Reykjavik – 64 Degrees North!
We arrived in Reykjavik pretty late after flying in from New York and it’s fair to say we were in a bit of a daze, we had been travelling around Canada then spent 5 nights in the big apple and were going to be returning to reality soon! I had been looking forward to seeing Iceland for so long though, and if the truth be known…it was probably the destination I had been looking forward to visiting most! We had such an amazing time in Canada and New York but the majority of our time had been spent in cities…I was ready for adventure of a more natural kind!
Flying to Reykjavik from the U.K is so affordable at the moment, Wow Air have flights from London to Reykjavik from £29.99, and like I’ve said before there is a huge push to promote Iceland as a stopover destination between the U.K and North America. At the time of writing this you can fly to Toronto with a stopover in Reykjavik on 12th February 2107 for £99….unbelievable! These prices won’t include selecting your seats or checked luggage…but still as a starting point they are great prices. Opodo are still churning out the best results for me when searching for flights at the moment and Wow Air are included in their search results.
We arrived at Keflavik airport and it was a really easy efficient process there, there was even a moment of foot tapping admiring the solid wooden floor! We had pre-booked our transfer to Reykjavik with Reykjavik Excursions on their fly bus, the transfer takes 45-50 minutes to the main bus station which is slightly outside of the city centre. From there most people are asked to transfer to minibuses which then take you off into the city to your drop off point. It is a reverse process when leaving Reykjavik so allow extra time for your transfer when going to catch a flight, this caught a few people out.
We stayed with Planet Apartments at their superior sea view apartment on Klapparstigur. It was AMAZING! A self catering apartment which really was that little bit extra special. The living area had floor to ceiling windows looking out to the sea, the kitchen had everything needed and the two bedrooms were large both with double beds…it really was great, one of the best self catering apartments I have stayed in. There was a flat screen TV nice furnishings, cool little extras…we really loved our stay here. The apartment can be booked through Air BnB and if you use the link you will get £25 towards your stay!
The location was excellent as well, easy walking distance to the sea front and city centre sights, restaurants, bars and cafes. The tour busses also pick up from Centerhotel Klopp literally a 5 minute walk at most, massively convenient! We booked our tours through Guide to Iceland and I would highly recommend them. If you haven’t done so already check out the stories of our adventures in Iceland:-
Whale Watching From Reykjavik!
The Sights and Sounds of Reykjavik
Our first night in Reykjavik was a Friday night, I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting of the city but I was surprised. I guess I imagined Reykjavik as being a bit of a sleepy city, everybody huddled inside sheltering from the cold. I could not have been more wrong! It seemed like the whole of Reykjavik was out! It may well be the smallest capital city I have ever been to but it was so lively…and…the Icelandic definitely enjoy a drink! Music could be heard everywhere, crowds spilling out of bars onto the street, people stumbling to fast food vendors! There was a real party atmosphere here! I guess everyone around the world lets their hair down at the end of the working week…no matter how far north they are!
If you’ve read some of my previous posts about city destinations you will know I enjoy exploring a city at night, I love how the character changes and sights appear new again like you are seeing them for the first time. Well on this occasion the first glimpses we had of many of the city’s attractions were at night…great fun!
Even though it got a little rowdy as the night went on, this was not a city we felt uncomfortable in at all. A quick search on Google reveals Reykjavik is present in almost all lists of the safest capitals in the world…a city you can relax in and concentrate on enjoying yourself and doing the things that matter.
It was this night that that we first saw the Hallgrimskirkja church. On the website it describes the church as standing guard over Reykjavik, I love this description. At 73 metres tall it is visible from most points in the city, and it has this solid fortress look to it, it’s going nowhere anytime soon…no matter what the elements or humanity for that matter throw at it!
It is a mightily impressive building, and surprisingly young, its construction only started in 1945 and since its completion it has been declared a national monument.
We had to go back and see this place during the day and have a look inside, plus we wanted to see the view from the top of the tower…we were not disappointed!
