It may have only been open five years but Harpa in Reykjavik has rapidly become one of Iceland’s sights to seek out. Designed by Copenhagen’s Henning Larsen Architects and Icelandic studio Batteriid Architects in collaboration with famous artist Olafur Eliasson, renowned for his ‘Sun’ at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2003, the steel structure was inspired by basalt crystals most commonly found at Iceland’s famous Black Waterfall. Predominantly a concert hall, Harpa became the home of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera on completion in 2011 and annually hosts annual music festivals such as Iceland Airwaves, Sónar Reykjavik and Reykjavik Jazz Festival.
The wonderful thing about Harpa is that you don’t actually need to have booked a concert or planned a festival to enjoy the experience. It’s just as impressive on the inside as on the outside, with different levels dedicated to restaurants, performance spaces and a gift shop. Three large concert halls inhabit the first floor, including one decorated only in red, the type of auditorium that leaves you speechless as you walk in. The restaurant, Kolabrautin, is highly rated and offers a stunning panoramic view of Reykjavík harbour from the fourth floor. It’s beautifully presented Italian food on the upper scale of fine dining so prepare your wallet for the hit. Alternatively, if it’s just pre or post-show drinks your after you’ve come to the right place, the bar voted the best place to grab a cocktail in the whole city by the Reykjavík Grapevine, an essential guide to life, travel and entertainment in Iceland.
It seems light and Iceland is incessantly connected and the way Harpa’s crystallised arrangement reflectively flickers on the harbour water certainly does nothing to dismiss this link. When designing the building the architects collected inspiration ‘from the northern lights and the dramatic Icelandic scenery’ and it’s so delicately evident. If you’ve booked a quick stay and want an experience that encapsulates the Land of Fire and Ice in its entirety, Harpa is the place for you.