Transit: Reykjavik

Eat, sleep, and play in Iceland’s charming capital

By Sabrina Fatma Ahmad

When talking about travelling in Europe, Iceland isn’t usually the first country that comes to mind, and indeed, if bustling metropolises and balmy weather are more your speed, it’s not hard to see why. The charming capital city of this island nation has been a popular stopover for many a trans-Atlantic frequent flyer, and has now become a tourist destination for millions, and with good reason. Here’s a little peek behind the curtains.

EAT

There are plenty of great dining options in the city. Hlemmur Food Hall, located in Laugavegur, used to be a bus terminal before it became a hot destination for foodies, boasting both incredible meals prepared by renowned Icelandic chefs, to authentic local street food. If you’re still in the mood for fine dining, Sumac, also located in Laugavegur, boasts two of the island’s top-rated chefs, and a fusion menu that incorporates Middle Eastern and North African flavors with local fare. There’s something for everyone, and if you want something slightly greener than the traditional Icelandic lamb and seafood, Mama Reykjavik in Laugavegur has some great vegan options. If you’re interested in finding a local haunt, give the Snaps Bistro and Bar, located on Þórsgata (Thorsgata) a try. Reykjavik has no dearth of cute cafés, but if we were to recommend just one, it would be the historic Mokka Café, in Skólavörðustígur, which has been serving Italian brews since 1958.

Anywhere in Iceland, tap water is free, pure, and completely drinkable, so don’t bother buying up bottled water; ask any outlet for water, and you’ll get it free

Photo by Nathalie

SLEEP

As with any travel experience, the most important thing about finding a good place to stay is location, location, location. If it’s a short trip and you want to make the most of it, you want something in the Miðborg (Midborg) area, also known as Reykjavik 101. One thing to keep in mind: accommodation in Reykjavik is not cheap, so you want to be located in a spot where you can cut down on commuting and travel expenses. An Airbnb is probably the best budget option, or a guesthouse like the Guesthouse Pavi. If you prefer your creature comforts, 4 star options like the CenterHotel Plaza and Reykjavik Residence Apartment Hotel are both consistently highly rated on all the major travel sites.

Unless you’re a fan of severe winter conditions, the best time to visit is between April and September. Even so, pack for snowy and rainy weather

Photo by Nik Lanus

PLAY

You can use Tripadvisor or Viator, or any of your trusted travel sites, or ask your agent, or even concierge services at the hotel, to book you the Golden Circle Tour, which covers the Big Three natural attractions (Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Strokkur Waterspout) right outside of Reykjavik. If you’re in the mood to splurge a little, a trip to either the Blue Lagoon or the Sky Lagoon hot springs will not disappoint. You can book a city walking tour and check out the historic locations, including the Hallgrímskirkja Church, which is an active Lutheran church, but also the most recognizable landmark in Reykjavik. There are a number of fascinating museums to check out, from the Art Museum, to the Punk Museum, and you’re sure to find something that tickles your fancy.

Book a Reykjavik City Card for about $35, and it will give you free entry to all the many fascinating and quirky museums, galleries, and public pools in the city and unlimited bus rides within the city center

Photo by Heloise Delbos

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