Reykjavik is largely built around Lake Tjornin, a small body of water that harbors a great deal of bird life. Next to the lake is Hljomskalagardurinn Park, a popular place for people to relax during the day and for children to feed the birds. During the winter, the lake is heated with geothermal water to prevent it from completely freezing over, although a portion of the lake is often used for ice skating and hockey.
Buildings of interest on the shores of Lake Tjornin include the Reykjavik City Hall, The National Gallery, the Idno Theater, and the Free Church.
Hofdi House is another landmark on the shores of Lake Tjornin, and quite possibly Reykjavik's most famous waterfront mansion. It is the city's official reception hall, built by France in 1909 to house the French Consul. Later, it housed the British Ambassador who, according to tales, claimed to have seen a ghost, which he called "The White Lady," roaming the building. Among the city's largest villas, the house was the site of the summit meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that is credited with having ended the Cold War in 1986. Other dignitaries who have visited the house include Sir Winston Churchill, a King of Norway, the President of France, the Queens of England and Denmark, the President of Italy, Chancellor Willy Brandt of Germany, and others. The building is not open to tourists.
Reykjavik is also home to a couple of universities. The University of Iceland (Haskoli Islands), 525-4469, www.hi.is, was founded in 1911 and presently serves 9,000 students, almost 60% of them women. On Saturday afternoons, a weekly Japanese Culture Festival is held. at 6 Saemundargata, the school is Iceland's largest single workplace.
In Reykjavik, too, is the Iceland University of Education, 563-3800. Founded as the Teacher's College of Iceland in 1908, the school is now the country's third-largest university.
Tourist Information in Reykjavik
The Tourist Information Center, 885-9700, www. visitreykjavik.is, is at 5 Ingolfsstraeti and is open from 10 am to 4 pm on weekdays and from 10 am to 2 pm on weekends, but it is closed on Sundays between November 1 and March 31. The Icelandic Tourist Board, 590-1550, is at 2 Adalstraeti. The Tourist Information Center specializes primarily in helping tourists find their way around Reykjavik, while the Icelandic Tourist Board represents communities and attractions throughout the entire country. The Icelandic Tourist Board also maintains an office in New York at 655 Third Ave, 212-949-2333.
There is an information desk in the City Hall, 563-2005, as well. The hours are 8:20 am to 4:30 pm on weekdays and noon to 4 pm on weekends.
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