Little Big Reykjavík (JB)


Júlíana Björnsdóttir's picture

Many Icelanders would choose to write about football (soccer) on this fine Monday morning. I however, being generally disinterested in sports involving balls of any kind, won’t be writing about football, other than that I am happy for the Icelandic national team making it as far as they have.

For me, the weekend was about a reunion with an old friend from the central-eastern parts of Brazil, where I lived as an exchange student 16 years ago. He was my dearest friend and part of many of my fondest memories from my year in Brazil.

Friday night he joined my husband and me for dinner at our place and it was a great night. It was wonderful to introduce my husband to a period in my life that meant so much to me.

On Saturday, in spite of the rain and wind, I met up with my old friend and we spend the whole day together. We had coffee together, went up to the tower of the Hallgrímskirkja church, and ended our afternoon in the Whales of Iceland exhibition.

All day we conversed and I grew increasingly confident in speaking the language I so love, Brazilian Portuguese.

We had coffee at one of my favorite cafés in the city center, enjoyed the foggy views of the city from the top of the tower, and were quite blown away by the amazing whale exhibition. The size of these incredible creatures blew my mind away.

After a day of walking, exploring, purchasing, and above all, chatting as if it were only yesterday that we last spent a day together, I went home to check on my darling dog Emma who was happy to see me, as I was happy to see her.

After a couple of hours of napping, I woke up at half past eight, and made my way to the hotel to pick my friend up again as we had made plans to go out for dinner. Even though I’ve lived in Reykjavík for eight years now, I still forget how early many restaurants still close.

We had planned to have dinner at a new place out in Grandi, an area renovated in recent years, where shops, restaurants and companies now are housed, but as it turned out, the place had already closed, even though it wasn’t even ten o’clock on a Saturday night.

I then decided we try our luck in the very heart of the old city center. I parked the car by the Reykjavík pond – the lake in the city center - and we walked to see if we could find a place still open, although cautious in our expectations.

A few of the more established restaurants stayed open quite late, and we could have had a table at one of the places we passed at 11 pm. However, it was a little too late to wait for an hour and we found another place that was still open.

We ended up having a lovely dinner but, nonetheless, were both rather amazed that some restaurants still close as early as 10 pm on a Saturday night. It makes no sense to me but perhaps I am making an unfair comparison when comparing Reykjavík to London or Paris on a Saturday night.

After dinner, I dropped my friend off at the hotel and returned home to Emma.

Yesterday, on Sunday afternoon, I went with my husband to the local swimming pool while it rained and it was perfectly lovely. There is something amazing about resting in the warm water with raindrops dripping.

Reykjavík is a city of contrasts. The quiet little city with restaurants closing earlier than is customary in larger cities, and a swimming pool culture where locals go to relax and enjoy the tranquility.

In recent years, Reykjavík has become a city of interest to the world. It hasn’t grown in size, but in spirit and body it has emerged as a city that embraces diversity in music, culinary traditions, fashion, people and spirit of entrepreneurship.

One of the reasons I cannot imagine living anywhere else in the city but in the center is the inspirational mood in almost every street corner.

Reykjavík is not the biggest city in the world, but it is a spirited city with a heart of gold, and I am not the only one who thinks so.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – julianabjornsdottir(at)

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