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Travel guide – Reykjavik

Surrounded by some of the most magical scenery on the planet, little Reykjavik is a shining gem among the sometimes-harsh volcanic landscapes of Iceland. With a population of less than 200,000 this tiny city adrift in the Atlantic could be written off as quiet and dull – it’s anything but. With thousands of years of history, a funky modern side and wonderful welcoming people it’s bound to please. The Finnair travel guide to Reykjavik will help you discover what makes this place so special.

The sights of the city surround the small lake Tjörnin, which provides a scenic view ringed by colourful houses. Nearby is the Hallgrímskirkja, perched atop a hill overlooking the entire city with a statue of Leif Erikson, the famous (at least in Iceland) explorer. Austurvöllur Park is a favourite meeting place for locals, spending sunny days relaxing on the grass. The National Gallery of Iceland provides a visual interpretation of the country’s soul with a large collection of Icelandic art through the ages. For more culture, check out the trio of Reykjavik Art Museums, each focusing on an individual well-known Icelandic artist. If you’re ready to party after a day of sightseeing, you’ll be well served by the city’s legendary nightlife, an experience in itself!

The Blue Lagoon – A tourist favourite as it’s on the road from Keflavik airport to town, this outdoor thermal spa is fed with the heated wastewater of a nearby geothermal power plant. Less than an hour from Reykjavik it makes a convenient and very relaxing stop on the way in or out of town.

Hiking – Being so small, you can easily escape the city and find yourself in rugged nature within a very short time. Multiple hiking areas surround the city and there are specific walking trails available for hikers.

Whale watching – Many species of whale make the seas surrounding Iceland their home and the bays near Reykjavik are a perfect place to see them frolic. Take one of the whale watching tours out onto the open water and see these majestic creatures in the wild.

Thingvellir – The original seat of Icelandic parliament, this national park combines human and natural history in a beautiful setting.

Gullfoss – An amazing example of the countless waterfalls that dot the country, Gulfoss is only 32m high but gushes millions of litres of water across its edge, creating a sight not to be missed.

Geysir – Part of the ‘Golden Circle’ tour route along with Thingvellir and Gullfoss. This is the most famous geyser in Iceland, which isn’t surprising since this is where the word ‘geyser’ originates.

While it can’t be said that Reykjavik is a shopping mecca, it does offer a lot to the tourist who isn’t after big-name brands.

Design shopping – Reykjavik has developed into something of a haven for design, with a multitude of boutiques and individual designers popping up, selling trendy goods in all fields from homewares to clothing and art pieces to jewellery.

Traditional Icelandic goods – Iceland is well known for traditional products made from wool and other natural products. Many tourist­oriented shops can be found selling various wares like the ever­popular wool sweater and blankets to local foods and art.

Shopping district – Your best bet for finding shopping opportunities is to head to Laugavegur shopping street. You’ll find a mix of designer boutiques, smaller brand stores and tourist wares here.

While you may never have heard of many of them, Iceland has some very unique traditional cuisine. Only a few have managed to make it out of the country to the rest of the world, so be sure to try as much as you can to get a taste of Iceland.

Skyr – Probably Iceland’s most famous export, this simple milk­based dessert or snack, similar to quark, is a delicious and filling staple for most Icelanders. It comes in a variety of flavours and styles and is available widely.

Fish – Reykjavik’s character is built on the sea, so there are fish dishes galore. It can be had very fresh in a variety of styles. Popular varieties are cod, plaice and haddock.

Hákarl – An infamous dish of putrefied shark, this is not for the faint­hearted due to its stench and intense flavour. Only for the brave.

Puffin – It might be difficult to stomach eating this cute little bird, but the meat is a true delicacy in Iceland. Dark meat with a delicious rich game flavour.

Snúður – A very Icelandic pastry akin to a cinnamon roll. Eat one with a hot coffee for maximum enjoyment.

Brennivín – A local schnapps, powerful and sharp. An excellent accompaniment to Hákarl.

Being a small city, getting around in Reykjavik is easy. There can be traffic though, depending on the time of day.

By foot – Definitely the best (and cheapest) mode of transport in Reykjavik.

By bike – Biking around town is easy and safe with roads open to bicyclists along with some bike paths. Just watch out for cobblestones.

Car – Cars are a normal sight in Reykjavik and with them comes traffic. You almost certainly won’t need a car to see the city but for trips further afield a rental car is well advised.

Bus – Buses serve routes both in the city itself and to other destinations around Iceland. Change isn’t given on the local buses so make sure you have the exact fare ready.

Currency – Icelandic Kronor (ISK)

Electricity – 230 volts, 50Hz, European type ­F plug.

Tips – Not expected.

Payment/card – Cards are widely accepted, cash needed outside city areas.

Time zone – Reykjavik (Iceland) UTC/GMT +0 hours.

Water – Drinkable and delicious.

Keflavík International Airport (KEF)

The airport is located 50km southwest of Reykjavik. Several bus lines take visitors to the town centre and taxis are available at the airport.

  • Check-in opens 2 hours before departure.
  • Check-in closes 45 minutes before departure.

Always remember to check your airline’s terminal and check-in times.

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