Taking a stroll around the Grandi (the Old harbour area) is one of the best ways to spend a day near the Reykjavík city centre. The harbour area has undergone a profound transformation in the last couple of years as it has transitioned from an industrial area to a melting pot of culture, food, and industry. Even though most of the fishing industry has moved over to the new harbour, the smell of fishing still lingers over the area and a portion of Iceland’s fishing fleet still brings their catch to shore here. The beautiful row of white houses with aqua coloured doors used to be fishermen’s quarters but now play host to a vast array of delicatessen shops and designer’s workshops. A storage shed for fishing boats transforming into a cupcake store might just be the U-turn of all U-turns.
Start the day
A great place to start out the day is Coocoo’s Nest, as the place provides one of the best brunch menus Reykjavik has to offer. They have great vegetarian options as well and it really is a welcome addition to the restaurant flora in town. If you’re looking to top the brunch with a tasty treat then two doors down is the fantastic 17 Sortir, which offers a delicious display of cupcakes and cakes. Another option for breakfast is Kumiko, Iceland’s first manga themed Japanese style tea house. They serve soups, baked goods and gorgeously decorated cakes.
Get your knowledge boots on!
After having stocked up on some tasty calories, a museum is the perfect stop. Lucky for you, the Grandi area offers an abundance of them. In an astonishingly small radius, you can find the Maritime museum, the northern lights exhibition Aurora Reykjavik, an exhibition of life-size whale models, aptly named Whales of Iceland, as well as the Saga museum. On your way around Grandi, look out for one of the most peculiar statues you will find. A monument was erected there in honour of all the players of the online video game Eve Online, with their usernames written on the base of the statue. See if you can find any outlandish gamer tags!
There are other places of interest close by, such as the Þúfa (the Hillock), an art piece which offers a great viewing platform for the Reykjavik harbour area. The Hillock is a small hill and from the top, you can view the beautiful Harpa concert hall, the brilliant glass building in sharp contrast with the fish-drying hut on top of the Mound, complete with fish heads hanging out to dry. After you come down from the Þúfa, you can go on to a chocolate tour at the headquarters of artisanal chocolate makers Omnom. Close by Omnom is the sustainable fashion store Farmers Market which specializes in wool clothing. There is more shopping to be done at Grandi as well in the form of clothing design workshops such as Steinunn, Krínólin, and Sifka.
We are not at a loss for choice for dinner options in the Grandi area. Bryggjan restaurant and bar offers a great mix of different dishes but the best part is the fact that you will find a brewery on site. You can take a tour of the brewery, where the brewers will personally introduce you to the world of Icelandic craft brewing. It’s a surprisingly vibrant scene, considering that beer was banned in the country until 1989! Another great option for dining is in the Marshall building, which was recently transformed from a fish processing plant to an art lover’s dream. Aside from the fantastic Marshall restaurant and bar, the building also houses the Living Art Museum, Kling & Bang art gallery and Danish/Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson’s studio, so getting there early for dinner is a great idea.
Now for the finale. Everyone loves a sweet treat after dinner so stopping by a cake shop or an ice cream parlour is highly recommended. At Valdís, you will find some of the finest Italian style ice cream Iceland has to offer, with flavours ranging from the unconventional (liquorice ice cream, anyone?) to the mouth-wateringly delicious. I recommend walking, Tyrkisk peber ice cream in hand, to the shoreline and experiencing the beautiful Icelandic sunset.
If you are looking to end the night on a high note, you can walk over to Oddsson hostel where you can indulge in crisp Icelandic brews. Oh, by the way, they also have a karaoke room! Sipping on Einstök white ale and belting out Total Eclipse of the Heart? Sounds like a the perfect end to the perfect day!