If you haven’t checked out our West Side Edition, we recommend you check that out as well! There are many graffiti and murals in Reykjavik, both authorized and unauthorized. In this blog post, we will lead you on a walking tour of authorized graffiti artworks in the East Side of Reykjavik’s downtown area.
You might wonder what makes the West Side west and the East Side east. It is in relation to Lækjargata (Stream Street) in downtown Reykjavik, but the stream used to be open and divided the town into the east and west side.
Graffiti in Reykjavik – East Side
Starting from Ingólfstorg, walk towards Lækjargata through Austurstræti (straight ahead from the middle of the square). When you’re at Lækjargata, cross the street and turn left. When you’re at the next crossroads, turn right up Hverfisgata. After a few steps, you will reach a small car park on your right. Turn inside. There, nestled between two buildings, you will see two artworks.
The big black one with the ghostly figures is yet another Iceland Airwaves and Urban Nation collaboration. The artwork is by Aaron Li-Hill, is inspired by John Grant’s song Pale Green Ghosts, and depicts the famous Icelandic folktale The Deacon of Myrká. Next to it is Incubation by Lilja Pálmadóttir.
Li-Hill is a Canadian/American visual artist based in Brooklyn. His background is in graffiti and mural painting and has a degree in Fine Arts.
From the artworks, go back to Hverfisgata. Turn right up to the next crossroads. You must cross the street to the left and walk down Ingólfsstræti. Follow the road through the right turn by the ocean. On your right will be a large white building with a row of columns on the ground floor. This is the Ministry of Fisheries. On the far side of it is a mural by Sara Riel. She was born in Reykjavik in 1980 and began her career as a graffiti artist in the Icelandic capital. Since, she has gotten a master’s degree from Kunsthochschule-Berlin Weissensee in Germany and is now based in Reykjavik and Athens, Greece.
It is an abstract artwork that looks like many different fish and whale species but, at the same time, doesn’t look like anything. Before this artwork, there used to be another one, one of the Iceland Airwaves and Urban Nation collaboration works. It was by Evoca1 and was inspired by a song by Shaun & Starr. However, it was painted over a few months after a former minister who lived nearby complained about it.
Walking back to Ingólfsstræti, when you’re at Hverfisgata, turn left. On the right side of the street, behind Hverfisgata 18 (where the store Norr11 is), is a mural by Siggi Odds and Skilamálun Reykjavikur (Sign Painters of Reykjavik). It says Greykjavik. It refers to a series of images Siggi Odds made for Norr11, but the series was displayed as a limited edition of A2 posters in Norr11’s showroom. They showed what Siggi felt expressed the greyness of the long Reykjavik winter.
Walking down Hverfisgata (to the left from Norr11), turn left on Ingólfsstræti. When you’re at Laugavegur/Bankastræti, turn right down the street. Turn left on Þingholtsstræti.
On a door at Þingholtsstræti 5, you can see graffiti art by Björn Loki. He’s a local graffiti artist who has been working in collaboration with Elsa Jónsdóttir for some years under the name Krot & Krass.
Next door in the tunnel at Þingholtsstræti 7, you will find yet another mural. Author unknown.
Continuing down the street, turn left up Amtmannsstígur. When you’re at Ingólfsstræti, walk into the car park towards Ingólfsstræti 7b. It is a house clad in corrugated iron with a concrete extension. On its side is a mural by an Icelandic graffiti artist, Sort.
Den Dankse Kro
Going back to Ingólfsstræti, turn right towards the ocean. On the right side of the street is a bar called Den Danske Kro (The Danish pub). The two columns outside the pub have artworks by Tiago (right column) and Rebekka Tómasdóttir (left column). The pub is a great place to sit down and have a drink!
At the next crossroads, you’re on the main shopping street. Turn right. On the end gable of Bankastræti 14, next to Subway, you will see a cute little artwork by Arnór Kári. He’s a local artist, musician, and writer.
We will keep on walking up Laugavegur shopping street. You can use this chance to window shop, take pictures or even do a little shopping if you are so inclined. On the corner of Klapparstígur and Laugavegur, more precisely Laugavegur 21, you will find another artwork by Arnór Kári. It is on the end gable of Kaffibrennslan coffee house.
On the other side of the street, in a small parking lot, is a fun artwork by an Icelandic artist who calls himself Boris Bronson. It depicts various graffiti artists of Iceland and is set up like a class photo.
Then, another Iceland Airwaves and Urban Nation collaboration work is on the corner house across from Kaffibrennslan. It is hard to miss, as it covers the whole building. The artwork is made by Caratoes and the band Ylja (inspired by the song Óður til móður (Ode to mother)).
