Harpa concert hall is a unique experience. The facade mosaic of glass panes provides ever changing views from within. It is fun to roam the interior and look in many directions (don't forget up). If you visit during the day, there are shops, tours, and food at Smurstöðin (my sister enjoyed their "Festive Menu" which included baked "Christmas" pâté, sliced pickled beetroot and peppered bacon (1590 ISK) or Reindeer tartar garnished with wild Icelandic berries, herb mayonnaise and pearl onions (2800 ISK). It is easy to lose time in this architectural wonder.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Arts and Culture
Reykjavík City Theatre - Borgarleikhúsið.
There are several theatres, big and smaller in Reykjavík. The National Theatre is in the old city center, and in the new city center is the Reykjavík City Theatre. It is next to Kringlan shopping center. It was consecrated on October 20th 1989, so it is a relatively "new" theatre and the actors moved from Iðnó theatre down-town by the Reykjavík pond, to Borgarleikhúsið.
There are three stages in The National Theatre, The Large stage can seat 550 guests and has a revolving stage. I have been to one play, where the stage revolved, an awesome show. The New stage seats up to 240 people and The Small stage can seat up to 220 people.
In the foyer there is a bar and sitting area.
I have been here many, many times, and seen so many good plays here, monologues and concerts, in all the stages. I visited it in February 2012, when 550 Icelanders were invited to a show - we all had to sign a contract that the Icelandic phone directory was allowed to take photos of us and use them for advertisements, commercials, on the cover of the Icelandic phone directory etc. So I have been on the cover of the Icelandic phone directory ;)
There was an excellent production on Mary Poppins, which I attended here in 2013.
I have never liked the "shape" of this theatre. It looks like a pile of something, compared to our National theatre.
Seeing that it is adjacent to Kringlan mall then there is a lot of free parking space here, something that can not be said about the theatre down-town. So we actually prefer coming here, just because of that.
In October 2014 I moved close to Borgarleikhúsið and can see it from my window, but at night it is lit up in beautiful violet colour.
Keiluhöllin - The Bowling palace.
Keiluhöllin just closed down in 2015!
On one side of Öskjuhlíð hill (see my tip) where Perlan is located, there is a bowling alley called Keiluhöllin (The Bowling palace). It opened back in 1985 and is very popular amongst the nation.
The bowling alley is the largest in Iceland. There is also a restaurant there and pool, plus arcade games.
Day-prices until 17:00 1/2 hour 1.350 kr. one hour 2.700 kr.
Evening and weekend prices are 1/2 hours 1.900 kr. one hour 3.800 kr.
Keiluhöllin is located on the west side on Öskjuhlíð facing Reykjavík domestic airport.
112 Reykjavík - Grafarvogur suburb.
Grafarvogur is the northern-most suburb in Reykjavík with ca 18.000 inhabitants. And this is where I lived for 13 years from 2001-2014. I now live in postcode 108, which is much more central.
There are a lot of young people in Grafarvogur and we have 8 schools here and 13 kindergartens plus a lovely swimming pool which is only a 5 minutes' walk from my home. There is also a big field-house in Grafarvogur with a new cinema. And we have a shopping area called Spöngin, which is a cluster of stores with Bónus and Hagkaup supermarkets amongst other stores. It is a 20 minutes walk from where I live. Where I live we have a small shopping mall. But since the crisis hit us we have had a decrease in service here, all the banks in Grafarvogur have moved out of the suburb and even our only liquor store has closed down.
Grafarvogur is built by a lovely bay and the name "vogur" derives from that. "Grafar" is the genitive case of "Gröf" meaning grave, thus the meaning of the word is Gravecove - nice, hmm... It is named after a farmhouse though, but I have never liked this name. And it kind of mirrors my feeling for this place, it is way too quiet to live here if one doesn´t have kids.
There are some lovely walks here by the ocean, and it takes me only 5 minutes to walk down to the bay with its wonderful birdlife. And there is a lovely church as well by the bay and a library in the same building.
The districts in Grafarvogur are callled: Hamrahverfi, Foldahverfi, Húsahverfi, Rimahverfi, Borgarhverfi, Víkurhverfi, Engjahverfi, Spangarhverfi, Staðahverfi, Höfðar and Bryggjuhverfi. And Gufunes, Geldinganes and Geirsnef (where the dogs are allowed to play, see my tip) belong to Grafarvogur as well. I have added a tip on Bryggjuhverfi.
We have a lovely church with a library, Grafarvogskirkja church. It is the biggest congregation in Reykjavík.
