ITINERARY: THE BEST OF REYKJAVIK IN A HALF OR ONE DAY
The following itinerary I consider that covers the most interesting spots in the city and can be visited in half a day, unless we decide to enter the museums, in that case we will need at least full day.
SHOPPING, RESTAURANTS, CAFÉS, BEERS
Let’s start directly with sybaritism, why not? After all, several weeks of nature, tent or motorhome await us: Laugavegur street and surroundings (especially Skolavordustigur) is Reykjavík‘s commercial area, a nucleus full of shops, restaurants and cafés in the latest fashion that become in bars and clubs for a drink and partying at night. The commercial zone extends for a kilometer, although the street continues.
THE BEST CHURCH IN THE COUNTRY
When we have already had enough capitalism, it is recommended to turn south towards what is probably the most characteristic structure in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja Church (literally “Church of Hallgrimur”, an important Icelandic poet). It seems very modern, but was designed in 1937, although its construction began in 1945 and was not completed until 1986. This immense church of impressive and immaculate whiteness can be seen almost 20 km away and is an original symbol for this city. So imposing is that many think it is a cathedral, but it does not have that category; Paradoxically Reykjavik has two cathedrals, one catholic and another Lutheran, but in architectural terms they are not noteworthy and go unnoticed by travelers. You can climb to the top of its tower (74.5 meters, the tallest building in the country) by an elevator, but the views of the city are not (in my opinion) much. The columns on both sides of the tower represent basaltic columns, so common in Iceland, and its interior is so white and simple that it conveys a sense of heavenly. Opposite the entrance is a sculpture of the Viking Leifur Eiríksson, son of Erik the Red and considered the first European to arrive in America, which was precisely a gift from the United States in the 1000th anniversary of the Parliament of Iceland in 1930, one of the oldest in the world and the oldest in Europe.
Admission is free. Climbing the tower costs 1,000 ISK per adult and 100 ISK per child. Open from 9 am to 9 pm May-September, until 5 pm October-April.
EINAR JONSSON MUSEUM AND SCULPTURES GARDEN
Next to the Hallgrimskirkja, this is the only museum I entered in Reykjavik, and I recommend it, I liked it a lot. The sculptures are of great quality and originality.
Adult admission 1,000 ISK (under 18 years free). It has a very reduced schedule:
- Open from 2 pm to 5 pm from Tuesday to Sunday between June 1 and September 15.
- Open from 2 pm to 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays between September 16 and May 31, but the full months of December and January are closed.
Do not worry that little by little you end up getting to know these names. This park is a very pleasant visit a few hundred meters west of the previous museum and church area. Highlights its large pond called Lake Tjörnin, where on a sunny day the surrounding buildings are reflected. At its northern end is the City Hall, sober and modern, which is said to be designed to attract the birds, that should be true as far as they abound in the lake; It is open to visits from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm and has a 3D map of the country.
Museum lovers will not be disappointed with the amount and quality of Reykjavík’s cultural offerings, although they will probably do so in terms of prices. I did not visit any of the following, but all are relatively close to the previous park and are the best considered:
- National Museum of Iceland. History museum with utensils and rudimentary art from the first settlers. Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm (between mid September and the end of April closed on Mondays), adult admission ISK 2,000.
- Settlement Exhibition (871 ± 2). Something further north following the edge of the lake, this museum focuses on a Viking settlement of the tenth century, complementing the ruins with technological means to give us an idea of what life was like for these first settlers. Open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, adult admission ISK 1,700.
- One of the new signings is the Harpa, inaugurated in May 2011, concert hall and cultural center, with its hundreds of luminous-reflective mobile exterior panels, which give it the appearance of an alien ship. Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The entrance to the building is free and some of its exhibitions also; You can do guided tours for 1,500 ISK. In addition there are shops, restaurants and coffee shops.
- Whales of Iceland. The largest exhibition on whales in the country, with 23 models (not dissected whales) of different species, from the smallest to the great blue whale. Open daily from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm, adult admission 2,900 ISK. Located a little further north of downtown, to get there is recommended bus number 14 or the Sight Seeing Bus.
Although these are the main ones, there are many more, among them Tales of Iceland, Art Museum of Reykjavik, Volcano House, Maritime Museum, Saga Museum or Phalluses Museum (yes, you have read well, a museum of penises, there are more than 200 different species of animals). There is still one more that we will talk about at the end.
SCULPTURE AND SHORE WALK
As its name suggests, it is a pleasant promenade to the north of the city, where there are some modern sculptures, the most outstanding being the Sun Voyager, the steel skeleton of a Viking boat with contemporary touches that is really nice; It also has reflective sheets on the base that accentuate the evening light.
