The Church of Halgrimur
dominates the city skyline.
is one of those places that millions have been to as a stop over
on a flight, but few have taken the time to explore.
chance you get to visit - leave the airport and spend some time discovering the wonders of Reykjavik. This Fire and Ice northern capital is getting a worldwide reputation for the best nightlife in the world.
One visit and you will understand why.
You may be surprised that Reykjavik is a seaport. Snow capped mountains form a backdrop panorama through most of the year.
Most of the 'must see' sights in Iceland are either in Reykjavik or within range of a day trip to see the Golden Circle tour of top Icelandic attractions.
The thermal springs filled the air with their steam giving it the name Steamy Bay -- in Icelandic that translates to Reykjavik. Over time the bustling seaport became the home of the Lutheran Cathedral and the capital city. In more recent years, the city has developed into one of the trendiest tourist stops with a thriving arts and cultural scene.
From the East Coast of the USA or Western Europe, this friendly island city is just a short trip and perfect for a weekend visit. The airport is just a short bus ride from Reykjavik. (The same bus that brings you to your hotel offers a selection of tours that pick you up at the hotel after breakfast and drops you back off in time for dinner.)
The weather can be chilly, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream keep the worst of the Arctic blasts from visitors, but cold weather gear is always a good idea.
Summer temperatures are pleasant while the sun is up - which is almost always! The steaming thermal pools that gave the city its name now provide swimming and relaxing in heated indoor and outdoor pools - a favorite Icelandic activity all year long.
Out and about in Reykjavik
A variety of ducks, geese and swans
populate the Tjorn (the pond)
In the city center the main shopping street is well marked. Fashions, crafts shops and artist's studios, restaurants and casinos line the street and make for an interesting walk, great shopping, and easy access to restaurants and clubs!
Reykjavik is internationally famous for the nightlife. Don't plan on starting your party before 11 PM or midnight, but you'll still have plenty of time to enjoy yourself and get to meet friendly people.
Most of the clubs remain open until 4 or 5 AM. Many of the clubs on the main street are quiet restaurants until 9 or 10 PM then stop serving food and get busy around midnight with Icelanders and tourists partying until the early morning.
Most restaurants close before the partying begins and it's a good idea to make reservations at the best places. While prices are not inexpensive, eating at the top restaurants will probably be less than you expect.
With a multi course full dinner, dessert and an excellent wine, the cost should be in the US$100 per person range - and tipping is not expected in Iceland. Many good restaurants are much less expensive - and there are quite a few to choose from.
Seeing the sights
The ultramodern City Hall sits at the end of an enormous pool, the Tjorn, that is home to an amazing variety of ducks, swans and sea birds. The scenic area is perfect for strolling, but bring along some treats for the birds who are very forward when it comes to asking for a meal.
This is the older part of the city and the harbor is not far off, but the bustle of commerce seems very far away as you rest on a bench surrounded by the graceful and colorful water fowl. A walk around the pool will take you to the Lutheran Cathedral, the Dómkirkjan - not to be confused with Hallgrimskirkja, the city's crown jewel.
The sweeping structure of the Hallgrímskirkja or The Church of Hallgrimur was named in honor of Rev. Hallgrimur Petursson. The design, by Gudjon Samuelsson, is based on the rugged snow capped mountains of Iceland although many see the abstract image of lava pouring down the sides of volcano - the force that shaped the land.
From the top of the bell tower you'll get one of the best panoramic views of Reykjavik... the harbor, the University and the nearby countryside. If you are in luck, you may get to hear the 5000 piped organ playing.
The National Gallery of Iceland is nearby at 7 Frikirkjuvegur. You'll also want to visit the Einar Jonsson Museum. Exhibitions of the sculptor's works are housed in the gallery. There is a fee to get in, but the outdoor sculpture garden is free and open all year.
Feeling at home in Reykjavik
The Icelandic language is difficult for foreigners but you'll find that the majority of the visitor friendly Icelanders speak fluent English and often a third language - usually German, French or another Scandinavian language.
They don't use the Euro in Iceland, so be ready to count in Icelandic krona when you make purchases. Credit cards are accepted just about everywhere and actually save money by avoiding fees for exchanging currency.
Pick up a
Reykjavik City Card if you plan to stay for a few days. The card covers riding the buses and easy admission
to many of the most popular attractions in the city including
many galleries, museums, exhibitions, the zoo and any one of
Reykjavik's seven geothermal pools.
More about Reykjavik around the Web:
Reykjavik - Focus articles on what's going on, info on
accommodations, wining and dining, things to do, arts and entertainment
listings, tips on getting around, a section with an overview about
Reykjavik, Virtual Reykjavik and plenty of other practical information.
Reykjavik - Reykjavik.com is a blog sponsored by Icelandair Group that covers Reykjavik, 'from the best place to get coffee to tips on exploring the city and its surroundings' - and by surroundings they mean all of Iceland. Good multimedia site that provides plenty of information in a very pretty package.