Iceland part 6: Reykjavik

This is the last travel blog about my amazing journey through Iceland in September 2019. If you want to read about this adventure from the beginning, just click here 🙂 and travel with me from Reykjanes to West, North, East and South Iceland. This blog is about the amazing capital city: Reykjavík!

Day 13 of 14: from Flúðir to Reykjavik

We have spent 12 days on the road, driving around Iceland. Our trip has been unforgettable and my head is full of impressions. This morning we left Flúðir, visited Kerið crater on the way towards Reykjavík. Today our road trip ends because we return our car in Reykjavík and we will discover the city by foot. From Kerið crater to Reykjavik it is only an hour of driving and we arrive before lunch time. We actually still have a few hours before we have to return our little 4WD and I ask Astrid if we can visit one more lighthouse… please! Being my friend for 35 years she will not say no 🙂

We drive to the west corner of the capital city so we can visit Grótta Island Lighthouse. I do not remember exactly how many lighthouses I have seen during this trip, but it must be over 20 (and there are many more). When arriving in Reykjavík the sun has come out again, treating us once more during this trip. We park our car close to Grótta Lighthouse and we just have to get out of the car to soak up the sun. Grótta Lighthouse is a small lighthouse at the north-westernmost point of Reykjavík. We see that the area is perfect to go for a walk, bird watching and it is probably a great location for seeing the Northern Lights (if you do not want to go out of the city too far).

I think this location is perfect, it is quiet here and we walk towards the lighthouse on a small stretch of sand and seagrass. I take a lot of photographs as usual, being a fan of lighthouses and being a person who cannot do without the sea. Online I read there has been a lighthouse at Grótta since 1897 and the one we see now dates back to 1947. At the back of the lighthouse, facing the see, is a beautiful painting of a goose and unfortunately some idiot painted some creature on his neck (I cannot imagine this being part of the original painting). I stare over the sea and as usual when doing so I dream away.

We need to walk back towards the car says Astrid and she goes ahead. The tide is coming in and we will be able to get back, but not without getting wet feet! About 5 minutes later I walk back too and can just about keep my feet dry, but my hiking boots are dirty! I love the concrete shell sculptures that I see close to the parking. I think they would look very pretty in my little garden at home.

I would have loved to do a bit more walking in this area, also on the island, but we get back into the car. We need to return “our” 4WD to the car rental company and before we do so, we want to leave our luggage at the hotel where we will be staying for the next 2 nights.

Getting to Hotel Frón is not so easy, since they are working on several roads in the city centre, so we end up doing a small city tour before we finally get there. Finding a parking spot is extremely difficult, so we quickly park in front of the hotel to take our luggage out, but of course we cannot leave it there. So Astrid tries to find a parking spot and in the meantime I check into our room. After about 10 minutes she arrives and tells me she parked for about 45 minutes and paid a fortune. It is very expensive to park.

At the reception we meet a young Dutch woman, with whom I had contact online about our stay in this hotel. We have a bag with food and wine left, which we give to her (since there are some typical Dutch things in there). We do not take any of it back to Holland and here in Reykjavik there are plenty of places to eat and drink, so she can enjoy it. Then we leave our luggage in the room, I put on clean shoes (without sand and seagrass from Grótta) and we get back into the car for the last time during this holiday.

The car rental company is just outside of Reykjavik centre, close to its airport and Perlan. When we return it, we are asked where we went and how much we have seen of the country. The lady asks, because in 12 days we drove 3,043 (yes… three thousand and forty three) kilometres. We did see an awful lot and could have easily added another 500 kilometres. But we are satisfied with all we have seen and done and happy we relaxed a bit in between our sight seeing. Bye bye little 4WD drive, we were very happy you kept us safe on the road!

A shuttle bus takes us back to city centre and the driver asks us where we want to get out. We tell him he does not need to drop us off at the hotel, but at Hallgrímskirkja, which is easier for him, saves him time and we can start our sightseeing straight away.

We have not eaten anything for lunch, so before visiting the most famous church in Iceland, we get a Reykjavik Street Dog, which is very tasty and enough to keep us going for a while. And then it is time to pay a visit to Hallgrímskirkja, which looks just as impressive in real life as on the many photographs I have seen online.

Hallgrímskirkja, which means “the Church of Hallgrimur”, is a true national monument, dedicated to poet Hallgrímur Pétursson. Hallgrímskirkja can been seen from almost anywhere in the city of Reykjavik. The tower is 73 metres high and you can go up to enjoy a 360 view over the city. Building this church started in 1945 and the church was consecrated on October 26, 1986. State architect Guðjónn Samúelsson designed the church and what an incredible design, sticking to Icelandic traditions and materials. Hallgrímskirkja is inspired by the impressive basalt columns we saw at Reynisfjara Beach.

