Last week we embarked on the most unforgettable journey of our lives by travelling to Iceland. We spent the first couple of days of our trip in Reykjavík, the country’s capital, with this being one of the highlights of our trip. We stayed in a beautiful retro apartment in the city centre which we found through Airbnb and were able to walk to all the major attractions from there. Though we only had 2 days in the city, we made it our mission to see and do as may things as possible in this short time frame. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do everything (as is the plague of most travellers passing through a capital city), but this post is meant to be a short guide to the world’s northern most capital.
(1) Eat freshly caught fish/lobster – Because Reykjavík is a coastal city, fresh fish and seafood is abundant and delicious. There are many restaurants in the Old Harbour area that serve fresh catches. We dined at Saegreifin, a small little restaurant rumoured to have the best lobster soup and fish kebabs in the country – and boy did it not disappoint! The lobster was so fresh it practically melted in your mouth.
(2) Catch a show at Harpa – Iceland is known for its rich culture, especially when it comes to music and performing arts. What better way to experience it than in the country’s most prestigious concert hall? Even if you aren’t able to catch a show, this building is worth a visit! You can walk around the inside and out at no charge, but can also take a guided tour for a behind the scenes look.
(3) Walk along the coast/Old Harbour – Though this can get cold on a windy day, the views from the Old Harbour area is simply breathtaking with their mountainous backdrop.
(4) Warm yourself up at a local coffee shop – Reykjavík is full of really cool coffee shops bustling with hipsters on their laptops. Visiting a coffee shop is a great way to connect with the locals, taste some fantastic coffee and warm up on a cold, windy day. Plus all cafes we visited had free wifi so why not take advantage of that when you’re sipping on your cup of joe.
Fun fact: 97% of Iceland’s population is connected to the Internet.
(5) Browse through the weekend Kolaportid flea market – Wandering the various stalls of a local market is one of our favourite activities when travelling to any given country. It gives such a great look at how locals interact and allows you to try local foods. Here we bought some great knit sweaters from a local farmer who makes them by hand. Did you know it takes approximately 2 days to knit one of these?! No wonder they are one of Iceland’s most popular souvenirs. Their Nordic patterns are so beautiful! Knitting is so popular in Iceland that there is even a Handknitting Association of Iceland – they also have shops spread around the city.
(6) See the Sun Voyager statue – This majestic statue truly encompasses all that is Nordic with its simple and clean lines, interesting figure and modern material. It is only a short walk along the coast from Harpa and thus easily seen during an afternoon of sightseeing. The Sun Voyager is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun and is meant to contain within itself the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom.
(7) Go to the National Museum – Though we did not have the time to visit the National Museum, it was definitely on our list! This would be the ideal place to learn more about Icelandic history and culture as it displays artifacts from the country’s settlement to the modern age.
(8) Shop on Laugavegur – Reykjavík’s main shopping street is the best place to find local souvenirs. Whether you plan on purchasing a small magnet or a designer sweater, this is the street to visit! Just remember that most shops close at 6PM and are not open on Sundays.
(9) Soak in beauty at the National Gallery – Yet another sight we did not have time to see! However, we also heard great things about this place and were very sad not to have the chance to go. The National Gallery of Iceland features at 10 000-piece collection of which it can only display a small sample at a time due to its limited space. This place will definitely be on our must visit list the next time we go to Reykjavík!
(10) Visit the world’s largest display of penile parts – Yes, you read that correctly, Reykjavík has a penis museum. Here we saw specimens of all sorts, from whales to horses to human (in cast form)!
Tip: The entrance fee to the museum can only be paid in cash so be sure to have some with you!
(11) Get an unparalleled view of the city at Hallgrimskirkja – Though Hallgrimskirkja church is truly an impressive building in and of itself, we found the view to be truly breathtaking. When taking the elevator up to its observation deck (for a very modest price of $3-4) you can get a 360 degree view of the city. This building is actually the tallest structure in the city centre.
Tip: Be sure to come early in order to avoid the crowds! The church opens as early as 9AM.
(12) Participate in the city’s weekly pub crawl – Reykjavík has a fantastic bar scene. Though we unfortunately did not get to experience it at its full extent as we were there on Sunday and Monday night the city is rumoured to have an unparalleled pub crawl on weekends.
(13) Take a gander at Perlan – Though not directly in the city center, Perlan is still quite accessible either by walking or taxi. Much like Hallgrimskirkja, Perlan gives you a 360 degree view of the city and even has panoramic telescopes and information signs so that you know what you are looking at.
(14) Eat a hot dog – These are the cheapest food in Reykjavík (because everything costs a million dollars in Iceland) and are also very popular with tourists and locals alike. You can get them at gas stations, diners, sandwich shops etc. for the low price of $5.50 for a hot dog and pop combo. They really are delicious and we don’t even like hot dogs (weird, we know) so that’s really saying something!
Have you been to Reykjavík?
What would you recommend doing in the city?
Want to know more? Check out our other posts about our travels to Iceland!
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