The Best of Reykjavík (KH)

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Yesterday, Zoë  wrote how disappointed she was when a visiting friend only spent one day exploring Reykjavík. I could not agree more with Zoë. Like she said, Reykjavík surely isn’t New York or London, but certainly has a lot to offer. After all, Iceland’s capital only has about 120,000 inhabitants, so you kind of know what you are getting into, right?

Sometimes when I am at work tending a bar in downtown Reykjavík, tourists ask me what they should do when in town. I usually tell them what I enjoy doing myself:

In addition to what Zoë suggested, I always tell people to just take a walk through the small neighborhoods in town as downtown Reykjavík is rather small and easily explored on foot. By doing this, you can see so much. Start out at Hlemmur, the main bus station in the city center, where one of the most peculiar museums is located: The Icelandic Phallological Museum. The exhibition is not that big, so you can spent about half an hour looking at a lot of penises from different species.

If shopping on the popular streets Laugavegur or Skólavörðustígur isn’t interesting enough, pop into the music store 12 Tónar on said Skólavörðustígur and explore Iceland on an acoustic level while drinking some coffee.

Then go up to the church Hallgrímskirkja, it’s impossible to miss this landmark. If the weather is good enough, take the elevator up to the top of the bell tower where you have a magnificent view all over Reykjavík, the bay and the mountains. Another place offering a fantastic view is the glass dome Perlan, a very unique building situated on the hill Öskjuhlið.

Speaking of beautiful and interesting buildings, a visit to Harpa, Iceland’s famous concert hall, is also a highlight for many visitors. Harpa is a rather new addition to the cityscape as it was inaugurated in 2011. And once you are already down by the sea, go and have a look around the pretty harbor.

For those who fancy museums I recommend the Museum of Photography (Ljósmyndasafn), the National Museum (Þjóðminjasafn), the Settlement Exhibition 871 +/-2  and the lovely open-air museum Árbærsafn I suggest you get a guided tour there, it’s worth it).

Reykjavík is also interesting for art lovers as there are many small galleries, sculpture gardens and art museums to be visited.

To fully enjoy the city and to get to know a sense of the people living here, one should definitely go into one of the numerous, cozy coffee houses Zoë mentioned in her article, order a cup of the excellent coffee I’ve talked about many times before and just watch people. Icelanders love their cafés and you will meet typically Icelanders there.

I could go on and on about things to do in Reykjavík...

Katharina Hauptmann – katha.hauptmann@gmail.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.