The rock collection and films at Volcano house.
I love going to this café in the center of Reykjavík, and have taken VT-members here who come for a visit to Iceland.
I have added a special tip on Volcano house café - but I thought the geology section and the cinema at the café deserved a special tip under things to do in Reykjavík.
This café is family run - 4 siblings from Vestmannaeyjar run this café - maybe their interest in geology stems from the volcanic eruption in Vestmannaeyjar in 1973.
There is a section of the café where there is a geological exhibition with different kinds of rocks found in Iceland. And for sale are different types of pumice and candlesticks and jewellery from lava. Some of the collection is privately owned, but the owners of the café have also collected rocks - in their own words "...by hiking on mountains, climbing cliffs and crawling in slides looking for beautiful rocks...". They are always making their collection more interesting.
There is also a collection of ashes from different volcanic eruptions.
Some of the staff has finished geology studies, so they can answer any question about the rocks or geology in Iceland.
Picking the rocks up and touching them is recommended.
I apologize for the quality of the photos. I took them during the darkest months here, it was in the middle of the day, but pitch-black outside. I will have to go there again to take better photos in daylight.
There is a volcano theatre in the café, one film is on the volcanic eruption in Vestmannaeyjar islands when all the inhabitants had to flee the island on the 23rd of January 1973, I remember that vividly. It started at 2 at night when the inhabitants were fast asleep. The other film is about the Surtseyjargos eruption, which began in 1963 and lasted for 4 years. A whole island, Surtsey, was created in the eruption.
The film lasts for 20 minutes.
And another film on Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption in 2010, which the world remembers as that caused flights around the world not being able to set off and caused a lot of problems to millions of travellers, including me. That film also lasts for 20 minutes. I watched that movie and it was awesome - highly recommended.
It also mentions the eruptions in 2011 in Grímsvötn and the eruptions in Mt. Katla and Mt. Hekla volcanoes. Also mentioned is the Skaftáreldar eruption in 1783, which was a massive eruption, which caused weather changes in Europe.
The film starts on the hour all day long from 10:00-21:00 and are in English, but from June 1st-September 15th there are German shows at 18:00. One can order special shows in French and Icelandic.
These films were produced especially for the Volcano café and cannot be seen elsewhere.
Open every day.
Daytrip to Greenland
When I booked Reykjavík to Kulusuk in February it was about € 600, 2 years ago when I started to look into this it was € 450, the site (islanddirekt.com, german only, and no direct online booking, payment by bank transfer) where I booked is at the moment from € 669 (July 2014), Air Island on a random date in July € 930 (July is presumably high season). But someone claimed they payed £ 300 on a last minute site...
The flight might be canceled due to bad weather (for instance 1 day before i had mine).Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Adventure Travel
Einar Jónsson Museum
Einar Jónsson, living from 1874 till 1954 was a sculptor who made some rather strange and interesting sculptures, se based in the nordic mythology.
The Museum is only open June to September from 2 pm till 5 pm, Tuesday till Sunday, the rest of the year also from 2 pm till 5 pm Saturday and Sunday only, ISK 1000.
There is also a Sculpture Garden at the backside, the door from Freyjugatanseems to be alwise ope, free entry.Related to:
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
Sögusafnið - Saga Museum
I decided to walk to Sögusafnið, however I may have been better to have trvelled by the local bus (line 18) or even by taxi. It was a good day, crisp but bright - so i walked. The scenery was good all the way urban and more distant.
Located within Perlan, the museum is an interesting feature. Lifelike figures, and one even appear to breathe. the hours change by season:
Winter (1 November to 28 February) has opening hours of 12.00 through to 17.00
Summer (1 March to 21 October) has longer opening hours of 10.00 to 18.00
You can take photographs, but without the use of a flash. The results are a little unpredictable.
The bold, naked statues.
There are several strange looking statues in Reykjavík and in more places in Iceland. They are all naked, androgynous and bold and kind of freak me out a bit.
