Reykjavik Travel Guide

Overview

The world's northernmost capital, Reykjavik (which means "smoky bay") sits on the southwest coast of Iceland. Surrounded by a ring of mountains and Faxafloi Bay, Reykjavik is immaculately clean, and visitors will find that it's easy to explore on foot.

The capital city is full of artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers, as well as the rugged fishermen who ply the North Atlantic Ocean and unload their catch on the city's docks. Reykjavik is the political and cultural epicenter of Iceland, home to the nation's parliament.

Reykjavik remains one of the world's top travel destinations, with the number of annual tourists far exceeding the country's total population. With unrivaled nightlife and pristine nature surrounding the city, there has never been a better time to visit Reykjavik.

The economic upheaval the nation faced in 2008 devalued the Icelandic krona, but it was most harmful to locals. Visitors will still find this to be among the more costly cities in Europe.

Sightseeing

The highlights of Reykjavik can be seen in two days, but a longer stay is recommended, if time permits. And be sure to take the time to talk with the city's residents; they're very friendly.

Because the city is old, streets are laid out in strange ways, and it's possible to become disoriented. Find a landmark, such as the church spire or the city pond, and keep it as a reference point.

The two main areas of Reykjavik encompass the harbor and the small pond. The harbor, teeming with boats and fishermen, provides a pleasant stroll and a glimpse into the life of a fishing nation. Stop in for afternoon tea at the Hotel Borg, just across from City Hall, and you may spot local lawmakers or even the president.

Nightlife

Late-night revelers should cruise downtown Reykjavik.

Dining

The local food, consisting primarily of all types of seafood (salmon, cod, shrimp, haddock and dried fish) and lamb, is fabulous. Favorite dishes include hakarl (raw shark), graflax (cured salmon with herbs), hangikjot (smoked lamb), skyr (similar to yogurt) and hverabraud (rye bread baked underground). This bread can be bought everywhere, even in gas stations. With a local cheese, it makes a good lunch.
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