Reykjavík

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Reykjavík

Visitors to Reykjavík are thrilled by the pure energy at the heart of Iceland’s capital city: be it from the boiling thermal springs, the natural green energy, or the lively cultural scene and fun-filled nightlife. The world’s northernmost capital, it's framed by the majestic Mount Esja, which keeps a watchful eye on the city, and the blue waters of Faxaflói Bay. On a sunny day, the mystical Snæfellsjökull glacier appears crystal-like on the western horizon, while mountainous moonscapes spread to the southeast.

The City

The city of Reykjavík has a fascinating history that stretches back over a thousand years. The site was first inhabited in the eighth century by a band of hardy Norsemen. Since then Vikings, monks, sailors, musicians, fishermen, politicians, writers, artists and all manner of folk have played their part in shaping the rich history and culture that makes Iceland’s capital such a vibrant and fascinating place. Visitors leave Reykjavík with a renewed sense of vigour that can be attributed to Iceland’s pristine air and unique energy, evident all around the city — from the geothermal vents steaming in the midnight sunshine to the great open spaces that adorn the area with a stunning natural landscape. Many year-round activities and events can fill the diary of any interested traveller. Reykjavík is also home to the world’s oldest parliament — the Alþingi, which was founded in 930 AD. However, today the city is the epitome of a modern European capital with a world-class infrastructure, excellent transport links to Europe and North America, and 200,000 welcoming Icelanders helping you enjoy your stay. Reykjavík is renowned for an array of features: a big art scene, sight-seeing and nightlife; annual film and music festivals; and numerous shops, museums and restaurants. There’s no other city like the world’s most Northerly capital, situated at a relatively short distance from the Arctic Circle. Iceland is a pretty isolated place, and that makes Reykjavík a fairly expensive place to hang out. The economist once put it as high as 14th place for its high cost of living. Though if you're coming from New York, Paris, Hong Kong or Tel Aviv — the pain of sticker shock won't bother you. Visitors from all round the globe also enjoy whale and wildlife watching, relaxing in one of the many thermal spas and pools (such as the famous Blue Lagoon), viewing spectacular sights such as the Imagine Peace Tower (a spectacular tribute to John Lennon) or the Hallgrímskirkja, and touring the amazing countryside — all with the beautiful snow-covered Mount Esja in the background. Reykjavík is home to some superb hotels, guest houses and other cozy kinds of accommodation for visitors. Information on tours, trips and things to do during your stay can be easily found in this brochure or at the Reykjavík Tourist Information Centre. However long your stay here, you won’t be short of things to do in Reykjavík.

Top 11

Reykjavík’s compact city centre is a friendly and colourful network of small streets with historic buildings, a wide selection of boutiques, designer shops, and cafés and restaurants that serve attractive dishes made of the freshest ingredients. Find the perfect souvenir, enjoy a gourmet meal or lose track of time in a modern gallery. Check out our Top 11 things to do in Reykjavík. If you have more time on your hands we encourage you to go beyond the trendy “101” postcode of the Reykjavík city centre and view some of the intriguing sites that the Reykjavík Capital Area offers, including Viking and elf territories, museums displaying both nature’s wonders and cultural icons, some excellent new thermal pool facilities and top bird watching sites.

Events

Lovers of arts and culture are in for a real treat in Reykjavík. From the Icelandic sagas to contemporary art, Reykjavík has a buzzing culture scene. A constant flow of innovative musical happenings, theatrical performances and culture events keeps locals and visitors entertained all year round. English is taught as a second language from an early age in Iceland and pretty much every Icelander is a fluent English speaker. You'll find it easy to make new connections since the language barrier is virtually nonexistent.

Do & See

Glaciers, geysers, hot springs, and volcanoes are the exotic attractions that have drawn tourists to Iceland for a long time. Reykjavík itself has recently become one of the world’s greatest weekend destinations and hosts visitors from across the world. Reykjavík also offers splendid architecture, fantastic shopping, and a raft of cultural delights with Iceland’s amazing natural wonders just around the corner.

Dining

Foodies will find plenty to keep them happy when wining and dining in the nation’s capital. Reykjavík has an astounding variety of restaurants, offering both traditional and international cuisine. Icelandic cuisine is characterised by an imaginative use of pure Icelandic ingredients such as fresh fish and seafood, organic lamb and wild game. Be sure not to miss the Icelandic hot dog. The highly acclaimed “city’s best” can be found at the “Bæjarins Beztu” hot dog stand on Tryggvagata near Reykjavík Harbour.

Cafes

Reykjavík boasts a great cafe culture, with residents regularly meeting up with friends and family for coffee, cake and little talks. An Icelandic hot chocolate is a great way to warm those cold bones after a day spent exploring the city. Many cafes also host live music and entertainment. Interesting fact: if you see several prams stationed outside a cafe in the dead of winter with the little ones still inside — worry not. Wrapping babies up and letting them rest outside is common practice in Iceland.

Bars & Nightlife

Walking through the Reykjavík city centre during the day, and doing the same after hours when the party is well under way, are two completely different experiences. Reykjavík is well known for its vibrant nightlife, with trendy bars and clubs open until the early hours of the morning. Whether you are interested in listening to live music or dancing the night away, you are sure to find something to your liking. Bars & Clubs — The distinction between cafes, pubs, bars and clubs is far from clear in Reykjavík, with many daytime cafes turning into tightly packed bars and clubs as the night goes on. Many are open until late (five in the morning) and it is not uncommon to spend all night in town on Friday and Saturday nights. Most bars and clubs are in the compact downtown area which makes it easy to test many different places. Live Music — Reykjavík has a very eclectic music scene which goes far beyond what you might have heard about Björk and Sigur Rós. The scene is made up of a large number of genres, with everything from hardcore punk rock and indie to chamber music and hip-hop. You can take in a concert almost every night of the week.

Shopping

Reykjavíkers are known for their innovative design style. Walk up Laugavegur or Skólavördustígur, the city’s main shopping streets, and you’ll spot arts and crafts galleries, music and bookstores, jewellery shops and much more. One-of-a-kind Icelandic jewels often incorporate local semi-precious stones or pieces of lava rock. Locally created fashion products are fascinating and varied, from handbags made of fish skin to a delicate woollen tops. On weekends, you will find the Flea Market (Kolaportið) by Reykjavík Harbour overflowing with bric-a-brac and Icelandic delicacies, such as fermented shark, dried fish, tons of liquorice and much more! You can also find electronics, camping equipment, book shops, record stores and gift shops around Reykjavík, plus several shopping malls handily located on the outskirts of the city.

Tourist Information

Reykjavik is closer than you think. Flight time is 2-4 hours from Europe and 5-6 hours from east coast USA. It is also a compact city which is easy to navigate, whether on your own two feet or by public transport. In addition, magnificent countryside awaits just minutes away from the city centre. Visit the Reykjavík Tourist Information Centre for help in planning your activities. When exploring Reykjavík, do not be afraid to stop and ask for directions, since people are very friendly and almost everyone speaks English.