13 x highlights Reykjavík: Icelandic Hot-dogs and more!
Reykjavík is the northernmost capital in the world. It is a small, trendy city and perfect to explore by foot. Signature are the colored houses constructed from corrugated metal sheets. The construction of these houses goes back to the 19th century when the Britons came to town to buy sheep and bring corrugated metal. Due to the lack of wood on the island (very few forests), these corrugated sheets were the perfect alternative.
Discover in advance which highlights you must see in Reykjavík.
The bright coloured houses
Explore the streets of Reykjavik. This city (large village) is composed of numerous colored houses. Most are constructed of corrugated metal sheets. Due to the lack of forests in Iceland, metal was in the past the main source to construct a house out of. To cheer things up a bit, they colored the metal in all different colour.
The Hallgrímskirkja (“church of Hallgrímur”) has a 73-m-high tower and is located near the old centre. The church is built on the Skólavörðuholt hill. The construction work began in 1945; the church was inaugurated in 1986. The striking design is the work of architect Guðjón Samúelsson. He was inspired by the basalt structures that can be found all over Iceland.
The church was built in memory of the famous Icelandic hymn-writer, Hallgrímur Pétursson (17th century). The three bells in the tower symbolize Hallgrímur, his wife, and their daughter, who died at very young age. The church is modestly furnished; it has an impressive organ with over 5,000 pipes. You can go to the top of the tower (paid access) by elevator, and you will have a view over the city and harbour.
Hallgrímskirkja belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church. More than 90% of Icelanders are part of this denomination. On the square in front of the church, a statue of Leif Erikson has been erected; he “discovered” North America about 500 years before Columbus did.
Sun Voyager of Sólfarið
Sólfarið (“Sun Voyager”) is a work of art in stainless steel by Jón Gunnar Árnason. It was unveiled in 1990 and has the shape of a boat. It pays tribute to the sun and stands for hope, progress and freedom. You can find it near Sæbraut on the promenade along the water.
National Museum of IJsland
In the National Museum of Iceland, you will find a chronological overview of the social and historical development of Iceland, from the Vikings until today. Look for frequent temporary exhibitions if you are interested in the history of Iceland.
The world famous hotdogs from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
At Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, order “ein með Ollu” (one with everything). You’ll get a hot dog with sweet brown mustard (pylsusinnep), ketchup, raw onions, fried onions and a slightly spicy mayonnaise. Less is more? Go for the Clinton-style hot dog—mustard only—as the former US president did here in August 2004.
TIP: Order two immediately, because after your first, you will probably want another one, and the queues can be quite long
Ráðhús Reykjavíkur or Reykjavík city hall
Near the Tjörnin lake, you will find the Reykjavík city hall. On the first floor, there is a café, where you will have a beautiful view of the Tjörnin lake. Inside, you can also take a look at a (very impressive!) model of Iceland.
Icelandic House of Parliament or Alþingishúsið
In the Icelandic House of Parliament building, the Alþing (parliament) comes together. It was built in 1880 and is located on Austervöllur Square. Alþingishúsið was build with donations from the Icelandic citizens.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the embassy of Great Britain was located in the Höfðihouse. This is where Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met for discussions in 1986. The signing of a treaty between them was cancelled at the last moment. To commemorate this historic occasion, the flags of the United States and the Soviet Union are hanging in this building.
Old harbour of Reykjavík and whale watching
At the Old Harbour of Reykjavík, you will find many restaurants, cafés and tourist agencies (whale-watching tours start here). Walk along the wharf and admire the moored vessels: from small, coloured sailboats to whale hunters. Wander through the narrow, picturesque streets with old renovated fishermen’s cottages and taste the local seafood specialties.
Try the lobster soup at Sægreifinn; you’ll recognize the restaurant on the corner by its turquoise colour, Geirsgata 8 (show on a map). There are several galleries and craft shops, as well as plenty of places to buy souvenirs. You will also find the Viking Maritime Museum, which delves into the maritime history of Iceland.
Reykjavík 871 +/-2 Settlement Museum
The Reykjavík 871 +/-2 Settlement Museum displays the history of the Vikings in an interactive way. It’s not a big exhibition, but the engaging manner of presentation makes it worth a visit.
Icelandic Phallological Museum (Penis museum)
At the Icelandic Phallological Museum, or Penis Museum, you will see over 150 penises (and parts) of Icelandic land and marine mammals, including whales, walruses and polar bears. There is even an example of a 1.5-m penis from a sperm whale.
The Culture House (Safnahúsið)
The Culture House (Safnahúsið) focuses on culture in the broad sense of the word, from Icelandic art and photography to design and history. There are also plenty of interactive displays provided for children.
Harpa Concert and Conference Centre
The Harpa Concert and Conference Centre near the harbour opened its doors in 2011. In 2013, the building won the Mies van der Rohe Prize, an award for contemporary architecture. The building stands out thanks to the many-coloured glass. Walk inside to admire the architecture up close.
Where to stay in Iceland? (with discount)
Looking for a place to stay during your time in Iceland? It is best to book your accommodation in advance. It is hard to find one last minute!
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