The northernmost capital in the globe, Reykjavik is situated in the southwest of Iceland. Travelers from all over the world go to this well-known tourist site to experience life in this "land of endless cold." After all, this country is literally known as "the land of ice". People travel to Reykjavik, the capital city of the Scandinavian Vikings, to learn about these hardy people and to take a dip in the thermal hot springs. Reykjavik is surrounded by mountains, which makes it a perfect city for helicopter tours. The same is true if you also want to witness the raw beauty of this volcanic country’s nature.
Hadlgrímskirkja Lutheran Church
Hadlgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church in the center of Reykjavík. It is not only the largest church in Reykjavik but also the tallest building in all of Iceland, reaching a height of 75 meters. The building is distinctly modernist in style, its towering spire is the main attraction of Reykjavik. The church resembles a mountain peak - the architect had the idea that the structure should look like part of the natural landscape of Iceland with its mountains that surround the city of Reykjavik, alongside Iceland’s rocks, and glaciers. And it was made so tall because Reykjavik’s Lutheran clergy wanted it to be higher than the city's Catholic cathedral. The construction of this unique building began in 1945 and was completed only 41 years later.
The sculpture "Sun Voyager" literally translated from Icelandic as "sunny ship" is located near the Atlantic coast, on Saebraut Road in the city of Reykjavik. It was created by Jon Gunnar Arnason and won first place in the competition for the best street sculpture to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Reykjavik. At the unveiling of the monument, the artist said that the Sun Voyager is a nod to the legend, according to which ancient Europeans followed the sun in search of Mongolia, while their descendants migrated to Iceland and founded Reykjavik. The Sun Wanderer is an ode to the sun and is embodied in a huge abstract steel sculpture that resembles a Viking ship.
Iceland National Museum
The complete history of Iceland, from the earliest Viking settlements to the present, is displayed at the National Museum of Iceland, found in 1863. The history of Icelandic settlement and Jarl rule is depicted in the museum. The exhibition also features swords, a bronze figure of Thor (the Norse god of thunder), and horn cups. The door of the 13th-century Valpjofstadur church, however, is the most priceless object in the museum. It shows a knight slaying monsters and rescuing a lion who would grow to be his beloved companion. The museum has more than 2,000 objects and is housed in a distinctive structure. The exhibitions can also be enjoyed with the aid of an audio guide.
Take your time to stroll through the center of Reykjavik. Small businesses maintained by locals are very different from the regular souvenir shops we are all accustomed to. They offer interesting products like crockery made of volcanic rock and garments made of Icelandic wool. Wander around the stores and stop by the restaurants serving genuine Icelandic cuisine. Enjoy the pleasant seaside breeze on the city's waterfront while exploring the city's attractions. In the late afternoon, the area around the Sun Voyager sculpture becomes the setting for the most magical sunsets in all of Iceland. The city center is an excellent starting point for visiting the area's noteworthy sights and learning about Iceland's diverse history and culture. The stunning Harpa concert hall, the Hofdi House, the site of the historic meeting between American President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and numerous other Reykjavik landmarks are among these.
The most popular type of relaxing vacation in the city of Reykjavik is visiting public thermal pools. Reykjavik possesses 17 pools of water from the natural thermal springs of Iceland. Locals come here to meet friends and relax. The thermal pools are an important part of Icelandic culture and allow visitors to experience the local customs as well as the unique healing properties of the hot springs. To get the most out of the Icelandic hot springs it is best to take a day trip to the popular Blue Lagoon thermal complex. Another thermal body of water close to Reykjavik is Lake Kleifarvatn. It’s one of the few thermal bodies of water in the world where snorkeling is possible.
Fans of the Vikings and Norse mythology won't regret visiting Reykjavik. The Saga Museum tells the story of the warlike ancient Scandinavians, the founders of Reykjavik, and their influence on the history of Iceland. Some of the exhibits depicting the lives of the first Icelandic settlers look rather intimidating and "bloodthirsty". Visitors are greeted by wax figures of rugged Vikings who smashed everything in their path or roamed with weapons in their hands in search of new lands. The museum also has an exhibition showing the lives of Reykjavik's ordinary peasants. Almost all of the wax sculptures can be photographed.
If the Saga Museum has picked your interest by showing you the early history of Reykjavik, you might want to visit the exhibition dedicated to Iceland's settlements and the people who inhabited them. The exhibition is at the City Museum and is called Reykjavík 871+/-2. The exhibition is named so unusually because historians are still trying to figure out the exact year of Reykjavik's founding - it was supposedly founded around 871, but some believe the city was founded a year earlier or a year later. The centerpiece of the exhibition is the so-called "hall", which was discovered in 2001. Scientists believe that people lived in this place between 910 and 1000. The hall is one of the most ancient man-made structures in Reykjavik and all of Iceland. There are also relics and cultural objects of Vikings.
