After the longest night's sleep we got up at sunrise which during winter is 10:00am (and those that know me know how strange that is for me) to get ready for our first full day. If you missed the first post of my Iceland Mini Travel Series make sure to read up on our arrival and time spent at Blue Lagoon!
Reykjavik is Iceland's capitol and most populated city. Through our travels we learned that the entire island-country of Iceland has a population of around 300,000. Of that 300,000 over 140,000 live in the Reykjavik and the surrounding suburbs. Of course, this population is still very small compared to the U.S. cities I've lived in and visited so it was a nice, quaint feeling to wander the streets of Reykjavik.
Day #2 Exploring Reykjavik went as followed:
10:00am- Wake Up
Like I've said, in the winter the sun is only out from around 10:30ish to 4:30ish every day. Because of our jet lag and exhaustion from traveling over night we slept during the entirety of darkness the first night, which means 4:30pm-10:00am totaling about 17.5 hours of sleep... yikes!
10:45- Arrive at Hallgrimskirkja
Hallgrimskirkja is the massively tall church that most people think of when thinking of Reykjavik. We used this as our base point because it is so centrally-located in the city. We found a parking lot right outside that had no time-limits so we left our car there for the day! We were starving at this point so after taking a few outdoor pictures we grabbed breakfast at Cafe Loki, which is right across the street.
At first I was skeptical that it may be a touristy-type restaurant because of it's proximity to the church, but as we sat down we heard a large group of Islanders enjoying their meal so I was happy to know that it was local and authentic.
The menu was definitely different than what I was used to. There were a lot of rye-break toast options that came with everything from dried fish, to smoked salmon, to butter and cheese. After debating heavily what we should get I decided on a flatbread with cheese and Melissa decided on a pancake with Skyr.
My flatbread came out and I was surprised to see it was less like American flatbread (which is almost like pizza) and an actual cold and grainy yet soft and sweet piece of round bread that was buttered and had cold slices of swiss cheese on it. I don't like swiss cheese so I removed that and ate the buttered bread part which was filling and delicious. Melissa got her pancake which was the first time either of us had tried Skyr. Skyr is a very thick yogurt (think greek yogurt) that is very popular in Iceland. It comes in different flavors and honestly it became a favorite of mine. I'm hoping to locate it back in the states at a specialty food store of some sorts. All-in-all it was a great breakfast.
11:30- Hallgrimskirkja Overlook
After breakfast we went back over to the church to visit it's iconic overlook. For just $10 per person you can take the elevator to the very top for breathtaking views of the city from all four sides. This was honestly a favorite of mine because the city views were stunning and it gave me my first glimpse into the magnitude of the beautiful scenery that Iceland has to offer. It's a must for anyone that visits!
12:00-4:00- Shopping and Exploration
The city of Reykjavik is not that big so we didn't make a point-by-point itinerary for the day. Instead we just kind of winged (wung? haha) it knowing which blocks to stay within before we hit residential neighborhoods.
We made sure to head down to the waterfront area, which if you look at a map is the northeastern side of the city. From that point we had beautiful views of the mountains across the bay, we visited the viking-boat sculpture, and we did walked the entirety of the water-side path which really helped us get our bearings.
We also did some shopping because that's a hobby we both adore. One of my biggest recommendations would be to stray away from tourist shops at all cost. Because tourism is their #1 industry the prices for simply souvenirs are incredibly expensive. Instead, opt for local shops and items you wouldn't typically constitute as a souvenir. It'll save you money and it will be more authentic.
Two places I have to share are the Flying Tiger and Bonus. Bonus I only want to point out because its the local discount grocery shop. I stocked up on all kinds of Icelandic snacks and candy there to bring back as souvenirs. The same items were 5x the price at the tourist shops so make sure to stop there for candy, snack, and alcohol!
Flying Tiger was simply a gold mine. Everything was super cheap (like $1-$20 for everything) and absolutely adorable. Think of a 5-below, but European style. They have kitchen decor and supplies, bathroom decor, arts-and-crafts supplies, home decor, spices, candy, everyday items like umbrellas and electronic accessories... basically any odd or end you can imagine. It's hard to properly paint the picture for you, but trust me that it's a must visit. A ton of my souvenirs (mostly for me) came from this store. My favorites were $2 cocktail napkins in a variety of adorable prints, a collection of kitchen supplies in a pale pink color because my kitchen theme is white/copper/pink, a new shaker bottle that has a screw on bottom for my protein powder, and some Valentines Day accessories that I'll use to decorate the table for V-Day. I spent just under $100 and got at least 25 different items.
5:30- Visit Harpa Concert Hall and Dinner at Kolabrautin
By this point it was dark out (which was pretty bizarre) but we made one last stop before returning home. The Harpa Concert Hall is an all glass modern-looking building right on the bay. It hosts countless events per day in any of its many venue spaces and it a cool place to visit if only to check out the architecture.
There were no concerts we wanted to see so we simply checked out the inside and outside of the building and then went to our 5:30 reservation at the hall's restaurant, Kolabrautin. The restaurant is located on the top floor of Harpa with all glass sides and great views of the city. Aside from the decor the food was phenomenal, making this one of my definite recommendations for when you visit Reykjavik.
I got the duck entree and Melissa got the salmon. Both of our dishes were cooked to perfection with amazing combinations of flavors and textures. Although the portion-sizes were quite large we were each basically licking our plates at the end of the meal. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.
Another unusually early bedtime, but travel can be exhausting and we wanted to make sure to be rested for a long day #3. The next day was scheduled to be a Golden Circle Tour AND Northern Lights tour so we would be out for an almost 14-hour day.
Stay tuned tomorrow for all of the details about that!