For the past year, every visit to the bookstore section of travel guides, every extra penny saved in the bank, every day dreaming commute accompanied by the music of Sigur Rós , all are devoted to one goal alone, that someday, somehow I will bring myself to this magical land up North.
I arrived at Keflavik Airport mid-afternoon in a good autumn day, with a light backpack and a heart full of excitement. I never felt overwhelmed in any beginning of trips, and this feeling was a new one for me.
Along with other tourists who also dream of Icelandic getaway, on board the airport shuttle bus from Keflavik Airport, I made my way to the city capital of Reykjavik. The bus ride to the capital full of tourists was unusually quiet, with everyone busily peeking outside the window, with eyes absorbing the new surrounding and minds wandering around, perhaps, to the possibilities of new memories to create at this magnificent land.
For a country known for its unpredictable weather, it was a blessing and a pleasant welcome to arrive in Reykjavik when the sun is out, the sky is blue, the air is crisp and everything just seems to be illuminated.
Reykjavik is not the usual capital city, particularly when compared to other mega cities like Tokyo, New York or even when compared to other neighbouring Scandinavian capital. The population is comparable to a small town, there are no skyscrapers, there are no busy intersections, there are no shopping complex, what you will find is a good size city branded with its own unique version of what is quirky and cool.
To see Reykjavik is an easy task, you don’t even need a city map, instead all you need is an eagerness to walk and discover on your own on what separates this northernmost capital to the rest of the world, though, it will be a good decision to start your city tour in the most recognizable Reykjavik structure, the beautiful Hallgrímskirkja church.
Considered as the largest church in Iceland, with architecture inspired by the basalt columns of Svartifoss waterfalls, the towering Hallgrímskirkja church visible from every angle in the city is without a doubt one of the most unique and beautiful structures in the world.
The top of the church is an accessible viewing platform, providing 360° view of the entire city, open daily except Sunday because of mass service. At 74.5m above, what you will see are the colorful houses lining up the streets with the backdrop of the bay and the intriguing silhouette of Mt. Esja from afar, all for queueing up for a short time and paying a fee of 900 ISK for adults.
But the real fun of discovering Reykjavik lies on tirelessly walking its main streets and back-alleys, from the main shopping streets of Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur, to the residential neighborhood surrounding the city pond with names based from Nordic religion, such as Þórsgata (Thor’s Street) and Lokastígur (Loki’s Path), and for my case, at the same time, trying to pronounce the street names and wondering if I get it right.
Perhaps my most favorite part of the city is the pond, Reykjavíkurtjörn or Tjörnin for short. Located at the city center, nearby the City Hall and the beautiful Frikirkjan church, I can imagine living in Reykjavik and spending weekend morning around this area, either for a jog with my dog and some bird watching.
Within a few blocks walk on the way to the Old Harbour area is another impressive architecture, the Harpa Concert Hall, a popular venue for concerts and electronic music festivals.
The concert hall with geometric and glass structure mirroring the sky, the sea and the mountain range from afar is a good example on how everything in Reykjavik blends perfectly well, where every structure is thoroughly thought of and design to promote the culture and harmonize with the environment.
When you came across an article on the internet that tells you why Reykjavik should be your next city trip, believe it and it should be. I almost dismissed the idea of seeing the city and using it just a sort of home-based while I explore other parts of Iceland, but it’s a good thing that I allocated at least half a day to make arrangements and to have a glimpse of this wonderful city.