Cara To, also known as Caratoes, is a Belgium-born illustrator and contemporary artist. She lives and works in Hong Kong. She describes herself as a space designer who increases the beauty and serenity of a place with her artwork and precise message.
Across the street, on Laugavegur 22 and queer bar Kíkí, you can see a rainbow artwork by Juan Pictures Art. He had a few other artworks on the west side of the graffiti walking tour.
Now we keep on walking up Laugavegur. On the gable of Laugavegur 25, on the left side of the street, you will see a large mural of an eagle by Örn Tönsberg, or Selur as he likes to call himself. The artwork was initially made for a designer store in the building, but it has now moved.
A few meters away on the other side of the street is a small tunnel that leads from Laugavegur up to Grettisgata. Tunnels are famously popular for graffiti and other murals, and this tunnel is no different. In this tunnel is an artwork by Kristín Morthens.
Kristín was born in 1992 in Iceland and graduated with a BFA in paintings from OCAD University, Torontó, Canada, a few years ago. In her works, narratives of intimacy, separation, and boundaries are interpreted in physical forms within unexplained spaces that do not seem to belong to this world. But, Kristín’s works have been shown in exhibitions in museums and galleries in Iceland, Europe, the United States, and Canada.
On Laugavegur 35, on the end gable is an artwork by Elle and band Úlfur Úlfur. It is one of the Iceland Airwaves and Urban Nation collaborations, and this artwork was inspired by Úlfur Úlfur’s song 20ogeitthvað (20-something). The area is being redeveloped, and the old houses are renovated, so the artwork might not stay up much longer.
Elle is originally from California but has been based in New York for the past few years.
Keep on strolling up Laugavegur. This might be a good time to pop into Sandholt bakery and have something to eat. On Laugavegur 66, you will see the second to last Iceland Airwaves and Urban Nation collaboration work. It is by D*Face and rock group Agent Fresco, inspired by the song Wait for me. The text underneath the graffiti says, “Þeim var ég verst, er ég unni mest” (I was worst to those I loved the most), a quote from one of Iceland’s most famous sagas; Laxdæla Saga.
D*Face is an English street artist. His art can be seen in a number of mediums, from spray paint and stickers to posters and stencils.
Keep on going and turn left on Barónstígur and then to the right on Hverfisgata. On the gable of house number 100 is an artwork by Norwegian artist STRØK (Anders Gjennestad). This is the last Iceland Airwaves and Urban Nation collaboration work. STRØK was influenced by the Icelandic band Mammút and their song I Pray for Air in the Water. It is fun because as it shows the fluidity of graffiti art since you can see a few other graffiti on top of the large mural.
Having said that, there were many, many more murals made for Iceland Airwaves in 2016. Many have been painted over while others have simply disappeared behind a wall when a new house was built.
If you didn’t pop into Sandholt to eat, Hlemmur Food Hall is an excellent stop with many good restaurants. You need to walk for about 10 minutes to the next mural. On the side of Laugavegur 159 is an eerie underworld depicted. The artwork is Draumur hafsins or the Dream of the Sea by Icelandic artist and actress Raff or Raffaella Sigurðardóttir.
Now it is time to turn back and do the second half of the walking tour.
Arnór Kári and Stefán Óli
Walking back, passed Hlemmur, turn left on Snorrabraut. When you reach Bergþórugata, turn right. On the left side of the street, close to the crossroads, you will see artwork by Arnór Kári and Stefán Óli. Stefán Óli had a few murals on the West Side walking tour.
A few meters up the street, you will see a large dark building. This is Austurbæjarskóli school. On the left side of it is a substation with a large mural. It is by Sara Riel and is called Flóra or Flora.
Krot & Krass
Now, go back to Bergþórugata and turn left. House number 20 on the corner of Vitastígur and Bergþórugata is an old timber building clad in corrugated iron. On the side of it is a large mural by Krot & Krass (Björn Loki, Elsa Jónsdóttir and Natka Klimowicz).
Krot & Krass consists of Björn Loki and Elsa Jónsdóttir. Their work explores language: typography, words, and allusions. They reflect on reading in a broader sense and analyze the ability to share complex ideas and experiences through marks on a surface. Krot & Krass emphasize changing their surroundings, and their work is widely seen in the public space.
The house the mural is on is called Andrými. It used to house a kindergarten for many decades, but today is a radical social center and a community where values of equality and freedom are fought for. Its purpose is to be an open space for grassroots groups and individuals to meet and organize.
