“I feel like the people from Iceland have a different relationship with their country than other places. Most Icelandic people are really proud to be from there, and we don’t have embarrassments like World War II where we were cruel to other people.” Bjork
Reykjavik, world’s northerly capital, is one of these places that combines colourful buildings by the harbour, minimalistic design, “exotic” people and a capricious soul.
A small capital, a cold capital. If you are focused 2 days are more than enough to get acquainted with Reykjavic. Renting a car should be included in your price, since touring around goes without saying, you know…those iconic, dreamy, handsome landscapes are out there.
What is it about the Icelandic landscape that hypnotises artists? And non artists?
Chara, is a super positive person, a community manager who lives in London and is in love with Reykjavic. GoSeeLeave thoughts she’s the perfect person to curate the Guide.
“My relationship with Reykjavik is unique but not exceptional. I have visited the place 3 times in 3 years and I just confirmed my next visit. People who visit Reykjavik can’t help but falling in love with the city and keep going back again and again. And again.”
For such a tiny capital it is strikingly cosmopolitan and merely a town by international standards. Spread out along a small peninsula with the picturesque city centre and harbour occupying the northern half, the city is extremely compact concentrating in the Old part most of the main attractions.
Sleep in Laugardalur neighborhood
Book yourself an Airbnb in the centre and rent a car to explore as much as possible.
I love sharing, so Airbnb has always been the ideal solution for my accommodation. I could call myself faithful, since all the times I chose to stay in the same neighborhood, same location, same hosts. In the end of the day, its people who make your stay unforgettable.
You’re just some clicks away from the accommodation that best fits your appetite.
Kick off your day like a proper local with a nice and original oat milk latte at Reykjavik Roasters, one of the most authentic coffee shops in this marvellous city! It will definitely bring back memories of your grandparents’ country house.
As founders put it: “We have a passion for enhancing the local coffee culture. We want to raise the public awareness and appreciation for high quality coffee and we are doing so by making small, but essential, changes every day.”
Tjörnin means the lake, or the pond.
After being fueled up with all the necessary kaffeine, start your visit with a walk around the Old Reykjavik. Frozen to perfection or sun shaded this pond will steal your gaze.
Tjörnin is always a good point to start. Α placid lake in the heart of the capital that is home for over 40 species of swans, geese and other Arctic birds. If the time is right -and I am not a fanatic bird watcher!- it is fascinating to sit aside the lake and observe all these exotic birds. Just on the side of the lake, half in the lake actually, you can find the Radhus (City Hall).
Step inside to see the 3D map of Iceland and ask for more city and events information.
On the other side of Tjornin lake you can find two of the most important museums of the city: the National Museum and the National Gallery.
The Museum gives an overview of Iceland’s history and reveals the depth of the nation’s culture.
Think for a moment the Vikings during those Medieval times, facilitated by advanced facilitated seafaring skills and characterised by the longship. Collections dating back to the stories of those inhabitants speaking the Old Norse language till the contemporary status of this Nordic island between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean.
Shiny Concert Hall
First stop in the harbor should definitely be Harpa: Reykjavik’s shiny new concert hall and cultural centre that was built in the middle of economic crisis. Its impressive building, half built in the water, dazzles the eye with the glass panels that sparkle like a spaceship at night.
Get inside and have a walk around or even better sit at the cafeteria and enjoy a hot chocolate and a local rice pudding whilst admiring the miraculous architecture of the building. If you are lucky enough and there is a show/concert happening at the time of your visit do not miss the chance to get well in advance tickets for it!
The Old Harbour
Next stop, the Old Harbour. It is found a 10min walk away from Harpa and it totally gives you a taste of the city before prosperity.
Built between 1913 and 1917, this location stands perfectly for any emerging talents. There is a kind of affiliation between art and places of transition, like ports. A beautiful place to walk, with plenty of activities within close distance. Cool! There is a sense of community in those wet square meters.
If you find yourself around on a Saturday morning visit the indoors vintage fair and get the Icelandic jumper (Lopapeysa), totally recommended and in exceptionally good price.
My favourite lunch spot of the city is cited just in the heart of the old harbour, it is called Saegreifinn and it makes the BEST lobster soup on Earth! Turn downer the fact that it only has 3-4 tiny tables and doesn’t accept bookings. This is not a sleek place.
It is an informal, straightforward, traditional, glaringly honest, delicious local spot ready to turn you on.
Trust me, waiting is totally worthy!
The archetypical lobster soup is in Reykjavik, exactly where you’d expect to find it: near the water.
Kjartan Halldorsson is an old sailor and cook and proprietor of Reykjavik’s “The Sea Baron”, charming his guests with his ‘joie de vivre”. Go pay him a visit.
For the afternoon, I hear you say “what about Blue Lagoon?” and this is what exactly I would recommend. It is only a 30min drive from the centre and entirely worth the money (admission from 33€). Set in a black lava field it has something eerie with its neon light blue steams going over the pitch black stones. Try NOT to visit on weekend as it can get very crowded and you won’t be able to enjoy all the facilities. Use the hot pots, face masks, sauna, waterfalls and have a frozen cocktail -believe me even if it’s minus degrees outside you will definitely need one inside the 38°C.
The water is rich in algae, mineral salts and silica mud which exfoliates the skin and you will come out as soft as a baby BUT don’t over do it. After 20-30min you will start feeling your skin quite “stretchy” (as if you’ve stayed in the bath tub for long) and this is when you should come out.
Bjork's Favorite Place
Back to the city centre and it’s time to go out! Reykjavik is full of small, hidden bars that play good music.
Personally, my most beloed is an old house, that bears London Underground on its sign, Kaffibarrinn. This is Bjork’s favourite bar and if you’re lucky enough you’ll get to see her!
Stay on the bar for shots or grab your mac to forward some emails while you are there.
Sigur Rós's Heima: An Icelandic Psychogeography
There is this ambient rock group called Sigur Ros. This group is particularly known for causing some people to burst into tears during their musical performances. They express sonically both the isolation of the Icelandic location and share in the same time a feeling of hermetic isolation in the listener through climactic and melodic intensity of their sounds. There is a paper, which examines the sonic geography of this Icelandic music band, that can give you the perfect idea of the absolute Icelandic landscape.
Enjoy. Iceland is for dreamers.