Located inside a dignified wooden building on the corner of Austurstræti and Veltusund, Thorvaldsen’s Bazar is among the oldest shops in Reykjavík. Opening its doors in 1901, the Bazar has from day one specialised in selling souvenirs, handicrafts and wooden products, mostly hand-knitted by Icelandic women who needed a place to sell their products. Thorvaldsen’s Bazar has been located at the same downtown spot since 1905 and through the years its business has evolved with changed shopping habits. Still run by the same organisation that opened the store in the beginning of the last century, the Thorvaldsen Society, a women’s charity organisation established on 19 November 1875, counts approximately 80 members today.
The women working in the store each day serve voluntarily, and all profits are donated to charity work. Particularly supporting children in need, the Thorvaldsen Society has bought equipment and sponsored facilities at the children’s hospital, supported the psychiatric ward BUGL for adolescents, the organisation Save the Children Iceland and the movement Young and Sober for example. Recently, the society started a 10 million ISK fund for diabetic children. In light of all this, the Bazar has to be noted as a store well worth the desirable title Bezt í Heimi.
When browsing through all the shop has to offer, the friendly service is instantly noticeable. Greeted by Sigríður Sigurbergsdóttir, the Thorvaldssen Society’s chairwoman, she tells the Grapevine that the women love the downtown atmosphere and that the shop is still as well appreciated as it was over a hundred years ago. “We have a range of women who have been knitting for us for many years, but in addition to that, we buy clothes from wholesale firms. The children’s clothes and the woollen underclothes, available for men, women and children, have been very popular and the woollen sweaters as well.” Not surprisingly, as these are quality products. In addition to the good selection of the traditional Icelandic woollen sweaters (lopapeysa), socks, gloves, hats and other hand-knitted warm clothing for the winter can be bought for a reasonable price.
As Christmas draws closer, their classic Christmas stamps and Christmas cards now fill the shelves next to the counter. There they get renowned Icelandic artists to paint the pictures: Kjarval, Bertel Thorvaldsen and Nína Tryggvadóttir to name a few. The stamps have been for sale since 1913 and collectors from all around the world wait with anticipation every year for the newest addition.
Sigurbergsdóttir tells me that their largest clientele are tourists who want to buy something special to take back home. And the variety is distinct. In addition to the clothes and Christmas stuff, Icelandic jewellery like necklaces decorated with lava, runic letters, Thor’s hammer or other ancient Icelandic symbols as well as the large variety of Icelandic souvenirs, toys and quality handmade products make up a list of nice Christmas presents to send to friends abroad as well as the family at home.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9-18,
Saturday and Sunday 10-14.