When you reach Frakkastígur at the end of Bergþórugata, turn left. You have reached the beautiful Hallgrímskirkja church. If you want, you could go up the tower and have a great 360° view of Reykjavik and the whole capital area… and further!
Go down Njarðargata (down the hill to the left of the church). When you reach Freyjugata, turn right. You will see a small park on the right side of the street. On the building next to the park is a large mural by Icelandic artist Narfi.
Óðinn Páll Middleton
Turn right from the small park and walk Freyjugata for a few meters. Turn left down Válastígur when you reach it. It is one of Reykjavík’s prettiest streets and is nestled between Bragagata and Baldursgata. When you come to its end, turn right and left down Baldursgata. On Baldursgata 8, there’s a beautiful mural by Icelandic artist Óðinn Páll Middleton.
Dabsmyla & Kems
Next, go back up Baldursgata and turn left onto Óðinsgata. On the corner of Óðinsgata, Freyjugata and Bjargarstígur you can see two artworks. The one is on Bjargarstígur 15 by Dabsmyla & Kems and the other, on Óðinsgata 11 is by Arnór Kári and Stefán Óli.
Dabsmyla is a husband-and-wife duo from Australia. They employ a shared design language that dictates subject matter, positioning, color theory, and perspective. Their goal is to tell an expansive story unique to their experiences, possible with their unspoken set of rules and strengthened by over a decade of working together.
From those two artworks, walk down Bjargarstígur. At Bergstaðastræti 24, on the corner of Bjargarstígur, is an artwork by Kids don’t float.
Turn right down to Bergstaðastræti and walk to the end of the street by Skólavörðustígur. On your right is a small tunnel that leads to a small dance and yoga studio, Kramhúsið. In the tunnel is a mural by Kristín Morthens.
On the other side of Bergstaðastræti is a car park and you won’t miss it. The outside of it has been painted in vibrant colors. The graffiti is by Kailash Youze who had a few artworks in the West Side tour as well. He began his artistic career as a graffiti artist and has since turned to paintings, drawings and using watercolours as well.
Now you’re at Reykjavík’s second shopping street, Skólavörðustígur. The bottom half of it, to the left of where you’re standing, is the so-called Rainbow Street, for obvious reasons. However, we’re not going in that direction. Turn right and walk up towards Hallgrímskirkja church.
On the right side of the street, on the side of Skólavörðustígur 22, you can find a fun little ode to the famous cats of Reykjavik (or we would like to believe that it is). It is by Selur. If you want to know more about the cats of Reykjavík, we highly recommend you check out our tour Reykjavik CatWalk.
Now you keep on walking towards the church. But before you get to the top of the hill, you must turn left onto Kárastígur. On Frakkastígur 16, close to the corner of Frakkastígur and Njálsgata, there’s a bakery called Brauð og co (Bread and company). The whole house has been beautifully decorated by Kailash Youze.
Going back up to Njálsgata, turn right. This section of Njálsgata has five graffiti artworks! On the side of house number 22 is a mural of a mermaid by Icelandic artist Mæja Sif.
Just a few houses down, a small driveway at the side of house number 14 has a large mural by Sara Riel and Thomas Korn which is called Animali.
In a backhouse of number 8, there’s another ode to the cats of Reykjavik, simply called “101 Kettir” or “101 Cats,” referring to the area’s postcode. It is by Harpa Harðar.
There’s a tunnel to a communal garden on house number 8a; in the tunnel is a mural by Icelandic artist, illustrator and animator Þórey Mjallhvít. She has a BA degree in animation and an MA in creative writing.
A few houses down, you can see another artwork by Sara Riel on your left. It’s on the side of number 4, in the driveway. Sara Riel was one of the first graffiti artists to be commissioned to make graffiti in Reykjavik. Many of her artworks have been painted or built over, but such is the nature of graffiti!
Vilas Ed Silverton
The final artwork of this walking tour is in a tunnel on Klapparstígur. Walk towards the crossroads and turn right. On the right of the street, a couple of houses down from Njálsgata, is a small tunnel into a garden. There is a mural by British artist Vilas Ed Silverton. Silverton is primarily a ceramic artist. He made a couple of murals in Iceland, and it was his first time doing large projects solo.
This concludes the walking tour of the east side of downtown Reykjavik. There are quite a few other artworks in Reykjavik, many in the suburb Breiðholt, for example, that are worth checking out.
Both West Side and East Side Graffiti Walking Tours have included authorized graffiti murals. However, there are plenty of unauthorized artworks as well. It is harder to make a walking tour since they frequently change. However, if you want to have a look and see what’s what in the Icelandic graffiti scene, we recommend you check out Underground Reykjavik on Instagram.