Reykjavík, the world’s northernmost capitol of a sovereign state, is located on the southern shore of Faxa Bay in Iceland. Reykjavík it is among the cleanest, greenest, and safest cities in the world, but it boasts more than just that. Beautiful views, rich history, and never a shortage of entertainment, this Icelandic town should be at the top of your travel list. Thanks to ShoreTrips, the supplier sponsor for this article, you won’t have to miss a moment of life in Reykjavík.
Reykjavík, Iceland is believed to be the site of the first permanent Noresemen settlement, dating all the way back to AD 870 as described in Landnámabók, or the Book of Settlement; it is even said the settlers used traditional Norse methods to decide where they would start they would settle, which involved high pillars being thrown into the ocean. The settlement was decided based on where they landed on the coastline, and this just so happened to be Reykjavík. The Reykjavík coastline is characterized by islands and peninsulas, as well as coves and straits. The capitol city area is even continuously shaped by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions! From the Elliðaá River, which is one of the best salmon fishing rivers in country, to Mount Esja, the highest mountain in the vicinity of the capitol towering at 2,999 feet, the natural beauty of Reykjavík is hard to miss.
It should come as no surprise that the cultural heritage in Reykjavík is vast, and one of the best ways to see this history is by visiting The Culture House. Originally built between 1906-1908 by Danish architect Johannes Magdahl Nielsen to house the National Library and the National Archives, the building itself is a work of art. Decorated with crests bearing the name of many literary figures, it was one of the finest buildings of its time. Remodeled in 2000 to promote Icelandic Heritage, the inside of the Culture House is even more magnificent than the outside. Displaying works collected from six different institutions, visitors will journey through Iceland’s artistic and cultural history. The building also has changing exhibits on various topics, so there is always something fresh to see on your visit to the Culture House in Reykjavík. The National Museum of Iceland offers a main exhibition with over 2,000 artifacts discovered in various parts of the country. The most known piece found in the National Museum of Iceland is the Valthjófsstadur Door, which features elaborate medieval engravings depicting scenes from the legendary 12th century knight’s tale Le Chevalier au Lion.
Approximately 25 miles outside of Reykjavík you will find The Golden Circle. Compromised of three breathtaking sites popular among visitors and residents of Reykjavík, and Iceland alike. Pingvellir, a national park, is one of these sites. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, Pingvellir was founded in honor of the anniversary of the National Parliament, and was later expanded to protect the diverse and natural phenomena found within the surrounding area. What makes Pingvellir so unique is where it is located: in a rift valley. Some of the rifts in the park, caused by the continental drift between the North America and Eurasian plates, are filled with clear water. One in particular is Peningagjá, or “coin fissure.” Its nickname is derived from the townspeople throwing coins into it after it was bridged for the arrival of King Frederick VIII of Demark in 1907. The coins that line the ground of the fissure are a sight to see on a trip to Pingvellir.
Gullfoss, a waterfall located within a canyon, is the second Golden Circle site. With canyon walls that reach up to nearly 300 feet and offer stunning views from its peak, Gullfoss is located on the Hvítá River where the fall plunges not once, but twice! Not only is it natural beauty, but it contains a history of activism. A young farmer’s daughter in the early 1900’s fought to keep the waterfall protected and not use it for electricity. She went so far as to threaten to throw herself in if they did not listen to her. Though she lost her case in court, the waterfall was never used for electricity, as her act of courage showed others how important Gullfoss was. The third site within the Golden Circle, and a site that must be seen on your visit to Reykjavík, is only a little over six miles from the waterfall: Haukadalur. A valley that is home to some of the most famous sites in Iceland, Haukadalur contains over 40 small hot springs and other geothermal features. Most notably found at Haukadalur are the geysers Strokkur and Geysir. Strokkur actually erupts every 5-10 minutes which is a sight not to miss on your Reykjavík vacation.
Perlan is another Reykjavík site you cannot miss during your time in the city. Perlan, or “The Pearl”, is a landmark building in Reykjavík that stands at 84.3 feet high and is situated on the hill Öskjuhlíð where hot water tanks had been previously stored for years. When the tanks were updated, the hemispherical structure was placed on top, and this is how it remains. More than just a landmark building Perlan has over 10,000 cubic meters of exhibition space known as The Winter Garden. This space often holds events, features markets and has even been the stage for a few musicians in the area. As well as boasting a revolving restaurant and three gift shops, Perlan offers to its visitors a 4th floor observation deck. Once on the deck, you can use one of six panoramic telescopes to take in the view. It even offers recorded descriptions in six languages!
Reykjavík may be on the smaller side, but when all of the important shopping and nightlife is in the same area it is an advantage! Laugavegur is one of the oldest streets in Reykjavík, constructed in 1885. Offering a variety of shops and restaurants, Laugavegur is a great way to take in historic Reykjavík. It is also the hub for nightlife in the area, with a selection of bars sometimes open until 5:00am! For a more modern and updated shopping experience, Smáralind is a good choice. One of the largest shopping malls in Iceland, Smáralind is home to over 70 shops and restaurants as well as a cinema and a children’s entertainment area. Kringlan is another shopping center located in the area, located in the busiest traffic intersection of Reykjavík. It includes shops, restaurants, a library, and even a supermarket!
Be sure to get a taste of Reykjavík on your visit, for there are many options for delicious fare. DILL Restaurant located near Reykjavík’s urban wetland and wild bird preserve serves up New Nordic fare, which is a cuisine that specializes in the local food cultures and season ingredients. With options for up to 7 courses for dinner and dishes like baked rutabaga with cheese foam and crispy millet DILL is the place for a hearty Reykjavík delicacy. For something more casual Snaps Bistro, found in the secluded Skolavorduholt neighborhood, offers up French-style dishes as well as local dishes such as French onion soup made with Icelandic Isbui cheese. You definitely can’t miss trying the seafood in Reykjavík, so make sure to have a meal at Fiskfelagid. Serving not just Icelandic seafood but dishes from all over the globe, Fiskfelagid is located in the historic Zimsen building, which dates as far back as 1884.
Reykjavík is full of charm and history while still keeping up with the times. With entertainment for all ages, Reykjavík is a must see, so plan your Reykjavík with ShoreTrips today.
This Tour Includes:
-Shared minibus with exceptional local guide
-Full engaged narration throughout your excursion
-Drive through the Hellisheidi Mountains
-See the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which erupted in 2010
-Upclose visit to the Seljalandsfoss waterfall with chance to go behind the falls
-Opportunity to walk to the edge of the Solheimajokull Glacier
-See the vast stretch of black sand lava beach and raging surf near Vik
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