One of the most popular cities to visit in the world right now is Reykjavik, Iceland. The capital city is a gateway to the attractions of the Golden Circle, yet an interesting place in its own right. With a population of 120,000, its compact enough to explore easily in a weekend.
Hallgrímskirkja church is a good place to start your exploration of the city. Designed by Guðjón Samuel in 1937, it has a striking Art Deco look. However, construction only started in 1945 and finished in 1986. The statue in front of the church is of Leifur Eiriksson, who was the first European to discover America, in around 1,000 A.D., 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
It looks impressive from all angles…and whilst the interior is quite simple, there’s a huge organ constructed by the German organ builder Johannes Klais.
It’s definitely worth getting a ticket for the church tower as the view from the top is fantastic. You can see much of the town and to the sea beyond.
From here, make your way towards the City Hall on Tjarnargata 11 and the statue of the Unknown Official designed by Magnús Tómasson in 1994 – an intriguing image of a faceless bureacrat.
The main street, Lækjargata, is a short walk from here and has a number of quirky stores. The Icelandic people certainly seem to share a sense of ironic humour with the Brits.
Don’t forget to post a letter to Icelandic Santa!
Puffins are pretty popular in Iceland but contrary to popular belief, they’re rarely eaten. You’ll come across plenty of puffin related gifts in this shop, also on the main street.
Scandinavian design is such a big trend and I can see why, it’s both cosy and functional.
There are some colourful murals gracing the walls around Reykjavik…
Harpa is one of the most photogenic buildings in the city. This conference centre and concert hall was inspired by the Northern Lights and it really makes use of light thanks to its multi coloured glass panels. It was designed by Henning Larsen Architects and artist Olafur Eliasson, and the first concert took place in 2011. The Iceland Symphony Orchestra and The Icelandic Opera are both based here.
When we visited, there was also a comedy show that sadly we didn’t get time to see: How to become Icelandic in 60 minutes. It promises to teach you how eating sour sheep balls could save your life, and how to behave like a true Icelander.
These stone piles or cairns are known as steinvarða and were built as landmarks along paths, helping people to find their way from the 9th century onwards. Nowadays they are built for fun, and these are to be found along Sæbraut, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
My favourite statue though has to be Solfar Sun Voyager, a little further along Sæbraut. This magnificent steel boat may resemble a Viking Ship, however this wasn’t the original aim – it was supposed to be a dreamboat and ode to the sun. Unfortunately the designer, Jón Gunnar Arnason had leukaemia and died in 1989, before Solfar was placed in its current location. Its message of light and hope takes on a whole new meaning, knowing how ill he was.
After all this sightseeing, you’re probably getting hungry, and one of the most fashionable restaurants in Reykjavík is The Grillmarket or Grillmarkadurrin. Using the freshest local produce, they cook using coal, fire and smoke.
Some elements of the interior are by Tom Dixon, the famous British designer and they certainly give the place a contemporary feel. The day after we visited, the Kardashians came here but don’t let that put you off ;-). We didn’t stay overnight in Reykjavik as we were heading off to Hotel Ranga in South Iceland to explore the Golden Circle but there are a number of good options like Kvosin Downtown Hotel if you wish to do so.
Have you ever been to Reykjavik?