green oasis perfect for picnics and leisurely strolls. To enhance your experience, consider picking up a guide for historical insights or join a local tour.

For an interactive cultural experience, the Harpa Concert Hall is a short distance away, showcasing an array of performances and events. Just on the other side of the lake, you will find Iðnó, a historical building hosting various cultural events and gatherings.

  • Gardens: Enjoy the botanical beauty surrounding the lake, including well-maintained gardens providing a refreshing break from the city buzz.
  • Museum Halts: Sprinkled around the lake are multiple museum stops that make for informative and cultural pit-stops during your visit.

Useful Visitor Information about Tjörnin

Tjörnin is conveniently located near an array of amenities that cater to your convenience and comfort. Here’s what you can find nearby:

  • Hotels: A variety of hotels are available within walking distance, offering accommodations that range from budget-friendly to luxury settings.
  • Shops: Nearby Laugavegur street is the main shopping area in Reykjavik, where you can shop for souvenirs, fashion, and more.
  • Eating Out: Around the pond, several cafes and restaurants offer options from quick bites to fine dining experiences.

Essential services like banks and postal services are also accessible around the area. The Supreme Court of Iceland is within the vicinity, adding to the area’s importance.

For your convenience, public restrooms and seating areas are available. Here is a brief rundown:

  • Restrooms: Available near popular spots like museums and parks.
  • Seating Areas: Benches are strategically placed for you to enjoy the lake view and birdwatching opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions about Tjörnin

In this section, you will find answers to some of the most common questions about Tjörnin, helping you to plan your visit and enjoy everything this picturesque area has to offer.

What is the best time of year to go ice skating in Tjörnin?

The ideal period for ice skating on Tjörnin is typically during the winter months, from late December through February, when the pond is sufficiently frozen and conditions are safe for this activity.

People and wild birds on ice of Pond Tjornin. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]

Can you recommend some attractions near Tjörnin for tourists?

Close to Tjörnin, you can visit the Reykjavik City Hall, which often hosts art exhibitions and offers great views of the pond. The city’s main shopping street, Laugavegur, is also a short walk away, offering numerous shops, restaurants, and cultural sights.

How can one pronounce ‘Tjörnin’ correctly in Icelandic?

The pronunciation of ‘Tjörnin’ in Icelandic can be approximated as “TYUR-nin” for English speakers, with a rolled “r” sound and emphasis on the first syllable.

A night scene at Pond Tjörnin, downtown Reykjavik. [Photo credit to Yanshu Li]
About the author
A journalist and photographer, Yanshu is driven by a deep passion for Iceland. She's on a mission to share her love for authentic travel experiences and exciting adventures with fellow explorers. Armed with her camera, she sets off on hikes, delving into Iceland's intricacies while mastering the art of Icelandic language whenever possible.

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