The city of Reykjavík has a fascinating history stretching back for over a thousand years, having first been inhabited in the eighth century by a band of hardy Norsemen.
Since then Vikings, monks, sailors, musicians, fishermen, politicians, writers, artists and all manner of folk have played their part in shaping the rich history and culture that makes Iceland’s capital such a vibrant and fascinating place.
Visitors leave Reykjavík with a renewed sense of vigour that can be attributed to Iceland’s pristine air and unique energy, which is evident all around the city - from the geothermal vents steaming in the midnight sunshine to the great open spaces that adorn the area with a stunning natural landscape along with the many yearround activities and events that can fill the diary of any interested traveller. Reykjavík is also home to the world’s oldest parliament - the Althing, which was founded in 930 AD - but today the city is the epitome of a modern European capital with a world-class infrastructure, excellent transport links to Europe and North America and 200,000 welcoming Icelanders helping you enjoy your stay.
Renowned for its art scene, sightseeing and nightlife, as well as the annual film and music festivals plus numerous shops, museums and restaurants, there’s no other city like the world’s most Northerly capital, which is situated a relatively-short distance from the Arctic Circle. Visitors from all round the globe also enjoy whale and wildlife watching, relaxing in one of the many thermallyheated spas and pools (such as the famous Blue Lagoon), viewing spectacular sights such as the Imagine Peace Tower (a spectacular tribute to John Lennon) or the Hallgrímskirkja church or touring the amazing countryside - all with the beautiful snow-covered Mount Esja in the background. However long you stay you won’t be short of things to do in Reykjavík, surely one of the world’s most interesting and stunningly-located capital cities. Energising Reykjavík
In Reykjavík, nature is literally at your doorstep. Half-surrounded by a horizon of majestic mountains rising thousands of feet into the sky – visible from just about everywhere in the city on a clear day – you’ll fall in love with the natural beauty of the city’s setting.
Offshore Viðey Island is a lovely spot, just minutes away by ferry. The island, which is a historical site, harbours varied bird-life and interesting sculptural art. The extensive Heiðmörk nature reserve, on the outskirts of Reykjavík, has a splendid volcanic landscape and spectacular views. Just a short drive or bus ride away is the majestic Mount Esja (914 metres) with accessible paths, a favourite place for hiking enthusiasts.
For those wanting more actionpacked nature-based activities, whale- and bird-watching tours leave from the downtown harbour area and horse riding, golfing or salmon fishing are all available within the city limits. The perfect way to experience Reykjavík’s healing energy is to visit one of its many thermal pools and luxury spas, filled with geothermally heated water. A healthy swim, a soak in the thermal hot pots or a relaxing visit to a state-of-the-art spa leaves you feeling in tune with body and Reykjavik city guide soul. The world-famous Blue Lagoon is just a forty-minute drive from the capital. Reykjavík’s abundant supply of geothermal water is even used to heat its Atlantic Ocean coast, creating a warm inlet by a sandy beach at Nauthólsvík just ten minutes from the city centre. Or if you want something truly invigorating, join the new trend of cold-water sea swimming next door!
The city’s thermal pools are always pleasantly warm, whatever the weather, and most pools are open-air. All have outdoor whirlpools, or „hot pots“ as they are locally known, and most have waterslides for the young (and young at heart). Reykjavík’s thermal pools are open from early morning until late in the evening; swimming costumes and towels are available for a small fee. There is simply no cheaper or healthier way to experience Reykjavík and to get to know the locals! Inspiring Reykjavík Art and Culture
The city centre has a broad array of museums and galleries that are open year-round. They vary from displays of national historic treasures and texts to small eclectic galleries of the latest works on a local artist. Many have free admission at least one day a week and the Reykjavík Welcome Card provides free access to them and many other sites in the city.
Reykjavík is characterised by an unusually vibrant artistic community. In recent years, the city has become well known for its happening music scene. The established Iceland Airwaves music festival draws an international crowd every year to experience what is new in Icelandic and international rock and pop music. Jazz and classical music is well represented too. The Reykjavík Jazz Festival and regular concerts by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra are just some of the musical events that can be enjoyed in Reykjavík. As for the performing arts, Reykjavík hosts several theatre companies, the Icelandic Opera and the highly acclaimed Icelandic Dance Company. Numerous high quality cinemas showing international films in their original language are also dotted around the city.
Shopping and Design
Whether you are after designer brands, unique Icelandic design or quality souvenirs, you will be spoilt for choice when shopping in Reykjavík. Even better, you can take it home taxfree!
Reykjavíkers are known for their innovative design style. Walk up Laugavegur or Skólavördustígur, the city’s main shopping streets, and you’ll spot arts and crafts galleries, music and bookstores, jewellery shops with one-of-akind Icelandic designs that often incorporate local semi-precious stones or pieces of lava rock, and locally created fashion like a handbag made of fish skin or a delicate woollen top.
On weekends, you will find the Flea Market (Kolaportið) by Reykjavík Harbour overflowing with bric-abrac and Icelandic delicacies, such as fermented shark, dried fish, tons of liquorice and much more! Wining and dining
Foodies will find plenty to keep them happy when wining and dining in the nation’s capital. Reykjavík has an astounding variety of restaurants, offering both traditional and international cuisine cooked using the freshest ingredients. Icelandic cuisine is characterised by an imaginative use of pure Icelandic ingredients such as fresh fish and seafood, organic lamb and wild game. Be sure not to miss the Icelandic hot dog. The highly acclaimed “city’s best“ can be found at the „Bæjarins Beztu” hot dog stand on Tryggvagata near Reykjavík Harbour. Reykjavík boasts a great café culture, with residents regularly meeting upwith friends and family for coffee, cake and conversation and simple food at affordable prices. An Icelandic hot chocolate is a great way to warm those cold bones after a day spent exploring the city and many also host live music and entertainment.
Reykjavík is also well known for its vibrant nightlife. On summertime weekends the streets of downtown are just as bright and busy at 3 a.m. as they are at 3 p.m.! There are dimly lit bars, cozy cocktail lounges, trendy nightclubs and loud dance or live music venues to suit every taste.Family friendly Reykjavík
Families will find plenty of inter
esting activities in Reykjavík - splashing about in a thermal pool, trying on Viking armour, or viewing some of the largest mammals on earth at close quarters – there is fun to be had for all ages in the city. There are plenty of family-friendly events on the festival calendar too. Firm favourites include the Children’s Cultural festival (april), First Day of Summer (april), Festival of the Sea (June), Independence Day (17 June) and Reykjavík Culture Night (august). The Official Tourist Information Centre - all you need for a great holiday.
To help make your trip memorable, visit the official Tourist Information Centre, housed in a beautifully restored timber house on Aðalstræti. The Centre has all the latest details on accommodation, dining, tours and nightlife in this busy city. The friendly staff can book everything for you, like last-minute guest houses or day trips around the Golden Circle. You can pick up various brochures, from walking tours of the city to details on the latest music festival, change money and even get your tax-free refund early!
You can also plan the rest of your trip in Iceland with the expert advice of the staff at the Centre. You can also find extensive tourist information on the official Visit Reykjavík website www.visitreykjavik.is
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