The walk is several kilometers long, but in general it would be enough to get to another icon of the city, not for beautiful, but for historical: the Hofdi House, where Reagan and Gorbachev made the negotiations that are considered the end of the cold war in 1986.
So far the recommended itinerary, but there are two other sites that deserve separate mention.
If we see ourselves wanting to continue walking or we have nothing else to do, we can continue 3 kilometers on the Shore Walk east to the ferry terminal to Videy Island. A haven of peace, even quieter than the already quite calm city, this island is uninhabited and practically unchanged by humans, apart from a stone bench here and a sculpture that does not come to mind (like the spotlight of Yoko Ono called “Imagine Peace Tower”, very appropriate since you have to imagine that there is a tower there), because there the feeling is that we have gone suddenly tens of kilometers towards the countryside. They sell it as a place with spectacular views, and although the place is very nice and quiet, the truth is that it is not as impressive as many other places in the country; I went because I had just landed in Iceland and I wanted to get an idea of what the landscape was like, I’m glad I went, foolishly I spent more than 4 hours walking around the island, but if you don’t have much time it can be ignored, you will see many better landscapes along the trip.
Bus 16 stops at the ferry terminal to the island. The ferry takes 5 minutes to cross and costs 1,600 ISK (adult), there are daily every hour from 10:15 to 17:15 in high season and only Saturdays and Sundays from 1:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. in low season; In high season there are also two ferries a day from Old Harbour and another two from Harpa.
Renovating or dying, since its updating in 2017 has become perhaps the most acclaimed in the city, but is mentioned separately for not being close to any attraction, it is 2 kilometers south of Hallgrimskirkja, it can be reached by a shuttle free from Harpa or bus 18. A planetarium, an artificial ice cave 100 meters long that imitates those in glaciers and several exhibits in augmented reality on nature are very successful.
Open from 9 am to 10 pm (last entry at 9 pm), adult admission fee:
- Planetarium with auroral show: 1,900 ISK.
- Ice cave + exhibition: 3,900 ISK.
- Planetarium + ice cave + exhibition: 4,500 ISK (offer, usual price 5,800 ISK).
There are discounts for children and families.
HALF DAY EXCURSION: THE BLUE LAGOON
From Reykjavik we can make day trips to a good part of the territory, but if there is one almost essential, it is one of the most photographed outdoor spas today, the Blue Lagoon. If I say “almost essential” is because of its high price; It is mandatory to book in advance on their official website, and adult admission:
- In the less expensive mode or Comfort costs between € 75 and € 85 depending on what time we arrive; It is advertised as “from € 49” but there are only those prices on specific days and at the last time of the day, taking into account that it opens at 7:00 a.m. and closes at midnight in high season (in low season it opens to 8 am and closes at 9 pm). Includes access, walk-in closet and showers, towel and a drink.
- There is a Premium option for 97 – 106 €.
- And an option Retreat Spa, with access to private spa, massages, restaurant included, drinks, etc, for no less than 558 €, and interestingly, it is the most difficult to book, it is usually fully booked.
My opinion is that it is a beautiful place, very well assembled, clean, modern and you feel like a potentate of how well you are treated, but at this price I doubt very much that I would have gone in 2009; back then it was not only less expensive because it was less known, but the crack of Icelandic currency had happened just 3 months before I visited the island, losing its value to half of the euro, so that the entire trip it cost me half of what it would have cost 3 months before or a little more or less than it costs now; I would say that it only comes out profitable if we consider spending many hours there. By the way, you have hotel rooms for the modest price of € 497 to € 1140 per night. There is also an exclusive restaurant, the Lava Restaurant.
All in all, the place is spectacular, it is so beautiful that it is hard to believe it’s artificial at some point; The Lagoon is between turquoise and white by the white clay of the soil, which we can spread across the face or other parts of the body, that is supposed to be terrific. The temperature is 38ºC.
The Blue Lagoon is about 50 km by road southwest of Reykjavik and almost 22 km south of Keflavik Airport. To get there, if we do not have our own vehicle, there is a Reykjavik Excursions shuttle that runs every hour from both the airport and the city. It costs 5,500 ISK round trip, whichever is the best combination for us or 2,750 ISK one way, and it is also reserved on its website. Many are the ones that the first thing they do after getting off the plane, or the last thing before getting on it to go back to their countries, is to take a bath in this spa. The most practical thing is to book the spa and transport at the same time, also on its official website in the link of the purchase of tickets.
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