This county is on the
peninsula Alftanes just south of the capital. The presidential residence's
houses date back to the early 19th century.
It and the late 18th century
church are beautifully situated in the open landscape at Bessastadir. The church is open
for guests and is well worth visiting, bearing in mind not to cross the
small square between it and the residence. On and around the lagoons is one of the many
birdwatchers' paradises of the country. The human settlement has been
expanding rapidly during the last few decades. The first recorded
information on Bessastadir dates back to the turn of the 12th century, when the farm was the property of the renowned
chieftain and historian Snorri Sturluson. After his murder in 1241 the property was seized
by the Norwegian king, thus becoming the first such to fall into the hands of the kings.
Soon after that Bessastadir became the seat of the governors of the country and their
mansions stood there until the end of the 18th century.
Early in the 20th
century a director in the capital bought the property and donated it to the
state in 1941 on the condition that it would become and remain the seat of
the Icelandic presidents.
It remained the
seat of the governor until 1944, when the first president was elected by the
parliament. Ever since the year 1000 there have been churches at
Bessastadir. The present one was consecrated in 1796 and last renovated in
1998. It is among the oldest houses made of stone in the country.