I spent a weekend in Iceland recently, something I’d had pinned near the top of my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Here’s what I made of it:
The second largest ‘city’ in Iceland apparently has a population of less than 20,000, so to say everything is run from Reykjavik is one massive understatement. It’s an interesting place, quite sparse even in the centre, and seemingly based largely around small, localised businesses and an engaging social scene.
The whole thing’s towered over by the angular Hallgrimskirkja, which sits at the top of the hill in the city centre, while the main streets are lively and artsy, with lots of murals and a lodge-like architecture to the place (aside from Harpa, on the harbour, which is a stunning modern venue).
There’s a house down by the harbour that’s supposed to be located where the city was originally settled, and while the place is inundated with tourists, it does seem to keep largely local leaning in its outlook (if you can ignore the restaurants advertising puffin and whale meals, and a couple of overpriced souvenir shops, at least).
I was particularly taken with spots like the harbour-side Flea Market and the little city square (which I’d previously seen in pictures of Iceland celebrating their Euro 2016 win over England last summer), as well as the record stores and abundant coffee shops.
I can imagine it being the kind of place that’s quite intimate, in the sense that the population naturally limits what’s on offer, but given the Icelandic music scene is centred here and (in my opinion, at least), rivals that of places far, far bigger, I can imagine a longer stay being a lot of fun. That and the possibility of running into Bjork on a night out.
I played the proper tourist for a few days, though having my own ‘local guide’ certainly helped to see a few things that I might not otherwise have spotted (a few worth mentioning: the flea market, student bars, some of the street art and a really cool record shop called 12 Tonar).