Christmas in Reykjavík is always a wonderful time. The town glows with Christmas lights and decorations, lighting up the darkness which engulfs the city this time of year. Downtown Reykjavík is a great setting to soak up the Christmas atmosphere. From roasted almonds to the Christmas Cat and everything in between, we’ve got the setup for a perfect day in Christmastime Reykjavík. Reykjavík seems way more festive in the dark. Don’t worry about that. Nature has that covered as the sun rises at around 11:00 and sets between 15:00-16:00 in December. So head on downtown and bask in the lights and smells of Christmas.
Where there’s a church – there’s Christmas
It seems almost too obvious to mention, but Hallgrímskirkja church in downtown Reykjavík is a must-visit. Especially so during Christmastime, as churches and Christmas are inevitably connected. Hallgrímskirkja always has a fun Christmas calendar with concerts and events. Don’t hesitate to join a mass if you feel like it – the only thing to keep in mind is that Hallgrímskirkja asks people to stay the whole time of the service, in order not to disturb the service. See you there!
Gifts and chills
There’s two things we can bank on – you’re going to be giving Christmas gifts and you’re going to be cold walking around downtown Reykjavík in December. There’s some great stores where you can kill two birds with one stone in that regard. Handprjónasambandið (The Hand Knitting Association of Iceland) is knitter’s heaven where you can get an authentic lopapeysa, the Icelandic wool sweater. Fashion-meets-practicality masters 66° North are definitely worth a visit as well. Alternatively, Húrra Reykjavík is the number one store for streetwear and sneakers for both men and women. The year-round Christmas shop Jólahúsið is decent, and it could help with warming up your heart rather than body. Just make sure to get the Tax Free receipt!
The Christmas Cat
The newest addition to the Reykjavík Christmas flora, and a most welcome one, is the enormous Christmas Cat on Lækjartorg square for sure. The city put it up this Christmas, and it’s the cherry on top of an already delicious Christmastime Reykjavík. The Christmas Cat itself is an old Icelandic Christmas legend. The cat is said to eat children if they don’t receive clothes at Christmas (so it’s a good thing you just did some shopping…). Stop by and snap a photo with the lit-up cat. Well done, Reykjavík city!
It’s skating time
The next stop is the Ingólfsvöllur downtown skating rink. Although the skating rink is smaller than its Rockefeller Center counterpart, it packs a bunch. Lit by 100,000 light bulbs, it’s the perfect way to get into the festive spirit, as well as burning a few calories to make space for some delicious Christmas grub. There’s even a little Christmas market right next to the rink. Skate ‘til you drop.
Almonds, almonds all around
Roasted almonds are a must to get into the festive mood – and the roasters of Möndlubásinn have us covered there. They’ll be situated in Hjartagarður as well on the corner of Skólavörðustígur and Laugavegur all Thursdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays – as well as every day once Christmas draws closer. There’ll also be pop-up almond roasting sessions held all over downtown. Watch out for updates on their Facebook page.
Christmas with the Petersen’s
Running around town gets tiring so it’s time to cozy up a little bit. Few places provide a Christmas vibe just like the rooftop bar Petersen Suite, which has created a winter wonderland right smack in the middle of downtown. Normally a favourite summertime hangout, the rooftop terrace is laced with people when the sun’s out, but it’s become tradition by now to transform the terrace at Petersen into the home of Christmas in downtown Reykjavík. The rooftop offers a rare 360° view of Reykjavík city, a short hop up from the Christmas tent.
A special Christmas garden is situated on the Petersen rooftop, where guests can enjoy mulled wine and an Icelandic Christmas platter. Out of all of the ways to warm up, this is probably the best one!
From symphony to champagne
The Petersen Suite is steeped with history as it was originally a home for the cinema director at Gamla Bíó (The Old Cinema), which is below the suite, on the ground floor. That man was Peter Petersen who had Gamla Bíó constructed in 1926. The place still has that cozy homely feel, mixed with a lounge vibe, which people find themselves returning to time and time again.
At one point, the Icelandic symphony called Gamla Bíó its home and part of the Petersen Suite became a sewing room for costumes, as well as storing instruments. That blue room is still called the opera room to this day. Petersen hosts Christmas concerts every Thursday this December, so be on the lookout for that as well! There’s an added bonus on Thursdays as that’s when Bubbly Thursdays – with happy hour prices on champagne and sparkling wine between 17:00 and 01:00. Champagne and Christmas? Let the good times roll!
Check out Petersen’s event schedule on Facebook.