THE LITTLE CAPITAL WITH THE BIG HEART
With a population of 120,000, Reykjavík is not a whirlwind metropolis. Few skyscrapers grace the skyline, traffic jams are rare and faces are familiar. But don’t be deceived—a steady beat of energy and events keeps the city alive and pulsing with excitement.
Sunny days feel like spontaneous holidays in Reykjavík. Sunbathers and picnickers fill Austurvöllur, the green square in front of Parliament; locals and tourists alike stroll up and down Laugavegur, the main drag, shopping, stopping for coffee, and people watching. The thirsty jockey for sparse outdoor seating at bars as happy hour rolls around. Crooning buskers line the sidewalk; performance artists stage surprise acts; maybe a marching band appears from the ether. Anything can happen.
Downtown Reykjavík (also known by its postal code as 101) is the nucleus of Iceland’s rich culture and arts scene. By day, café-culture rules supreme. A steady hum of conversation keeps the city’s several cafés lively. With free wifi and refills on drip coffee being fairly common, Reykjavík’s café-goers like to linger until they’re sufficiently buzzed on the strong, dark elixir. As day turns into night, people start filing into many of the cities excellent restaurants.
Throughout 101, playful murals and street art testify to the city’s sense of creativity and fun. Art galleries such as the Reykjavík Art Museum and the National Gallery showcase the works of classic Icelandic artists, while smaller independent galleries display the projects of cutting-edge, contemporary Icelandic and international artists.
Various museums preserve the culture and history of both the city and the country at large. Designated as a UNESCO City of Literature, Reykjavík is also the core of Iceland’s literary heritage where you’ll discover a treasure of literary works and a wealth of talented poets and authors.
Local music is one of the mainstays in Reykjavík’s cultural life. Reykjavík’s musical acts represent a broad spectrum of musical genres: from bluegrass folk to death metal, rap to lo-fi, punk rock to reggae. Downtown record stores are eager to show off the industriousness of Icelandic musicians, but it’s just as easy to experience acts first hand at live concerts. Bars and clubs around 101 regularly host live shows that can draw large crowds of fans and friends.
Catching live music is in fact an excellent way to kickoff an evening on the town. Reykjavík is known for its vibrant nightlife that starts late and carries on long into the early morning hours. The clubs start filling up around midnight, the party starts bouncing around one in the morning. It’s hard not to run into a familiar face during a night out. Serendipity keeps things exciting.
A GATEWAY TO ICELAND
Reykjavík is the natural starting point for any visit to Iceland, and not undeservedly so. The capital is world-renowned for its culture, history, and natural beauty on all fronts.
Reykjavík is truly the gateway to Iceland, and many day trips can be taken from the city to the surrounding mountains, glaciers, volcanos and hotsprings. Day-excursions from Reykjavík include horseback riding, glacier climbing, river rafting, caving, whale watching, and more. Meanwhile, downtown, in the city’s museums, galleries, theatres, cafés, and swimming pools, busy locals bustle about with a seemingly inexhaustible energy. At the restaurants downtown, local ingredients are served fresh with delicious lamb, seafood or wild game.
Reykjavík is a city of bold contrasts: it is both cosmopolitan and small-town; vibrant and sophisticated; young-at-heart and yet full of history. Many monuments, new and old, are also worth a peek, including the newly built oceanfront music and conference centre, Harpa. Luckily, everything in Reykjavík is close by, and the city is perhaps best explored by foot or bike.
CULTURE, NIGHTLIFE, GEOTHERMAL BATHING, MUSEUMS, CITY HALL, HALLGRÍMSKIRKJA CHURCH, HARPA, HÖFÐI, IMAGINE PEACE TOWER, MOUNT ESJA, THE PEARL, AND VIÐEY ISLAND.
Copyright Iceland Tourist Board – Visit Iceland: www.visiticeland.com/discovericeland/regions/reykjavik