These statues are made by the artist Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir and I have seen her statues at the Keflavík airport, in Seltjarnarnes, Sandgerði, Vík and in Akureyri. The statues I have seen in Reykjavík are in Bankastræti street and in front of Geysir Bistro on the corner of Aðalstræti and Skúlagata.
There was a forum question recently about the statue in front of Geysir Bistro, asking what it meant. I do not know what any of these statues are about, apart from the one in Akureyri. The name of this statue in front of Geysir Bistro is Prospect and it was made in 2000. The name does not tell me much about the statue. But then art cannot always be explained.
The statue in Akureyri.
The Original Free Tour of Reykjavík
When my VT-friend Jonathan Barker came over to Reykjavík for a visit I accompanied him on a free tour of Reykjavík called the "Original Free Tour of Reykjavík" by the Goecco Eco Adventures of Iceland.
The tour start at every day at 13:00 from the 15th of May until the 15th of September - come rain or shine.
We met the tour guide by the Old harbour of Reykjavík in front of the Whale Watching ticket stalls. He guided us through the old part of Reykjavík from the Old harbour and stopped by the City Library and told us about how Reykjavík was chosen to be one of the UNESCO cities of Literature. He then took us up to Grjótaþorp, the oldest part of Reykjavík, down to the oldest graveyard in Reykjavík and from there to the Parliament building. He walked us through the gardens behind the Parliament building and told us about the financial crash in 2008 and the pot and pan revolution (in which I joined).
When in Grjótaþorp, the oldest part of Reykjavík a furry cat joined us. It just sat in front of the standing tour guide, who was explaining to us Reykjavík´s history, and stared at him. The tour guide told us that the cat always joins in at this point :)
At the end of the tour the tour guide stopped by MR, the oldest college in Reykjavik, and people tipped the tour guide generously, that is how they make their money.
A funny thing happened. I was contacted by this Icelandic tour guide here on VT. He was looking for photos of Grjótaþorp and asked me, in English, if he could use one of my photos :)
Unfortunately it seems as these free tours have stopped after 7 seasons and 100.000 visitors :(
Now the same guide, Dagur Bergsson, has created his own walking tour Reykjavík Walking Tour, which starts from Ingólfstorg square at 13:00 o´ clock every day but Sundays.
The Saga Museum.
The Saga Museum is a museum not to be missed. It is awesome. It shows the life of the vikings and the chronological history of Iceland. It brings you right back to the Viking ages and it is so life-like (they use silicon instead of wax) that it is almost scary. One just cannot believe that some of them are not alive. Snorri Sturluson's figure even has a mechanism which makes him breathe! And some of them are quite scary, I wouldn't bring small children there as one of the figures are of a nun being burnt at the stake and another of a bloody viking being slain by another viking in the battle for power here in Iceland.
By the entrance to the museum you get a headset and the tour takes 30 minutes. So you stop by every figure and have the history behind it explained to you. I found it better to just read the information beside the figures and wander around in amazement of how superbly these figures are made. Here you can see an Irish munk which was here when the Vikings came to Iceland. Hrafna-Flóki with his ravens. Melkorka, the Irish princess, which was captivated and brought to Iceland, Ingólfur Arnarson, the first settler, Skalla-Grímur and Egill, Leif the Lucky, the Conversion to Christianity, Snorri Sturluson, victims of the black-death and the beheading of Jón Arason during Reformation.
I highly recommend visiting Saga-Museum!
Admission fee is ISK 1.500.
Opening hours: every day from 10:00-18:00, April 1st - September 30th.
Every day from 12:00-17:00, Oktober 1st - Marsh 31st.
The Saga Museum was in the Pearl for many years, but moved in April 2014 down to the harbour by Grandi in down-town Reykjavík.
111 Reykjavík - Breiðholt suburb.
Breiðholt is the biggest suburb in Reykjavík with ca 20.000 inhabitants. Breiðholt has got 2 post-numbers, the numbers 111 and 109 Reykjavík, upper and lower Breiðholt.
