Reykjavik is the sublime Icelandic capital, where we based ourselves for a long weekend in February. Some might think us mad for visiting in what is arguably the harshest winter month, but we had good reason. Apart from the enchanted vision of this rugged island dusted with snow, it is also known to be a great time to catch the spectacular Northern Lights.
We flew with EasyJet from London Luton direct to Keflavik (Iceland), which turned out to be a rather epic all-night escapade; the journey not the flight. Anyhow, having pulled an all-nighter we were quick to rally ourselves in the queue and despite some turbulence, enjoyed a rather delightful flight in good company.
It took approximately 45 minutes by coach from Keflavik to Reykjavik and were greeted at both ends by strong gusts. We were dropped centrally in the city by Hallgrimskirkja Church, where we took shelter from the bitter cold and driving rain, settling down with a hot chocolate by the window in a quaint café.
Though Reykjavik celebrates its status as a UNESCO city of literature, in honesty it feels much more like an extended community abiding a large town. The centre is relatively easy to navigate, with elongated streets running down to the ocean, each lined with a decorative array of shops, cafes and houses in every colour, shape and style. Many of the buildings, particularly the traditional homesteads, offer a beautiful architectural visual. Though there are also an increasing number of high rises popping up at the foot of the bay.
The seafront offers a bracing walk, with widened views across the bay and across to the snow capped mountains beyond. Along this stretch you can also view the striking exterior of the Harpa Music Hall, as well as the infamous symbol of the country’s roots; the Sun Voyager sculpture, which depicts a Viking longboat against the fitting backdrop of the serene Atlantic waters.
Another lovely area of the city is the lake otherwise known as Tjornin. Pass through the cosmopolitan hub-bub and find reflection in the panoramic views of this communal area, where many birds, swans and geese gather between the layers of frozen ice. Savour a warming beverage in one of the surrounding cafes or venture back towards Laugavegur, the main shopping street to sample a smorgasbord of traditional dishes in one of the many restaurants.
For those who like their history, you will also find a number of insightful museums delving into Iceland’s past, concentrating on everything from whaling to volcanoes and a maritime past. If only we’d had an extra day to explore I would have eagerly checked out a few of these. As it happens we could only make time for one, for which we had to venture through the outskirts of the city.
Arbaer Open Air Museum is a wonderful example of a living folk park, encompassing the culture and traditions of Iceland’s past. Dashing through the driving wind and sleet, we explored various homesteads, gaining an interesting overview of bygone days this far north. Treading the boards and clambering into cosy attic spaces I was able to build a realistic picture of a former era and found the adventure most enchanting.
We stayed just 3 nights in Reykjavik, choosing 4* Hotel Odinsve as our accommodation. Settled off the bustling main streets it was only a 5 minute walk to Hallgrimskirkja Church, which proved most handy from which to be picked up for any tours out of the city. It’s also worth saying that the church offers fantastic panoramic views of over the sprawling city from the bell tower on top.