There is much speculation as to the real location of Santa’s workshop, but there is a very beautiful place in northern Iceland, 7km from the city of Akureyri, a town of 17,000 nestled at the end of Iceland’s longest fjord.
Not by chance, its isolated location means minimal distractions for our beloved man with white beard and his crew, and the weather is certainly cold enough to accommodate his reindeer too.
What really distinguishes this Santa’s workshop from others is its owner, who is really convincing as the big man in the red suit.
Even upon visiting in Summer, one will be greeted with festive cheer, and here Santa lives in the workshop, which only adds authenticity to his claim. As you might imagine, the Christmas theme only gets stronger once inside the workshop, and although there are some items for sale, this is clearly a labour of love more than a commercial enterprise.
The Akureyri Christmas House is open year-round and has two floors packed with Christmas trinkets, including decorations, food, music, artworks, books, toys, homeware and ornaments.
Many of the products are international, representing how cultures around the world celebrate Christmas. Most, however, are Icelandic, with many authentic local handicrafts for sale.
Icelandic Christmas traditions are amongst the world’s most interesting and unusual.
Rather than a single, jolly Santa, Iceland has thirteen, all trolls whose antics range from mischievous to malevolent, a group affectionately known as the Yuletide Lads. Children in Iceland will leave a shoe in the window the 13 nights before Christmas for each of the Yuletide Lads to leave a gift in. Their mother, Gryla, is a child-eating giantess whose gigantic pet, the Christmas Cat, hunts for children this season.
There are lot of souvenirs that represent these fascinating traditions, and a cave on the ground floor with a sculpture of Gryla herself.
But there are also several buildings at the Akureyri Christmas House other than the shop itself.
Firstly, a tower with what may be the world’s largest advent calendar, whose windows are numbered to reflect the days leading up to the 25th.
Its walls are beautifully painted with fairytale images, created by Icelandic artist Sunna Björk Hreiðarsdóttir.
Close by is Eplakofin, or the Apple Shed, where you can buy sugar glazed apples to help get into the festive season but, those seeking more sweet treats can find a wide range at Svarta Húsið, otherwise known as ‘The Black House’, a shop that also sells a range of Nordic products, although they are not all Christmas themed.
The perfect place to have a Merry Christmas, you can top off your experience by posting a letter home from Santa’s mailbox.
The Christmas House is also home to the Christmas Garden, a beautiful festive space, with a miniature replica of an Icelandic turf church, recreated to represent how buildings looked across the country before industrialisation.
It is also home to the Wishing Well of Unborn Children, where guests are encouraged to make a wish for future generations.
Beside this is a tree with stars at the end of its branches, meant to represent those yet to be born.
Other than the town of Akureyri itself, there are a wealth of attractions in the area that can be visited alongside the Christmas House.
The most well-known of these is Mývatn, a beautiful region of lakes, geological marvels and volcanic activity, and there are also some popular waterfalls, such as the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss, and the historic Goðafoss.
Author’s notes: the Christmas House is easy to reach from the Capital of the North Iceland, Akureyri.
Simply take Route 821 south from the town, and you’ll find it to your left after about ten minutes. If you reach the village of Hrafnagil, you’ve gone slightly too far.
To get to Akureyri from Reykjavík, drive Route 1 north, and the journey takes five hours. It is also possible to take flights from Reykjavík Domestic Airport.
Images from web – Google Research