I have lived here since 2001. At first I liked it but for years now I have felt way too far away from the city center. And seeing that I don´t have kids I have no ties to the suburb. It is a great place to raise kids though. What I think is making me isolated here is that to get to Grafarvogur one has to drive up a hill and through an industrial area and down to the bay. Grafarvogur is on a peninsula so it is cut off from Reykjavík, so to speak. When I was little there was only the Reykjavík refuse dump here and no buildings. It was only in the late 1980s that houses were built here and my block of flats was built in 1986. It is very quiet, both night and day there is not a sound to be heard in my condo. I love to walk everywhere I go, but since I moved here I have all but stopped walking. It takes me ca 45 minutes just to get out of Grafarvogur walking by the salmon river Elliðaár. Am thinking about moving closer to the city center... which I did in October 2014 :)
Hallsteinsgarður, aluminium artwork in Grafarvogur
Grafarvogur is the suburb of Reykjavík where I lived for 13 years. It is a relatively young suburb, but is now the second largest suburb in Reykjavík with 18.000 inhabitants. Since 1988 these aluminium art-works have been standing on a hill by Gufunes, and the artist has been putting up more and more through the years. There are so many of them, like a park full of abstract art-work - and I can tell you that we didn't appreciate them when I was younger. But now that I have lived in Grafarvogur for 12 years I have come to peace with them and find them an interesting addition to my suburb. The park is called Hallsteinsgarðurinn park and the artist's name is Hallsteinn Sigurðsson. It covers 1,5 ha.
In 2013 the artist, Hallsteinn Sigurðsson, gave 16 of his art-works to Reykjavík city.
They are so large that you can go inside some of them and sit on them. The view from Gufunes is awesome, so this is a nice spot to sit down and enjoy the marvellous view from Grafarvogur. There you can see Mt. Esjan, Viðey island, the ocean, Geldingarnes island and Akranes town across the bay.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum
There is a museum in Reykjavík, which is one of its kind in the world, the Icelandic Phallological Museum or "Hið íslenska reðursafn", with penises on display. It is not a sex museum, but a museum of penises from various mammals, depicting the largest and the smallest penises in the world. Here at the museum penises from almost all the mammals in Iceland can be found on display, including the one of a Homo Sapiens. And there are also several foreign specimens, including that of a giraffe.
The museum was in August 2010 voted the second most horrible museum in the world.
I didn´t visit the museum until 2014 when we were showing foreign guests around Reykjavík. It is an interesting museum, but both the men I was with were red in the face and felt a bit inadequate, as it were. And no photos of them with the penises were to be posted on Facebook ;) I won´t post them here either, just the one of me with the sperm whale specimen to show how big it actually is.
I get squeamish looking at jars with things in formaldehyde in them, but wasn´t that disturbed by the specimens at the museum, the only specimen at the museum that made me squeamish was the Homo Sapiens one. A 96 year old Icelandic man, Páll Arason, who died in 2011, donated his member to the museum and there are 5 pending donations from various foreign men. I had seen an interview with Páll, where he was talking about his future donation and people were intrigued by him wanting to do this, but actually seeing his specimen in formaldehyde made me squeamish. But that is just me ;)
This museum was located in Reykjavík from 1997-2004, but moved to Húsavík village in North-Iceland, but on the 10th of September 2011 it moved back to Reykjavík. The son of the owner took over the business from his father.
Opening hours: May 1st - September 30th: 10:00-18:00 and October 1st - April 30th: 11:00-18:00.
Admission fee: ISK 1.250
Þúfa - outdoor artwork
There is a new outdoor artwork by Grandinn harbour-area down-town Reykjavík. It is called "Þúfa" meaning tussock and is a big tussock with a shed on top. Þúfa was made by our female artist Ólöf Nordal in 2013. Ólöf Nordal also made the statue of the great auk in Skerjafjörður and the foot-bath Kvika by Grótta.
It is possible to walk on top of the artwork, but written on the artwork is: "Please be careful. Walking on Þúfa is at your own risk". Þúfa is 8 meters high and 26 meters in diameter and there are stones around the whole artwork for walking to the top. I get dizzy when I walk to the top around and around.
The view from Þúfa is beautiful, of the ocean, Mt. Esja and Harpa. It is well worth a visit.
On top of Þúfa is a small shed, where fish is being dried. So to be able to stay up there to enjoy the view, one also has to be able to endure the strong smell of fish drying ;) At night there is blue light in the shed.
I think Þúfa is a good addition to the outdoor artwork in Reykjavík :)
Partnership - relations between Iceland and USA.
Walking along the waterfront on the north side of Reykjavík, passing the Sun Voyager and Íslandsvarðan "The Cairn of Iceland", one sees this sculpture - to me it looks like a spear head... it must be a spear head, right? Some people don´t agree with me though.
This sculpture is called Partnership, and is a commemoration of diplomatic relations between Iceland and the United States. It was given to Iceland on the 50th anniversary of those diplomatic relations in 1991. There is an identical sculpture called Partnership by a bay in South Florida - commissioned by the same people, which commissioned it to Iceland - Ambassador Charles E. Cobb and his wife. These 2 sculptures are linked together by the Gulf Stream of the Atlantic ocean - quite lovely, I think.
