06 Feb 4 DAYS IN REYKJAVIK PART 1 | Fairy Lights, Sagas and Espressos
For the past couple of years myself & Scott have done a city break in January for his birthday. Works for me cause I have something to look forward to in the bleakness of the post Christmas period.
2015 we did London. 2016 we did Edinburgh. So, for 2017 we decided to do a slightly longer trip & check out (yes you guessed it!) REYKJAVIK.
Iceland has seemed to be growing in popularity as a holiday destination in the past few years. I don’t know about you but it felt like all of a sudden friends of friends and acquaintances on Facebook were heading to Reykjavik, a bit like two years ago seemingly EVERYONE was going to Amsterdam.
It’s somewhere that never would have even entered my head as a city break possibility a couple of years ago and as we got closer and closer to heading the realisation that I was jetting off to an island I associated with Bjork, Sigor Ros and not much else, I started to get very excited.
The flight took just over two hours from Belfast which I found surprising. But I mean if you look at a map, Iceland isn’t actually that far away. What really surprised me though was that there was no time difference.
My first impression as we alighted the plane was that the air felt especially fresh. We took the Flybus from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik which took roughly 45 mins. It felt longer however because I was champing at the bit to actually get a sense of this strange land. The bus journey didn’t give away much aside from a few road signs in Icelandic and the odd house here and there along the highway.
I found it odd that the houses we passed had fairy lights round their windows. Dismissing it as a few straggling Christmas lights, little did I know that fairy lights were going to play a massive part in my perception of Iceland because Icelandic people seem to absolutely love them. They were everywhere. Houses, restaurants, shops, bars… the Icelandic people are all about fairy lights it seems. Maybe it’s a Scandinavian thing. Like Hygge. Atmospheric lighting’s a big part of Hygge.
When we FINALLY arrived at the bus station, we hopped quickly into a taxi and within five minutes arrived at our hotel – Hotel Odinsve (this would not be our last Nordic gods reference in the duration of the trip.) We chucked our bags in and didn’t waste any time getting out and taking a look about.
There were no skyscrapers or bustling streets, we walked out of the hotel into what felt like a very quiet little town. There were very little chain restaurants (apart from Subway) or chain stores, it was almost entirely local, independent boutique shops and independent restaurants and cafes.
We weren’t far from Hallgrimskirkja, the only building that could be considered tall in Reykjavik. An odd, slightly ominous looking Church, it was lit up with, yep, fairy lights at night.
For our first meal we didn’t put in much of a restaurant search. I think it was the second restaurant we passed that we decided on as the need for food was now paramount.
Luckily, they had what I had been super excited to try: Icelandic fish stew and oh man it really hit the spot. It was super creamy and composed of mainly potatoes and fish, served up with rocket and rye bread. I’d never tried rye bread before. It was very sweet but surprisingly went well with the fish stew. I’m salivating at just the thought of that damn fish stew. I’ll have to try and make it some time cause it was so good. This was our first encounter with Iceland’s love for seafood.
We were pretty wrecked after travelling for most of the day so decided to have an early one after dinner. So, saving the exploring for tomorrow, we embarked on the surprisingly short walk back to the hotel.
I usually like to get up super early when on holiday to make the most of the trip but in Iceland in winter it doesn’t actually get light until 10.30am so we decided to have a bit of lie in until it lightened up outside.
Our first stop was Hallgrimskirkja for a closer look. This was a 5 min walk. What I came to discover was that Reykjavik is actually really small. I mean, I knew it was small but I don’t think I was prepared for how un-cityish it would feel.
Then we *finally* got breakfast. Scott was insistent that we go over and see Hallgrimskirkja first and breakfast after so I was starving by the time we found this cute lil cafe called Cafe Babalu, famous for its cheesecake. I just got a delicious bacon, egg & cheese panini though. One of the many quirks I enjoyed about Reykjavik was that they seemed to serve wholemeal bread by default.
Not that I’m a health freak, I just prefer wholemeal bread ok?
For the rest of the day we explored the harbour area of the city. Starting at the Sun Voyager, a boat sculpture by the sea, we worked our way toward the famous Harpa concert hall then arrived into the harbour district where we decided to check out the Saga museum.
If you’re looking for a bit of Icelandic history that goes way back to the very founding of the island then this is a good shout. Comprised of wax figures of cavemen and various other historic figures in a dimly lit setting, you’re given headphones on arrival that describe the history behind the wax interpretations.
Perhaps a bit too in-depth that at points it verged on getting a little tedious, I enjoyed it nonetheless. If you have a short attention span I wouldn’t recommend this museum.
HOWEVER, if you enjoy dressing up as a viking I DO recommend the Saga museum.
On the way back to the hotel after we made a quick stop at the independent record store I’d heard so much about: 12 Tonár.
We were offered espressos on arrival and invited to sit and just listen to music. It was all incredibly chill. They were playing such chilled out atmospheric music that I felt compelled to buy the CD. It turned out to be Icelandic composer Johann Johansson’s “Orphée.” Definitely give it a listen. Guaranteed to instantly make you feel like you’re in a particularly emotional movie scene.
I thought it was a nice touch that they had such a strong emphasis on showcasing local music. If you’re thinking about buying anything in 12 Tonár though please beware that it is very expensive. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the CDs are normal CD prices if you don’t understand the mental Icelandic Krona. My CD ended up being something like the equivalent of £23. Gulp.
Anyway, have you seen enough of my holiday photos for one day?
I’m going to cover the rest of the trip in a separate post (SPOILER: we went on the Golden Circle Tour & made the most of happy hour) so stayed tuned for that yeah?