Start things right with the most important meal of the day – breakfast. The Icelandic diet is based around the idea of simple dishes that’ll keep you full up for longer. Take their traditional breakfast, hafragrautur, for example. It’s a type of oatmeal, made with hot milk and sprinkled with brown sugar, that’ll set you up right for a day in the Arctic chill. And, if you’re on a budget, you’ll be chuffed to know that all of our hotels in Iceland come with breakfast included. Expect the likes of pastries, bread and cereals, along with some cold meat and cheeses.
Once you’ve had your fill, and you’ve donned your warm layers, why not spend a morning taking a leisurely stroll around Tjörnin Lake, AKA The Pond? It’s easy to see why this is one of Reykjavik’s most snapped attractions, with the swans on the water and the backdrop of the Reykjavik City Hall behind. If architecture’s your thing, Hallgrímskirkja Church is a definite must-visit, too. This impressive building is one of the tallest structures in Iceland.
Retail therapy can be a great way to warm up after being out and about for a few hours. And, for the shopaholics out there, Iceland’s biggest indoor shopping centre, Smáralind, certainly doesn’t disappoint. Inside, you’ll find around 100 shops, spread over three floors, including high-street favourites like Zara, Apple and Pandora. You can also buy more traditional Icelandic souvenirs, like lava rock jewellery.
If you love fish and seafood, you’ll be in your element at lunchtime. Take a stroll down to any marina and you’ll see restaurant after restaurant offering the catch of the day. It’ll vary daily, but you can expect things like battered cod and grilled Arctic charr, which is quite similar to salmon. Whatever you opt for, though, you can be sure it will have been plucked out of the water earlier that morning. You can’t get fresher than that.
If you’re travelling in winter, between 2pm and 4pm will be the peak daylight hours. You could spend the afternoon on a whale-watching excursion. These trips normally last a couple of hours, and depart from Reykjavik Harbour. If you’ve got a camera with a telephoto lens, bring it along, as you’re likely to get some excellent shots of mammals like white-beaked dolphins and humpback whales. Then again, if relaxation is more your thing, take a dip in the famous Blue Lagoon. This collection of geothermic pools are basically the planet’s original hot tubs, and probably the only place in Iceland where you can strip down to just your swimwear and not get frostbite. Temperatures in these milky waters can reach a toasty 37 degrees. Plus, you can enjoy an in-water massage, or grab a cocktail at the swim-up bar and just sit back and soak up the jaw-dropping views.
Just because the daylight’s fading, it doesn’t mean your day’s over. The Harpa Concert Hall puts on a range of musical performances, which you could pick up a ticket for. Even if you don’t fancy taking in a show, the building’s free to walk around, and its floor-to-ceiling windows mean you’ll catch knockout views of the city. There’s also a cocktail bar on one of the top levels, so you can sip a Tequila Sunrise as the sun goes down.
Getting some grub in Iceland can be as adventurous as you make it. When dinner rolls around, you’ll find menus offering more well-known dishes like lamb and seafood. But, if you fancy yourself as a bit of a foodie, authentic options like reindeer steak, shark and even puffin aren’t too hard to find. You can even try a boiled sheep head, but we’ll just say it’s an acquired taste…
Seeing the Northern Lights tops the list of things to do in Iceland. That’s why all of our Iceland holidays include a trip to try and spot them. These flashes of colourful lights in the sky have a kind of magical feel to them, and it’s often said to be a romantic experience. Because it’s nature, nothing’s guaranteed. But, if you don’t see them, we’ll take you out again for free. The tours normally pick you up from your hotel at about 9pm, and you’ll usually get a few hours to try to catch a glimpse of the spectacle.
Whether you’re successful in seeing the lights or not, you can celebrate – or commiserate – with some of Reykjavik’s nightlife. What’s great is everything’s on one street – Laugavegur – so it’s all within walking distance. And, the majority of venues don’t charge an entry fee. Check out Kaffibarinn if you love your disco and electro pop music. And, if you want to pull an all-nighter, places like the rock bar, Bar 11, have been known to stay open ‘til 6am.
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Author: Sarah Clayton
Klettur Hotel is close to the capital's scenic harbour, and comes with its own friendly little bar stocked with Icelandic beers.
The stylish Alda Hotel comes with a fitness room, sauna and outdoor terrace complete with a hot tub.
Just five minutes from the centre of town, Fosshotel Reykjavik chic interiors are filled with natural materials and green and blue accents, channelling the same landscape as seen in Game of Thrones.
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