01 Aug Exploring the Tiny City of Reykjavik, Iceland
Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to spend in the endearing, little city of Reykjavik, Iceland–it is pretty small, but I would have liked to have a couple of full days to explore. Despite our lack of time, we were still able to walk around, enjoy a few sites and eat some delicious foods. The city is very walking friendly, and we loved the fact that almost everywhere we stopped offered a free wi-fi connection. It was nice to quick check an email or look up directions when needed.
One of the most iconic sites in town is Hallgrímskirkja, the uniquely shaped church overlooking the city. The church is built of concrete and was designed to resemble a volcanic basalt rock formation. You can go to the top of the church tower for beautiful views overlooking the city. The tower had just closed for the day by the time we made it there, so unfortunately we couldn’t go to the top. I know it looks like it was afternoon in the pictures, but it was really just after 8 p.m. By the way, I loved the continuous daylight; it gave us many additional hours to explore.
Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur are the main shopping streets downtown and there are plenty of fun shops to keep you occupied for an afternoon. We browsed for a bit and stopped in a music store to buy some local music. There are many restaurants and bars scattered around nearby as well. These streets are the area where we had a small taste of the Saturday nightlife, but that deserves a post in and of itself.
A quick walk along the waterfront led us to Harpa and the Sun Voyager sculpture. Harpa is a beautiful glass building positioned on the waterfront so the glass sparkles to life with reflections from the sun and water. Inside, you will find that it is home to the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and it hosts many other acts as well. There is a little cafe inside and a few other things to see, and it appears to be open pretty late. We wandered inside around 9:30 p.m. for a quick look around, and the views out the glass were beautiful.
Walking a little farther past Harpa, we made a stop at the Sun Voyager. The sculpture looks like a viking ship and represents “a dream of hope, progress and freedom”, and it eludes a modern feel.
Sea Baron is a small restaurant in an old fisherman’s hut, located right along the edge of the harbor and the fish served are as fresh as one can get coming straight from the boats. The owner, Kjartan, is a retired fisherman and coast guard chef; he opened a small fish shop from the harbor docks, which later turned into a restaurant by accident. What happened was that a group of foreigners asked him if he could prepare their fish for them to eat, and once Kjartan recognized the opportunity for a booming business, the rest is history.
It has been proclaimed that the Sea Baron makes the world’s best lobster soup. I had heard so much about this soup that I was craving it before I even arrived, and it was every bit as wonderful as I was expecting. The piping hot soup is served with a large bowl of bread and fills you up for less than $10–you can hardly beat that! Also on the menu is a scrumptious assortment of fresh seafood and vegetable skewers, such as catfish, cod, salmon, mink whale, halibut, lobster, shrimp, scallops and more. All of the skewers are displayed in the cooler by the register so you can see your options, and once you order, your choices are plucked up and thrown right on the grill. We tried the salmon, scallops and potato skewers and they were all to die for–all in all a perfect meal.
Bæjarins Beztu hot dogs are very popular and at around 360 kr. a pop (approximately $3); they are quite a steal. The name of the stand actually means “towns best” and by the looks of it, most people concur–even Bill Clinton and Anthony Bourdain have stopped at this famous stand. The hot dogs are said to be best enjoyed after a night out on the town, but we ended up trying the legendary dogs for dinner one evening. Our review–they were good, not spectacular, but good. Micah ordered his with just ketchup and mustard, and I got mine with everything. I figured I had to try it the “right” way, and ordered the works, which comes with both types of onions (crunchy and raw), ketchup, sweet mustard and remoulade. I really don’t like onions, but I figured maybe with all the ingredients together it would be good. My answer was a resounding no, but hey, I tried, right? After I messily picked the onions off, it was pretty tasty, though!
The Laundromat Cafe located near the main shopping area and harbor is a quirky little cafe, bar, coffeehouse and laundromat all in one. I have never seen a cafe with a laundromat inside like this–it is a brilliant idea as it gives patrons a fun spot to hang while doing laundry. Don’t let the word laundromat fool you though; there are several washing machines downstairs along with couches and tables for relaxing, but the main part of the cafe is upstairs with a bar, tables and many books for perusing. I loved the style of this place–I could have stayed for hours. A full menu is offered, but we stopped in specifically for dessert. Micah tried the chocolate cake; it was good, but a bit heavy–definitely a good option for sharing. Since we were being glutinous, I ordered the Skyrcake which was a homemade cake with skry (a tasty, thick and tangy yogurt), berries and white chocolate–it was amazingly delicious! I think it has to be one of my favorite deserts of all time. It was sweet, but not too sweet, and because of the fresh berries, somewhat light at the same time.
Have you been to Reykjavik? What was you favorite activity and restaurant?