Reykjavík completely won me over… And not just because I’m a Björkie. Iceland’s capital has everything I long for in a city: character, culture, food, and architecture. Bonus points to this town of 118,000 for being safe, clean, and pedestrian-friendly. Steep and narrow streets lined with colorful houses, hip shops, and tons of eclectic restaurants empty into a glittering bay with snow capped mountains in the distance. I think I’m in love!
Stay: Icelandair Hotel Reykjavík Marina
This quirky hotel feels more like a coffee shop than a brand run by Icelandair, which is to its credit. The hotel has tiny, but comfortable rooms with balconies overlooking a working marina and friendly and helpful staff. The hotel is centrally located for those of us who like to explore a city on foot.
Do: Helicopter Tour
Norðurflug Helicopters is Iceland’s largest operator. Their expert pilots have carried crews for blockbuster films like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Noah, and Thor. They run some of the largest ‘copters and the most extensive tours. We booked a Reykjavík city tour that included a very cool crater landing. Sipping sparkling wine atop a rocky crater at eye-level with snow-capped mountains and Reykjavík in the distance, it’s impossible not to be romanced.
Eat: Grái Kötturinn
From now on known as ‘Björk’s Cafe’ (according to Lonely Planet, this is one of her favorites), this artsy coffee shop is as unassuming as it is charming. Fifties-style tables, shelves lined with books, and friendly staff make it a draw, even if it easy to pass up on the street. I recommend the lox and bagel.
Do: Harpa Concert Hall
Where Modern Art meets disco, you’ll find Harpa. Reykjavík’s geometric glass concert hall is stunning inside and out. It’s free to enter but you’ll need to purchase tickets to see most performances. Get there at dusk to admire boats in the harbor or dine at the restaurant perched above the water. At night, Harpa lights up in a kaleidoscope of ever-changing colors, like a pulsating equalizer.
Eat: Saegreifinn Restaurant
This tiny two-table restaurant more than makes up for lack of space with its out-of-this-world lobster soup. A buttery, curry-flavored soup with delicate morsels of lobster is the perfect antidote to Iceland’s blistering cold. The soup came with fresh bread and seared scallops. I could eat this soup every day!
This iconic church defines Reykjavík architecturally, and from the top, offers views of the city. Its design is reminiscent of the basalt columns in towns like Vík. Hallgrímskirkja looks especially magical at dusk or with the Northern Lights waving overhead.
Eat: Austur Indiafelagio
The northernmost Indian restaurant in the world is both chic and authentic. I’ve eaten Indian food everywhere (except India, for shame!) from New York to Tokyo and Austur Indiafelagio satisfied my constant craving. It’s a great place to thaw out, enjoy glowing lights, and people-watch from large picture windows.