the sunday guide to // reykjavik
Iceland is fast becoming a must-visit destination for those seeking thrills, adventure and spectacular scenery. If you are seeking a more relaxing holiday, there are also plenty of opportunities for relaxing and unwinding during a short break to the Icelandic capital. The streets of Reykjavik are filled with cosy cafes and organic eateries, perfect for retreating indoors when the snow starts falling. However, even during the winter months, there are a vast array of ways to enjoy the great outdoors without having to hike up mountains or even leave the city.
Read on to discover our top tips for exploring Reykjavik at your own pace.
Admire Iceland’s favourite artist
Johannes S. Kjarval is perhaps Iceland’s best known artist, and many Icelanders proudly display his paintings within their homes. Visit Kjarvalsstaoir art gallery to view their permanent collection of Kjarval’s painting, alongside rotating exhibitions in the temporary exhibition hall. The building was designed specifically to display art works, and it is worth a visit simply to admire the architecture.
photo: the iceland museum guide
Swim in a geothermal pool
Surprisingly, Iceland has the most swimming pools per resident in the entire world. When you consider the countries geothermal activity, this begins to make sense, as the abundance of naturally heated outdoor swimming pools means that the Icelandic people can spend time outdoors, even during the coldest months. Soaking in the steaming waters is the perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon, whatever the weather. During winter, you’ll have to dash between the lap pools, hot tubs and saunas, but that’s all part of the experience!
photo: the roosevelts
Walk the city
Local history graduate, Marteinn Briem runs a highly popular free walking tour around Reykjavik, accompanied by his interesting stories and humorous facts. Spend a couple of hours following Marteinn around the city, discovering all of the prominent buildings and hidden corners of this colourful city. After you have spent time in Marteinn’s company, you will be bestowed with a local’s insight to the city and will have found your bearings, ready to explore on your own.
photo: the culture map
Admire the view from Hallgrimskirkja
Named after the Icelandic poet, Hallgrimur Petursson, the striking architecture of Iceland’s largest church secures it as one of the city’s most prominent attractions. The design of the structure incorporates elements of the natural environment, drawing inspiration from the basalt columns at one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, Svartifoss. Ensure that you take the lift to the top of the church to admire the best view in Reykjavik, taking in all of the brightly coloured rooftops and the sea in the distance.
photo: rough guides
Iceland is brimming with epic landscapes and otherworldly scenery, but you don’t need to leave the city to discover natural scenes. Seltjarnarnes is a small township located within the Capital region, boasting two nature reserves, Grotta and Bakkajorn. Take a short walk in the area to admire the old lighthouse, seek out the nesting birds (including puffins at certain times of the year) and warm your feet in the natural foot bath, drilled into a small rock on the north side of the coast.
Or head down to Bárðardalur district of North-Central Iceland to check out some of Iceland's greatest waterfalls, including Goðafoss ('water of the Gods', as pictured below).
Seek out the street art
It’s only recently that Reykjavik has become famed for its street art, yet many buildings are covered in colourful and creative art work, often commissioned by the owners of the buildings themselves. Due to a government crackdown, artists have to ask permission before creating, meaning that their work leans more towards carefully considered art, including beautifully detailed portraits and brightly hued designs. Although the majority of street artists worldwide seem to be male, Iceland boasts a large number of prolific female artists, whose work is prevalent on the streets of Reykjavik.
photo: iceland mag
Chase the Northern Lights
An essential part of any trip to Iceland is a viewing of the elusive aurora. Although it cannot be guaranteed, ensure that you escape the city lights for at least one evening of standing under the stars and scouring the skies for a glimpse of the spectacular natural light show. Seltjarnarnes is the closest place to the city where you can hope to spot the lights, but we recommend driving out or booking onto a tour that will take you further into the wilderness, to admire the northern lights above a secluded backdrop.
photo: iceland travel
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