The air might be ice cool, but a decidedly warm welcome awaits in the Icelandic capital
Where summer nights never seem to end. With amazing geo-thermal energy powering the whole island, you’re never far from astonishing landscapes, hot mud baths, and frenzied bubbling pools. Reykjavik has fire and ice in equal measure – and all within your reach.
Iceland was notoriously expensive until the implosion of the world economy, since when it’s become comparatively more affordable. And happily, if you’re keen to capitalise by picking up a souvenir or two, the town centre offers no shortage of options. Notable outlets for design items and Icelandic one-offs include the jewellery store at Anna Maria Design (Skˇlav÷rustÝg 3), the kooky fashion shop at Kraum (Aalstraeti 10) and the artist-run gallery at Ofeigur Gullsmidja (Skˇlav÷rustÝg 5). Also worth seeking out is the Kolaporti weekend flea market (Tryggvag÷tu 19) – great for vintage bric-a-brac and fresh produce – while the Kringlan shopping mall (Kringlunni 4-12), east of the centre, has more than 150 stores.
Food & Drink
Traditional cuisine in Iceland hinges largely on fish, meat and dairy, although these days you’ll have little trouble sourcing everything from Indian to Italian. The still-trendy Vi Tj÷rnina (Templarasundi 3) remains one of the best known restaurants in Reykjavik, serving up creative dishes such as smoked puffin with preserved apple. The 1919 Restaurant at the Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel (Pˇsth˙sstrŠti 2) serves an elegant blend of local and alternative flavours. The city’s nightlife is legendary – top spots include Prikid (BankastrŠti 12), one of the oldest bars in town, as well as the much-hyped Kaffibarinn (BergstaarstrŠti 1).
Reykjavik Winter Lights
Held to celebrate winter and the emergence of light after the darkness of the year’s end, the Winter Lights Festival combines a whole host of events, from late-night museum shows and poetry readings to live music and child-friendly workshops.
Celebrated every year since 1944, this annual gathering is a chance for street parades, live music and theatrical performances, as well as a wealth of associated side shows and dances. It marks the date of the formation of the Republic of Iceland.
Midnight Sun Run
The Midnight Sun Run is a chance to make the most of the long, long nights of the Icelandic midsummer by jogging the city streets at midnight. It’s made even more unusual by the prospect of a dip in a geothermal pool near the finish line. There’s a half-marathon, a 10km run and a 5km run.
Reykjavik Culture Night
Serving up a rich programme of tours, shows, exhibitions and concerts, Reykjavik’s annual culture night (which actually also takes place during the day) gives the opportunity to join thousands of locals in wandering the streets and visiting the myriad different event venues.
Now something of a fixture on the international music festival scene, Iceland Airwaves has over the years drawn rock and dance artists from across the planet, as well as local musicians such as Sigur Rˇs and Bj÷rk.
Reykjavik is always a memorable visitor destination, displaying all the spirit and individualism that you might expect from the world’s most northerly capital city. Luxury hotels like 101 Hotel (Hverfisgata 10), which showcases local art, and CenterHotel Thingholt (Thingholtsstraeti 3-5), which has a focus on modern design, both display Reykjavik’s mix of warm hospitality and avant-garde culture. For something more compact, the five-bedroom Reykjavik Treasure B&B (Fischersund 3) has rave reviews and a good location in the Old Town, while the two-star Hotel Phoenix (Laugavegur 140) is a solid bet for those on a budget.