For a city that is reputed for late night parties, Reykjavik has a pretty relaxed and dignified vibe to it. Iceland’s capital is easily walkable and depending on where you are you can get a panoramic view of the North Atlantic Ocean along with the snow capped mountain behind it.
We based ourselves in Reykjavik for three out of our four nights stay in Iceland but only spent a day in the city since we preferred to explore the martian-like lands outside the capital. Here’s what I recommend in Reykjavik:
See: Harpa concert hall
The Harpa is a 5-story concert hall & conference center by the harborside. It’s the most architecturally mesmerizing conference center I’ve ever been to! I loved the way the geometrically shaped double glass panes caught the sunlight, casting long shadows and splashes of color on both the walls and ground floor.
Entry to walk around is free and there’s also a cafe and restaurant open to general visitors. It’s a great place to start a morning in Reykjavik right before the popular hot dog stand across the street opens.
Eat: Baejarins beztu pylsur
This hot dog joint, conveniently located outside the Harpa, is on every top 5/10 lists of things to do in Reykjavik. Their emphasis is on quality hot dogs made mostly from organic, hormone free Icelandic lamb (per CN Traveler). Order one with “everything on it” so you can get a satisfying crunch from the crispy & raw onions hidden underneath the ‘dog which works nicely with the three different sauces dressed on it. I will say though, as tasty as it is, this hot dog has nothing on a Chilean completo.
A line is inevitable at the hot dog stand but it moves pretty quickly. For 380 krona (£2/$3) it was my least expensive meal in Iceland by a long mile.
Eat: Fish Company
Our meal at the Fish Company was a great introduction to Icelandic seafood. The restaurant pays homage to other countries’ flavours in its international menu but uses mainly local ingredients. Sadly I don’t have any pictures to share but I highly recommend a meal here. Both the ‘Japan rice’ starter and ‘Malaysia lobster’ main were fresh, well executed and visually stunning. Be prepared to drop some dough though – you’ll quickly find Reykjavik and most tourist spots to be expensive.
Stay: Alda Hotel
By the time we finally got around to booking our hotel most places, including the popular Kex Hostel, were full due to the Reykjavik Fashion Festival falling on the same weekend of our visit. We opted for a bit of luxury in the end and stayed at the conveniently located Alda Hotel. I loved it for their Nordic designs and fun but minimalist vibes. The hotel also has a cool retro barber shop on premises!
The hotel staff were helpful especially when offering advice on road conditions and alternative driving routes since there were pockets of storms filtering through the country. Breakfast was included in our stay which I eagerly took advantage of every morning. They put out a great spread that included basic breakfast items along with Icelandic yogurt (skyr), cod liver oil and shots of beetroot & ginger juice.
The only thing I found lacking was omission of bathtubs in the guest rooms. Who wouldn’t like to relax in a warm bath after a day trekking around in the snow?