Bessastadir is the official residence of the Icelandic president. First settled in 1000, the site was once home to famed Icelandic poet and historian Snorri Sturluson, and the residence (built in 1761) housed a farm and a school before being donated to the state in 1941. After Iceland gained independence from Denmark in 1944, Bessastadir became the president’s official residence.
As it is a private residence, you can only visit the inside of Bessastadir by prior arrangement. Nevertheless, the set of white, red-roofed buildings surrounded by green fields and farmland is an attractive spot, which you can visit as part of a sightseeing tour by minibus. These tours typically include a visit to another nearby site of political importance: Hofdi House, site of the historic 1986 summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Bessastadir is a must-visit for those with an interest in Icelandic history.
- The residence is occasionally open to the public for special events.
- The area surrounding Bessastadir is a peaceful one and a good place for walking and bird-watching.
How to Get There
Bessastadir is located in the small town of Alftanes, a 15-minute drive south of Reykjavik. If traveling via public transportation, you can take bus 55 from Reykjavik in the direction of Keflavik International Airport, then change to bus 23 in the town of Asgardur.
When to Get There
As you are only allowed to walk around the outside of the residence and not enter, there are no particular opening hours to adhere to. The setting does offer good views of Faxafloi Bay and toward Reykjavik, making it an attractive spot for sunset.
The only part of the residence that allows walk-up visitors is the church, one of the oldest stone-made structures in Iceland. The church was consecrated in 1796 and features exquisite stained glass windows, painted in 1956 in honor of the 60th birthday of Asgeir Asgeirsson, Iceland’s second president.