Iceland in 9 days. Day 1: Reykjavík

Iceland has been on my list since as a kid I read Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. It is only decades later that my dream came true.

There are not too many flights to Iceland. Most of them connect the island to one of Scandinavian capitals. We got there from Copenhagen (a delightful little spot of its own), landing in Reykjavík, where we spent our first day.

The whole population of the country is under 400,000 souls, about a third of which live in Reykjavík. Compared to other world capitals, it is a small city. It does not feel like a megalopolis indeed.

With a few exceptions Reykjavík is a made up of two or three-story buildings. It is neat and well kept. I wouldn’t call it a sightseeing destination, but it has it own cozy charm.

Some parts of the city feel relatively old:

And some are quite modern:

Lumber is a scarce commodity in Iceland, so most structures (not just in Reykjavik, but across the country) are built not of wood, but of stone, concrete, corrugated metal and glass, in various combinations.

Many buildings in downtown Reykjavík are rather creatively painted:

The line between art and graffiti is blurred:

As for the post office buildings, these are often painted red, including the mailboxes:

Galleries and boutique stores are abundant in the downtown:

The tallest building in the city (and probably in the whole country) is the church of Hallgrímur (Hallgrímskirkja).

There’s an elevator that takes visitors to the viewing deck at the top of the bell tower with 360° views of the city. This is the view of the harbor and Harpa Concert Hall that doubles as an opera house (top right):

The Harpa Concert Hall building features an elegant beehive-like design. While somewhat dark on the outside, it is full of light on the inside:

Inside the Harpa Concert Hall

The bar at the Concert Hall left us puzzled. What did they mean by Scandinavian Pain?

The Harbor of Reykjavík is an integral part of the city. One can see big fishing and cargo vessels, coast guard ships and carefully preserved small vintage boats:

One doesn’t have to be in the harbor to tell that this is a port city:

Another point of interest is this inconspicuous building, the former french consulate, called Höfði. Back in 1986 it hosted the summit between the US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. This summit was a key step in ending the Cold War.

The Höfði House

Being the capital of Iceland, Reykjavík hosts the Ice Museum. In additional to an interesting and highly educational content it features a noteworthy architecture.

Above: an interactive display at the Ice Museum; below: Ice Museum interior and observation deck.


There is no lack of great places to eat in Reykjavík. I liked Sæta Svínið Gastropub at Ingólfur Square. The Harpa Concert Hall and the Ice Museum have nice restaurants inside as well. Iceland is a fishermen’s country, so try fresh local fish whenever available. And don’t forget the herring!

Related Galleries: Iceland, Reykjavík

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