Getting to know Reykjavik

So here we are. The beginning of the daily logs from Iceland. I've been tentatively planning and wanting to go to Iceland for about four years now. I followed a friend's adventures there and was convinced that I needed to experience this country for myself. 

Flash forward to three years later when I'd gotten married. We were talking about going on a one-year anniversary trip and what we should start saving for. Ultimately, it came down to two different places, and we decided that Iceland would be a fun adventure. Kevin thought some other people might be interested in joining us, and long story short, there ended up being five of us making the trip over. 

Day One: Reykjavik 

Flea / Farmer's Market 

The first place we went in Reykjavik, oddly enough, was a flea market that one of the group members thought would be interesting. Nobody bought anything, but there were some cool second hand shops featuring traditional Icelandic sweaters that were fun to look at. Also fun was the fact that we found a copy of Twilight in Icelandic. Oy vey. 

Town's Best Hot Dogs

Afterwards we tried Icelandic hot dogs. I'd heard about these so much and kept wondering what in the world could be so special about a hot dog. I admit that I was wrong to ever question that a hot dog could be special because now I'm at home and wishing that I could have another one of those famous hot dogs. 

The pylsurs actually taste like meat and aren't soft or squishy. That sausage has a good snap when you bite it. Combined with the crunch and raw onions - onions are one of my favorite things - and the special sauces (ketchup, spiced mustard and remoulade)? Oh man. It's good. So good. And cheap. If I lived in the area, you can guarantee I'd be a regular at this little stand. They're the perfect combination of savory with a little kick of sweet. 

Harpa Concert Hall 

Harpa is the famous concert hall and conference center in Reykjavik. It's location at the edge of a harbor and creative use of glass architecture is reminiscent of the Oslo Opera House. 

The design for the concert hall was inspired by the basalt columns and landscapes that can be found all over Iceland. It won an award for contemporary architecture in 2013, and it's not hard to see why. Construction started in 2007, and while it was halted for a while due to financial problems, the hall has been a popular spot since it opened in 2011. 

You can take an official tour of the building, or just explore it at your own place like I did. There's lot of opportunities for great pictures, fantastic views all around, and even a pretty great gift shop. 

The Sun Voyager 

Similar to The Little Mermaid statue in Denmark, there isn't anything inherently amazing about The Sun Voyager. It's pretty - and pretty cool - but it is literally just a statue with nothing else around it. Yet, the tourist in me had to have the pictures to prove that I'd seen it. 

Hallgrimskirkja Church 

For such a popular tourist attraction, it's hard to believe that Hallgrimskirkja was only completed in the late 1980s. It's an active Lutheran parish church that was named after Hallgrimur Petursson, the author of the Passion Hymns. 

We actually ended up visiting the church twice. Once on the first Sunday we were there, and then again on Wednesday in order to see the view from the top of the tower since it closed early the first time. 

The design for the church was inspired by the trap rocks, glaciers and mountains of Iceland. It has quickly become one of the biggest landmarks in the city. But of course, like with almost every major landmark I go to visit, it was under construction for some restoration to the I just tried to cut that part out. 

I would have liked to gotten to know the city and surrounding area a little better than I did, but it was still easy to see why a lot of people enjoy their time in this quaint city. It's safe, clean, and has a great selection of things to do. I would personally do a stopover on my next trip to Europe in order to learn a little bit more about Icelandic culture and history through their museums.

There's also a great variety of tours you can take that are based out of the city, if that's your sort of thing. The Golden Circle, horseback riding, and whale and puffin sight-seeing trips are all options that you can take advantage of. 

Perlan Observation Deck 

This is a nice little stop to make. It's not far from downtown, and the 360-degree views from the top of the observation deck is a great way to see all aspects of the city. Kevin and I visited in the morning after breakfast, but they do have their own little cafe inside that would make it a great first stop!

Right now they're working on turning the rest of the space into an incredible nature-based museum. From reading about their plans, I was disappointed that it wasn't already open. But, if you're planning on being in Reykjavik later this year (plans are to open this summer), please check it out and let me know what you think! 

All in all, I would visit Reykjavik again. It might not be right at the top of places I'm hoping to get to again, but it's there. The people were friendly, the food was good (although I'll definitely treat myself a little more next time - hot dogs and kebabs only go so far), and there's enough to keep busy for a few days. 

Lots more Iceland posts to come, so stay tuned!