Hallgrimskirkja is a must see when in Reykjavik there is no doubt about it, and a trip in the lift to the top of the tower is another must, the views of the surrounding area and over the city down to the sea are lovely and full of colour.
The church is a real draw for sight seers but like most places in Iceland…it wasn’t crowded when we visited, entrance is free, there is a small charge to go to the top of the tower.
Outside the church stands a statue of Leif Erikson who was born in 970-980 AD and is thought to be the first European to discover America, before Christopher Columbus. When you think that it wasn’t until 1492 that Christopher Columbus first set sail for the Americas…it makes Leif Erikson’s achievement all the more incredible! These were seriously ambitious people.
Just over the road from Hallgrimskirkja on the corner of Njardargata and Lokastigur is the lovely Café Loki, a great place to have a coffee break and sample some authentic Icelandic Delicacies. We had Pancakes filled with Skyr, an Icelandic version of Greek yoghurt but less sour. When writing these posts I tend to fact check online and try to make sure I’m giving you the correct information…Café Loki’s website uses Google translate to give you an English version…not always a wise idea…it’s got me in a mess more than a few times…especially with my partners mum who speaks no English! In the pastry section, apparently for 350 Kr you can have “Love Scrotum”… I would stay away from that! Ah Technology!
Seriously though, it is a lovely independent place to have a break.
The city centre is really sweet and there are plenty of coffee shops, dessert cafés, bars and restaurants. Football is big here as well, especially given the national teams success in the Euros…although the less said about that the better! During the weekend bars were packed during football matches which were screened from all around Europe…and the people watching were loud! There was even one bar with a TV screen facing out onto the street with a bench facing it!
Every now and again there is a real reminder of the size and population of the island, we passed this building not knowing what it was. Originally built in 1765-1770 as a prison, but now the offices of the Prime Minister! Slightly different to most heads of state offices you will see across Europe! But then Iceland is home to just 323,000 people…lucky people.
Walking along the coast is pleasant, there was a biting wind though whilst we did this and it hit home that we were in the northernmost capital in the world! the area to he west of the concert hall is more industrial with the harbour areas, but walk further to the east and there are some nice views.
In the sagas vikings and the famous Scandinavians of history are always cast as ambitious dreamers, just look at Ragnar Lothbrok in the Vikings T.V series (AMAZING!). This sculpture was therefore a very fitting way to mark the 200th birthday of Reykjavik in 1990. It is described as being a dreamboat, an ode to the sun, containing within it the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom…Perfect.
A couple of places we really enjoyed eating in, really close to where we were staying. For breakfast, recommended by Planet Apartments, Grai Kotturinn/Grey Cat, I’m pretty sure they only open for breakfast or perhaps early lunches, but they were definitely not open in the evenings when we passed by. This little café is really popular with locals who it seems all plan to meet there for breakfast…and are a lot more sociable than me at that time in the morning! It’s pretty expensive for breakfast, but the jovial atmosphere and the quality of the food more than covers this. It is located on Hverfisgata.
The best evening meal we had in Reykjavik was at Islenski Barinn on Ingolfsstraeti not far from the junction with Hverfisgata.
Lamb is a favourite in Iceland…and boy do they do it well here! It was delicious, my mouth is watering looking at this picture! Islenski Barinn is more like a gastro pub than a restaurant, it has a lovely traditional feel to it. The menu is traditional but with a bit of a modern twist. However some of the Icelandic traditional dishes may well have you thinking “No Way”. On the menu here was Reindeer Burger…not so bad? But Fin Whale? Fermented shark? Grilled PUFFIN? There’s no way I could bring myself to eat one of those cute little guys! For the brave/strong stomached, be my guest!
The slow roasted lamb shank I had was so nice, I would definitely recommend it, we both enjoyed our food here.
As always thanks for taking the time to read… and I hope I haven’t put you off your food with the thought of grilled puffin! I’m off to have a marathon Vikings viewing session!