Magical Iceland Part II: Reykjavik

This post is the second and final installment of my Iceland blog posts. Check out what we did during the first four days of the trip in Part I: Snaefellsnes Peninsula and West Iceland. You can find details about why we chose the itinerary we did in that post as well.

Day 4: Arriving in Reykjavik (and lodging)

After a long day of travel and wandering, we took the opportunity back in Reykjavik to settle into yet another wonderful Airbnb (which, sadly, doesn’t seem to be available anymore as I can’t find it. Will update if that changes). Nonetheless, there are plenty of Airbnb options in the city. We stayed in the historic and more residential western part of the city. Reykjavik is not a large place, so no matter where you end up, it’s likely quite walkable to the city center. While we were a little removed from the center, it was probably only a 15-minute walk to get to most of the sites listed on the map.

That evening we opted for some fish & chips take-out from Reykjavik Fish and the Stedji beer we bought at the brewery.

 

Day 5: Reykjavik

Reykjavik is super cute. It’s also not huge. I love exploring a city, but I was absolutely content to spend just one day there. I could probably spend another just in the hot pools or taking advantage of a niche tour offered (like this literary Reykjavik tour) or a taking in a show at the Harpa Opera House. But for a day of aimless wandering, one day is probably enough. That said it is worth at least a day to explore.

Just Wandering

Of course, we started off the day like we started off the trip: coffee at Reykjavik Roasters. After lingering over coffee and a light breakfast there, we wandered down the street to check out the various shops (Laugevegur is the main shopping street, but you can also find a lot of cool crafts and touristy gifty-type things on Skolavordustigur, a street that runs from Hallgrimskirkja Church). Cory and I, in particular, were on the search for something woolen. You’ll see the classic Icelandic wool sweater from classic Icelandic sheep on many an Icelander, so we wanted to be just like them.

We found that the best place for handmade wool clothing was the Handknitting Association of Iceland (on Skolavordustigur Street) where Cory bought a classic sweater and I got a wrap. And while it’s a little bit more international, The Nordic Store (near the bus terminal – and apparently online as well) had some great sweaters that I’d be more likely to wear. As much as I love the classic Icelandic sweaters, I knew I wouldn’t wear the bulky ones regularly. Sadly, I haven’t been able to wear the one I bought yet because it got warm soon after we returned to Baltimore and then I spent this winter super pregnant. Next winter, though!

We followed the shopping spree up with a look inside the beautiful Harpa Opera House. I really wish there was a show when we were there, but just a look inside the beautiful glass building was enough to leave me satisfied. The modern structure is stunning with the beautiful rustic mountain backdrop across the water.

Then after a delicious lunch at Snaps Bistro, Jill and Dave went back to the Airbnb to rest and Cory and I wandered as it started to drizzle lightly. All in all, I was pretty enamored with the quaint Scandinavian fishing-town structures of the city. It’s small and walkable, yet there’s so much to see and look at as you wander.

One recommendation I’d have that we didn’t do is to go to the top of Hallgrímskirkja church as it apparently has an incredible view of the city. I’m always a sucker for amazing views, but my trusty travel companion (aka the husband) isn’t as always keen on doing those kind of things. But for those of you who love a view, just do it.

Yet Another Glorious Hot Pot

The afternoon, of course, was spent in the hot pots. This time at the Vesterbaejar Pool which was just down the street from our Airbnb. This pool also happens to be the first picture in this NY Times Magazine article about the hot pots. (Fun fact: most of the neighborhoods have their very own public pool and hot springs, so you likely don’t need to travel far to get to the nearest one). There really is nothing like spending an afternoon soaking in a hot pot.

And to cap it off, there’s a cute coffee shop across the street from the pool. So, of course, we chilled at Kaffihus Vesterbaejar. Nothing beats a hot beverage after soaking in a hot pot.

 

Cocktails and a Fancy Dinner

Because the four of us fancy ourselves low-key foodie-types, we planned ahead for a delicious fancy dinner to cap off the trip (all thanks to Jill, of course). So after our relaxing afternoon, we wanted to explore a bit of Icelandic cocktail culture where we hit up Slippbarinn – an expansive bar and restaurant in Icelandair Hotel down on the old harbor. (Also worth checking out the places mentioned in this New York Times Travel piece about the local liquor in Iceland).

Finally, we capped the evening – and the trip, really – off at an incredible 9-course pre-fixe meal at DILL. This was such an amazing way to be re-introduced to local Icelandic fare in fancy fashion. For those of you who like good food, it is absolutely worth booking ahead and very worth the price (just don’t do the wine pairing if you’re on a bit more of a budget as you can get wine by the glass).

Day 6: Return to Baltimore

Because our last day was mostly a travel day, it’s fairly uneventful. However, it’s worth noting our one travel fail you can learn from. After dropping Jill and Dave off at the airport (as they were heading off to Copenhagen), Cory and I thought we’d finally check out the hype of the Blue Lagoon given that it’s much closer to the airport than it is to Reykjavik and we had a few hours to kill before our flight back to Baltimore. Well, when we arrived, we found out one needs to book ahead! In fact, we probably needed to book way ahead. Maybe a few weeks ahead.

It looked pretty amazing and I was jealous of the people spa-ing away as you can sit right next to the hot pool while you’re in the cafe. I have to admit, though, finding out that it’s a manmade lagoon next to a geothermal power plant (which I believe actually creates the heat), it kind of took some of the coolness away from it. All in all, we got our fix of hot soaking on the rest of the trip, so I absolutely don’t feel bad. It was a stunning landscape among the lava fields, though.

Flying out that afternoon, I felt sad to leave and that we had only glimpsed a small portion of the country, but I felt incredibly satisfied. It helped that I sat next to a fantastic woman named Solveig who told me stories about other incredible parts of the country. I absolutely intend to come back.

It remains one of the best trips Cory and I have taken together. We hope someday to go back and we feel it’d be an incredible and easy place to bring a kiddo. Next time, I’d really like to start with the north or take a couple weeks to drive the ring road. For now, the memories of West Iceland and Reykjavik continue to stick with me.

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