Our latest guest post is from Cailin O’Neil from TravelYourself.ca, a travel blog that is best-known for its travel web series of the same name. Check out the site to see videos from South Africa, Costa Rica, Indonesia and more (there’s a new episode added every Thursday!). To keep up to with Cailin you can follow TravelYourself on Twitter and like it on Facebook.
The Icelandic capital is the starting point for anyone’s Icelandic adventure. A small city with roughly 119,000 residents (Iceland itself as a whole has only 320,000 people), this seaside city is home to tasty eats, museums with ancient artifacts, cool nightlife and gorgeous views of nearby mountains just to name a few things that make it great.
Often when visiting Iceland, people will base themselves in Reykjavik and do day tours of the surrounding country and sometimes not enough love is given to Reykjavik itself. Here is my suggestion for 10 things to in Reykjavik.
1. Shop at the duty free
If you want to drink in Reykjavik or Iceland in general many people recommend that you buy your beer / alcohol at the Duty Free shop in the airport before you exit the security area. Alcohol is very expensive in this country (as are many things) and this is the best reason to buy it for cheap-ish.
2. Relax in hot springs and thermal spas
One thing that Iceland is most known for is its geothermal activity and of course the Blue Lagoon. You can’t really visit Iceland without either visiting the Blue Lagoon (about a 40 minute drive from downtown Reykjavik) or at least some other hot spring or thermal spa. In Reykjavik there are actually a couple public thermal pools that you can pay a few dollars to visit. Sundhöllin is a public swimming pool in the city and not only do they have a large pool inside but they have two thermal pools heated at varying temperatures outside. Less crowded then the Blue Lagoon (but not as unique) this is also the pool where all of the locals are, so a great way to meet some locals.
3. Go to the market
Another way to meet locals is to go to their markets and flea markets and every Saturday and Sunday. There is one at Laugardalur 24 near the waterfront while you can find another one at the National Theatre.
4. Visit the National Museum Of Iceland
Iceland has an long history dating back to the 800s and Viking times. In the National Museum of Iceland you can trace the country’s history through artifacts from present day to the first settlers who came over from Norway.
5. Check out Reykjavík 871±2
Another fantastic museum in the city is Reykjavík 871±2 which is actually built around an old Viking longhouse that was discovered in 2001. Construction workers were digging up a piece of land to build a new hotel in the city and found the longhouse. Not many have been preserved and this one is believed to date back to the year 871, plus or minus a couple years (hence the name). They still built the hotel above the longhouse but made the bottom floor into a museum so you can actually walk inside and see it preserved still today. One of the most multimedia-friendly and interactive museums you will probably ever visit.
6. Visit the Pearl (Perlan)
This is a great place to see a 360-degree view of the city and surrounding areas. A pearl / dome-shaped building that sits on top of huge tanks filled with natural hot water for heating the city, it has a café and gift shop for you to enjoy while taking in the views.
7. Go on a brewery tour
Micro brews are becoming more popular in Iceland, however, they are a bit behind the times since they have only been allowed to drink beer since 1989 after a (give or take) 75-year prohibition on this sweet nectar. Try out the Taste of Saga brewery tour at the Ölgerðin Brewery.
8. Be awe-inspired by some whale watching
Available year-round, with the best months for viewing to be between March and October, whale watching is a fun activity to do when visiting Reykjavik. There have been over 23 different kind of wales seen in the waters off of Iceland and it is also a known area for dolphins and seals and if you are lucky you might get to see Puffin Island and a bunch of nesting Puffins.
9. Eat fermented shark
One of the most touristy things to do in Reykjavik is eat fermented shark, also known as Hákarl. Hákarl is typically a Greenland shark or basking shark that has literally been fermented in the ground for several weeks and is then hang-dried, with the process taking a few months before the shark is cut up and eaten. The Greenland shark is actually poisonous when eaten fresh so this is the only way that it can be safely consumed. It has a high ammonia content, has a funny texture and most people eating it for the first time (if they can get past the smell) will gag. It is typically chased with a shot of a local spirit called brennivin, aka ‘black death’. Yummy.
10. Visit the Icelandic Phallological Museum (for the out-going types)
Home to the world’s largest display of penises – yes, you read that right. There are over 280 specimens in the museum, however, only one of them is from a human. However, they are looking for more donors, if you know anyone…
After all of this fun is had, go out, enjoy the late nightlife, try some horse or puffin at one of many great restaurants and most of all, have fun!
Did I miss anything? What would you suggest people do when visiting Reykjavik?