Going inside the church is free, but if you want to go up in the tower you pay an entrance fee (which is fair of course; just a few years ago a new elevator was installed and the money will help to maintain the church). We want to go all the way to the top, because today is a beautiful day and the view over the city will be amazing. Hallgrímskirkja is one of the most visited places by tourists in Iceland and you cannot skip a visit when being in Reykjavík! We take the elevator up as far as it goes and then it is just a few steps on the stairs before reaching the level that offers the most beautiful view over the city! We take our time, enjoying the view and I love seeing the colourful houses from above! I tried to leave the high rise building out of the photographs as much as possible. I believe they do not fit in.

After about 20 minutes we go back down and start walking on the Skólavörðustígur towards the centre. We come across beautiful buildings, shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes and see pretty wall art along the way. Apparently Reykjavík is well known for its amazing wall / mural art and I am sure we will see more today and tomorrow! The end of Skólavörðustígur is car free and this part of the street is the famous “rainbow street”. Once it was painted for the Reykjavík pride and now this part of the street is permanently painted and one of the most photographed spots in the city.

I take many photographs as well of the street and I just love it. The rainbow brightens up the street and I think there should be a rainbow street in every city 🙂 At the end of the street we see an ice cream shop and we cannot resist. We go inside at Eldur og Ís and order ourselves a delicious ice cream and sit outside on a bench to eat it.

Around the corner is Bankastræti, where we find the Icelandic Punk Museum and opposite is the Prime Minister’s Office. From here we turn to the Hverfisgata, where our hotel is located. We have a look inside the shops and admire the wall art we come across. Reykjavík is great mix of locals and tourists and it is full of life, but not too busy this time of year.

At the end of the afternoon we return to our hotel and just relax for a while. Hotel Frón is located in down town Reykjavik and its location is just perfect. It is close to all the main shops, restaurants, cafés, galleries and museums and you can reach all by foot. We do have to get used to the city “noise” after having stayed at the most quiet locations since we started this trip, but Reykjavík is pretty great and its noise not loud.

We go back outside after about an hour to find ourselves a place to eat. There is no shortage of restaurants, but we want something casual. We end up at Reykjavík Chips and order a fish and chips with a Boli beer (if you read the previous blogs, you must be thinking I am being sponsored by Boli, but it just became this holiday tradition, to order a Boli beer with our dinner). It is quite busy at Reykjavík Chips, it seems a popular place to eat and we just take our time enjoying our meal and chat away as usual.

After dinner we do not go back to the hotel straight away, but go for a walk instead. The sun has set, it is dark, but the city lights make it bright enough. We walk towards the sea and stop at Sólfar / Sun Voyager, another icon in the city of Reykjavík located next to the Sæbraut road. The Sun Voyager is an ode to the sun, a dreamboat. The artist who created the sculpture was Jón Gunnar Árnason and he wanted the Sun Voyager to symbolize the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream full op hope, progress and freedom. I think it is a very special piece of art and although dark, it still makes a pretty picture. We are not alone here and I have to wait now and then to not have tourists (like myself) in front of the lens and I take a lot of photographs as usual from every possible side. If you want more information about the Sun Voyager, just click here!

We continue our walk towards Harpa, which is truly one of Reykjavík’s impressive landmarks. We can see it from a distance, since it puts on quite a light show at night. It is the cultural and social centre in the heart of the city, a concert hall and conference centre and the opening concert was held on May 4, 2011. The building features a coloured glass facade inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland; a design that shows up in the city at various places. The light show on the glass facade changes all the time and at some point we see the Northern Lights (so we got to see it after all).

The doors to Harpa are still open and we go inside. On our right side we see a bit tourist shop and we have look inside. Funny enough we hear music by Dutch artists being played in the shop and it turns out there is a Dutch speaking man behind the counter. The shop offers beautiful souvenirs, books, goodies, eatable items from Iceland and so much more! I think it is one of the most beautiful shops if you want to get yourself a souvenir (or 2). We continue our “night tour” through the building and walk towards the back, from where we can look out over the harbour. We hear someone singing beautifully, preparing his voice for a show; well… it sounds like a warming up. We will come back here tomorrow, so we can see more of the building and discover it by daylight.

