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On my way back to Germany a few months ago, I took advantage of Icelandair’s free layover in Reykjavik. The city is quite small so it is manageable in about a day or two. While I was there, I couldn’t get over how much it resembled St. John’s, Newfoundland in size, building structure/colors, and location (both on harbors). Reykjavik is a must-add city to your travel list! After landing at 6 am and meeting up with my friend Nichole, who was flying in from San Francisco, we immediately headed to the Blue Lagoon. Because the Blue Lagoon is halfway between Reykjavik’s airport and the city center, it is the perfect destination either coming from or going to the airport. Plus, what better way to get over jet-lag than by going to a geothermal spa?!
After leaving the Blue Lagoon fully relaxed, we headed into Reykjavik to explore the city. An unfortunate accident (tall grass + rusted pipes + flats as shoes + clumsy Jordan) landed me in an Icelandic emergency room within an hour of actually arriving in the city. This meant that we only really had the next day to explore the city. However, it was worth it when a super hott doctor sutured up my foot!
After an eventful, long day in the emergency room getting multiple stitches, Nichole and I were ready to take Reykjavik by storm! The next morning, we started the day by drinking a delicious mocha at Mokki Kaffi while surrounded by lots of old men chatting and reading the local newspaper. The cafe came highly recommended to me by one of my professors and it did not disappoint! I might have had a bit too much fun having a mini photo shoot inside :)
Clearly, coffee is one of those things in life that just makes me so happy! Mokka Kaffi is located at the beginning of Skólavörðustígur street. If you head a few blocks down this street to the end of it, you’ll run right into Hallgrímskirkja, the tallest church in all of Iceland and the sixth tallest structure in all of Iceland. This Lutheran church was just completed in 1982 so it is a fairly new structure. For a few Icelandic krona, you can take an elevator to the top of this church and get the most magnificent views of Iceland. Seriously, they are truly awe-inspiring!
After taking in the gorgeous views from above, Nichole and I headed down Laugavegur street, the shopping district of Reykjavik. While I ended up only buying a pair of wool socks, it was fun to window shop during this colorful (sunny!) autumn day.
Because shopping clearly makes me hungry, we headed down to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a bright red stand near the harbor that sells hot dogs. The name literally translates to “best hot dogs in town.” And yes, the citizens of Iceland are beyond obsessed with hot dogs. This famous stand is a favorite of Bill Clinton and it is estimated that 70% of Iceland’s population have eaten at this hot dog stand. Even this Conde Nast Traveler article agrees that hot dogs are the national dish of Iceland! So what makes an Icelandic hot dog so good? Well, when you order, you have to ask for a dog “with everything!” A hot dog with everything consists of raw white onions, crispy fried onions, ketchup, a sweet brown mustard, and a sauce called “remoulade” which is made with mayonnaise, capers, mustard, and herbs. And it is seriously delicious.
After getting our fill of hot dogs, Nichole and I wandered the side streets of Reykjavik, topping by Tjörnin (the Pond) and other parks around the city. We then stopped by Bada Bing ice cream store, an adorable ice cream store that serves ice cream year round (and those Icelandic citizens LOVE their ice cream). After a busy day, I figured I deserved a large chocolate cone :)
Before heading to dinner, we stopped by the harbor to take in the stunning harbor views. I know I’ve mentioned this before but I’m a sucker for water views. This is really a product of me growing up on a lake and being surrounded by the many beaches of Lake Michigan. Next to the harbor is architectural beauty Harpa Music Hall.
Nichole and I treated ourselves to dinner at Grillmarkaðurinn (“Grill Market”) which was absolutely delicious. Even though we didn’t have a reservation, the staff managed to fit us in at the counter where all the food was being serve. After striking up a conversation with one of the chefs (a very cute one, I might add!), Nichole and I were surprised with a complimentary dish of minke whale (a $25 dish!). I’m not a fan of seafood but man, was this good! I wish I had pictures of the food but I ate it wayyyyy too fast! Instead, you’ll have to take in the unique interior design of this restaurant and just imagine what the food might look like :)
Don’t worry about getting bored after dinner. The bar scene comes to life around midnight and keeps going until 4 or 5 am! Reykjavik is easily accessible from both North America and Europe! Make it part of your next vacation :)
+ The prices of everything are very high and a beer will easily cost you $10. Fun fact: beer was banned in Iceland until 1989!
+ Trying to see the Northern Lights? They are usually visible between October and April. Unfortunately, I did not see the Northern Lights even though I was there in October! They can be really hit or miss. Not having good luck? Drive out of Reykjavik so the city lights don’t detract from them.
+ With a population around 120,000 people, Reykjavik is an easy-to-manage city and very walk able.
+ Best way to see Iceland? Plan it as a stopover either on your way to or from Europe! Icelandair allows you do add a stopover for up to 7 days without any additional cost!
+ Eat: Mokki Kaffi, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (hot dogs!), Bada Bing ice cream store, and Grillmarkaðurinn + Visit: Blue Lagoon, Hallgrímskirkja, Tjörnin, and Harpa Music Hall
+ Stay: Kex Hostel
+ Photograph: Reykjavik from the top of Hallgrímskirkja and Reykjavik harbor
+ Walk along: Skólavörðustígur street and Laugavegur street