Once we were settled in Reykjavik, the first thing that we wanted to do was explore the city itself. The main reason why we decided to lodge in this particular spot in Iceland is because it is the country’s largest city and capital. We figured since we had not traveled to the area before, it would be good to stay in a region that we could go to a store if we needed to fairly quickly. We also liked that we could walk to everything easily, and we could really get a good sense of the city by immersing ourselves in it this way.
Our first day there, we put on our walking shoes, and went right to the downtown area. The first thing that really caught my eye were these gigantic boats right on the waterfront. I have seen boats before, but some of the Icelandic boats were on a totally different scale. There was quite a variety too, from fishing boats, commercial boats, sailing boats, recreational boats, and tourism boats as well. They looked very sturdy, strong, and able to sail the Northern Atlantic Ocean with ease. Culturally, this area historically has also relied a lot on boating and fishing as a source of food, and has had an economic impact as well.
When you walk around Reykjavik, there are a lot of restaurants to choose from. I can honestly say that no matter where we stopped, we did not have a bad experience at any of them, but I do have a favorite that I would recommend personally. Located right by the ocean, there is a restaurant called Barion Bryggjan Brugghus that is really really good! They have typical bar food items, seafood, and Icelandic Scandinavian faire. When we went, my husband ordered a sampling of traditional foods with beers from their Bryggjan Brewery which is the first independent microbrewery in Iceland. It looked really neat as well with decor really paying tribute to the historic fisherman culture of the area.
Wherever you go, some traditional Icelandic foods are cod, lamb, fermented shark, rye bread, puffin, and horse. We were somewhat adventurous and tried all of the above except the fermented shark and horse. We did however see others order the shark, and it has a very strong pungent smell to it. When it is fresh, the meat does have a high content of urea in it, but the fermentation process allows it to be consumed safely. It is a national dish in Iceland, and is often part of Icelandic festivals. Another very famous product from Iceland that we had for breakfast everyday while there is “Skyr.” It is a cultured dairy product that has the consistency of yogurt, but with a milder cheese type flavor. It is very high in protein, and it gave us a lot of energy to explore Iceland every day! It has been a part of the Icelandic diet since the Viking age, and it even mentioned in medieval Icelandic sources which include “Egil’s saga and Grettis saga.”
Reykjavik has many little shops in its downtown as well, and a big item that you will see a lot are woolen clothes, which makes sense with the very large sheep population. They also have a variety of coffee, food, snack, art, and trinket spots as well. It is a very lively type city, and they even have a flea market “Kolaportio” which typically takes place on the weekends down by the harbor throughout the year.
You will want to walk around the neighborhoods of Reykjavik as well. The houses are gorgeous, and structurally different from a lot of the other areas in the world. Since the area is highly prone to earthquakes (they can get hundreds to thousands per week) the majority of homes and buildings are made from concrete, sheet metal, and stone to withstand the constant movement and seismic activity. There are often active volcanoes as well, and Iceland itself was created from the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates slowly drifting apart.
One of the sweetest parts of exploring Reykjavik, and even Iceland in general was the prevalence of fairy houses! You can see these adorable stone homes everywhere you look, and huldufolk (hidden people) are a very large part of the Icelandic culture. There have even stopped construction in areas that are believed to be homes of elves, as to not disrupt them. Historically, elves and hidden folk were associated with wealth and prosperity of the Norse and Irish settlers who originally settled in Iceland.
Reykjavik is such a beautiful, magical, and bustling city in Iceland. I definitely recommend this as a great place to travel to in Europe, and it is one of the most unique places on our planet. Let me know in the comments if you have also traveled to this area, and what your experiences were like there as well! Remember to click that subscribe button, and have a wonderful day!
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My absolute favorite book that I have found about Iceland is appropriately also called “Iceland” and is written by Jenna Gottlieb. This book is so detailed with the landmarks in Iceland, and it reviews the capital of Reykjavik, the Reykjanes Peninsula and the South, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the Westfjords, North Iceland, East Iceland and the Eastfjords, the Highlands, and the Ring Road. It also reviews when the best times are to see the Northern Lights, the best wild-life watching spots, the best day hikes, and various weekend getaway spots. When we personally went, we stayed in Reykjavik, and I absolutely love her super detailed guide of the city. She lists the best accommodation spots, how to get around Reykjavik, shopping areas, dining options, nightlife, sights, sports and recreation, and seriously so much more. I appreciate that she not only details the different areas in Iceland, but she really dives into the history too. There are photos in color as well so you can get the sense of what each part of Iceland looks like. There is so much more information in this book that will help you feel more confident on your travels to Iceland, and it is worth the read!
If you would like to learn more click on the link below!
If you would like to check out the full list of travel books that I recommend make sure that you check out this comprehensive guide!
Additional Iceland Resources/Articles-