Friday, August 8, 2014

Reykjavik, Iceland

Executive summary by darmansjah

Best For Views
Skulpturinterior is puritanically plain. For a view of the city, take a lift up its 75m-high tower (00 354 510 1000;; skolavorouhot; 9am-8pm Mon-Sat, 9am-8pm Sun Jul and Aug, 9am-5pm Sep-Jun; US$2).

Best For History
The bloodthirsty Saga Museum is where Icelandic history is brought to life by eerie silicon models and a -1517;; 10am-6pm Apr-Sept, 12pm-5pm Oct-Mar; US$8)

Best For Bathing
As the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, so the Blue Lagoon is to Iceland. In a black lave field, the milky-blue spa is fed by water from the futuristic Svartsengi geothermal plant (00 354 420 8800;; 9am-9pm Jun-Aug, 10am-9pm Sep-May; US$39).

Best For Art
Einar Jonsson is Icelands’s foremost sculptor, famous for his symbolist works. For a taste, visit the Einar Jonsson Museum and its sculpture garden (00 354 551 3797;; Eiriksgata; opening times vary throughout the year; us$5).

Best For Wildlife
Iceland is a fantastic place for whale-watching-its water are home to over 20 species of cetacean. Between April and October, Elding runs trips from Reykjavik’s old harbor. Fom mid-May to mid-August, boats also visit 50,000 nesting puffins (00 354 555 3565;; US$47)

Why Go?
Reykjavik’s charms lie in its contrasts. In summer the streets are washed by 22 hours of daylight; in winter there’s never-ending night. Like any contemporary European city, it has fine museums, cosy café and top restaurants – plus surreal volcanic landscapes nearby.

When To Go
Iceland’s biggest festivals, the Menningarnott (culture night) and the Iceland Airwaves music festival, are in August and October respectively. Whale-watching season is April to October, and the northern lights are best seen on clear nights in the autumn and early spring.

How To Go
Fly into Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London or Paris before connecting to Reykjavik’s Keflavik International Airport with Icelandair ( Keflavik airport is 30 miles from the city; the flybus shuttle goes to the city centre (US$9.50; Taxis cost US$55.

Eat & Drink
Shining white décor doesn’t disguise the old-fashioned soul of Mulakaffi. Hearty local meals such as 7737;; Hallarmuli; lunch and dinner Mon-Fri and Sun, lunch Sat; meals Us$8-Us$16).

Owner-chef Ulfar eysteinsson has built an excellent reputation at Prir Frakkar. Specialities include salt cod and fish stew with black bread and non-fish foods, such as seal, puffin and reindeer steaks (00 354 552 3939;; Baldursgate 14; lunch and dinner Mon-Fri, dinner Sat-Sun; mains US$24-US$35).

Fiskmarkaourinn infuses Icelandic seafood with Far-Eastern flavours, with a focus on local produce. The Farmer’s Market menu mixes Icelandic spcialities (lobsters from Hofn, halibut from Breioafjorour) with chillis, papaya, and coconut (00 354 578 8877;; aolstraeti 12; lunch and dinner Mon-Fri, dinner Sat and Sun; mains Us$24-US$32).

The Hilton’s five-star Vox serves seasonal dishes such as goose with caramelized apples, as well as sushi and ‘smushi’ – small squares of rye bread topped with fish, cheese or veg (00 354 444 5050; suourlandsbraut 2; lunch Mon-Fri, dinner Wed-Sat; bistro every day; mains US@4-Us$39).

Perched on the city’s water tanks, Perlan revolves once every two hours. Views are superb, as is the nouvelle cuisine of reindeer with creamed barley (00 354 562 0200;; oskjuhlio; dinne; US$35-US$52).


Reykjavik Campsite is popular in summer, with space for 650 people. It has free showers, bike hire and a kitchen and barbecue area. You can buy gas and postcards at reception and use the nearby hostel’s laundry room to wash clothes (00 354 568 6944;; sundlaugavegur 32; mid-May to mid-Sep; sites US$6 per person).

Sunna Guesthouse has simple rooms with parquet floor. The rooms at the front have views of Hallgrimskirkja. Alternatively, choose between neat studio apartments for up to four people, or larger apartments to sleep eight (00 354 511 5570;; porsgata 26; doubles from US$70, apartment from US$71).

Situated in a conservation area, Forsaela Guesthouse is a lovely option. Star of the show is the 100-year-old wood-and-tin house with old beams, which sleeps up to eight people. Three apartment have small but cosy bedrooms and sitting rooms, and fully equipped kitchens. There’s a minimum three-night stay (00 354 551 6046;; grettisgata 33b; doubles from US$79, apt from US$110, house US$330).

Characterful Hotel Pingholt was designed by architect Gulla Jondottir, who used natural materials and took inspiration from Icelandic nature to create this boutique hotel. Rooms are snug with mood lighting and leather headboards (00 354 595 8530;; Pingholtsstraeti 3-5; from Us$220).

Black and White décor, parquet floor and Bang & Olufsen TVs are standard at the Hotel Borg. The period bathrooms are equipped with Philippe Starck fittings and heated marble floor (00 354 551 1440;; Posthusstraeti 11; from US$340).


Find Your Way
The Straeto bus system offers easy transport in Reykjavik (US$5 for a one-day pass; Bus stops are marked with a yellow ‘S’. hire bikes from Borgarhjol Sf (US$19 per day; Taxis are available at bus stations and outside bars (US$9.50 minimum fare).

Typical Costs
Hand-knitted sweater US$190, Mid-range meal US$39-US$47, Mid-range hotel from US$110, High-end hotel from US$315.

Your Recommendations

Top Dog by Jesse Llande
Shrouded in such legend it rivals even the sagas, Baejarins Beztu is the most famous hotdog stand in Reykjavik. It’s cheap and delicious – a rare find. We ordered four hotdogs with everything! I glimpsed a photo of a grinning Bill Clinton eating one of the hotdogs, and that was that, my experience had a presidential seal of approval (; 10am-1am sun-Thur, 11am-4am Fri-Sat).

A Friendly Face by Steve Tupper
The first greeting from the guys who run the Hotel Phoenix shows you’ll be treated as one of the family. They saved us lots of time finding a good eatery on our first night and showed us the short routes to the major public hot tubs. Rooms are a good size and beds fairly firm. Being Iceland, the heating is very adjustable! Most of the city sights are within a 10-minute walk (00 354 511 5002;; Laugavegur 140; from US$125).

Wonder Walk by Kat Buck
Take a walk along the seafront into old town centre with the crisp Icelandic air biting at your face. Not another tourist in sight, just locals in their seasonal attire walking their dogs against a backdrop of moody, slate-grey ocean and mountain peaks. As you approach town, you’ll see an unusual sculpture half Viking Ship, half whale skeleton – casting a giant spider-like shadow.

Iceland has a comprehensive chapter on the capital, which you can also download from for some stunning photography of Iceland and its inhabitants, look up Ragnar Axelsson’s book Faces of the North. is the national tourist website, while is a good resource for planning activities.

1 comment:

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