The biggest city in Iceland is Reykjavik so it was a no brainer that we made this the base for our travel in Iceland. Iceland has a relatively small population as much of the earth is unsuitable for building upon. Iceland's population is roughly 300,000 and the majority of those people reside in Reykjavik at about 100,000. Even so, Reykjavik has a lot to offer and some of the most friendliest people in the world. Also, I didn't meet one local that didn't speak English.
We happened to be in Reykjavik during Gay Pride Week. They had a huge parade and every local we came across asked us if we were attending the parade. They said that Gay Pride week was a big event and that the parade was something of a family affair. It seemed like the community just came together to celebrate all different types of people. Even the mayor himself, dressed in drag for the parade last year.
I really loved the two days we spent in Reykjavik. Here is a rundown of some of the things you can do.
The main shopping street in Reykjavik is called Laugavegur. Here you can find many shops, restaurants, and excursion centers. During Gay Pride Week it was really busy and during the pride parade people filled the streets wearing costumes and flags and of course drinking and having a great time. The fashion in Reykjavik reminds me of Portland or Seattle. A lot of hipster style but the clothes are very expensive. It seems like to offset the expensive costs of clothes, there are second hand or thrift stores around every corner, selling, still expensive clothes.
Very close to Laugavegur street, you can see the Hallgrimskirkja Church. It's one of the most notable landmarks in Reykjavik as it looks like a concrete rocket. It's pretty interesting as far as architecture goes and it was a gift from the United States. Near the church is a statue of Leif Eriksson that predates the church. You can take a lift up to the top of the church or walk the stairs for a small fee. From the top you can see views of the city. Seeing views from the top you get to see just how colorful all the little Icelandic houses are. The inside of the church is pretty plain.
Another things we happened upon while walking around the city was an elf rock. Some people in Iceland still believe in elves. You can take a look at the story of the elf rock below.
Not too far from the main shopping area in Reykjavik is the harbour. The harbour is beautiful and another place with a lot of booming activity. From the harbour, you can find some of the best seafood restaurants and even book some excursions and tours. The harbour is also where you can find some fun bars and the Kolaportid Flea Market. Near the harbour you can find the most famous hotdog stand in Iceland, Baejarins Bestu.
Since Iceland is an island, it's no surprise that it's filled with amazing seafood. I was excited to eat seafood here since Germany lacks in that area. All of the seafood I ate near the Reykjavik Harbour was great. I had great fish and chips at the Reykjavik Fish Restaurant. Compared to other restaurants nearby it was pretty affordable too.
Another more affordable and tasty place was the Seabaron, which is a relatively newer restaurant on the harbour that is known for their lobster soup. The lobster in this soup was as soft as butter and you get a big basket of crusty bread. We also ordered a side of scallops. You can also order other random seafood like whale, but I had to pass on that.
Another thing I tried which was right on the harbour was a crab cake sandwich. Not too expensive and pretty great.
Oddly enough, hotdogs are pretty popular in Iceland. The most famous hotdog stand, as I mentioned earlier is called Baejarins Bestu. There is usually a line, but we hit up the stand at an odd hour of the day and ordered "one with everything," which is what most people order. The hotdog doesn't look like anything special but it tastes good. After Googling what was in the hotdog so I could attempt to make it at home I found out that the meat was a mixture of pork, lamb, and beef. The toppings are an Icelandic remoulade which you can buy at any of the Icelandic grocery markets, ketchup, mustard, and french fried onions along with fresh onions. It's also another affordable meal option.
The last food item that I want to mention which I was excited to try was Skyr. It can be found at any supermarket and it's basically Iceland's version of yogurt that they use in a lot of their cooking. It's actually technically a cheese and it's thicker than Greek yogurt. It's very good.
I mentioned a bit about the shopping earlier, but the thing that I was most eager to buy was an Icelandic wool sweater, or Lopapeysa, as they are called in Iceland. For some odd reason (maybe it's because my previous trip was in Spain) I didn't pack enough warm clothes and it was also a bit rainy. I can see why the people here wear these warm (and itchy) wool sweaters. I did not realize at first just how expensive these sweaters were. Even at the second hand stores these sweaters were insanely expensive. I picked the one below which is black with white and brown details. It's very warm and I love it. When I looked at my bank statement, the sweater came out to be $160. Ouch.
I wanted to head to the Kolaportid Flea Market which is only on the weekends from 10-5. They had a ton of Lopapeysa there to chose from and I actually ended up buying mine from there. Even at the flea market they are only a bit cheaper than in the stores. The one I bought was brand new and handmade as they all are, but you can also find some second hand sweater's there as well.
The Night Life
I had heard great things about the night life in Reykjavik so I had to check it out for myself. As I mentioned, the people are very friendly and I have honestly never felt more safe in a country, and I live in Germany, which I feel very safe in. There are a lot of cool dance clubs in Reykjavik. B and I met a lot of fun people and although alcohol is expensive, we had a great night. I found it interesting that beer was illegal in Iceland up until 1989. I guess they are making up for it. There are so many good looking people in Iceland, but they don't really know how to dance that well ;) Maybe this is also because I'm just coming from my trip in Spain.
Branching Out and What you Need to Know
And don't forget that there is so much more to do outside of Reykjavik. You can book several tours or branch out on your own by car. I've spoken to several people about Iceland and they were like, "well what is there to do in Iceland?" It's a great place for outdoor enthusiasts, foodies, and partygoers alike. It has a lot to offer. I will say however, that after all is said and done, Iceland is very expensive. The currency is a little weird in ISK. Everything is very expensive. On a three day trip I am embarrassed to say that B and I spent around $4000 including airfare. I'm sure you can do it for less but after airfare, car rentals, places to stay (even with Airbnb), food, souvenirs/wool, excursions, and drinks at night, it all adds up. But it it was 100% worth it for us and the trip of a lifetime. Icelanders are some of the nicest friendliest people I've met. And though most of their winter is in darkness, they are also some of the happiest people in the world.
Is Reykjavik, Iceland on your bucket list?
Stay tuned for the next stop on our trip where I tell you how to drive The Golden Circle on your own by car.
Also, here are some other posts I've written about Iceland: