This week, I’m wrapping up my Europe travel posts with all things Iceland! Before planning for this trip, Iceland had never really been on my radar. I had a few friends who had been there, but I hadn’t given it much thought. Well, what a mistake that was, because Iceland is amazing!! I was fortunate to spend one night there with my girls on our Girl Scout trip, and then another four nights there with Chelsea at the end of the Girl Scout trip. And, I definitely want to go back someday!
Today, I’m going to talk all about my time in Reykjavík: where I stayed both times, where we ate, and what we did! If you missed my other Europe posts, you can read about Italy here, Paris here, and London here.
Reykjavík is the capital of Iceland, and the country’s largest city, with a population in and immediately around Reykjavík of about 300,000 people. So, even though it’s the largest city, by US standards it is small, and that’s what makes it so charming! There are several museums, a beautiful waterfront, and tons to explore!
Where we stayed
B14 Hostel: I stayed in a hostel with the girls, and it was lovely! It was a dorm style hostel, so each room had about 10 beds, then there were private bathroom/shower rooms, and a small kitchen. It was very clean, very safe, and the perfect place for our group because we could be all together in one room. Each bed had its own private curtain that you could pull closed for privacy, with a little charging station and lamp, and the beds were very comfortable.
The hostel wasn’t right in the main part of town, but its location actually worked out great for us, because there were a few shops, a grocery store, a couple restaurants, and a coffee shop all within walking distance.
HomeAway Apartment: Chelsea and I rented an apartment through HomeAway, and we loved it! It was right in the heart of downtown Reykjavík, and had all the comforts of home with great views of the waterfront. It, too, felt very safe, and I loved that we could walk to breakfast each morning, and have a comfortable place to come back to in the evenings.
Where we ate:
Reykjavík Fish: My first meal in Iceland with the girls was at Reykjavík Fish. This restaurant served up classic Iceland dishes, and everything we had was delicious. Most of us ordered fish and chips, but a couple people tried Plokkari, which is an Icelandic fish stew, and it was also great!
Glo: The troop and I had dinner here on our one night in town, and it was wonderful! This restaurant boasts a great vegan menu, and for our vegan members, it was the perfect spot. They also had many non-vegan options, so everyone was happy. They do a build-your-own bowl in which you can add noodles, veggies, meats, sauces, etc., and they also have vegan and meat burger options. Another bonus for us was that this place was walking distance from our hostel, so when the jet-lag started to hit in the early evening, we were nice and close to home.
Bryggjan Brugghús: Chelsea and I ate here on our first night in Iceland, and we loved it! It is a brewery/restaurant right on the waterfront, and their menu had many classic Icelandic dishes that felt approachable, even to an intimidated tourist. I had a spicy chicken sandwich and Chelsea had fish and chips, and both were delicious!
Friðheimar: This restaurant was so much fun! It is on the Golden Circle (more on that Wednesday!), and is inside a greenhouse at Friðheimar Farm. They grow tomatoes and cucumbers inside the greenhouse, then use that bounty to create amazing dishes. I tried a Bloody Mary with green tomatoes, and it was very good. I also had a bowl of tomato soup that was delicious, and Chelsea’s tomato pasta was amazing, too. We loved dining among the rows and rows of tomatoes, and it was the perfect pitstop on our drive that day!
Brauð and Co: This delicious little bakery was a hit both with the girls and when I was with Chelsea. They serve up a wonderful assortment of traditional Iceland breads and pastries, along with French breads and pastries.
One of the parents on the troop trip picked up a loaf of Icelandic bread from here, and it was amazing! It’s a straight rye bread, called Rúgbrauð, and It is traditionally baked in a pot or steamed in special wooden casks by burying it in the ground near a hot spring, in which case it is known as hverabrauð or “hot-spring-bread”. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)
Sandholt: This bakery was Chelsea’s and my favorite spot of the whole trip! The pastries, coffee, and sandwiches here were all delicious. We had breakfast here twice, and took sandwiches to-go for one of our out-of-town adventures (more on that Wednesday as well), and every time we were happy with our selection! The pastries we tried were their cinnamon roll, chocolate croissant, and almond danish – loved them all! Our sandwiches were a turkey, and a ham and cheese, and the bread on both was amazing!
What we did:
The troop and I were able to fit in quite a few activities during our short time in Reykjavík! On our first day we visited Hallgrímskirkja Church, explored the city center shops, and walked along the waterfront.
Hallgrímskirkja Church: This is a must-do in my opinion! The views from the top of the church are incredible, and at 800 KR (the equivalent of about $8), I think it’s well worth it. The inside of the church is spectacular, too, so all in all I consider this a great addition to the itinerary.
Exploring the City: There is so much to see just walking the city streets in Reykjavík, and we enjoyed our afternoon wandering. The city boasts a unique street art collection, which we enjoyed seeing on the sides of many of the buildings. The shops right in the city center are perfect for souvenirs and gifts. I decided to pick up a classic Icelandic souvenir – an Icelandic sweater, and I’m excited for it to get cold enough to wear it back home!
Laugardalslaug: On the second day with the troop, we went to Laugardalslaug, which is a geothermal pool (not to be confused with the Blue Lagoon – more on that place Wednesday, too). This pool is a more economical option, and every review I read said it’s where the locals go now that the Blue Lagoon is so popular. I think the girls were initially disappointed we weren’t going to the Blue Lagoon, but after we got there, they really loved it! It was very chill, and the perfect place to relax before heading to the airport that afternoon.
One unique rule in Iceland when going swimming is you have to shower completely naked before you enter the pool area. My understanding is this used to be done in a giant room inside the locker rooms. Now, I’m sure due to the uptick in tourism they’ve seen in the last few years, they have private stalls at most facilities, so modest folks like myself can have some privacy. Going into this trip, I didn’t know about the private stalls being offered, so that was a very welcome surprise upon arrival! They also don’t allow cameras inside many public pools (the Blue Lagoon is an exception), so I don’t have any photos of the pool itself, but I did manage to get a picture of the map of the pool so you can see how big it is!
Eimverk Distillery Tour: This was actually a happy accident for Chelsea and me. We were searching for this place (about a ten minute drive outside the city limits), because we wanted to take home some gin, and upon finding it, were invited to join in on their tour. The facility is small, but the tour lasts two hours and includes a cocktail, lessons about the science behind their gin and other alcohol, and a tasting. Turns out, we couldn’t actually buy any alcohol there due to some strict liquor laws, so we were thankful to at least get to try some!
I really loved Reykjavík a lot! If I were to suggest an Iceland trip itinerary, I would say two full days in Reykjavík would be plenty of time to see the highlights. We didn’t do any of the museums, so adding those on, I would definitely say at least three full days there.
Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing an Icelandic themed #tastyTuesday recipe, and then Wednesday, I’ll be sharing all about our adventures outside of Reykjavík!