It seemed very daft to spend time in Iceland and not check out its largest city, housing around 120,000 of the population. I didn’t have long however, around 24 hours to be exact, so I hit the streets with my camera and a few thousand Kroner to get to know the city deemed one of the greenest, cleanest and safest in the world.
I’d literally walked 2 minutes from my hostel when I came across a rather bizarre window display. Written proudly and comically on the t-shirt staring back at me was “THIS MUSEUM IS NOT FOR PUSSIES”. That was enough to catch my attention! Balancing on the kerb I looked up to find myself standing outside the Icelandic Phallological Museum – hosting a collection of more than 215 penises. I was on a strict budget so could not afford the £6 equivalent entrance fee, but wandering around the gift shop provided my childish self with a cheeky grin for the rest of the day.
Moving swiftly on I continued along the road I started on, only to realise soon enough that I was in fact wandering down the main high street of the city. I couldn’t believe it. There were no crowds pushing and shoving from every direction, no smell of exhaust fumes or vending stalls to dodge. Instead I felt a sense of calm; little golden lights aided in keeping the city ‘alive’ during these dark months and local people, in their few, wandered about minding their own business. What I loved the most was the shops, not because I am mad about clothes, but because I didn’t recognise a single one. There was no indication that a Starbucks existed and I couldn’t smell a McDonald’s (which is because they cannot compete with local fast food joints and so refuse to build on the island, hah!). Every building had a quirky-ness about it whether it was bright green or covered in graffiti, inside little local delights and hand-made jumpers were up for grabs. In amongst them, unique restaurants stood out with their localised menus offering anything from Minke whale to the traditional sheep soup. And as for the bars, well, I can definitely recommend Hlemmur Square – it is a rather posh hostel which offers beers from all over the world, including tasty produce from a local brewery.
Upon turning a corner, the impressive Hallgrimskirkja church hovered over me, it’s bizarre shape overwhelming the small buildings around it. From the outside it was something to behold, but I was disappointed by the modern, concrete interior which had me exiting within seconds of stepping foot inside. However, it did have a very nice organ. There was an option to take the elevator 12 floors to admire the views for a £3 charge and I was too intrigued to scoff at the price. It was completely worth it; my photo’s below will give a good idea of the views, even the sun came out!
What with it being winter, the darkness came at 4pm-ish. So, what was there to do in the evenings in Reykjavik? Well, I had heard plenty about the Blue Lagoon but the haunting advertisement, over-pricing and thought of hundreds of tourists packed into one place put me off. Instead, I found a more localised natural hot spring that attracted the city people – Laugardalslaug pool. Highlight: due to the lack of chlorine added to the 38 degree water, everyone is expected to wash thoroughly before entering. Guards in the shower rooms ensure everybody washes every nook and cranny…naked! If you ever find yourself there, do what I did; hold your breath, look to the floor and liberate yourself =)
Have you ever visited Reykjavik? What did you think, what were your highlights?