Now I’m not self proclaiming that I’m worthy of hipster status but I can appreciate an 80’s bomber jacket, graffiti as art and smashed avocado as a brunch staple so I think I can offer a thing or two about Reykjavik and what it has to offer.
It’s a cool place (excuse the pun!) that isn’t trying too hard. That’s hipster in itself right?!
Pretty streets, cool shopping boutiques and cafes in abundance it’s a great place to stroll around and not just a stopping point en route to the wider country. Here are some top tips for your stay..
The Church of Hallgrimur is the icon of this city. Walking towards it along the vibrant streets will take some time as you will want to stop for lots of pics! You can head inside and walk to the top tower to see beautiful views of Reykjavik’s colourful rooftops and further out to sea. The design was intended to resemble the natural landscape or Iceland with its ice caps, volcanoes and basalt columns. It’s a must see landmark in the city.
This was an easy decision and it just has to be the Harpa, the striking Concert Hall and Conference centre and recipient of the prestigious Mies Van Der Rohe award for architecture. It is situated in the heart of the city and features stunning views of snowy mountains and across the Ocean. Wander inside and take a good look at the different light that the centre draws to it. There are shops that offer Nordic designed crafts and gifts. We didn’t watch a concert but I’d love to check out the listings if I was heading back.
For a population of just 320,000 people, Iceland has produce chart topping music from well known, respected artists Björk, Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men to name just a few. Reykjavík feels like the beat of the country and is home to a buzzing live music scene. Café Rosenberg was our favourite evening choice playing live jazz and some of Iceland’s breakthrough bands. An awesome stop during the daytime has to be Kaffe Vinyl, a new bar/cafe and record store. It wouldn’t look too out of place in Dalston and also hosts live performances in the evening.
So Iceland is renowned for its hot water springs but what about its cold water swimming! Not to be put off by ‘ice’ being the former syllable in the country’s name and being quite used to a cold lake or sea swim training for triathlons in UK’s great excuse for a summer I was quite up to the challenge. Close to Reykjavík town is the Nauthólsvík geothermal beach, where the sea temperature can reach minus 2 degrees in the winter. After a very short swim attempt, when actually deemed a terrible time of year to try it we committed ourselves to the hot springs close by. All year round, people enjoy the use of the geothermal beach’s hot-tubs, steam-bath, changing facilities and showers, even when the water drops below freezing. Whichever you choice it’s a great addition to a stay in Reykjavík.
Something to eat…
So when we think of a hipster, what culinary choice often comes to mind is street food, or pop-up style, cheap and inventive food in a minimal setting. This could not be a better choice for a pricey country. We tried Icelandic Street Food, considered the first fast food concept in Iceland with traditional Icelandic food. It is a family owned business with recipes made from the owner’s Grandmother. He was in attendance on the evening we visited and pointed out that his Grandmother had made the cakes, which meant we just had to try them! I tried the seafood soup, and ordered a can of beer. This came to less than £20 so still expensive but much more reasonable than other options, and a lot more tasty than an overpriced spaghetti Bolognese.
Something to drink…
Named after two Icelandic words for birch, Birkir (birch schnapps) and Björk (birch liqueur) are a fantastic showcase of native Icelandic ingredients.
Birkir, the stronger of the two at 35%, has a boozy and earthy aroma and mixes well with soda water or tonic for an easygoing cocktail. We bought some at the airport to take advantage of cheaper prices. Most of the rest of the team we enjoyed a beer or two!
I’d recommend a city tour with I Heart Reykjavik. They take you to their own favourite places in the city centre and teach you a few words of Icelandic. This is a great tour to get an overview and introduction to the city. I was amazed to see so much awesome graffiti art dotted around!
My next post will share some of my favourite stops along the Golden Circle.
Have a great weekend all.