Exploring Iceland- Downtown Reykjavik

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The Sun Voyager (Icelandic: Sólfar) sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason is located by Sæbraut, by the sea in downtown Reykjavik.

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Not far from the Sun Voyager sculpture is the remarkable Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center (opened in 2011). Be sure to also check it out at night, as it lights up with beautiful colors!

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Another iconic structure in downtown is the Hallgrímskirkja church.

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The church’s distinguishing feature is its 25 ton pipe organ, which includes an impressive 5,275 pipes!

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A must-do while visiting the church is to pay the small fee to take the elevator to the top of the bell tower. You then climb a few small flights of stairs and are rewarded with incredible panoramic views of downtown Reykjavik, the sea, and the mountains in the background!

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A view from the bell towers…

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There’s a ‘miniature’ setting on our camera, so we decided to give it a try with the colorful buildings of Reykjavik.

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Back at the base of the church, we continued to wander the streets of downtown Reykjavik.

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The church can be seen from various points in downtown, both during the day and at night.

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The harbor is a nice place to walk around in the evening and is also a great spot to find some wonderful food!

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At Sægreifinn (The Sea Baron), you can order fresh fish, caught that day, cut up and placed on skewers with veggies, and grilled up when ordered.

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Of course, you can’t go to Sægreifinn without trying the world famous lobster soup! Mmm Mmm!

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Located just across the street from Sægreifinn is Icelandic Fish and Chips.

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Freshly caught fish is battered up in an egg-less spelt batter making for a wonderfully delicious meal that was virtually gluten-free. (Update: Initially we were told that spelt was was gluten-free, which was great for Sam who is gluten sensitive, but thanks to a helpful reader (Thanks Amanda!), we were informed that spelt is in fact NOT gluten free and is not safe for those diagnosed with Celiac disease. There is less gluten in this ancient grain when compared to other wheats, but should not be considered gluten-free.)

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 The fish and potato wedges (“chips”) are served with a variety of flavored dipping sauces (additional cost) made from skyr yogurt. Our favorites were the traditional tartar and basil garlic sauces.

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No trip to Reykjavik would be complete without a stop at the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand, which has been open since 1937! I tried a famous ‘dog and wasn’t a huge fan, but I’m not a huge meat eater. Others rave about it, so be sure to check it out for yourself!

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Another place to consider stopping by for a bite to eat while in downtown is Cafe Paris. (UPDATE: Sadly, Cafe Paris is now permanently closed.)

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We had already eaten dinner, so we stopped by for coffee and desert. The freshly baked twisted Icelandic donut was a tasty treat!

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We had visited the Laundromat Cafe earlier in the week and enjoyed every aspect of our visit!

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Not only can you literally do your laundry while hanging out, there are hundreds of books, magazines, and games to keep you entertained.

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We weren’t expecting much, but the food was delicious. The veggieburger was surprisingly flavorful!

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Reykjavik is a safe place to walk around at night. Most of the stores close before too late, but several bars and cafes stay open for the wanderers, night owls, and the partiers who dance in the nightclubs until all hours of the night. We did not experience much of the well-known Reykjavik nightlife, because we were too concerned with chasing Northern Lights!

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Over half of Iceland’s population lives in the capital city. It’s where most visitors to the country base themselves for their holiday. Reykjavik makes a great starting point for many day-trips to the eastern and southern parts of the country. There is much to do, see, and eat in what is known as the world’s northern-most capital city and should not be missed during your next visit to the land of fire and ice!


  1. Great photos! My husband was obsessed with the hot dog place!

  2. Maria Bain

    Great photos! Looks like you really got a chance to explore Reykjavik and soak up the fantastic Icelandic culture, hot dogs and all 🙂 Did you get a change to visit the Thingvellir National Park? I would highly recommend it and any other spots on here http://www.thinglink.com/scene/520943550351802369 really useful! (if you ever get a change to go again I would rent a car or camper even and road trip it). Also – the roofs are so beautiful – love what you have done with the photos – makes them look like they are in a miniature village!

  3. I wanted to add spelt is most definitely not gluten free. I was searching for gluten free recommendations for our upcoming trip (I’m coeliac) but mistakenly was brought to your blog due to that error. While I enjoyed reading your blog, I hope you’ll correct this! (Further information: http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/faqs/f/Spelt.htm )

    • Thank you so much for pointing this out. We were told and were therefore under the impression that spelt was gluten-free. Following your comment and further review, you’re right! Although it contains less gluten than most other wheats, it is NOT completely gluten-free and therefore not an option for those individuals diagnosed with Celiac disease. We’ve added an update to that particular paragraph, correcting this point. Thanks again for taking the time to let us know. We certainly don’t want to misinform our readers! 🙂

  4. what about the weather and the midnight sun?

    • Depends on the time of year you visit. We visited in the winter months when there was only a few hours of daylight, lots of wind, and cold temperatures. If you’re looking for more mild temperatures, visit in the summer months and enjoy the midnight sun! There will, however, be many more visitors this time of year, but it just depends on the type of experience you’re looking for!

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