With Iceland trending in the tourism industry and more and more ships with calls to its ports, the likelihood of your next gig bringing you to Reykjavik is larger than ever. That’s why we thought we’d wrap up a brief guide to get you ready for when the day comes!
The city is quite small and easy to navigate. A ride on one of those double-decker bus tours would take you an hour from beginning to end... You can hop on one of those for a few bucks, but if you like walking, just put on your comfy shoes and get on the road! Those of you working on a smaller vessel will dock in the heart of town, at the Old Harbour. Here, you can rent a bike or walk over to one of the eight Wow City Bike stations, and take a ride (pro tip: download the app in advance, so you can find bikes and spots to park them). Most ships, however, use the Skarfabakki cruise terminal, which is roughly 2 miles or 3.2km from the town centre.
While you might just be content getting lost around the picturesque Reykjavik streets, there are a few popular sights you can tackle along your route. Located along the shore, near the old port, The Harpa Music Hall & Conference Center is a stunning modern building worth the visit. From the outside, the beautiful and imposing glass facades offer a remarkable contrast against the ocean and mountainous skyline. Inside, the warm light that filters through the glass invites you to look up and be mystified. For a different kind of mysticism, follow the path along the ocean down to Sólfarið Sculpture (Sun Voyager). You cannot miss it, it’s a large steel sculpture by Jón Gunnar Arnason that resembles a Viking ship but was conceived as a sort of dreamboat and an ode to the sun. This very spot is also perfect for an epic view of Mount Esja, especially during dawn and dusk.
Walk up Frakkastigur street from here and you’ll soon(ish) bump into Hallgrímskirkja, a church with a tower that can be seen from almost everywhere in the city and that has become Reykjavík's main landmark. It took 40 years for this church’s construction to be completed! Its unique design was in part inspired by the fascinating shapes and forms created when lava cools into basalt rock.
On your way to Hallgrímskirkja you will cross Laugavegur street, also known as the shopping areal. Most stores are open weekdays between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM, with shorter opening hours on weekends.
If you don’t care much for the above sights, you can find refuge at Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach, a golden-sanded spot created in 2001. This ambitious project involved the construction of a lagoon with large seawalls, where cold sea and hot geothermal water fuse together resulting in higher temperatures. It has hot-tubs, steam-baths, changing facilities, and showers. Nauthólsvík is open all year round. The sea temperature varies from around -1,9°C during the coldest months and around 17°C in the summertime. Average temperatures are between 3°- 5°C in the winter and 12°- 15°C in the summer. The temperature of the sea inside the lagoon itself is higher in the summer, averaging at between 15°- 19°C. Don’t count on being alone here, the beach attracts an estimate of 530.000 guests each year!
Walk the walk
There is something to be said for spending the day walking along the ocean with the sea and the mountains on one side and picturesque Reykjavik on the other. Walking from the Old Harbour to Skarfabakki (or vice versa) and back, according to Google Maps, takes an hour each way. Be sure to dress appropriately for it can get windy, humid and chilly but you will forget all about that if you are comfy and cozy and can get lost on the beautiful landscapes and sights around you.
Get coffee and food
The writer of this blog post is a fan of good quality lattes with perfect foam—designs included—and we suspect she’s not the only one, so mention of where to find those is in order. But be warned, Reykjavik is not cheap! Kaffitar on Bankastræti has wonderful coffee and cookies. However, Reykjavik Roasters is not far on Kárastígur and definitely looks like the ideal place to have a splendid cortado. Just in case, you should know that Reykjavík Roasters also has a second location on Brautarholt street. Cafe Babalu has good reviews and comments on the internet and looks like it’s worth the try if you walk by its location on Skólavörðustígur. Likewise, Pallette Kaffikompaní on Strandgata is well rated by visitors. When it comes to finding great food in a great ambience, you should definitely head to Grandi, Reykjavík’s new(ish) food district, right on the waterfront by the Old Harbour. The area is sometimes jokingly referred to as the Fishpacking District, making reference to its past, which is similar to New York’s famous Meatpacking district. Have you been to Reykjavik yet? Got anything to add?