Iceland is only home to about 329,000 people and Reykjavik, the capital city houses 60% of the population, and is not bigger than a small UK town, if not smaller. For such a small city, it is full of SO much beauty, there is simply not enough time and space to write about it all. So, I will keep it short and sweet, and give you all the best places to eat, shop and see.
1. Reykjavik harbour – You’d think a ship harbour would not be very quite, but walking to the end of the harbour takes you quite far away from the buzz of the city and far enough out into the sea to feel like you’re swimming in it. Take the walk, enjoy the mountains, and the birds, the sea breezed and the peace.
2. Hallgrímskirkja church – Designed by the late Guðjón Samuel in 1937, who was often inspired in his architecture by the fascinating shapes and forms created when lava cools into basalt rock, the construction took 41 years and one of the most beautiful landmarks. In front of the church, and predating it by 15 years, is a statue of Leifur Eiriksson who was the first European to discover America; which teamed together with the church, makes a truly splendid tribute to Iceland. At night the light streaming from the stain glass windows make for a truly beautiful sight.
3. Harpa – I enjoy the arts whatever the time of year, but being able to watch Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker’ being performed by the St. Petersburg Ballet in such a tremendous building, in such a beautiful country, with Christmas all around was an experience I will never forget. The Harpa concert hall was opened in 2011 and lets Iceland and its’ visitors perfrom and experience the best they have to offer in the most decadent of locations. The modern architecture fits in perfectly with the city around it, and warms and welcomes you in, not to mention the exquisite food on offer at the top floor restaurant. I couldn’t recommend visiting for a performance and a bite to eat regardless of the time of year.
4. Sandholt bakery – This bakery is open 6AM – 9PM every day and it serves THE best cinnamon swirls and danish pastries we have ever had. We spent many mornings in here with a large cup of coffee, a plate full of pastries and some good laughs. Their freshly made bread is also something that shouldn’t be missed, there’s so many choices to try we just couldn’t resist.
On the topic of coffee: There are no Starbucks/Costas/Neros in Iceland, or fast food chains for that matter (we saw one Taco Bell and one KFC), they have a small coffee chain called TE & KAFFE and various cafes/restaurants that sell coffee and tea ofcourse, but the lack of corporates was very welcome across our stay.
5. Grillmarkaðinn – On the last night we decided to go large and take up a restaurant recommendation from our host Od (the lovely owner of our Air bob flat), and Grillmarkaðinn certainly did not disappoint. The restaurant is modern, beautifully designed, warm and friendly, and they are devoted to working with the best chefs and dedicated to the local cuisine. The only use the very best in local produce that allows them to create a menu that’s a magical fusion of tradition and modern cuisine. I had a mini feast of reindeer, whale and shrimp bruegrs for starters and then moved on to a main course of what seemed to be an entire duck on my plate with the most succulent fruity salad on the side, while my husband had traditional cured icelandic lamb for starters and a huge peanut steak and root vegetables to follow. Go and dine in bliss.
Our stay in Iceland was the best week of our life and we have already planned our return for the end of 2015, we met some amazing people throughout our stay and especially cannot sing enough praises for our Air BnB host Od Stephen. His house in Reykjavik was the perfect place to spend our down time cooking and relaxing in complete comfort, and we would recommend him at the drop of a hat! You can view his apartment HERE
So if your planning a trip to Iceland any time soon, I hope these posts have been of help to you and please do ask if you have any questions or want further recommendations. Next in my travel series is Amsterdam, so keep your eyes and ears peeled!