Impeccably clean, friendly to tourists and smartly designed, Iceland’s capital is remarkably safe as well. If I had realized sooner that Reykjavik was a mere five hour flight away, I would have visited a lot sooner. Spending a day, or a few, in the city is a must-do on any Nordic adventure itinerary.
Hallgrímskirkja Church – Thought to be designed to resemble the stark, volcanic landscape of Reykjavik’s environs, visitors can take a lift to the viewing deck for a stunning view from the top.
Waterfront – While somewhat industrial, the large port area bordering the Atlantic offers a unique vantage point. As the launching area of numerous whale watches and cruises, here you can get up close and personal with multiple mega-ships and their Icelandic monikers.
Head to Laugavegur street to find a variety of shops to suit your fancy. Foodies will be drawn to the vast selection of dried fish, and artsy types will dig eclectic design stores boasting unique gifts for the home. Kogga on Vesturgata street is an intimate family-operated ceramic gallery. Generally speaking, you don’t leave Reykjavik without at least trying on a 100% wool Icelandic sweater.
Need to rest your feet, and/or wallet? Stop at Kaffi Mokka on Skólavörðustíg for a coffee or hot chocolate. It’s not pretty, but it doesn’t matter. As the oldest coffee shop in Reykjavik, it’s just cool.
For the truly brave, a visit to Iceland should include a taste of the famed Hakarl, or fermented shark. Shark in its raw form contains too much ammonia, and can be downright dangerous if ingested. So in Iceland, it’s buried underground with weights on top, for sometimes months. Then it’s hung to “air out” by the sea. The result is a concoction resembling tofu, and tasting like the most rancid cheese you could ever imagine.
Other delicacies include puffin [Lundi] or whale meat. All can be found at the locally recommended 3 Frakker on Baldursgata. In the mood for a lively brunch? Head to Laundromat Cafe, a hip spot with bright interior and a place for the kids to play downstairs.
Casual travelers can find a good burger at the very simple Vitabar. If you’re searching for more upscale eats, Geyser Bistro may be your place. With a modern, white interior resembling a large loft, the service is friendly and the cuisine fresh. Try the delicious minke whale burger or finish your meal with the sweet Skyr (like yogurt, typically mixed with fruit) cake.
Twenty-somethings assured me that life doesn’t begin until you visit b5, a popular club for the well-heeled. Remember that in Iceland, things get rolling well after midnight.
For the budget conscious, nothing beats the SUNNA Guesthouse. Accommodations are simple, and the price includes breakfast. Another option is the Reykjavik Marina by the harbor, an Icelandair Hotel. It’s relatively new and a design fiend’s dream. Take a break from the cold and warm up by the fireplace in the lobby, which is worth visiting in and of itself.
For fun day trip ideas around the Reykjavik area, click here.