Street-Smart in RVK (KH)

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katharinahauptmann02_dlLocating streets in Iceland’s capital is rather simple. You only need to have been living here a short time before you are able to know your way around the city.

Since I live and work in the city center I know all the streets here pretty well but if I have to leave my comfort zone of the areas with the postal codes of 101 or 107, I might have to use a map. For that I would always turn towards the map featured on the online phone book ja.is.

This site is super useful for when visiting Iceland, by the way.

Generally, the ending of the street name indicates its location so it is really easy to create a mind map of Reykjavík. So if you know where Furugrund is, you will also know that Birkigrund is somewhere close by; if you know where to find Mávahlið, you will be able to tell that all other streets ending in “hlið” are just around the corner.

With that system it is easy to establish a system of roads in your mind.

Let’s say you’re headed to the Photography Museum on Tryggvagata (‘street of Tryggvi’), you would know just by the street name that to get there you would have to go downtown, where most of the “gatas” can be found, on either side of the city pond Tjörnin.

If you’re looking for a street that contains the name of one of the Norse gods such as Lokastígur (‘Path of Loki’) or Óðinsgata (‘Street of Óðinn’) you would have to look in the area of Þingholt or Skólavörðuholt, which are located just around Reykjavík’s characteristic landmark, the church Hallgrímskirkja.

When moving towards the West into Vesturbær (‘Westside’), you will come across areas like melur (‘sandhill’) and hagi” (‘pasture’); when traveling in the opposite direction over to the Eastside (Austurbær), there are all the holt (’stony knoll’) and hliðar (’slopes’) etc.

The bærs (’yard’) are just behind the Skeifan shopping center, the túns (’fields’) run down by the ocean. There are kvísl (‘creek’), bakki (‘bank’), mýri (‘marsh’) lind (‘spring’), ás (‘hill’), berg (‘rocks’) and all the rest of it.

And the major roads connecting the different districts mostly end in braut.

Some neighborhoods have name themes, such as the before mentioned Norse Gods, and their streets are in alphabetic order which makes navigating a piece of cake.

Reykjavík is rather small and you can always use some of its landmarks to find your way such as said Hallgrímskirkja, the Pearl building on Öskuhlíð and Tjörnin pond. Oh, and the sea is also an excellent point of reference.

I’ve now given you a great basic idea of how to navigate in downtown Reykjavík, making it  (hopefully!) impossible to get lost ... unless your sense of direction is screwed.

Katharina Hauptmann – katha.hauptmann@gmail.com

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