In upper Breiðholt you can find the biggest block of flats in Iceland. It is called Stykkishólmur, named after one of our villages in Snæfellsnes peninsula, as it is said that it has the same population as a village in Iceland (see my first two photos).
And next to it is the longest block of flats in Reykjavík which is commonly referred to as "Langavitleysan" or the Long nonsense as it is so long. It was built for people with low income and buying a condo there is cheaper than in other parts of Reykjavík. This long block of flats has got 3 street-names, Fannafell, Gyðufell and Iðufell.
There are a lot of immigrants in Breiðholt suburb and a Polish supermarket.
The blocks of flats are built around a centre where there are schools and a swimming pool and shops.
I like this lively part of Reykjavík and always wanted to move there when I was younger.
The Laundry springs - Þvottalaugarnar.
In Laugardalur valley in Reykjavík used to be a hot spring - the Icelandic word "laug" means hot spring or pool. Here women in the olden days used to do their laundry - rain or shine - or snow. They used to carry their heavy laundry from down-town Reykjavík - up Laugavegur (hot spring road) and way up to Laugadalur valley. In 1887 the trackless terrain of what is now Laugavegur was cleared so that carriages could drive up to the hot-spring. The distance is ca 3 km.
The women did the laundry until the first decades of last century. Here used to be crowds of women who did their laundry by this hot spring under dangerous circumstances - during the winter it was very slippery and the steam from the hot-spring made the circumstances even worse. Some women lost their lives here. From 1884-1901 three women stumbled into the hot spring. In 1902 racks and walls around the hot springs were put up for safety.
The working hours were 10-15 hours and then these poor women had to carry the wet and heavy laundry back on their back. So drying the clothes to an extent was desirable.
In 1917 Icelandic laundry women slaved away like pack horses, when the town council started offering trips to the laundry springs - i.e. the laundry was picked up at 5 places in Reykjavík, the laundry women still had to walk to the springs.
The women often cooked their food in the hot spring, fish, meat and potatoes. The food was wrapped in rags and cooked in the geothermal water. And coffee was made from the geothermal water and even the kids drank coffee back them - as often the laundry women brought their children with them to work.
A laundrette was opened here in 1833 making laundry doing more humane for the women. Unfortunately the laundrette blew away in a storm in 1857. Another laundrette was raised in 1887 which was closed in 1976. By then women of Reykjavík had obtained their own washing-machine.
The hot-spring was harnessed in 1930 marking the beginning of heating utility in Reykjavík. The hot-spring is now dry.
There are now very informative educational signs on the life by the hot-spring through the centuries with a lot of photos on this spot.
There is a statue of Þvottakonan or The Laundry woman made by Ásmundur Sveinsson in 1958, but he was one of our best known sculptors.
I recommend visiting this place.
Bernhöftstorfan and Ingólfsbrekka.
The row of old houses in the old center of Reykjavík are called Bernhöftstorfan. They are located between Bankastræti and Amtmannsstígur. They are so beautiful, but there was a time (1970) when they were to be torn down and bigger buildings erected here for government offices and maybe move the houses to the open air museum in Árbær. The nation was ashamed of its old houses and had an inferiority complex. And they would have been torn down if not for the conservation movement which stood up and protested - they were called Torfusamtökin or The Torfa Movement (1972) which had its roots in the 68-generation. This was a big protest which lasted for a long time and I remember it well. In 1973 our Prime Minister kind of gave in and didn´t protest when a group of the Torfa Movement started painting the houses on the 19th of May 1973.
The houses were spared. The houses didn´t look that good back then and in 1977 there was a fire here, probably arson. Only the house closest to Bankastræti survived almost intact, but the other ones were later restored to their original form in 1979 and preserved.
I don´t think anybody regrets preserving these houses, to me they represent one of the most beautiful parts of down-town Reykjavík. And a new addition has been erected, the house behind Lækjarbrekka restaurant, which was built in the same style as the old houses and fits in perfectly.
