“Being normal is boring,” every annoying weirdo has said, and then usually on the heels of some stupendously idiotic deed (with a whiff posthoc rationalisation). And while we despise self-aggrandising eccentrics, we concede that it’s okay to shake things up a bit every once in a while – sometimes.
And as it turns out, there are plenty of weird things to do in Reykjavík.
If you’re into that sort of thing, What’s On recently cobbled together a list of five peculiar Reykjavík activities.
Ice Cream in Winter
As noted in a recent article on What’s On, the Icelanders have an unseasonable obsession with ice cream, which is to say that the frozen dessert is just as popular in winter as it is in summer.
“Why,” you ask, “would a phenomenon conceived of by the Persians in the 5th century BCE – for the purposes of providing a nice “summertime treat” for royalty – be consumed in such large quantities in wintertime by an island nation skirting the Arctic Circle?”
There are many theories, ranging from ice cream being a comfort food to the activity serving as a welcome distraction from miserable weather. Whatever the case, we do encourage you to indulge in this peculiar ritual – this weird thing to do in Reykjavík.
For further information, refer to the abovementioned article by clicking here.
Feet First into Frigid Waters
The Icelanders – fearing that their reputation for hardiness was under threat from an overemphasis of the island’s temperate winters (always the same spiel about the Gulf Stream) – recently took it upon themselves to revive the national stereotype.
As there are no germaphobes in Germany, they reasoned, so, too, there can be no ice-fearing Icelanders. Looking to human icicle Wim Hof (famous for his resistant to cold) for inspiration, the locals began introducing fish-tubs to every public pool on the island, piping glacial water into them as if refilling a baptismal font.
We personally recommend the “cold pots” in Suðurbæjarlaug (Hafnarfjörður) and in Vesturbæjarlaug (West Reykjavík).
Side Note: These days, if you’d like to descend into a vat of freezing water, you may have to exercise patience; the Icelanders have warmed to this weird ritual to such a degree that lines are known to form during peak hours.
Some still get cold feet.
If you're interested in a hike and a swim, click here.
Pay a visit to the Penis Museum
“Actually, they’re not funny. They’re art,” that personable psycho from Love Actually said, after having his artistic sensibilities offended on by a roomful of prude children.
The curators of the Penis Museum in Reykjavík don’t mind if you laugh, however.
They’re used to it.
Billed as, “probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in a single country,” the Icelandic Phallological Museum opened its doors in 1997. Initially, the museum displayed 62 specimens (penises). Today, they’re almost 300 – from 93 different species of animals.
Among those animals is the human animal; as noted on Wikipedia: “In July 2011, the museum obtained its first human penis, one of four promised by would-be donors. Its detachment from the donor’s body did not go according to plan and it was reduced to a greyish-brown shrivelled mass that was pickled in a jar of formalin.”
Sup on Singed Sheep’s Head
Svið are sheep’s heads, cut in half, singed, and boiled.
In the olden times, when food was scarce, there were no allowances made for squeamishness; every part of the animal was consumed – even the head. These days, the thought of eating a whole sheep’s head may make some understandably uncomfortable, and while we’re not necessarily recommending it, it certainly falls under the category of “weird.”
The restaurant Rétturinn in the Reykjanes peninsula (the Greater Reykjavík Area) recently began offering deep-fried Svið, which certainly sounds interesting.
Reykjavík Outventure also offers food-related walking tours, offering a taste of traditional Icelandic food.
Get Blitzed on Brennivín (Black Death)
Brennivín, also known as Black Death, is a distilled brand of schnapps that is considered Iceland’s signature liquor. Brennivín is made from fermented potatoes, flavoured with caraway seeds, and is best served ice cold.
Some will try to sell you the idea that Brennivín was the liquor of choice among the Vikings, but in reality, it was actually created by a team of opportunists employed by the State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland, following the lifting of prohibition in Iceland in 1975.
In the words of historian Stefán Pálsson:
“ After the ban was lifted and state liquor stores opened in 1975, the government needed to create a drink that could overtake the alcohol market and compete with homemade spirits … so the next time you pick up a brochure touting how Vikings used to drink Brennivín, keep in mind that this newly popular drink was actually invented by a group of bureaucrats trying to break into the recently opened alcohol market following the alcohol prohibition.”
If you're interested in a Reykjavík pub crawl, What's On has just the tour for you.
If you find a place to try svið (see above), we recommend washing it down with a shot of Brennivín (or if you try fermented shark).