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Capital of Culture Series: Reykjavik


 This week Gumbo looks at Reykjavik in our Capital of Culture spotlight.


Reykjavik 05-2013-070 Views from Hallgrimskirkje


In 2000, for symbolic reasons, 9 European cities were chosen to be designated a European Capital of Culture. One of those was the city of Reykjavik.  It is a small, quirky, and safe city with a surprising amount going on.


To me, although it is a European City, it feels like a combination between the US and Europe, similar to its geographic location.  I very much enjoyed the untamed land, the smart and beautiful people,  and the history and culture of Iceland's Capital City.



("The Pond", in the heart of Reykjavik)


I was lucky enough to visit twice in the last few years. The last time I had a good friend - a native Icelander- show me around.  I thank her and her daughter for showing me the city with the eyes of a local.  I visited both in October and in June.  In my view, summer is the time to go.  With the 24 hour-a-day sun, one gets full enjoyment out of every day spent there.


Here are a few tips that I hope are helpful.  Feel free to add comments and be sure to look at Gumbo's other blogs about Iceland.  3 of the Gumbo Gurus have been there in the last couple of years, so you see we are big fans of the country.



Actually there are a few really worthwhile and fun museums in Reykjavik.  My favorite is the Arbaer museum.  It shows what life was like in Iceland and the unique building syles. Turf roofs, etc. It's like an outdoor folk museum and the guides were really nice. The National Museum is also good and the Settlement Exhibition is very worthwhile. Watch your step in the Settlement Museum as it's kind of dark and the ground is uneven.  I went to the Art Museums but not my cup of tea.



Bakery goods and coffee are pretty cheap when eating out.  Don't miss the Coca-Cola. It is the best in the world because they use real sugar and Icelandic water.The Bonus Supermarket is cheap and good.(Look for the Pig).I'll recommend two budget fast food places 


Reykjavik 05-2013-005 Downtown Reyijavik. Hot Dog stand


Bæjarins Beztu Bylsur - The famous hot dog stand near the harbor that President Clinton, Madonna and two members of Metallica have eaten, and many more.

 I'd recommend getting the hot dog with everything because the toppings make this dog. The hot dogs are made mostly with lamb and normally topped with mustard, ketchup, fried onions, raw onion and remolaÐi, a mayonnaise sauce with some other ingredients that really is good. 


(Unusual Icelandic menu)


For lighter food in Iceland, Saffran really is nice.  Its kind of a Indian-Icelandic fusion restaurant.  Indian food with fresh Icelandic ingredients.  Only problem is it's not exactly in the center of town.  It's fast food but healthy and tasty. It's reasonable in cost too.




(The Blue Lagoon, Iceland)


The Blue Lagoon was nice, but very touristy . They charge 28 euros, so hardly any locals go there anymore.  Be sure to bring your own towels and bathing suits,  because the rental is high.  Water is great and that Silica seems to work.


Reykjavik 05-2013-017 Harbor


The Harpa is a modern concert hall on the water. Even if you don't go to a concert there, see this incredible building built in 2011.


The Perlan, built atop 4 water towers has nice views of the city and a good restaurant and cafeteria on top. The restaurant was too pricey for me but the cafeteria is pretty reasonable.


Iceland Golden Circle 2013 040 Strokkur, Geysir Geothermal area


Nature near Reykjavik- 

 There is so much and the two real famous wonders are worth it.  The waterfalls Gullfoss and Geysir.  Drive outside of Reykjavik and you will be taking photos everywhere.  Just unique and cool.


Iceland Golden Circle 2013 057 Gullfoss



 I'd recommend staying in an apartment. has a good selection.

 My favorite place to stay is Castle House and Embassy Luxury apartments in Reykjavik. I  stayed at their Embassy apartments, which was perfect.  A few blocks from the main square and on a quiet street near the Russian Embassy.


Last, but not least is the people. Walk around and walk at night, too.  Even if your partying days are over it's nice to see all that activity. You will see some cool and eccentric people.


Other articles in TG's Capital of Culture Series:

Capital of Culture Series: Liverpool   Capital of Culture Series: Marseilles


Also check this TG Series on Iceland:

A Journey around Iceland  ( Part 1 od 5)





Images (8)
  • Views of Reykjavik from Hallgrimskirkje
  • "The Pond", a the heart of Reykjavik
  • Downtown Reyijavik's famous Hot Dog stand
  • Unusual menu items, Reykjavik
  • Reykjavik Harbor -- Harpa
  • The Blue Lagoon, Iceland
  • Iceland Golden Circle.  Strokkur, Geysir Geothermal area
  • Iceland Golden Circle. Gullfoss

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