FEELS LIKE HOME
After thirteen hours of flying, I finally landed in beautiful Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland! Well, technically I landed in Keflavik, but then I took a bus directly to the heart of Reykjavik. My Airbnb was in an idyllic location, and nearly everything I wanted to see was within walking distance. When I got there, I contacted the host, who told me to get the key from the blacksmith downstairs. I thought to myself, “Blacksmith? How quaint!”
I was exhausted by the time I made it into the apartment, so when I got there I went straight to sleep. When I woke up around 7 p.m., I realized I was in good company. Maybe it’s because I was in a pretty hip area, but everyone slept all day and then hit the town around midnight, staying out until the bars closed in the morning. Every night during my stay I enjoyed the loud ambient music echoing through the streets, as I watched people taking walks, laughing and drinking. Then, at 6 a.m., it all stopped and the city was completely silent. A night owl like myself could definitely get used to living in such a city.
My first full day in the city began with a little walk around town, with no specific destination in mind. I wanted to familiarize myself with the neighborhood that would be my home for the next two weeks.
Back in the states, I’m a chronic speed-walker. I’m always anxious about being late, and since I constantly have a million things on my mind, I have a really hard time “living in the moment”. But as I navigated the cobblestone streets of Reykjavik, I found myself slowing down, and really savoring every minute. As I looked around, I noticed that everyone around me was doing the same! No one was in a hurry, no one was too preoccupied by their cell phones; I was surrounded by a community of people who were just as enthralled and just as content as I was, and that was a truly special feeling.
When I got back to the apartment, I was welcomed by my roommate’s friend out on the balcony. Here’s a little clip.
The next day around noon, I ventured down to Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik’s iconic church. It can be seen throughout most of the city, and my apartment was no exception. Feeling confident in my navigational skills, I decided to just walk towards it until I got there, no map or anything. So what if I got lost? There is no safer city in the world to get lost in! So I grabbed my walking shoes, my lucky scarf, and my camera bag and started walking.
One thing I have noticed every time I’ve visited Europe is that people WALK differently than they do in the States. No one ever seems to be in a rush; while we Americans love to speed walk, Europeans love to stroll. So, when in Rome… Even at my leisurely European walking pace, it only took me about 20 minutes to get there, and when I did, it was as breathtaking as I had imagined.
After basking in its glory for a few minutes, I went inside and bought my ticket for the elevator (I wanted to get some shots of the chapel first, but there was a wedding going on). Once I reached the top, I waited for the other tourists to clear out of the room, and then I rushed to a vacant window from which I could photograph the beautiful rooftops of Reykjavik. It was a pretty high window, and I’m a pretty short girl, so even though I stood on the stool they had provided, I wouldn’t have been able to see out the window if I hadn’t had my camera on me. For someone who loves color as much as I do, this was truly a wonder to behold.
As I stared in awe at the beautiful city, I was rudely awakened from my deep thought by a loud “BONG…BONG…BONG…”, which caused me to fall off of my stool. Turns out the church has a functioning bell tower directly above the viewing area. I took that as the church’s way of saying “give the other tourists a chance, Nena! You’ve been hogging the window for 20 minutes!”
I honestly could have stayed there all day, taking in the beauty of the city and the cool ocean breeze, but it was time to start making my way to the next location on my list.
MY TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
I had heard rumors about Elf School. I had done a little research. It wasn’t what I was expecting. It was, however, an interesting experience. Elves play a major role in Icelandic folklore, and supposedly 50% of Icelanders believe that they exist.
The headmaster (a very eccentric retired professor) gave us our textbooks and sat us all down (there were 8 students total). The classroom was full of little figurines depicting mythical creatures such as elves, dwarves, etc. We were then told many stories about elf sightings in iceland, and his theories as to why elves are not regularly seen… “You must be ‘psychic’ to see elves”, he told us. “Women are more psychic than men, gays are more psychic than non-gays, and children are far more psychic than adults”. This went on for about 4 hours.
As the end of the class neared, the headmaster’s husband brought us freshly made Icelandic pancakes (which are WAY better than American pancakes), ginger ale, and our diplomas. This is a pretty slow-paced attraction, but, then again it is school, so I don’t know what I expected. If you’re looking for something weird and off-beat to do in Reykjavik, this will be an experience you won’t soon forget.
THE LAUNDROMAT CAFÉ
After such a long class, I was ready for a beer. I’d heard the Laundromat Café was touristy but still pretty awesome, so I checked it out. It was overcrowded for sure, but I loved it because it’s so unique! As you may have guessed, it’s a laundromat and a café, but also a library and bar. A bar full of delicious craft beer, including my all-time favorite beer, Ástrikur Nr. 18 (a Belgian-style ale with hints of peach).
Why don’t we have these all over the world? Nothing is more boring than sitting around while your laundry is being washed, so you may as well have some food, booze, and books while you wait! It’s also a great opportunity to fill out all those postcards you’ve been blowing off (sorry, friends ).
What’s in my suitcase
ICELANDIC PHALLOLOGICAL MUSEUM
Yep, it’s exactly what you think it is. The Icelandic Phallological Museum is home to over 280 real penises from various species, including human! I am a big fan of all things bizarre and disturbing, and this museum definitely fits into that category. I loved every minute of it. They claim to have at least one penis from every mammal native to Iceland, and they also have some exotic specimen that have been donated, such as giraffe and zebra.
REYKJAVIK'S OLD WEST SIDE
This historic part of Reykjavik was probably my favorite part of the city. It’s a bit tucked away, and there were very few tourists in the area. As I ventured further into these residential streets, I noticed the strangers I passed by were all speaking Icelandic, rather than English or German or Dutch.
I stepped into Stofan Café because it looked so adorably chic from the outside. I was delighted to find that the Café was full of locals! The barista even greeted me with a friendly “Gott Kvöld!”
Once I was sufficiently filled with beer and cheese, I continued exploring.
The reason I had ventured into the Old West Side in the first place was to find Reykjavik’s historic and beautiful Hólavallagarður Cemetery. It was so incredible that I dedicated an entire post to it.
HARPA CONCERT HALL
To bring an end to an amazing day, I walked down to the waterfront to marvel at this architectural wonder. The sun finally started to set, and the glass walls caught the light and created the most beautiful array of colors.
Though I’d be spending two weeks living in Reykjavik, I had many other adventures planned, so this was one of the only days I had dedicated to exploring the city. But, it only took one day for me to realize that I could genuinely see myself living here. Reykjavik is a small but lively city, perfect for an introverted artist like me. It’s a city that truly inspires creativity, but isn’t too busy or crowded. Basically, it’s what I’ve been looking for my whole life.
Any questions about planning a trip here? Drop them below!