While driving towards the capital area from Keflavík airport, you will drive over a small hill just before entering Reykjavik. This hill marks the centre of Kópavogur, Iceland’s second largest town. Kópavogur is right in the midst of the capital area, being one of its five independent towns. On this hill, often called the cultural hill of Kópavogur, you can find several interesting museums and places of cultural interest in a beautiful environment. There is also one of the best swimming pools in the capital area. In addition you will find various good walking paths in and around this charming town.
The Cultural Life of Kópavogur
Kópavogur boasts of a good cultural life, which mostly takes place around the hill in question. Gerðarsafn is Kópavogur’s art museum, dedicated to the memory of one of Iceland’s finest sculptresses, Gerður Helgadóttir. It is a progressive art museum, which focuses mainly on contemporary art. Since its inception, Gerðarsafn has undoubtedly built an esteemed reputation in Iceland.
Gerðarsafn has two ongoing exhibitions: one dedicated to the pieces of art Gerður made under spiritual influences; the other one consists of artworks by Iceland’s most famous painter, Jóhannes Kjarval, called, ‘Lífshlaupið’ or ‘The Course of Life.’ Gerðasafn houses an interesting museum store as well, with many design products made in the spirit of Gerður.
The museum building itself is of interest as it is a modern design which creates a certain balance with another interesting modern building standing next to it. By looking at the building one can clearly notice a spectacular use of Icelandic building materials; driftwood from isolated parts of the country and prefabricated concrete tiles. It is also worth mentioning that stones from the building’s foundations were crushed to make the floor in the lobby and hallways. Salurinn, Kópavogur Concert Hall is located in this beautiful building. Salurinn plays an important role in Icelandic music life, being the first specially-designed concert hall in Iceland. It has been highly praised by performers and visitors alike for its exceptional acoustics. A variety of concerts are held in Salurinn each year, covering all kinds of music from renaissance to modern, in the form of solo concerts, recitals and groups performing music genre like jazz, chamber and electronic. Celebrated Icelandic performers, as well as visiting international musicians, can be heard at Salurinn.
In the same building, you’ll also find the only museum of natural history which is open at the moment in the capital area. The Natural History Museum of Kópavogur is ideal for those wanting a better understanding of the fauna and the minerals found in Iceland. It also has examples of all the types of rocks in Iceland and connects it with the geological history of the country. Many strange animals are on display in the museum, for example a strange black deep sea fish called Lucifer. The museum also has a beautiful snowy owl and an ongoing exhibition of amazing butterflies. Not far from this cluster of knowledge and culture, you will find a spectacular, modern church, in a beautiful environment of rocks and bushes. Also on the hill is a fine youth centre, with a vibrant culture and art programme for the youth and a nice café.
If you have leisure hours to spend in the capital, a visit to this cultural hill of Kópavogur is an ideal and cheap visit as all the museums are free of charge. After the cultural boost, you could take a stroll by the coastline of the Kársnes point, through the green and cosy older part of Kópavogur. The perfect end to your little trip is the swimming pool in Kópavogur, which is only in five minutes walking distance from the culture hill. You would only spend about €3 - €4 on such a day for bus 1 from downtown Reykjavik and an entrance fee for the swimming pool.
Walking in and around Kópavogur
There are a number of possibilities for walking and swimming in Kópavogur. The town not only has a swimming pool near the culture hill, but also a newer one on the east side of town. The culture hill is located between two beautiful green valleys with a lot of outdoor areas popular with the locals. Both of them possess large green areas with a lot of vegetation and big trees (at least by Icelandic standards!)
The valley south of the hill is called the Kópavogur valley. A stroll through the valley is a marvellous experience. You have two good options for the walk: either taking a long, narrow circle around the whole valley, about a 5.5 km walk or a shorter one by the sea, about 2.6 kilometres. It is ideal to start by the church of Digranes for both those circles. The area west of the church is especially nice, as you walk along the valley’s stream. There are also nice groves there, planted by the first Kópavogur settlers.
The valley north of the cultural hill is called Fossvogsdalur. Half of it belongs to Reykjavik and the other half to Kópavogur. This is one of the most peaceful sites in the capital area, although you will find plenty of life in the valley. Fossvogsdalur is rich of flora and fauna, with various flower and tree nurseries, kitchen gardens and a forestry. In addition, over 100 bird species have been seen in the valley, some quite foreign to Iceland, like the Finch.
Another really nice walk would be by the Elliðavatn lake, which is in the district of Kópavogur but a bit further inland than the town itself. It is really invigorating to walk by the lake and along the old lava fields near to it, filled with ancient moss. After a good walk by Elliðavatn lake, it is ideal to go for a swim in the Versalir swimming pool, which is not far from the lake. It is a new swimming pool with a nice water slide for the children, splendid to visit for those wanting to unwind in the warm water of an Icelandic swimming pool.
Kópavogur is a charming town, interesting to visit for those wanting to see a bit more of the capital area than just downtown Reykjavik. Whether it is the beautiful coastline or the green valleys, Kópavogur is an especially nice place for a walk. One can surely say that Kópavogur offers a nice mixture of places of cultural interest and outdoor areas within the limits of the capital area.
Further information is available on www.kopavogur.is