Reykjavik City Guide
Reykjavik might be a bit chilly and pricey but it is also authentic and captivating as is the rest of the country. Combining fascinating natural wonders with contemporary cultural attractions, the capital city of Ice...
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Reykjavik City Guide
Reykjavik might be a bit chilly and pricey but it is also authentic and captivating as is the rest of the country. Combining fascinating natural wonders with contemporary cultural attractions, the capital city of Iceland offers experiences you would not find anywhere else in the world.
Reykjavik is compact, safe and very easy to explore on foot. Shops and restaurants sit within walking distance of each other in the city centre, tempting visitors can enjoy a variety of delicacies and products. There's always an abundance of fresh fish and seafood on offer in local establishments, while the nation's favourite street snack, hot dog, is sold from stalls all over the city.
Laugavegur, the oldest shopping street in Reykjavik, is a hub of restaurants, boutiques, bars and nightclubs. Shopaholics will be delighted by the variety of local fashion and designer brands. Icelandic sweaters make for gifts worth taking away home. Not only is traditional knitwear pretty, but it is also extremely warm and cosy.
Sightseeing and cultural attractions
Its compact size and modest architecture give Reykjavik a laid-back, small town vibe. Brightly painted, traditional timber houses fill the residential areas, while low-rise brick buildings line the commercial streets. Yet, in a few places you can come across fascinating modern architecture. The Lutheran cathedral of Hallgrímskirkja is one of the most recognisable buildings in Reykjavik. This contemporary temple has a striking minimalist design and an observation deck that offers bird's eye views of the city.
Another site with awesome views is Perlan (the pearl in Icelandic), a futuristic, multi-purpose venue built around four monumental thermal water tanks. Perlan has an exhibition hall and a winter garden, while its glass dome hides a revolving restaurant and an observation platform with 360° panoramic views of Reykjavik. This is also one of the best places in town for admiring the northern lights.
The most striking architectural site, in the city, though, is Harpa, a conference centre and music hall with an all-glass façade that looks mesmerising both at day and night time. Harpa is home to the national symphonic orchestra and the national opera, so apart from being a beautiful building, it is also the best venue to enjoy a diverse music and cultural programme throughout the year.
A popular place for a stroll in Reykjavik is the old harbour, which was constructed in the early 20th century. When you tire of watching the marine vessels, you can pop into one of the local restaurants or explore the history-rich Maritime Museum. There's plenty to see on a cold day in the city if you don't feel like braving the elements outdoors. From the refined Art Museum to the cheeky Icelandic Phallological Museum, the city has no shortage for curious indoor attractions.
Hot springs, geysers and outdoor recreation
Iceland lacks fertile arable land and lush vegetation, yet within the city there's one place that is all colourful blooms and that's the Botanical garden. There are nearly 5000 species of plants on the territory of the garden – quite a fascinating collection given that it shows only species from the subarctic regions of the world.
There are many outdoor recreational activities on offer within and on the outskirts of the city, such as fishing, golf and horse riding. Owing to the abundance of hot spring water, Reykjavik is run on clean, green energy, and outdoor pools filled with hot geothermal waters are abundant. Many visitors to Reykjavik book a tour of the Golden Circle. A little over an hour outside of the city, this area is rich in waterfalls, protected natural sites and geysers.
One of the most popular attractions in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon, is a natural geothermal hot spring less than an hour's drive outside of the capital. Visited by nearly 90% of all travellers and tourists passing through Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon is filled with swimmers all year round. Even when temperatures drop below zero, the water remains hot and pleasantly soothing.
To save yourself hassle and disappointment make sure to book your tickets at least a few days in advance. Grab a drink from the swim-up bar and dip into the hot geothermal water lapping dark volcanic rocks. You can enjoy a massage on the water and a skin treatment in the form of the natural silica mud filling the lagoon. After an hour or two here, not only will you be relaxed and rejuvenated but you will also understand why this is one of the world's natural wonders.
Even if you have little time to explore all there's to see in Reykjavik, by coming for a swim in the Blue Lagoon you can rest assured you have seen the best of Iceland.
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