Reykjavík is a city unlike most other European cities you might be familiar with. Up until the twentieth century, Reykjavík was so small, it barely qualified as a town. In 1901. Reykjavík’s population was about 6000 people but the past century saw the rapid urbanisation of Iceland and by now, about two-thirds of Icelanders live in the capital area. Reykjavík is a cosmopolitan city, with a spirit much bigger than the modest population numbers should allow. The city’s history lies not in grand palaces or majestic city squares but the tiny houses in the city centre, covered in wavy corrugated iron in all the colours of the rainbow. Taking a tour is the fastest way to get to know the city but there are so many of them, which one do you choose?
Reykjavík By Bus
The simplest, most straight-forward way to explore Reykjavík is simply to take a bus tour. Driving around the city will give you a good overview of the most important spots in the city and a chance to rest tired feet. There are a few city sightseeing tours of varying length available, and even a hop-on, hop-off bus option, so contact the What’s On office at Laugavegur 5 if you need more information.
Reykjavík From Above
If taking a bus isn’t grand enough for you, there is always the option of flying in a helicopter over the city. Seeing Reykjavík from a bird’s eye view is a magnificent experience. Rows and rows of tiny colourful houses, surrounded by lava fields, green little islands and imposing mountains, make for an unforgettable view!
Reykjavík On Foot
A History Walk
Reykjavík is the spot where the first permanent settler in Iceland made his homestead. More than a thousand years have passed since Ingólfur Arnarson first made Reykjavík his home and in the meantime, Reykjavík has blossomed into a cosmopolitan city, the seat of financial and political power in Iceland. The history of Reykjavík and Iceland is built into the Reykjavík city streets and a walking tour of the city is a great way to witness that history first hand.
Traditional Icelandic cuisine isn’t really known for its finesse, but don’t worry, it’s not all fermented shark and pickled ram’s testicles, Iceland has produced some real tasty treats as well! Iceland’s history and culture is represented in its food; it’s history of sheep farming, the closeness of the ocean and seafood treats, and the art of making good food with limited means. Walking through the city centre, tasting different treats along the way is a great way to get to know the city.
If you prefer drinking to eating, you can also get to know the spirit of Icelanders another way – through drinking! Icelandic beer has an interesting history – for much of the twentieth century, beer was illegal, even though wine and spirits were perfectly ok. After the legalisation in 1989, Icelandic breweries have made some great strides and by now, we not only can drink beer, we can drink great beer!
Music & Culture
There are plenty of tours that will show you Reykjavík’s biggest buildings and oldest spots but if you want to get into the heart and soul of modern Reykjavík, the city that has produced musicians such as Björk, Sigur Rós, and Of Monsters and Men, following a working musician through the back alleys of Reykjavík might be even more interesting. You won’t be stopping by Hallgrímskirkja or tasting shark, but you’ll get to know the real Reykjavík, like the locals experience it!