We slowly walk back towards the hotel coming across more wall paintings; mural art is everywhere in this city. It is a Wednesday night and on the Laugavegur where our hotel is located, it is not too busy, but quite a few people are enjoying themselves having a drink in one of the many bars. We had a long day though and we go back to our hotel room. For sure I need a warm shower. On the other side of the room Astrid has fallen asleep and I turn off the light, go through my photographs and post some on my social media and fall asleep as well.

Day 14 of 14:

Our natural alarm clock wakes us up early and the city wakes up as well. We take it easy, no need to rush today. We enjoy a simple, but good breakfast before we have a full day to explore more of Reykjavík. I really cannot believe it, but even on our last day we are treated to good weather . We see clouds, but the sun comes through often enough. I have heard so many stories from friends going to Iceland having only rain and this is our 14th day and so far we had 7 days of sun, 4 days of clouds and 3 days with rain. How amazing is that? To me it is the best birthday gift ever!

We decide to walk back to Harpa, to see the this landmark by daylight. On our way there we come across another great mural painting. I hope more cities will follow by having beautiful wall art like this (instead of ugly graffiti signatures). It really brightens up any “grey” wall.

Harpa looks totally different by day and we get to see how impressive this building really is. Every day (if I am correct) you can take a guided tour. I am actually quite curious to know what the concert hall looks like and see other areas where you normally cannot go. But we are here at 09:45 in the morning, so we just walk in the areas that are open to public. Inside I think the building looks even more spectacular and the glass columns are a true piece of art and reflect the colours of the sky and sea: just WOW! Go to the Harpa website for more information about the building!

We leave Harpa and take the Sculpture & Shore Walk which starts at Sigurjón Ólafsson Museum and the Recycled House (which I really want to see), which goes al the way towards the harbour. We walked a part of it last night, from the Sun Voyager to Harpa. The sun is coming out more and walking alongside the harbour is just my cup of tea. I love coastal photography and my Facebook page used to be about coastal photography only. I merged it with the one I have now, but you will still find a lot of photographs taken at the coast, harbours, beaches, etc. So poor Astrid knows I will stop a 100 times for a photograph. But then again, when she sees a shop, she goes in and we always manage to catch up again. There is hardly any wind and the water is like a mirror. I love it here (well almost the entire trip was a treat, driving alongside the stunning coastline)!

We have been fortunate to have seen whales in North Iceland (at Hauganes), but you can take a whale watching tour from Reykjavík as well. The harbour is full of ticket offices and whale watching boats and as a bonus you will see beautiful sea birds on your trip.

We keep on walking and stop at Kaffivagninn, Iceland’s oldest restaurant! We just ran into it, did not look it up. It is located perfectly and although it is too early for lunch, it is the perfect time for a cup of tea / coffee with something sweet (we will walk off the calories today, we deserve a treat 😉 ). The weather makes it able to sit outside, we are on a terrace overlooking the harbour and the Odinn Coast Guard Vessel. It already is a perfect day!

A few weeks ago a new attraction opened in Reykjavik and we are not too far away from it. In Harpa earlier this morning we saw a cinema in the basement, where you can see a short film about Iceland, but we had too wait about half an hour before it started. And since the weather is amazing, I said to Astrid: why not keep on walking for a while. Then I told her about this new attraction called FlyOver Iceland that I want to go to. From Kaffivagninn it is only a 300 metre walk.

FlyOver Iceland gives you the opportunity to see parts of Iceland you will probably not be able to see at all, or the way you will see it here on the screen. When we arrive it is not so busy yet, for it is still morning. And the size of the group going for a ride is not too big, so to me that is a big plus. We buy tickets and only have to wait for 10 minutes. Before we actually enjoy the ride, we enter a room where we get a pre-ride show. A lovely troll tells us about the role nature played and still does, about time and humankind in Iceland. It think is actually a pretty good and informative show and beautifully told.

Then we move to the “cinema” where we sit down in our seats and get buckled up. We hang suspended, with our feet dangling, before a 20-metre screen while the film takes us on an exciting journey across Iceland. While watching there are special effects, including wind, mist and scents, which makes the experience even more real (and makes the audience laugh and scream). It is like going into an attraction at Disney or Universal, but then SO MUCH better. The footage is so incredible and beautiful. It kind of completes our holiday, seeing parts we did not get to see (including Aldeyarfoss which was on our list, a funny story which you can read about in the blog about North Iceland) and in such a spectacular way.

Since it is not allowed to take photographs or film inside (understandable), I suggest you have a look at the video below. FlyOver Iceland is a great place to go when staying in Reykjavík; I can highly recommend it. Once the show and the ride are over, you exit through the shop.