Perlan (Perlan means "pearl" in Icelandic) is one of the main attractions in Reykjavik. The Pearl building is used for a variety of purposes. On the first floor, also known as the Winter Garden, there is an exhibition hall and a concert hall. And the glass dome contains 6 huge tanks with hot thermal water, which is used for the city's needs. Between the tanks is an atrium, and on the fourth floor, there is a viewing platform with a telescope, which offers a panorama of Reykjavik and its surroundings. Next to the building, on top of Oskjuhlid hill, is an artificial geyser built in 1988.
Arbaer Open Air Museum
Arbaer Museum is a great place to explore Reykjavik's past. Until 1957 it was a functioning farm, which has since been transformed into a living history museum. Here you will be greeted by staff dressed in historic farmer costumes, and you can see for yourself how people lived in Reykjavik many years ago. To form the main part of the museum, 20 houses were moved to Arbaer from downtown Reykjavik. The museum exhibits cover different periods of Reykjavik's history and events are held on the grounds of the former farm, including craft days and antique car exhibitions.
Close to Reykjavik is the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland with water of incredible blue color. The waterfall is formed by cascades of water streams converging in one place. No wonder Bruarfoss is very popular among photography enthusiasts. When planning a hike to the falls, you should consider having extra time in case of bad weather: the road can be slippery, making it difficult to navigate. A pair of spare, sturdy boots will save you the trouble, and the gorgeous view of the falls will more than pay for the effort. But if you wish to explore more of Iceland’s waterfalls, visit its southern shore, which has served as a backdrop for many movies and is easy to reach from Reykjavik.
The most picturesque area of Reykjavik is in the center of the city near Lake Tjörnin. Colorful houses among flowerbeds, trees, and shrubs are located on its banks. In the warm season, this place is suitable for quiet walks, and during winter you can skate here. On the northern shore of the pond are the City Hall and the ironic Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat created by the sculptor Magnus Thomasson. The statue is of a man in a suit with a briefcase in his hands, his upper body bricked up in an untreated block of stone. Not far from the lake are the Supreme Court, the Free Church of Reykjavik, the National Theater, and many different museums, among them the Museum of Living Art, the National Gallery of Iceland, and the National Museum. Lake Tjörnin is known for its ducks, geese, and swans, and the warm thermal water allows the birds to stay in the city all year round.
Sealife has always been an important aspect of living in Reykjavik and Iceland in general. This is especially true when it comes to whales. The Whale Museum is located next to the harbor in the Grandi area of Reykjavik, among many other places for family vacations offered by the city. Here you can learn everything about the 23 species of whales that inhabit the waters of Iceland. The museum features life-size models of whales, and surrounding sound and light effects create the illusion of being in the natural habitat of these sea giants. The museum exhibits are the result of collaboration between the whale-watching organization and the Marine Research Institute of Iceland. You can see models of blue whales, sperm whales, humpback whales, fin whales, minke whales, killer whales, as well as dolphins of different species. Next to each exhibit is information about the behavior and migration routes of the animal. The whale museum’s equipment even allows tracking whales in real-time.
Aurora Borealis Center
The Aurora is an information center in Reykjavik where you can see what the Aurora Borealis looks like in all its glory. Aurora Borealis is produced by the collision of electrically charged particles emanating from the sun with the upper layers of the atmosphere. During winter in Reykjavik, you can see this phenomenon with your own eyes - as long as there are clear skies at night. In addition, for good visibility, you need clean air, so it is better to go to the coast, out of the city, or take a boat in Reykjavik’s harbor to enjoy Aurora borealis from the sea and experience one of the most majestic natural phenomena - the night sky glistening in shades of green, pink, yellow, and blue.
The Golden Ring
Despite Reykjavik being Iceland’s most popular tourist destination, its outskirts have much to offer as well. This 300-kilometer circular route, which leads from the city of Reykjavík to the southern uplands of Iceland, is home to three of the most impressive out-of-town attractions. At the first stop, an hour east of the city, is Tingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This park is home to a canyon that was formed by a rift between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, and the Althing, the oldest parliament in the world, founded in 930. Also in the park is the beautiful two-step Gullfoss waterfall, 32 meters high, and the Haukadalur Valley with thermal springs and mud geysers, including the famous Strokkur geyser which erupts every 5-10 minutes. Through the Golden Ring, you can take a group tour with a guide or rent a car and travel independently. Tourists who value solitude can camp in Tingvellir Park and stay overnight to enjoy the natural surroundings in the light of the midnight polar sun.