Hotels in Reykjavík, Iceland
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The northern delights of Reykjavik
Captivating Reykjavik in south-western Iceland melts visitors’ hearts with enthralling Scandinavian heritage, hip cafés, memorable museums and thriving nightlife. Home to about 130,000 people, Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital city and a flourishing destination for weekend breaks or anchoring longer trips to admire the raw natural beauty of Iceland’s volcanoes, fjords, glaciers, waterfalls and geysers. Located near the Arctic Circle and about 30 miles from Keflavík International Airport, chilly Reykjavik is also ideal for whale watching, outdoor bathing in geothermally heated pools and glimpsing the amazing Northern Lights. Furthermore, finding accommodation needn’t be a saga because hotels are abundant.
Eat, shop and party like an Icelander
As the largest city of a Nordic island nation with barely 300,000 inhabitants, Reykjavik is Iceland’s shopping, dining and nightlife hub. Wedged between the harbour and Reykjavik’s domestic airport, the compact downtown area lends itself to walking, but there are buses in case you choose a suburban hotel. Numerous Reykjavik nightspots, bars, shops and restaurants are situated along buzzing Laugavegur and its side streets. In this area, shopaholics can explore boutiques and interesting shops or stock up on distinctively patterned Icelandic knitwear made from soft local wool hailed for its insulation properties. As avid bookworms, Icelanders love their literature and there are several downtown bookshops to discover plus vintage fashion, interior design and record shops.
For foodies, Laugavegur boasts Japanese, French and vegetarian restaurants plus burger and hotdog joints. Those hunting for Icelandic cuisine can discover eateries serving locally-caught seafood plus national delicacies like smoked lamb and air-dried fish or daring choices like sheep heads and pungent fermented shark pieces, typically washed down with the Icelandic spirit brennivin . Moreover, coffee and cake lovers can laze in cool cafés, many of which become trendy nightspots later on. Downtown Reykjavik, nicknamed 101 after its postcode, morphs into a playground for party animals after dark at weekends. Revellers gather to enjoy performances by local bands and DJs at dozens of vibrant venues. On warmer summer nights, the Austurvöllur square overlooked by Reykjavik Cathedral and Iceland’s historic Parliament House becomes another popular gathering place as surrounding streets boast cafés and bars. For excellent panoramas of Reykjavik and distant mountains, Öskjuhlíð hill south of downtown hosts the landmark Perlan building topped by a swish revolving restaurant.
Delve into Iceland’s rich culture and traditions
Iceland punches above its weight for cultural exports. Indeed, travellers can experience a broad cultural programme without straying far from Reykjavik’s hotels. For instance, fans of the hit international children’s TV show LazyTown can make a pilgrimage to its production studios in Garðabær village, near Reykjavik. Meanwhile, music lovers can visit the Icelandic Museum of Rock ‘n’ Roll near the airport in Keflavík. Charting the development of popular music in Iceland and packed with interactive exhibits, it celebrates Icelandic acts like Björk and Sigur Rós.
The waterside Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik is another musical attraction. Situated just steps from the eye-catching Sun Voyager sculpture honouring Iceland’s seafaring traditions, this striking modern venue with a multi-coloured glass facade regularly hosts live music. Another architectural marvel amid Reykjavik’s colourful low-rise buildings is the iconic Hallgrimskirkja Church. Appearing like a rocket primed for take-off, visitors can ride up its bell tower lift for 73 metres for incredible views. Outside is a statue of the Viking Leif Erikson, the first European known to have discovered America.
Iceland has been an outpost of Scandinavian culture in the middle of the North Atlantic since Vikings settled in the 9th century. This heritage is preserved through modern Iceland’s self-sufficiency, its language, which closely resembles Old Norse, and traditional naming customs that see new-borns incorporate parental names into their own. Excellent museums in and around Reykjavik celebrate Iceland’s fascinating culture and history. The harbour area features the Whales of Iceland attraction with its full-scale whale replica models plus the Reykjavik Maritime Museum and the Saga Museum, which brings history to life with its Viking costumes. Elsewhere in central Reykjavik, the Settlement Exhibition showcases settler artefacts around the ruins of an unearthed Viking longhouse believed to be among Iceland’s earliest dwellings. History buffs will also love the suburban Arbær Open Air Museum which features old buildings like a turf-roofed church, period homes and stables moved from their original locations.
Besides various art museums and galleries, further highlights include the Culture House exhibiting original saga manuscripts and the National Museum of Iceland, showcasing artefacts like priceless wooden door carvings, swords and figurines of Norse gods. On a quirkier note, there are Reykjavik walking tours detailing Icelandic superstitions about elves and their hiding places while the Icelandic Phallological Museum in Laugavegur proudly displays a huge collection of mammal penises.
Out and about
Natural wonders are never far away in Reykjavik. Picturesque Tjörnin lake in downtown attracts visiting birds like terns and geese, making it a magnet for birdwatchers. If you yearn for whale-watching, there are boat trips leaving from the harbour. During winter, the Northern Lights often dance across Iceland’s skies and there are excursions available to see the spectacular natural display at sea or inland.
No trip to Reykjavik would be complete without enjoying a dip in the wonderfully warm outdoor pools that harness Iceland’s abundant geothermal energy. The famous Blue Lagoon amid dramatic volcanic terrain just south of Keflavik is among the best known with its milky blue waters. Laugardalur in Reykjavik’s eastern suburbs boasts a popular swimming complex supplied by geothermal spring waters.