Reykjavik was the last destination of our whistle-stop stay in Iceland. We had three fantastic days exploring the south of the island and witnessing first-hand the sheer beauty of it, from majestic waterfalls, to explosive geysers and beautiful black sands. Therefore, when we arrived in Reykjavik I was slightly disappointed (sorry to all the Reykjavik lovers). I must point out that Iceland is one of my favourite countries in the world, and we are already planning our return trip. However, a few days in the capital were more than enough for us.
Also, just to clarify, there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with Reykjavik, it is a very welcoming and quaint little city, I just think we had been spoilt with all the natural beauty elsewhere on the island, suddenly finding ourselves in a small city felt like a bit of a let-down. I personally think if we had started our Iceland trip in Reykjavik, we would have loved it like so many others do. In no way am I suggesting you should skip it, it is a lovely place with lots of things to keep you occupied for a day or so, but there is so much more to Iceland then the capital, we’d recommend using it as a base if you have to, but get out into the wilderness and see the true Iceland.
Reykjavik does have a number of attractions which shouldn’t be missed, the majority of which are free, which was appreciated in such an expensive country. I personally think that one day, two days max, was enough to see everything that we wanted to see, obviously if your tastes are different you may, of course, need more time.
The Old Harbour, which was built between 1913 and 1917, even on a dreary November day was still colourful and vibrant with a number of seafood restaurants full of tourists and locals indulging in the catch of the day, us included. It is a nice area to have a little walk around especially as you get views across the bay to Mount Esja. The Majority of Reykjavik’s marine activities start and finish here too, with plenty of stalls and offices selling whale watching and puffin tours etc.
Harpa Concert Hall
The concert hall and conference centre stands next to the Old Harbour, you really can’t miss it – it is the big, shiny new building. So new in fact it was only opened six years ago and was designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The building is predominantly steel and coloured glass which was used to depict the basalt Icelandic landscape. The current residents are Iceland Symphony Orchestra, The Icelandic Opera, The Reykjavík Big Band and Maximus Musicus.
The Sun Voyager is a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason and sits on the waterfront in Reykjavík next to Sæbraut road. As an ode to the sun, the Sun Voyager is a dreamboat. It is not a Viking ship like many believe it to be, as we did. The sculpture has been in place since 1990 and draws people to it all year round. Seeing it for ourselves was well worth the 5 minute or so walk from the city centre.
Hallgrímskirkja is the parish church of Reykjavik and unlike any other church on the island. All other churches we visited or passed were small and white, not this one – standing at 73 meters tall it is the tallest church in Iceland and one of the tallest buildings. It stands in the centre of the city and can be seen from almost everywhere. Completed in 1986 it is said to have been designed to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape.
Who knew there was so much street art to see in Reykjavik? We were pleasantly surprised to see street art at what seemed the turn of every corner. Some quirky, some crazy but all appeared to have been created by very talented people. There has been a crackdown lately on unauthorised graffiti, so maybe visit now to see the cool street art before it is gone?
Perlan (‘The Pearl’) is situated on the hill Öskjuhlíð. In 1991 a hemispherical structure was placed on top of the hot water storage tanks which had been based there for decades. Perlan has a concert space, cafe, shops, a restaurant, a cocktail bar and a large viewing platform, which offers views of Reykjavik and the surrounding area.
IF YOU’RE LUCKY:
The Northern Lights
If you visit during the winter months and luck is on your side, then the Northern Lights may dance over the city for you! Aurora Borealis is a natural light display and can often be seen in the skies above Reykjavik if the weather conditions are right. Unfortunately, they are not guaranteed so don’t be to disappointed if you do not see them but if you do, like we did, it truly is an amazing experience and something to tick off the bucket list.
Alcohol is expensive in Iceland, especially in Reykjavík, even the locally brewed lager – Gull, which is very nice by the way. Approximately priced between £7 and £10 a pint in every bar and restaurant we visited in the capital, drinking can be a costly affair. However most, if not all bars have a happy hour (well, more like a happy 3 hours) where the majority of drinks were buy one, get one free and seemed to be staggered. Therefore, from around 5pm to 11pm each night, you can move from one bar to another and enjoy their BOGOF offers!
Have you visited Reykjavik? Do you have any lovely little freebies to add to our list?