Reykjavik Travel Guide
Holding the title of the world’s northernmost federal capital, Reykjavik has a profile that rises above its population in the low 100,000’s. More than just a supply base for those heading into the Icelandic hinterland on an adventure holiday, the culture and urban attractions found here will provide plenty of activity for several days of exploration and enjoyment.
While Reykjavik is a small city by global standards, it has a number of attractions that enable it to punch well above its weight. Hallgrimskirkja is the best example of this, as this striking modernist church stands out in a bold manner without taking away from its surroundings.
Started in 1937 and finished in 1986 by architect Guðjón Samúelsson, it is a masterpiece of expressionism that departs from what churches usually look like in the popular imagination. Within its interior, there is a 5000+ pipe organ, and visitors can take an elevator to the top of its 244 foot tower, where panoramic views of Reykjavik and area can be had.
While Reykjavik consists mostly of modern buildings erected in the 20th century in the present day, Arbæjarsafn has managed to preserve what this Icelandic settlement looked like in prior century.
An open air museum that has moved heritage buildings to its location on edge of town, one can experience what it was like to live in a subarctic environment before the dawn of the modern age.
From watching the town blacksmith bang away at molten metal, to watching farmhands milk cows (yes, they have actual cows!), it is a fun and educational way to spend a summer afternoon in Reykjavik.
While some people in Reykjavik and Iceland worked the land during the ever long subarctic summers in prior generations, many others made their way out into the North Atlantic in pursuit of the bounty of the sea.
The Vikin Maritime Museum is the best place to go to learn about this dangerous profession, as it contains exhibits detailing the history of fishing trawlers, and its role in promoting prosperity in Iceland.
The coast guard vessel Óðinn is the centrepiece attraction of this institution, which initiated countless rescues over the years, and played a valuable role as an enforcer of maritime law during Cold Wars between international fishing fleets in the North Atlantic.
If you are in Reykjavik on a particularly beautiful summer day and you have some time to kill, head over to Tjornin for a bit. Literally being “the pond” in English, this lake in the city centre is where countless city residents go to relax and exercise on weekends, lunch breaks, and during the super long evenings during the warmer months of the year.
Birders will also love this place throughout the year, as resident and migratory flocks of 40 different species visit this body of water, and when winter sets in, it is a favorite venue for those wishing to skate outside.
Looking for a rather cheeky way to spend a few hours on a gloomy or inclement weather day in Reykjavik? If so, a trip to the Icelandic Phallological Museum will accomplish this goal handily, as this institution profiles … ahem … members from over 93 species (including one from a deceased human donor).
With 240 private parts on display (with a section dedicated to even more phalluses from mythical and fictitious creatures), it is one of the more unique ways to kill time when on the travel trail in Iceland.
With all your sightseeing behind you, take some time to relax in Reykjavik. If the price of the Blue Lagoon has you picking your jaw up off the floor, opt instead of one of many municipal geothermal pools. Found through the city at its modern recreation centres, you’ll have your choice of indoor and outdoor pools to soak in, which will help you loosen up those sore leg muscles from all the walking you’ve done around town.
Finally, be sure to hit the bars at least one before moving on to your next destination. The nightlife here is legendary, as the long periods of darkness during the winters have encouraged social interaction as a way of coping with the lack of sunlight. Leading DJ’s and celebrities routinely come out here throughout the year despite the city’s small size, facts which only testify to the desirability of the night scene here.