The world’s most northerly capital combines colourful buildings, quirky, creative people, eye-popping design, wild nightlife and a capricious soul. Reykjavík is believed to be the location of the first permanent settlement in Iceland, which, according to Ingólfur Arnarson, was established in AD 874. Until the 19th century, there was no urban development in the city location.
Food & Nightlife
Reykjavík is strikingly cosmopolitan for its size. It’s merely a town by international standards, compared with London or Paris, yet it’s loaded with captivating art, rich culinary choices, and cool cafes and bars. The capital has seen a recent surge in restaurant openings, many of the highest standard, and expressing all manner of culinary creativity.
Cafes by day turn into restaurants and bars at night. Tapas-style dining, high-concept Icelandic cuisine and burger joints all rub shoulders.
The Great Outdoors
Even if you come to Reykjavík for a short visit, be sure to take a trip to the countryside. Tours and services abound, and understanding Reykjavík and its people is helped by understanding the vast, raw and gorgeous land they anchor.
The majority of Icelanders live in the capital, but you can guarantee their spirits also roam free across the land. Absorb what you see, hear, taste, smell – all part of Iceland’s rich heritage. Take Reykjavík, then add its snow-topped mountains, churning seas and crystal-clear air, and you will fall helplessly in love, returning home already saving to come back.
Art & Design
The capital’s art museums and galleries are perfect for seeing what the Settlers’ modern-day ancestors are up to. You’ll be able to explore exhibition spaces, like the outstanding Reykjavík Art Museum and National Gallery, and shops featuring cutting-edge Icelandic design. Or wrap your head around edgy contemporary art galleries showcasing emerging and internationally famous Icelandic artists.
If the moving image is more your style, Reykjavík also presents the chance to see Icelandic cinema with English subtitles. Or, wander the streets photographing creative graffiti and public art installations, like the ever-popular seaside Sun Voyager sculpture, changing guises along with the light.
Why I Love Reykjavík
The pretty, colourful buildings, surrounding silvery seas and charming small scale are lovely, but I especially enjoy getting off the main tourist drags and dipping into the capital’s rich culture. I hit the galleries and cafes, then head to one of the geothermal pools to see what Reykjavikers of all ages are getting up to in their spare time. I also make sure to try new restaurants (before circling back to old favorites), and take my vitamins so I can dance at one of the jammed late-night clubs.
Source: Lonely Planet