Iceland’s Capital, Reykjavik, is the smallest and perhaps most charming capital city I’ve been to so far! Very much like a Scandinavian town, the style of the buildings are comforting and you know that you are 100% safe when walking around this city, even in the dead of night (it’s one of the safest countries in the world). This is a place I had wanted to get to for years, and with limited time I had to make do with 48 hours and 30 minutes in the country. Not nearly as much as required to see the whole country, but long enough to hit the 3 most popular attractions and try some of the local delicacies!
My first recommendation is to hit the Blue Lagoon on the way from the airport. All the airport buses to the city stop here on the way in, so you can hop off and back on easily with your ticket! If you fly in late at night though don’t panic, as you can always hit the blue lagoon on your way back home. For those of you who are slightly confused by what this lagoon thing I’m going on about is, it’s a geothermal spa that is a must visit if you enjoy a good relax and wish to cover yourself in silica mud (good for the skin, like a chocolate bar is good for the spirit).
When looking for accommodation in Reykjavik, you can find everything from budget hostels to luxury hotels all fit into the charming city style - literally nothing looks out of place here (of what I saw anyway!). From our backpacker accommodation at the Bus Hostel, all the way to the most luxurious hotel, such as KeaHotel, there is a bed for one and all. Keep in mind though, as you may have heard, Iceland is on the more expensive side so you’re not going to get as much for your dollar. A hostel bed will cost between £15-£25/night, and a hotel room starting from £75 - so more than your average city break but less than you may expect!
The next step is finding dishes to eat! Iceland has many traditional dishes, some absolutely delicious and others that, I’m sure are lovely, but not my cup of tea… From Hangikjöt (Smoked Lamb) and Kjötsúpa (Meat soup), then the delights of “Ein með öllu” - the iconic Icelandic hot dog all the way to perhaps the less tempting Hákarl (Cured Shark) or Svið (Singed and boiled Sheep Head). I’ll let you decide what your favourite is when you visit! I have to say though, the meat soup was super. If you’re a fan of burgers though, there are so many american style burger bars which are cheap and delicious. These guys seriously know their way around a cooking a cow!
As in any city, a walking tour is in order and it’s worth checking out Hallgrimskirkja Church - the really big building that looks like a cathedral for those of you who are easily confused! My other favourites were The Pearl, The Old Harbour and Imagine Peace Tower. Each of these are major points of pride to the Icelandic people and I loved being told all about them by the locals. If you can, hook up with CityWalk - run completely on donations and the place to be if you want to learn all about the staple sites of Reykjavik!
From Reykjavik, you can access a world of adventures and tours, from the Golden Circle and the Northern Lights, to Icelandic Horse Racing, Glacier Hikes and even diving between the two divergent tectonic plates! Once again, keep in mind that Iceland isn’t a cheap place to experience new adventures but with a list starting with the above, how could you resist! Check out Reykjavik Excursions website for a more thorough list of all the activities to try - there really are hundreds.
For gifts & souvenirs to take home, you have a huge range to choose from! If you’re a fan of the dreaded C word (Christmas guys), then you will find a huge selection at the festive shops open all year round, my travel buddy and photographer Rosie absolutely loved the hanging decorations she found. You may also like the Icelandic Volcanic salts (for cooking, not bath salts - I got very confused at first). As you can imagine, the salt is completely black but we were told it tastes great when cooked on lamb - I’ll let you be the judge if you are bold enough to try some. You can also grab some of the delicious Icelandic chocolate, I know it’s not somewhere that comes to mind when you think of chocolate delights but it really should be! If you really love someone, you can splurge and instead of the typical magnet / keyring combo buy them an Icelandic Jumper. These are pretty pricey but you can find some gorgeous and snuggy ones all down the main street of Reykjavik.
Finally, I have to mention Konsull Cafe and Bar. If you can get here you must have a coffee and a slice of cake. After a long day exploring we hit this cosy little shop and enjoyed the most delicious warm drinks you can imagine while in an old fashioned charming setting.
So, if you’re heading to Iceland and staying in Reykjavik for a portion of your trip I hope this has helped give you a little! I wish I had longer here and had managed to hire a car to explore the island a little further with, as there are so many towns, waterfalls and incredible scenery to check out. Please let me know if the comments if I’ve missed anything major and if you want a more compact idea on Iceland, check out my Two Minute Guide to Iceland.