Reykjavik has two old graveyards which are no longer in use. The first one is now a square just across the road from the Settlement Museum (which I highly recommend) and was in use from the settlement in the ninth century to about 1838 when the graveyard by Sudurgata was opened for business.
The oldest tree in Reykjavik
At the edge of the square you find the oldest tree in Reykjavik, a Swedish whitebeam which was planted by the then Danish born surgeon general of Iceland in 1884. He had actually turned the old disused graveyard into his own personal pleasure garden.
If you look closely at the south side of the square there are a few headstones from the early 19th and late 18th century on display in one corner of the square which now has the distinction of being the venue of the annual summer food market and being right by the excellent Skúli Craft Bar. Skúli Craft Bar is actually named after the founder of modern Reykjavik, Skúli Magnússon, whose statue adorns the old graveyard. A marker shows where the altar of the old church stood until 1796 when the nearby Reykjavik cathedral was inaugurated.
New graveyard opens for business
Although, Reykjavik was nothing more than a glorified village back then the old graveyard had filled up to a point where you couldn´t not dig a fresh grave without getting a lot of bones and pieces of coffins up with the dirt. So they opened up a new graveyard by Suðurdata. It has been full for a decade or so but it is one of the hidden gems of Reykjavik.
Site of the only known mass graves in Reykjavik
It is a serene place and if you are into Icelandic history, some important people are buried there. It is also noteworthy for being the only known mass graves in Iceland. They date from 1918 when the Spanish flu ravaged Reykjavik. The graveyard has about three hundred people who perished in the epidemic. In one mass grave there are 18 people and in six people in another grave
But I suppose you will enjoy the most for the peace and quiet and the change for some nice photography.
Nearby attractions include:
- Reykjavik pond, perfect for a stroll
- The Reykjavik city center
- Reykjavik City Hall with a Huge 3D Map of Iceland
- The aforementioned square with Skúli Craft Bar
- Micro Bar
- The Coziest Café in Reykjavik (in my opinion)
- The catholic church
- The really nice western part of old Reykjavik
- The Settlement History Museum
- The National History Museum of Iceland