Reykjavík city pond (Tjörnin)

In the middle of Reykjavík there is a little lake called Tjörnin (The Pond).

Ráðhús and the city center as seen from the south side of Tjörnin

{as always, mouse over for description, or click images to enlarge}

It’s an oblong-shaped lake, stretching from the downtown core out toward the more suburb-y areas of south Reykjavík, with a walking path around its edge. There are houses on the west side, and on the east, the Listasafn Íslands (National Gallery) and the Fríkirkjan (Free Church).

Path along the east side of Tjörnin


The road Skothúsvegur crosses over Tjörnin south of center, dividing the pond into a bigger side (on the north) and a smaller one on the south. The Ráðhús (City Hall) sits atop the bigger end and overlooks a place where ducks and geese like to hang out. During business hours you can sit in the Ráðhús and eat paninis and heit eplakaka (warm apple cake) and watch the birds at close range, if you’re lucky enough to get a window seat.

Birds flying by the city hall

On the smaller end, there’s a lot of inviting-looking green grass, where, on a nice day, there are always people lying around enjoying the sun.

White structure (I don't know what it is) on the smaller end of Tjörnin

If you stand in the middle of Skothúsvegur (and you can, because there’s not usually very much traffic) and face east, you can see Hallgrímskirkja.

Hallgrímskirkja as seen from Skothúsvegur (the road over Tjörnin)

When we lived downtown I used to stop by Tjörnin once or twice a week, either on my way somewhere else, or on a special detour (meaning maybe a block or so out of my way; downtown is small!) just because it’s so nice and the birds are always fun to watch. Now that we live in 107, we pass Tjörnin on our way into downtown, which makes me very happy. There are always ducks, geese, seagulls, swans, and some other seabirds whose names I don’t know. Today we saw pigeons too.


The north end of the pond is birdwatching central; there are signs with pictures of the various birds and their names, and the path is always crowded with tourists, young people, and parents and kids throwing bits of bread.

Building along the north edge of Tjörnin

People feeding birds at Tjörnin

Seagulls on an abandoned hot dog bun


Birdwatching on Tjörnin is a simple pleasure, but a very satisfying one. We’re clearly not the only ones who think so; most of the people I see there are also sitting around for quite a while. And I read that the city pumps in geothermally heated water during the winter — when the pond freezes over — so the birds will have a place to swim. There are photos in the Ráðhús café that show the birds standing on the frozen lake. I’d love to see that.


Greylag goose


Waterfowl on Tjörnin


Here’s a bit of video I took one evening at the pond. Maybe it’ll make you smile. Happy weekend!