Explore: Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland's capital city may be on the smaller side but there's still plenty to see and do. Aside from requisite visits to the Harpa, Sun Voyager, and Hallgrimskirkja, there is so much more to this tiny city than meets the eye. Even just walking around is inspiring -- the street art in Reykjavik is mesmerizing (don't worry about missing it-- it's everywhere). If you're a pro, you won't need more than 48 hours to explore. And why would you stay longer when you should be out exploring the rest of the Land of Ice and Fire?
Since Reykjavik was the last stop on our trip we decided to treat ourselves to an upgrade from hostel life (though as far as hostels go, Iceland's are quite nice). The beds at the Hotel Ódinsvé were so lovely to tuck into after a long trip (and a night out bar hopping in the cold).
Walking north, you'll eventually reach the waterfront. To the East you'll find Sólfarið (Sun Voyager) -- a stainless steel sculpture of a boat. To the West, you'll see the Harpa Concert Hall, which features a honeycomb-like design.
is one of the tallest structures in Iceland and sits in the center of Reykjavik. Its design is meant to be inspired by Iceland's unique landscape.
Had an incredible meal at Apotek, which came highly recommended by multiple sources. A little on the pricier end of the spectrum but totally worth it. Since it was our last night in the country, we went on a bit of a "treat yo'self" spree. My bank account was not pleased. And yes, everything on the menu is as delicious as it sounds. And since we were there to experience it all, we had to stop by the Lebowski bar. Yes, we could easily pass on the $20 White Russians but no, we couldn't just skip out on the bar entirely.
is one of Reykjavik's main shopping streets where you can find everything from cute boutiques to kitschy tourist shops, and fine dining establishments to noodle shops (more on that later).
Not everything in Reykjavik has to be astronomically expensive. I stumbled upon Noodle Station while exploring Laugavegur and was pleasantly surprised by the prices after a week of blindly handing my credit card over to waiters across the country. Nothing warms you up like a huge bowl of Thai-Chinese hybrid noodles on a cold, windy day in Reykjavik. Bonus points: They got a write up in Vogue.
There's tons of shopping as well (if that's more your speed). My favorite find was Myconceptstore, which sells everything from cool furniture to fine jewelry.
NEED TO KNOW
The main airport (Keflavik International Airport) is a 45 minute (ish) drive to Reykjavik. It's easiest to rent a car here and keep it for the duration of your trip. There are so many day (and overnight) trip ideas outside of the city that it's a huge miss to not explore what the rest of the country has to offer. If you're set on staying in Reykjavik (or have other modes of transportation arranged for traveling elsewhere) there are two coach bus services that offer (pricey) transport to the city (Greyline, Flybus) as well as a local bus option (route 55).
As with all countries this far north, the summers are mostly bright and sunny and the winters are incredibly dark. Want to see as much as possible during the day? Go during summer. Want to see the ice part of the Land of Fire and Ice? Head there in the winter months (but be prepared to cram in a lot during the very few hours of sunlight).
PAY TO PLAY
You'll find that everything in Iceland is just a bit pricier than other places you've traveled to (unless, of course, you're well-versed with Scandinavia.) Iceland doesn't produce much on its own so almost everything has to be imported (and high import taxes are paid). A simple trip to the gas station can present you with a serious case of sticker shock. I remember sitting down to my first (very casual) meal and wondering why a small platter of fish and chips at a hole-in-the-wall place was going to cost me $35. There are creative solutions around this (staying in hostels and not hotels, doing a grocery run instead of eating out every meal) but my favorite money-saving hack is to buy alcohol at duty free when you land at the airport.
THE DUDE ABIDES
There's a great party scene in Reykjavik that (if it's your thing) you should absolutely take advantage of. Since Iceland is a bit pricey, most locals (and tourists) will drink beforehand. This is where your airport duty free alcohol comes into play! I actually ended up purchasing some really incredible wine in New York before I flew and brought it with me -- that was definitely a first for me. Most tourists will make a stop at the Lebowski Bar where the White Russians flow freely and there's movie-inspired decor covering every inch of the bar. Definitely not a local hang out so if you're looking for a more authentic night out in Reykjavik, skip this.