We spent a sizable chunk of our 91 Icelandic days inside the drinking and eating establishments of Reykjavík. After another long day of museum-visiting or waterfall-ogling, a big beer and dinner cooked by someone else always sounded like a good idea. Here’s a quick list of our favorite places in the city.
One of our favorite parts of moving to a new place is checking out the street art scene. We’ve come to learn that aspects of a city’s personality will often be reflected in its graffiti and public art, so the work we saw in Reykjavík wasn’t a total surprise. Extremely artistic, modern, intelligent and well-coordinated, Reykjavík’s street art is clearly done with the property owner’s permission. Perhaps a bit too nice for such an anarchic art form, but very Icelandic.
Maybe it’s because of the long, dark winters, when any scrap of joy or warmth is especially appreciated, but Christmas is a very big deal in Iceland. And nowhere is the Christmas spirit stronger than in Akureyri, where it’s celebrated all year round.
When Halldor offered to show us the autumn colors of the Eyjafjörður Valley, south of Akureyri, I was a little amused. Up until this point, we had seen approximately three trees in all Iceland. “Maybe the idea of ‘autumn colors’ means something different here,” I thought. “Like, a pile of red lava rocks on top of wet, yellow hay.” But it turns out that Iceland has some trees after all. There are a lot, in fact, if you know where to look.
An asymmetrical glass building on Reykjavík’s harbor, Harpa resembles a shimmering iceberg that crashed onto the shore. Since opening in 2010, the city’s opera and concert hall has won prominent architectural awards, welcomed over two million visitors and become one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.
After our first month in Iceland, we had hardly scratched the surface. We knew Reykjavík fairly well, and had spent time on the South Coast, the Golden Circle, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the Westfjords… With all the hopping from one sight to the next, we barely had the chance to relax and become familiar with the culture. So our relationship with Iceland after a month felt superficial. We were obsessed by its bizarre beauty, but needed to get to know it a bit better.
The first stop of our week-long tour of the Westfjords was in the tiny eastern village of Hólmavík, where we visited the unsettling Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft.
With three venues spread across the city, each dedicated to a different discipline, the Listasafn Reykjavíkur is the largest art museum in Iceland. One ticket will get you into all three locations. We chose to start at the Hafnarhus (Harbor House), which focuses on modern Icelandic art.
“Stop corruption: We promise to stop corruption. We’ll accomplish this by participating in it openly.” Now that’s a political promise I can believe in! It’s just one of the excellent items in the platform of The Best Party, led by Reykjavík’s Jón Gnarr.
Jürgen and I have been to our share of pride parades around the world: Boston, Berlin, NYC, Spain. But we’ve never seen a Gay Pride quite like Reykjavík’s, held annually in August. Led by its mayor, the entire city paints itself in rainbow colors and puts on an astonishing celebration of gayness.