27 Reasons to start planning that Reykjavik trip immediately
In the dead of winter it gets just four hours of sunlight, but there's never a dull moment in Iceland's capital city.
These days Reykjavik is trending all year 'round.
In fact, 1.7 million dropped by in 2016 and an eye-popping 2.5 million are expected in 2019, making right now the perfect time to book your trip. If you ask locals, there's a buzz about the place that hasn't been felt since before the financial meltdown in 2008, which, while a touch foreboding from an economic perspective, is ideal if you like your getaways to be firmly in vogue.
But isn't it horrendously expensive?
Well yes, it can be, but the price of a pint is considerably less scandalous for Irish visitors than for, say, people who come from parts of the world where they are unaccustomed to being swindled on an hourly basis.
And really; how much damage can you possible do in two or three days? ???
Here's everything you need to know:
- If mobility is an issue for any reason, get a cab or a mini bus from the bus depot into town. Otherwise the 10 minute walk is a fun crunch through the fallen snow, even if you arrive late at night.
- Buses are on time, clean, modern and super cosy, making travelling more enjoyable than elsewhere. No matter what time your flight, there will be a bus waiting to collect you or take you back to the airport (they plan around arrivals and departures) but book it in advance online for peace of mind.
Where to stay
If partying forms part of your plans (or even if you like a few quiet glasses of wine), choose accommodation in the city. It's oddly quiet in the many little streets off the centre of town. Our cute and cosy AirBNB was a five-minute stroll from Laugavegur (Wash Road - named after the hot springs where locals used to wash their clothes), the main shopping and socialising street.
- It's no secret that partying in Reykjavik is more expensive than your average city break (94% of the price of a beer is tax, by the way) but smart visitors have uncovered ways and means of getting more cocktail for your krona.
- First and foremost: download the Appy Hour app. It's an invaluable live guide to which pubs and restaurants are offering half-price deals on drinks at any given time.
- Bravo (Laugavegur 22) is an atmospheric little spot to plug in your phone charger and warm your cockles (the window seats are built on a radiator, FYI), while Boston (look out for the entrance at Laugavegur 28b) is a quirky spot with excellent bar food, a heated smoking terrace and some of the best oysters in town. Rumour has it that Bjork pops in occasionally too.
- Around the corner from Bravo, Kiki's Queer Bar has a pop 'n' classics dance floor policy and you can let loose 'til late.
- Two words: The bread. Dr Atkins would turn in his grave if he saw the queue outside for fresh breads and pastries at Braud & Co. There is no low-carbing in Iceland so leave your nonsense at home and have a sandwich.
- Not only is the Icelandic hot dog renowned as being the best in the world, it's the perfect hot snack while you're strolling the harbour area. It's also about the cheapest thing you can eat in Reykjavik at just 400kr!
- The city's hipster vibe has attracted many stylish restaurants to its shores. Though we found it by accident, Lobster and Stuff in the harbour area was the perfect spot to try out a selection of thoughtful dishes based on the best local seafood. Try the langoustine soup and the mixed langoustine starter - both sensational.
- For a dark and cosy escape from the biting cold, huddle up in Saeta Svinid, a cosy-cool gastropub. A pint is around €9.70 and a glass of house wine is around the €12 mark, plus they run a daily happy hour from 3pm to 6pm. If you're hanging around on a Sunday their Roast Lamb Dinner (for two people) is completely delicious as well as being a complete steal at just 6,200ISK ( €50).
- Joe and the Juice is a juice bar with a variety of really excellent healthy options. There's one at the airport and on Laugavegur. There's also a Dunkin Donuts in both these locations. Just sayin'. If you're travelling on a budget, fill your fridge with goodies from Bónus on Hallveigarstigur.
Stuff to see
- From the Northern Lights to the Golden Circle, whale watching to lounging about in the Blue Lagoon or one of countless other natural geothermal hot springs, there is plenty to keep you occupied in Reykjavik.
- Don't miss the obligatory selfie at Hallgrímskirkja (you can climb the viewing tower for sweeping shots of the city and surrounding mountains).
- The sparkling cube of glass rising from the sea off the harbour is Harpa, Reykjavik's distinctive concert hall and the home of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.
- A lesser known stop is the Icelandic Punk Museum, located in a converted underground public toilet. Opened by Johnny Rotten last year, it's a fun nod to anarchy in Bankastræti 2, smack bang in the city centre. And the ideal backdrop for some awesome selfies.
- You'll find traditional woolen sweaters in every colour at Kolaportio, the weekly Flea Market by the harbour. These are the perfect buy for people who like to pack light: chances are you'll be wearing yours throughout your trip.
- For neo-Scandi chic, hit Geysir or browse the rails of locally designed pieces at Kiosk on Laugavegur 65.
Iceland has a very low crime rate and is very safe for solo travellers. The people are helpful and open.
Don't buy bottled water. Icelandic tap water is as pure and fresh as it comes. Locals find it funny when tourists stock up on bottles.
If you visit the Blue Lagoon (which you should, its mind blowing) bring an intensive conditioner and put it on while you're in the water. Silica is great for your skin but it is murder on your hair. Read our Blue Lagoon Guide here.
Tipping: Icelanders get paid a living wage so they're not dependent on tips. Obviously this doesn't mean they don't appreciate them!