Roaming around Reykjavik

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?!

Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner Reykjavik via Wayfaring With WagnerAfter 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!

Reykjavik via Wayfaring With WagnerAfter 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 :)

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Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner Reykjavik via Wayfaring With WagnerReykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner
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!

Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner
Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner
Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner Reykjavik via Wayfaring With WagnerAfter 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.

Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner Reykjavik via Wayfaring With WagnerBecause 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.

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Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner Reykjavik via Wayfaring With WagnerAfter 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 :)

Reykjavik via Wayfaring With Wagner Reykjavik via Wayfaring With WagnerBefore 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.

Reykjavik via Wayfaring With WagnerNichole 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 :)

Reykjavik via Wayfaring With WagnerDon’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 :)

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Tips:

+ 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!

Quick Reference:

+ 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

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  • You’ve totally inspired a new place I’m now dying to visit! That lagoon looks amazing and I love how the roofs of the buildings are all different colors. Gorgeous photos. Love the idea of making the most of a layover. Once I was offered an international flight that was one third of the price if I took a ten hour layover in Philadelphia. I took it and had an awesome day walking around Philly, visiting the museums, and eating chili-cheesesteaks before heading back to the airport! Might as well make the most of it! :)

    • What?!?! 1/3 of the price!!! I would definitely have snatched it up!!! Man, I miss cheesesteaks :) And yes, next time you fly to the USA or back to Europe, take advantage of Icelandair’s layover…you won’t regret it at all! xo

  • Beautiful pictures! I must admit I do not like the hot dogs here, yikes I know. It is true that Icelanders love their ice cream, no matter how cold! And I love the Kex hostel, I have gone to a lot of events there, they have a room in the back that was the old gym and there is a ton of old gym equipment in there as decor.

    • Thanks so much Kaelene! haha, how can you not like the hot dogs?! They’re so delicious (but then again, I think I overly love hot dogs and could each them every day!). And I stayed at Kex Hostel!!! I actually went into the back room and wondered what it was :) Next time I’m in Iceland, we definitely need to meet up! xo

    • I got really lucky with the weather! The week before I got there, it rained every day! It was pretty cold though for the beginning of October!!! Come back to Europe soon :)

  • You’re killin’ me! I want to go to Reykjavík so badly! I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll make it there sometime this July on my way back home to Seattle. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous, and this entire post just makes my Iceland-lust that much stronger!!

    • Courtney, if you’re going through Seattle then you must go to Iceland!!! Seattle is one of the main hubs of Icelandair in the USA and my friend who met me in Iceland flew from Seattle (with the free 7 day layover)!!! Plus, you’d have PERFECT weather in July :) Keep me updated on your plans xo

  • Mannn these photos! I’ve seen so many posts about Iceland lately and it’s making me want to visit so badly on my way back to California in July. I hope I can make it happen. Loved your story (and photo) of cutting your foot, but it sounds like it worked out well for you (hot doctor, etc.). :)

    • If you can make a layover happen on your way back to California (where in Cali?), then do it! Plus the weather will be gorgeous then! My friend flew San Fran to Seattle and then Seattle to Reykjavik. Maybe you could do the reverse? :) I’m glad you enjoyed my story…I forgot to mention that I kept my hospital band on the entire time in hopes of gaining sympathy and getting free drinks ;) hehe

  • I’m super impressed with how much you covered on just a layover! Amazing….looks like you had some great weather as well. Makes all of those bright little houses and building look even more cheerful!

    • Thanks so much Jamie! I was lucky that my “layover” was 4 days :) And yes, I got really lucky with the weather! The week before I arrived, it rained all 7 days! xo

    • We landed on a Wednesday morning and flew out on a Saturday morning so we toured Reykjavik Thursday and did the Golden Circle Friday! However I totally wish I had more time there…I wanted to explore other parts of the country! xo

  • Hello, I’m stopping by from the Travel Tuesday link-up! Your photos of Reykjavik are beautiful – I especially love the ones at the Blue Lagoon with the sunlight reflecting off the water. I’ve been to Iceland twice, and the second time I opted not to spend time in the capital and instead immediately head north. But your post is reminding me of what a lovely city it is…I may have to get back there someday and I haven’t tried one of those hot dogs!

    • Hi Sara! Thanks so much!!! Where did you head up north? I’d love to be able to explore more of the city in the future! Thanks for stopping by xo

  • I love your photos of the blue lagoon especially. I’d love to go again when it’s sunny! :D

    The hotdogs are awesome – I think I had several during the trip!

    I keep reading about Icelandair’s free layover, and it’s such a great idea!

  • Yay Reykjavik! I feel like we have a lot of Rvk experiences in common: I too tried minke whale there for the first time and LOVED it… it tasted fantastic! And I love the picture you took of that park under the Pond photo…. I hung out in that park SO MUCH during my week there but neglected to take a photo of it. What time of year did you go? It looks like you got some fabulous weather– wow! Only difference is I went to Blue Lagoon on the way out. I think with both on the way in or out– you can’t go wrong.

    • I went the beginning of October and got so luck with the weather. It rained the entire week before I got there but cleared up the day before I arrived. It was definitely already pretty cold there but I couldn’t really complain because of all the blue skies! xo

  • I’m moving to Germany this summer and will be taking full advantage of the Iceland layover. I loved reading about your experience (and especially loved your photos!). Great post :)