Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag


This old jail in the heart of Reykjavík could soon be yours

By Staff

  • The old prison There are happier times on the horizon for this historic building. Photo/Stefán Karlsson

There is nothing in front of this old stone building, located on the bustling Skólavörðustígur road in the dead centre of Reykjavík, that indicates that it is a prison. There are no visible guards, no fence and not even an exterior sign telling you what's behind those sturdy stone walls.

Now, 140 years after the first inmate was brought in to do time for petty theft, its days as a correctional facility are numbered and soon the old buildingcould be yours.

The construction of the prison was finished in 1874. For years, it was one of the capital’s most grand buildings, additionally serving as the home to Iceland’s Supreme Court from 1920 to 1949.

Read more: Inmates in Reykjavík's oldest jail need earplugs to help them sleep on weekends

The building was deemed unsuitable as a prison some years ago but has been kept in service under an exemption. It will finally be closed this coming spring when a brand new, modern and much bigger prison opens just east of the capital.

Then this historic building will be put on the market and sold to the highest bidder. But new owners will not be able to do whatever they want with the building. The exterior is protected and all interior changes will have to be accepted by The Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland


A hidden space Soon we might be enjoying al fresco dining on a sunny day in the jailhouse yard. Photo/GVA

No possible price tag has been mentioned, but it will not come cheap. Most likely its future role will be a combination of a restaurant, gallery and retail space, being located in the capital’s main shopping and nightlife area. We at Iceland Magazine would support changes like that. It would be a happy transformation of a building with a gloomy past.

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