Our trip to Iceland began with a early morning flight at 6:30am from London to Reykjavik. The flight takes around 3 hours which was enough time for a small nap and some reading. Our first views of this little island were just after 8am (local time) and it looked intriguing and unknown and I felt very excited!
The trip was a birthday present to myself, as who doesn’t love being in a new place for your birthday! I was a little apprehensive when we arrived as I knew it meant driving a manual on the wrong side of the car. Something neither of us had done before, but to be honest it doesn’t take long to get used to and before we knew it we were off and away!
We hired our car from Thrifty cars based just outside the airport and was a cute white Ford Focus that had the best heated seats! These were definitely needed in the chilly Icelandic air!
Once we had gone through the standard signing of forms we drove into Reykjavik itself. Normally I have issues driving into cities (especially in foreign countries) but it was move like driving into a small town! We located our apartment for the night, parked up and head out to explore the city itself.
It was still relatively early in the morning and the sun was low in the sky (helped by being pretty far north) so we battled a bit with being blinded at times. We headed to the famous Hallgrímskirkja church which if you google Iceland you will most definitely find pictures of.
The church began life in 1946 and was finished in 1986, designed by Guðjónn Samúelsson and named after a 17th century clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson, author of Hymns of the Passion. Its a stepped concrete building said to reflect the landscape of Iceland – I think it does a very good job of that!
Entrance to the church is free and it costs approximately 900 ISK to go up the tower. This does involve ramming into a tiny lift that whizzes you up to the top for some superb views over the city. I would highly recommend it and we were very lucky to have such good weather!
The inside of the church itself is very plain (although there is a huge organ) and reflects the modernism of the outside. Its beautifully simple and very nordic! It’s obviously a tourist attraction and many people go in simply to visit the tower but I think the inside deserves at least 5 minutes of your time!
It can be quite busy and the internet recommends getting there early when it opens which I tend to agree with, its wasn’t dead quiet when we were there but we didn’t have to queue for long.
We then decided it was time for some coffee and brunch! We wandered down into the centre of the city and found a cute bakery with cafe called Sandholt (we did have to queue for 10 mins for a seat but it was well worth it) and partook in a cheese and ham croissant and a cinnamon roll. It was SUPER yummy and I would definitely go back for another one. It did cost the earth but most of Iceland does so we just went with it! As ever there are no pictures of this wondrous brunch.
Next up was some shopping as I was after a traditional Icelandic woolen jumper and I wanted to buy it from the Handknitting Association of Iceland. And I did just that! I also bought a hat and some socks! I’m still very pleased with the purchases and it’s even got cold enough in the UK to rock the jumper!
Reykjavik is full of quirky sights and cute streets, it sort of reminded me of the Laines in Brighton. We wandered around for a bit soaking up the city before heading down to the Harpa Concert Hall.
The hall itself started being built in 2007 but its future looked bleak when the financial crisis took hold and it took the government intervening to ensure its completion. The hall opened in 2011 and is an epic sight. Made from steel and coloured glass in a honeycomb format it is visually appealing and stunning, it makes a great addition to the sea front.
We spent some time chilling inside and using the free wifi to recharge as it had already been a long day bearing in mind we were up at 4am! It was good to watch the world go by for a while, we even saw some posters for the Nordic Drinking Water Conference which was rather amusing!
Once we had finished recharging our batteries we headed along the harbour – which was stunning – to the Sun Voyager sculpture. Yet another symbol of Iceland and its nordic-ness which stands out in a landscape which has to be seen to be believed! A taster of what was to come.
Next up was some lunch as by this time the croissant had worn off! When reading up about Iceland you will find lots of references to the hot dogs at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur and for good reason. Not only has Bill Clinton eaten one of these fine hot dogs they are really tasty!!
There are always queues at the small building no larger than a shed for these dogs, ask for one with all the toppings (or without raw onion if you’re like me) and you will be pleased! A hot dog made of pork, lamb and beef in a soft roll with mustard, ketchup, remoulade and cronions. Cronions are small fried pieces of onion that provide a crunch. We can no longer have hot dogs without them!
Top tip – order more than you think you will eat as they are so good you will want more!
Fueled up on hot dogs we decided that we would make our way back to our apartment to check in and get ready for some dinner. On the way we made a stop at the renowned Phallological Museum aka Penis Museum. It was an interesting experience to say the least.
It started as a private collection the owner has amassed enough to fill a small museum. Everything from whales to testicle lampshades, there were even some pledged human specimens. Unique and not very mainstream it has become a go to place in Reykjavik for tourists. It isn’t as crude as I expected and perhaps took itself a bit too seriously in my opinion but was interesting.
After we checked into our apartment and freshened up we went to the Kex Hostel bar for some beer and dinner. It was pretty busy but very hipster and had good beer so we weren’t complaining!!! They had the most amazing hot dates wrapped in bacon to snack on – I would go back just for those!
Our first day was pretty action packed (as were the next couple) but we had enjoyed Reykjavik and I hope to go back someday to spend some more time exploring this city on a miniature scale.