True story: every time I write out Reykjavik, I’m convinced I’ve spelled it wrong. But regardless of how I spell it, it has become one of my favorite cities I’ve ever visited. It’s clean, colorful, friendly and seems straight out of storybook. I haven’t been to any other nordic countries at this point — we’re thinking of planning a trip with two big flight vouchers we have in our back pocket — but I’ve already decided that lifestyle is totally my vibe. Maybe it’s that emphasis on hygee?
HOW TO GET THERE
You have a few low cost carrier options these days. I’ve flown both WOW air and Icelandair, and they are fairly comparable. Yes, you’ll have to pay to check a bag depending on its weight, and to save on fees you’ll want to admit that ahead of time. Don’t try to skirt the system because you’ll end up paying more at the gate. From DC, it’s a 5 to 6 hour direct flight, super easy.
HOW TO GET AROUND
If you’re not planning on leaving Reykjavik, you won’t need a car. But, that’s probably not your plan, so rent a car. That will make your life far easier as you stop at the Blue Lagoon on the way into town from the airport and as you explore your chosen route. Be prepared, however, you’re not the only one renting a car and lines may be long. Reserve your car ahead of time and be conscious that most of the rental cars are manual, so you’ll want to be sure to select automatic if that’s what you drive.
We rented a regular sedan on this trip and were fine, though if you’re going when the weather is harsher or you plan on being a bit more adventurous, you may want to choose an SUV.
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK
You’ll often hear that the food in Iceland is less than stellar and, no, it’s not the foodie capital of the world. But, there is good, if expensive, food to be found. And, no, we did not eat fermented shark or any of the delicacies you hear rumored to be an Icelandic specialty.
We started off our visit with a trip to Sægreifinn, a tiny little spot that serves a delicious lobster soup with a side of bread. It was the perfect warm way to ease into the biting wind and cold that greeted us as we left the airport.
If it’s cold when you visit, you’ll probably want to use every excuse to pop into a local coffee shop and there are many to be found. We spent a couple hours in Sandholt drinking lattes in its gorgeous, minimalist space and planning our road trip for the next day. Other great spots to grab a coffee or a quick snack? Reykjavik Roasters is the hipper than hip coffee spot that I stumbled into by chance on my last trip and have now seen on every trendy Instagrammer’s feed, and Braud and Co has the most amazing cinnamon croissant treats I’ve ever had. Just go in prepared for sticker shock. You’ll pay $12 for 2 coffees and that’s just the way it is. Keep reminding yourself: your flight was cheap.
Looking for a nicer meal out? Fish Market has beautifully plated dishes, a fixed price tasting menu, and a dark cozy vibe. It totally bucks the “Iceland doesn’t have good food” perception.
Now, on to the most important food in Iceland — the hot dogs! As a child, I once said I wanted to be vegetarian except for hot dogs. Well, I actually stuck to the vegetarian thing, even without hot dogs, until I went to college, and now that I’ve been back on the hot dog train for many years, I still can’t get enough. So, yes, hot dogs in Iceland are a thing. They’re made mostly out of lamb, have an amazing snap, and are served with a remoulade, crispy fried onions, and raw onions. The classic hot dog stand is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur —Bill Clinton has even eaten there — and we did stand in the cold to get a hot dog there. However, we also ate them way too many times on our road trip, and I was never let down, not even by the gas station versions.
YOUR REYKJAVIK ITINERARY
So, what do you do in Reykjavik? Lots! On my previous trip, I had thought a day in Reykjavik was enough, but I absolutely fell in love with the city this time around.
Before you get into town, stop by the Blue Lagoon — yes, it’s worth visiting at least once — on your way from the airport.
Once you’re in Reykjavik, make the next stop on your itinerary Hallgrímskirkja church, where you’ll take in amazing views of the city from — that’s where everyone gets those unbelievable shots from above. Then, make your way to the adorable shopping district running down Laugavegur, a street in downtown lined with shops full of modern home finds, vintage stores, and, my favorite, Farmers Market, which carries the best nordic clothing. You could spend an entire day popping in and out of stores and coffee shops along this road. When you’re itching for a bit of culture, tour the stunning opera house, Harpa, which you can see in my photo below.
Next week, I’ll have my itinerary for a Ring Road road trip up on the blog — and then I’ll be done with recapping all of my European adventures from this fall! Clearly it’s time to start planning my next trip ASAP. We have Ireland booked in early spring, so start sending suggestions and recommendations my way!