I call it, Christmas Town. This small, compact, and beautiful town may not have everything you want, but it is definitely meaningful to visit. I visited Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, during Christmas time, where every corner of the space was decorated with Christmas lights and elf animations projected toward buildings. The small town has great atmosphere during winter time, where you can find many Icelandic shops, accommodations, restaurants, opera house, museums, church, and art installations.
Icelandic people are generally nice and friendly, many of them have a good sense in fashion and design, that are expressed through their art work, wood carving, silver smithing, and weaving. Here where you can also find many original Icelandic wool to warm up your winter days. Most of them belief in elf and fairies, which are called as invisible people.
What to see in Reykjavik?
1.Hallgrímskirkja (free entry)
Hallgrímskirkja is renowned as the largest church in Iceland (73 meters). It’s Scandinavian design touch every corner of the architecture and furnitures. It was built since 1937 by architect Guðjón Samúelsson, who was inspired by the Iceland’s landscape – resemble the basalt lava flows . The top of the church is also used for observation tower with a viewing deck, and it is open for public. An elevator (usually accompanied with a queue) will take you to the top floor where you can have a bird eye’s view of Reykjavik town.
2. Harpa (free entry)
The new Reykjavik iconic building is a concert hall and conference center, Harpa, built by Henning Larsen Architects and opened in year 2011. The architecture has an interesting form, that its image reflected to the entrance pond. It is built from steel frames and geometric shape of glass panels with diverse colours. The interactive building’s facade can change its lights and colours as metaphor of a playing harp instruments. It located on the sea side of Reykjavik.
3. Solfar (Sun Voyager) Sculpture (free)
Just 5 minutes walk from Harpa, a sculpture of a “dream boat”, an ode to the sun, was designed by Jón Gunnar Árnason. It contains meaning of “the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom”. The perfect spot of its existence enhance the stunning calm sea as the background. This art installation was completed in 1989, and constructed of quality stainless steel.
4. Penis Museum (Icelandic Phallological Museum)
Okay, this one is for those who are just curious. This small museum exhibits many different kind of penis, except human’s penis. From a whale’s penis in human size, until elf’s penis (try to find this one!). 🙂
What to do around Reykjavik?
1.Natural Bath in Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa
This is the one you can not miss – especially for honeymoon couple – try the natural bath experience in Blue Lagoon. It took around 30-40 minutes drive from Reykjavik, and you can go there by your own car, or join the tour bus (book the ticket in advance is suggested during the busy season). Blue Lagoon is one of the 25 wonders in the world, where you can soak and relax in a large public geothermal pool. You can find a bunch of pure white natural Silica Mud Mask inside the pool area (so you don’t need to buy if you don’t want to), that it is believed to have good impact for skin and prevent skin ageing. Taking shower before jumping into the pool is needed, and you can rent or bring your own towel. It has plenty of space for changing room, shower room, and free locker. You also can enjoy lunch in a fancy Lava restaurants, or just having drinks in the pool bar.
2. Visit Yoko Ono’s “Imagine Peace Tower“
Imagine Peace Tower is a monument of tower of light, designed by Yoko Ono in memorial of her husband John Lennon. It is located in a quiet and empty Viðey Island, about 20 minutes away by boat from Reykjavik. The white color lights are projected to the sky, creating a bright illumination that can be seen from Reykjavik town.
Although it may not the best place to see northern lights, I saw it twice in Reykjavik. What I’ve learned to see northern lights:
- enjoy to see it first before taking picture! because it may only appears in a very short time (it was only 5 minutes for me). Everything is much better to see with your bare eyes.
- and then, find the darkest and open space with minimal amount of lights.
- sometimes a very slow shutter camera with widest aperture can capture the northern lights better than our own eyes. use wide lens and tripod / firm base to get the best shot!
Well, it might not the best northern lights, but i was still so thrilled to see it. You can use this link to check the northern light forecast in Iceland. Happy hunting! 🙂
What to eat in Reykjavik?
Traditional Icelandic food are famous with variety cooks of sheep and fishes (from fermented sharks, dried fish, salted fish, etc). Do you dare to try Hákarl? – a fermented shark with process of burying the shark’s meat under the ground, and hanging it to dry for 5 months. I don’t dare to try, so I don’t exactly know how it taste, although … i can imagine. And if you get a chance to stop by a candy shop, there is a famous Icelandic candy called liquorice. It has a surprising taste, and i suggest you to give it a try before you buy one. 😀
However, there is one thing i can suggest: i love Hot Spring Rye Bread. Icelandic rye bread has different making process, compared to the other Scandinavian rye bread. It’s a dark bread with slightly sweet taste, it was made by putting the dough into wooden casks in the ground close to a hot spring.
Here are the top five best restaurants (or street foods) you can try:
Perlan is a fancy restaurant that offers a buffet dinner and gives you opportunity to try Icelandic food as much as you wanted. It took 15 minutes drive from the city center. The dinner area is located on the top floor under the magnificent skylight dome. From up there you can see a beautiful city lights of Reykjavik from far away, and the floor was also rotated very slowly until you couldn’t recognise it.
2. The Best Hot Dog in Iceland?
Street food is still always the best food with good value of money. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur Hotdog is claimed as the best hotdog in Iceland, make sure that you order with “everything” includes. The lamb hotdog is small, poured with some fried onions, it creates a different taste from the original hotdog we used to eat. It is located just in the city of Reykjavik, close to Iceland Excursions Bus.
3. Lobster Hut
By the intersection of Laugavegur street – not too far from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur Hotdog- there is Lobster Hut, opens only in the night time. A caravan is turned into a traveling small kiosk that sells several kinds of takeout food made of lobsters. The best one to eat during cold winter was the lobster soup, with rich of flavors and chunks of lobster meat.
A reliable Northern Light Forecast in Iceland: Northern Lights Iceland
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