ICELAND'S BIG LITTLE CITY
Almost every visitor to Iceland spends some time in the country's vibrant capital, Reykjavik. The world's northernmost capital city is just as much a part of the Icelandic experience as the midnight sun or the magical moon-like landscapes of the interior. Legend says the Norse gods themselves guided Iceland's first settler, Ingolfur Arnarson, to make his home in what is now the capital area. He named the settlement Reykjavik ("Smoky Bay") after the misty geothermal steam he saw rising from the ground. Today, it heats homes and outdoor swimming pools throughout the city – a pollution-free energy source that leaves the air outstandingly fresh, clean and clear. The best way to get to know Reykjavik is to take to the streets. The city center is remarkably compact and the efficient public bus system can quickly shuttle you around for sites a little farther away. Feed the swans and ducks on Tjörnin Pond next to the City Hall. Take the elevator to the top of the imposing Hallgrimskirkja Church for an incredible view of the city, or explore the colorful neighborhoods of Þingholt and Vesturbaer.
Nature lovers won't feel enclosed in this city. The region is criss-crossed with many miles of walking and cycling paths which run along the stunning shoreline and through parks and nature reserves. There are golf- and horse riding clubs. Even a salmon river runs through the city limits! Culture vultures will find themselves busy too. Reykjavik is packed with all the artistic venues you would expect from a capital city: art galleries, museums, several theaters, a symphony orchestra and even an opera house. There are seven movie theaters in and around the capital and live music concerts almost every day of the year, to suit from Abba cover groups to Led Zeppelin and every style in between. The young and the young at heart will find lots to keep them busy on a visit to the capital. Whale watching is always popular, and animal lovers will want to visit the Family Fun Park and Zoo in the beautiful Laugar Valley. There's also a great cafe nearby if this little ones make their parents a little tired!
The opportunity to eat some of the world's freshest seafood and tastiest lamb is one that should not be missed in Reykjavik. These Icelandic specialties, as well as locally grown vegetables, game and ocean-fresh fish, are served in creative ways across the city. Reykjavik is also renowned as one of Europe's hottest nightspots, where the action on the friendly pub and nightlife scene lasts right through the night. Furthermore, Reykjavik is a great spot for those who seek some retail therapy. The capital region boasts two large indoor shopping malls as well as a pedestrian friendly shopping district in the city center, featuring Laugavegur, a mile-long shopping street. Woolens and handicrafts are popular souvenir items, but designer clothing, local music and original jewelry produced using Icelandic materials also make unique mementos. All are priced competitively, especially with the tax-free shopping available to visitors.
But the capital area is more than just Reykjavik. Adjoining it is the town of Kopavogur, with its new concert hall, art museum, and splendid sport and leisure facilities. A little farther down the road, the town of Hafnarfjordur nestles in a lava field and offers tourists both traditional and offbeat attractions – including Viking feasts and even elf-spotting tours! On the other side of the capital, Mosfellsbaer has excellent horseback riding and a regular summer farmer's market.
Photo Gallery Reykjavik