Over the last few years, Iceland has increasingly become a popular destination for travelers. In truth, the small island nation has a lot to offer its visitors in terms of recreational activities and pure natural beauty. While there are many ways to get adventurous outside of the capital city, Reykjavik is an ideal place to go for traditional sightseeing and provides an excellent introduction to the rest of this Northern European country.
An essential asset to any traveler in Reykjavik is the National Museum of Iceland, which features an impressive range of Iceland’s history and culture. The museum’s permanent exhibition, The Making of a Nation: Heritage and History in Iceland, appropriately begins with the period of settlement and works up to the present day, leaving visitors with a grand wealth of knowledge by the end. It is quite interactive and set up much like a walkable timeline. For those traveling with children, there is a special room designed especially for young guests, which allows them the chance to try on period costumes and play with historical figurines.
Another museum that should not be missed is The Saga Museum, located in the iconic Perlan building overlooking the city. There are seventeen scenes featuring wax figures, each depicting a tale from the Icelandic sagas. Compared to the National Museum with its broad scope of topics, the Saga Museum is more specific and helps visitors to familiarize themselves with significant people and events.
Laugavegur is the main shopping street in Rekjavik that runs several blocks and boasts an intriguing juxtaposition of restaurants, cafes, boutiques and shops. There is nothing mainstream about it. Shopping enthusiasts and foodies will have a difficult time resisting the many temptations here, though for all intents and purposes it is probably best to give in. One special retreat that even locals enjoy frequenting is known as Kofi Tómasar frænda, or Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a sushi bar and general hangout that also serves coffee and alcoholic beverages.
Another main road crossing paths with Laugavegur is Skólavörðustígur, which inevitably brings one to the Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran parish church that first opened to the public in 1986. It is a powerful sight to behold with its looming 73 meter high tower. The eyes are immediately drawn upwards, though the statue of Leif Eriksson in front equally vies for attention from passersby. A quick ride up the elevator for a small fee prompts guests to take out the cameras and indulge in their shutterbug syndrome in the clock tower, with views that span the far reaches of the capital to the various mountains sitting majestically on the city’s borders. This is, by far, the highlight of every visit to Reykjavik.
The best time to visit this northern paradise is during the summer season beginning in late May when the country is showered in sunlight for the majority of the day. Iceland is fortunate to experience rather mild temperatures given its location. Travelers should take note of the weather conditions so as to pack fitting clothing, particularly when arriving in the off-season from November to April.
Costs in Iceland are relatively high with 1 US dollar to approximately 125 Icelandic krona, but this should not serve as a deterrent as there are ways to maintain a budget, such as staying overnight at one of several hostels located in central or downtown Reykjavik.
The true pleasures of this city, however, are undeniably priceless.