Reykjavik – a city of contrasts

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The popularity of the TV show The Game of Thrones has meant a dramatic rise in Iceland’s tourism in recent years. Thanks to the fact many locations have been featured in the series, the country - and its capital Reykjavik - have become a dream destination for many.

Smoky Bay

The small Nordic country has a diverse landscape, an impressive gastronomy scene and astonishing natural wonders that are easily accessible. Whatever time of the year you visit Iceland there is plenty to do whether you head straight to the city or go further afield.

Reykjavik – meaning ‘Smoky Bay’ - offers many different museums, art galleries and all kinds of shows and concerts a well as a vast choice of eateries offering a mix of Icelandic cuisine, a la carte restaurants, fast food outlets or enchanting cafes.

Full of Surprises

Located in south-western Iceland it is by far the largest community in the country. The capital area has five different municipalities and around two thirds of the country’s total population – and is also one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. Offering a range of cultural and nature-filled experiences, the city is full of surprises making it a perfect destination for a city break.

Reykjavik’s coastline is characterised by peninsulas and many small islands. It is a natural harbour and therefore fishing – and seafood - is a huge part of its culture. Across the bay, Mount Esja rises to 914m and stands tallest among a variety of different natural sights.

Most of the sights in Iceland are geological wonders, such as waterfalls, lava plains, hot geysers. The Blue Lagoon, which many tourists see on their way from the airport, is one of the most popular attractions alongside ice glaciers, volcanoes, rock formations and black sand beaches. Icelanders love to sit in hot tubs and pools, often the place for lively morning discussions and debates. Booking a session is highly recommended.

Art and Culture

Despite being smaller than most capitals in the world with just 100,000 residents, it is full of life with a thriving music culture, interesting art scene and a plentiful supply of superb museums and attractions.

The National Museum hosts the country’s most famous artefacts. It allows you to explore life through Iceland’s settlement, Viking and modern eras. To see how much domestic life has changed in Iceland, a visit to the Saga Museum is a must. Located by the Reykjavik harbour, it’s filled with wax dolls and reconstructed farms, giving you a sense of how life was centuries ago.

For art lovers, Reykjavik Art Museum showcases work from Erró, Kjarval and Ásmundur Sveinsson, three of Iceland’s most prominent artists.

When you’ve finished ducking in and out of museums and galleries, stroll around the city’s beautiful Old Town, exploring the intricately coloured houses and the city hall. When you take a look around you will spot the famous Hallgrimskirkja church which, at 74.5m high, is visible from any point in the city. The majestic white building is Iceland’s largest church and sits at the top of the central art and shopping street in Reykjavik.

Northern Lights

A trip to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without seeing the aurora borealis, better known as the Northern Lights. They can be seen from various high-latitude countries in the world but in Iceland, you can spot the spectacular sight from Reykjavik. Visible during the long Icelandic winter, the best time to see the lights is between September and March, when the nights are longest.

Cuisine

Thanks to its coastal position you can eat a wide variety of seafood on a daily basis such as cod and salmon to langoustines and lobster. Situated near the marina, the Matur og Drykkur restaurant specialises in traditional cuisine, which includes goat’s cheese, bacalao and halibut. There isn’t a wide choice of fast food but if you like hot dogs then Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is a tiny hot dog stand that has become an attraction on its own – particularly since a visit from US President Bill Clinton in 2004.

There is no doubt that Iceland stands alone in terms of its contrasts and natural geographic beauty. Coupled with a warm welcome to melt what can be a country with a natural chill, there’s everything to offer the intrepid traveller.