It’s summer and you want to spend as much time outside as possible. What is better than having a picnic? In Reykjavik, there are some beautiful picnic spots. In this article, we will tell you where to find them.
1. Botanical garden
Reykjavík’s botanical garden is located in Laugardalur valley, a district just east of downtown Reykjavík. It contains a selection of 3,000 plant species, and the garden’s main role is to keep plants for education, research and recreation. It was founded in 1961 and is run by the City of Reykjavík. Just find one of many park benches, sit down, have a bite to eat and enjoy your surroundings. If you feel like going for a cup of coffee afterwards, check out Flóran Café, a coffeehouse inside a greenhouse, open from May until the end of September. The botanical garden is open every day from 10:00 till 22:00.
Hljómskálagarðurinn is a park in downtown Reykjavík, right next to city pond Tjörnin. With a Cinderellaesque rags-to-riches transformation, what used to be the city dump for the most part of the 19th century, is now a popular place to picnic by the lakeside. The park is named after an octagonal, towerlike structure, built in 1923 to house the Reykjavík marching band. Just find a place in the grass, of at one of the picnic benches. There are also a couple of public grills if you feel like a more extensive picnic.
Klambratún is a large park just outside of the city centre. It has a frisbee golf course and a playing area for kids. Just like in Hljómskálagarðurinn, there are public grills. And if you feel like looking at art after your picnic, check out Kjarvalsstaðir, a museum exhibiting paintings of one of Iceland’s most influential artists, Jóhannes S. Kjarval.
Why not have a picnic at the beach and go for a swim afterwards? Soaking in a hot tub overlooking the ocean is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. At the geothermal beach at Nauthólsvík, you find showers, toilets, a small shop, a hot tub and steam baths. You can also swim in a small man-made lagoon, in which hot water is pumped to create an average water temperature of 15-19°C. Trust us, when the sun is shining, you forget that you’re on an island in the middle of the North Atlantic.
Elliðaárdalur is an area full of lush flora surrounding the Elliðaár river network in Reykjavík. The area is not completely untouched, as the Elliðaár power station was built there in 1921, marking the first time a river was harnessed for the production of electricity in Iceland. Most of the area is in its original state, however, and the valley is a popular recreation area for locals. And you’re likely to run into a bunny rabbit or two. The Elliðaár river network is so clean and pure that fish still swim in it, which is uncommon when it comes to rivers in cities, and going fishing there is popular in the summer.
The island of Viðey lies right off the coast of Reykjavík and can be reached by ferry. The island has a long and rich history – for centuries it was considered one of the best farmlands in the country, it had a monastery, and the oldest stone building in Iceland is situated in Viðey. The island is only 1.7km2 and 32m at its highest peak, so a tour of the island is perfect for a short walk and a long picnic. The island is also home to interesting works of art, the most famous being Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace tower, a wishing well emitting a strong beam of light, visible from afar. The Peace tower is dedicated to John Lennon’s memory and is lit every year from the day of his birth, October 9, to the day of his death, December 8.
The Heiðmörk nature reserve was created in 1950 and has served as a recreational area for the inhabitants of Reykjavík ever since. The man-made forest is named for a Norwegian forest of the same name and is in the care of the Reykjavík Forestry Association. Heiðmörk is popular with the locals of Reykjavík for hiking, horseback riding and even cross-country skiing, and the area has excellent paths and trails for each of these activities. It’s the perfect spot for a nice lunch out in nature.