These beautiful old houses date back to the 19th century, which is old for Iceland. The name derives from the bakery which was located in Bankastræti 2 called T. D. Bernhöft bakery, which was Iceland´s first bakery in 1834. Bernhöft bakery is now located further up in Bergstaðarstræti.
The slope beneath the houses is called Ingólfsbrekka slope, actually the whole slope was called Ingólfsbrekka slope and the houses called Bernhöftstorfan were at the end of the slope. But now there are only houses and stores in the slope, so the only green part is beneath Bernhöftstorfan. There was a garden and a water pump here, which was used by many. Now there is a big open air chessboard here. When I was younger there used to be big chess players here as well and anybody could play outside chess when they wanted. It was installed here in 1981.
There is a white house called Gimli here, built in 1905, kind of like a small castle. The house next to Gimli was built in 1838. That house was built by the treasurer of Iceland, Stefán Gunnlaugsson, and was named after him "Gunlaugsenhús". The next owner was Martin Smith and the house got the nickname "Smithshús". The next owner was the Icelandic psalmist Sr. Stefán Thorarensen and the first Icelandic Minister, Hannes Hafstein, lived in this house for 4 years before he became a minister. The Director General of Public Health, Guðmundur Björnsson, added the tower. From then on the house was called "Landlæknishúsið" and Guðmundur had his doctor´s office at home.
There is a lovely restaurant here, Lækjarbrekka, where I have accompanied several VT-members, who wanted to try whale meat.
When I went to college down-town in 1980-1984 my friends and I frequented the beautiful restaurants here, Torfan (which went bust in 1989 and now Humarhúsið restaurant is located there) - and the beautiful Lækjarbrekka restaurant, and had the cheapest thing on the menu - creamy asparagus or mushroom soup and hot cocoa with whipped cream - those were the days :D
There is a statue at the end of the slope by Lækjargata called Vatnsberinn or The Water carrier by one of our sculptors, Ásmundur Sveinsson, made in 1937. It was moved here in 2011, but since 1967 it was located north of Perlan out of sight, really, alone on a hill. This is a much better location for this most famous work of Ásmundur Sveinsson.
The old prison in the city center.
Now this tip should under no circumstances be considered a "Thing to do in Reykjavík" but I add it here as this building stands out in Skólavörðustígur street. It is an old prison in the city center. It was built in 1874 and is the oldest prison in Iceland. It served as a court-house as well as a prison. Around 1920 even Supreme court was situated in this prison.
From 1879-1881 the National Museum was located here.
Nowadays there is room for 16 inmates there, and this prison serves mostly as a reception for prisoners who are just starting to serve their centence and will be going to other prisons, or for prisoners with short sentences. There are no recreational facilities for prisoners here only a recreational open area behind the prison. The main prison is by Eyrarbakki town in South-Iceland. This prison is called in Icelandic "Hegningarhúsið" or The Penalty house. The Icelandic word for prison on the other hand is "fangelsi".
Now there are talks about building a new prison and that this old prison should be made into a museum or maybe a restaurant - will see what is going to happen to it.
On Reykjavík Culture Night in August each year there is always something happening in front of the prison, once there was a concert, in 2013 there was pole dancing - as a sport of course.
The private nature gallery of Hrafn Gunnlaugsson.
Next to the Sigurjón Ólafsson museum you will notice an extraordinary sight - the private nature gallery of one of our film directors, Hrafn Gunnlaugsson. It is all about Norse mythology which was the old belief of the Vikings before they "took up" Christianity - and just abstract art.
During our Winter festival the second weekend of February 2012 Hrafn opened up his nature gallery to the nation and offered free hamburgers from Hamborgarabúllan. He expected ca 200 people to attend at the most, but 1.000 hamburgers were served, so more than a 1.000 people visited him, including me - and I was blown away by his home. He offers people a private tour of his gallery on request.
Not everybody has been thrilled with Hrafn´s enterprise, as it were, I like his work though, and the police ordered him to stop building on some of the land around his place which didn´t belong to him. He had put some ponds there and they came and destroyed them. I am not happy about that... Icelanders have been kind of known for not accepting anything out of the ordinary - but that is fortunately changing a bit now.