The story behind the relationship between Iceland and the United states dates back to 1941 during WW2 when the Americans came to defend Iceland. They stayed and had an army base by Keflavík until 2006 when they just up and left us - with a "Guide for dummies on how to defend oneself". We were not amuzed.
Close to Partnership there are lovely multicoloured smooth rocks, where one can sit down and take a load off and enjoy the beauty of the bay. It is actually a work of art, called Fjöruverk, by Sigurður Guðmundsson. These rocks were sent to China to be polished.
Located on the west part of Reykjavik …. The Grotta lighthouse is a small island where during the summer is a bird sanctuary … we came here twice … once during the night trying to see the northern lights (no luck) and the 2nd time to get some great view of Reykjavik.
There is a nice paved walkway that leads yet to another enclave … locals use the path to run and to ride bike ….
Grotta is about 5 minutes away from the city center …..
ATV's on the mountains !!!!!
I must say … Iceland has tons and tons of outdoor activities to see and do …. I enjoyed everything the country had to offer ….
But without a doubt this was the highlight of my trip …..
A company called Quad Safari offers 1/2/3 hour ATV trips. We decided to take a 2 hour trip .. I must say it wasn't cheap about 22,000 ISK for 2 people …. but it was well worth it ….
They came to pick us up at our hotel at 9:00 a.m. taken about 30 minutes away to the base camp of the company …. given full jump suits and riding instructions and off we went into the surrounding mountains around Reykjavik …..
We had an awesome tour guide Arnar Thor …. we stop at so many jaw dropping sites that it was hard not to fall in love with Iceland ……
They have all sorts of riding levels … we decided to take a moderate level since a beginners level was only 1 hour long … and glad we did … up the mountain thru rivers, mud banks, plains, rocky terrain … overall just fun !!!!!!!
I would without any hesitation recommend this to families and friends …
Harpa Opera Hall
Locate on the water side in the downtown area… The Harpa Opera house brings pride and joy to the locals of Reykjavik ….
Even though we didn't enter to see a performance we certainly did take a moment to visit and look around.
Beautiful green glass covers the building … making the building stand out from distances away.
I did notice a sign for the Nutcracker and the prestigious London Philharmonic Orchestra performances in December.
Government House/ Cabinet House
The Government House/ Cabinet House (Stjornarrad) has been known under various names since it was built as a prison in 1765-70. The governor of Iceland at the time, Skuli Magnusson, was an ideologist, who wanted to create employment possibilities for the agricultural population of the country by building wool factories. He managed to see his dream come true, but workers were hard to come by. He there for used the inmates that were fit for work as workers in the factories.
The house served as a prison until 1816. It had stood empty for about three years, when the Danish governor, count Moltke, arrived and found his lodgings uninhabitable and his office space unusable. He had the Government fund the reconstruction of the empty prison and moved in with his family and officials.
In 1874, the millennium of the Danish inhabitancy of the country was celebrated in Iceland, and the Danish king, Christian IX, participated. He brought with him the Iceland's first constitution and delivered it to the Icelandic nation in Þingvellir, were the ancient Parliament was held.
In 1904, the Danish government granted Iceland home rule.In 1904, the Danish government granted Iceland home rule. This announcement was read out loud on the steps of the Government House and the official flag of the country was hoisted up in front of it for the first time. Since then the house has been used first by the ministry and then by the government and hence it's current name. Today the house is used as the Prime ministers offices.
The statues in front of the house are the work of the sculptor Einar Jonsson from the years 1915 and 1931. One depicts King Christian IX handing over the constitution in 1874, and the other Hannes Hafstein, who became the first minister of the country in 1904.
The Downtown area - small and easy to walk
Reykjavik is the largest city in Iceland and the downtown and main shopping streets can be done in a matter of an hour or 2.
Laugavegur is one of the oldest shopping streets in Reykjavík and literally translates as "wash road"; that’s because it used to lead to the great old hot-springs and famous wash-spot in Laugardalur.
Skólavörðustígur is one of the most attractive streets in Reykjavík. It runs from the corner of the main shopping streets Laugavegur and Bankastræti up to the magnificent church Hallgrímskirkja. In front of the church, facing down the street, is a statue of Leifur heppni ('the Lucky'), an Icelandic / Norwegian sailor and the first European to set foot in North-America.
The street has charming old houses with stores and galleries. You can find everything from Icelandic design, souvenirs, woolen goods, photographs of Iceland or exotic arts and crafts to cosy cafes and delicatessen.
We came several times to this are during our trip to drink coffee look for souvenirs and just to browse stores.
Parking is not a big deal just make sure you put in enough money if not you'll end up with a parking ticket like we did …..
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...
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