Close to FlyOver Iceland is Whales of Iceland, an exhibit of life-sized whale models. We skip this one, we want to continue our walk. But in this part of Reykjavík, there is a lot more to do and see. You can also pay a visit to Reykjavík Maritime Museum, the Saga Museum or Aurora Reykjavík (the Northern Lights Museum). We walk back towards city centre on the Grandagarður, which has little shops, cafes and galleries and we continue on the Mýrargata and Ægisgata (full of mural art) when we stop at the catholic Landakotskirkja. This area is where various embassies are located and it is full of expensive houses and apartments. We go inside the church to have a quick look.

From the church we walk towards Ráðhúsið and Lake Tjörnin where swans, pigeons and geese are being fed and create a spectacle. The view over the lake and the surrounding buildings is pretty, with the autumn colours in between. We sit on a bench to enjoy the view and soak up the sun. We check out the Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat (Óþekkti embættismaðurinn); Reykjavík has so much art and it never gets boring. We continue our city walk on the Fríkirkjuvegur, where we see The National Gallery of Iceland, Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík (the church is closed) and Hallargarðurinn.

We did not have lunch yet and we are halfway through the afternoon, so we walk to Lækjargata which is full of restaurants. So far during our trip we ate local food and now we end up at Planet Hollywood. Oh well, the music that is on is pretty good and it is bright inside and spacious and we let our feet rest for a while. I admire the collectors items which are displayed on the walls and especially a dress from Icelandic singer Björk (I am a big fan). The food is pretty good actually and we have our last Boli beer… (OK, 2 beers / pints). We stay here for some time and consider this meal our late lunch / early dinner. It is our last day in Iceland and Reykjavík and there will never be enough time to see all there is to see and we just want to take it easy for the rest of the day. At the end of the afternoon we leave.

We feel like walking a bit more though after this meal, so we continue to discover city centre while it it still light. We see a sign for the Penis Museum, but decide to skip that ;). We stop at the statue of Ingólfur Arnarson, the various government buildings and most of all we enjoy the wall art we come across. If only I was that creative!

When it gets really dark we decide to slowly walk back to our hotel. We leave very early in the morning and still need to pack. But before we reach the hotel, we decide to sit down at Kaffibrennslan for a warm drink and we sit outside to enjoy our last hours in Reykjavík. Once the first rain drops come down we decide to go back to the hotel. Everybody goes inside the café, which means it is packed. W have had a pretty wonderful day today, but if you are into a bit of nightlife, then Reykjavík has plenty to offer! Great bars, cafes, clubs… We are back in our hotel room and start packing. We have about 5 hours of sleep before the alarm goes off.

If you want more information about Reykjavík, what to do and see, just click here. We have only seen half of the city and there is more to discover!

Day 15: D(eparture)-Day

Last night we packed our suitcases and early in the morning the alarm goes off. I did sleep, but just a bit because it took a while to fall asleep. It is 4 am and we quickly go downstairs for a mini breakfast. Normally breakfast starts later, but the hotel knows that Icelandair leaves early for many destinations and they have a small breakfast table for those who want a cup of tea, some yoghurt or fruit. We check out and walk towards bus stop #14 at Skúlagata, where we will be picked up for our transfer to the airport. We need to change at the bus station and then we are on our way to Keflavík Airport. Upon arrival it is very busy and chaotic, but we manage to check in go through customs. We wander around the shops and wait at the gate to board our plane. Do I really have to leave? Can I stay in Iceland a little while longer? Please… But we take off and I have a last look through the window and see Iceland disappear as we fly back to Schiphol.

I cannot believe how quickly these 2 weeks passed by. This (road) trip was a gift to myself for my birthday and it was the best gift I could have given myself. And it was great to make this trip with Astrid! I have been blessed with all the beautiful trips I have been able to make in my life, but this holiday went straight to number 1 on the list. Iceland is a country so pure, you cannot compare it to any other destination. If you want to be one with the elements, then this is the place to go to. I loved the spectacular coastline, impressive waterfalls, seeing whales and seals. I fell in love with the Icelandic horses and sheep. The volcano landscape is so beautifully weird, the earth is fuming and bubbling. I can only hope to come back to Iceland someday, because I have a list of places there was no time for during this trip 😉 … I have so much more to discover!

I took over 5.000 photographs and about 350 short video’s, so back home I have some sorting out to do. But I will do it with pleasure and I will be able to enjoy Iceland a bit longer when doing so! I hope you enjoyed reading the blogs, seeing the photographs, the YouTube video’s and if you have any questions or need tips, please ask!

Travel Blog by Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller

September 27, 2019

My last amateur video, about Reykjavík. There are more photographs in this compilation, but I hope you will enjoy it anyway!

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