Hrafn Gunnlaugsson has directed so many Icelandic films, many of them Viking films, some quite violent ones. I add a link to Hrafn´s website and list of films here below. Amongst them are In the Shadow of the Raven (Í skugga hrafnsins), The White Viking (Hvíti víkingurinn), When the Raven flies (Hrafninn flýgur) - they are all violent and bloody, but then the Vikings weren´t known for their peaceful manner.
Every year Hrafn hosts a Christmas party for his extended family and last year I was invited to his home. It was just lovely and loads of fun as Hrafn is a colourful character.
Culture Night in August in Reykjavík.
On the 3rd weekend in August every year Reykjavík Culture Night is celebrated. Last year (2013) VT-member Jonathan Barker was in Reykjavík for a visit, so I showed him around. Culture Night is a big celebration and there are happenings and concerts all over down-town Reykjavík.
One part of Culture Night is especially lovely; the residents of a special area in 101 Reykjavík, by Skólavörðuholt and by and around Óðinstorg square, invite people to their homes for waffles, pancakes, hot chocolate and coffee. This tradition started by Reykjavík city asking the residents to take part in this waffle project back in 2007 and it turned out to be a success and the tradition has been going strong for 6 years now. Reykjavík city provides the ingredients, waffle-mix and jam and cream.
One resident says that she receives up to 400 guests on Culture Night, thus making ca 400 waffles! I have visited this resident on Culture Night and it was so lovely, we sat on the grass in her garden and listened to a life performance, everybody eating waffles and drinking hot chocolate.
More and more residents in this area are taking part in Cultur Night every year.
Last year (2013) it was raining a bit, so we couldn´t sit down, but had coffee and pancakes in one resident´s garden in Þórsgata. There was also a flee-market in their alley.
On Austurstræti square there were viking fights, and one of them attacked Jonathan, who seems to be rather enjoying it on the photo ;) There is something special about seeing Vikings on the streets of Reykjavík in my opinion.
Later in the evening there are organized outside concerts by Arnarhóll hill and the celebration is finished off by beautiful fireworks.
This festival has been celebrated since 1996.
Street art: Superb murals by Guido van Helten.
I noticed one day that a big mural of an old man´s face had appeared on one of the houses in 101 Reykjavík. It was painted by the known Australian graffiti artist, Guido van Helten. It is called "afi" or the "grandfather" and depicts the previous owner of the house and the grandfather of the owner living in the house.
I found another mural in Skagaströnd in North Iceland and just found out that I missed another mural in the same town.
And now Guido van Helten is making a series of murals from an Icelandic play - he is painting them on Héðinshús in 101 Reykjavík, opposite where the first mural is located. I will keep my eye out for them and add them to the tip when I see them. They are made by photographs taken by Andrés Kolbeinsson, which he took of the Icelandic production "Læstar dyr" or Locked doors by Sartre from 1961. The Icelandic actors in the murals are Kristbjörg Kjeld, Helga Löve and Erlingur Gíslason, all well known actors.
Beautiful graffiti artwork in Reykjavík.
In the old part of Reykjavík you can see beautiful graffiti and artwork on the houses. I always carry my camera with me and take a photo if I see a beautiful graffity or decorations on buildings, like the one of Iceland and another of a waterfall, which glistens in the wind.
This is cooperation between the artists, city hall and the owners of the houses/buildings. The artists were allowed to use one square, Hjartarreitur, for their graffiti, but now that square has been closed and an Icelandair will soon be built there (summer of 2013).
It is better to have cooperation like this as graffiti per se is forbidden in Reykjavík. Since the cooperation was established the cost of cleaning illegal graffiti has plummeted from 99 m.kr. in 2007 down to 9 m.kr. in 2013.
Sara Riel painted the Phoenix in the last photo and it took here 4 weeks to complete her artwork.
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