I landed in Iceland at 7:00am after a restless flight, so I was tired and a little bit crabby when I found the Grayline Bus that would take me into Reykjavik. But, by the time it arrived into the main station (just outside the city) the surrounding scenery had roused me out of my half-conscious; my first impression of the impressively beautiful country did not disappoint.
The main station was very close to where I was staying, in an AirBnB. I had to walk along a highway to get there and cross into a neighborhood that housed the apartment where I would be staying, Mount Esja looming behind me the whole walk. My hosts very graciously allowed me to drop off my bags well before check in time, and then, going above and beyond their hosting duties, drove me downtown so that I could start exploring.
My host, Hulda, pointed out where I would catch the bus back to their apartment and dropped me off at one end of the pedestrian walkway, where I started walking with no real direction in mind. The streets in Reykjavik are pretty easy to navigate once you get the hang of it, and most of the shops and restaurants are on two main strips. Because it was so early when I arrived, not many places were open quite yet, so I strolled and window shopped.
Café Paris was one of the few places that were open, so I jumped at the chance for some breakfast and went in. It was a seat yourself kind of place so I sat and ordered a latte and a croissant with ham and cheese and jam when prompted. The café, turned bar in the evening, was cute and relaxed in the way that all European cafes seem to be. The food was good, and they served Illy espresso, which is my favorite so I was a happy camper.
From Café Paris, I walked over to the harbor to see the Harpa music hall and the Sun Voyager. This walk along the coast was so peaceful and gorgeous. I think it was at this moment, being next to the sea, walking in the sunshine that I felt like I had made it, and I was so happy to be in Iceland. The Sun Voyager, which was swamped with tourist hopping of buses to take a picture with the famous statue, had a beautiful view behind it, with the ocean in the forefront and the mountains beyond.
Back towards the downtown area was the Kolaportid Flea Market, which is only open on the weekends. The market was certainly interesting to walk through, though I didn’t buy anything. It’s funny how the kitschy gifts and antiques differ from country to country. This market has a little bit of everything, from the itchy wool lopapeysa sweaters to books and records to antiques to classic Icelandic cuisine. It was a lively place to be, with locals and tourists alike browsing through the stalls.
I decided to walk over to the famous church in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja, to see the view from the top. The church is at the top of the pedestrian walkway. Outside, the church is architecturally beautiful, and inside it is stunning, especially the huge, gilded organ on the wall above the entry.
The ticket to go up to the top of the church is $8, and well worth it for the views. After taking a small (6 person max) elevator to the 8th floor, you have a 360 degree view of the city, which can be seen from the church windows, while standing on a step stool for a better vantage point.
Once I left the church, it started raining, which it did on and off for the rest of the day, so I dodged in and out of shops and restaurants along the pedestrian street. Many of the stores along this popular street are adorable, but very expensive so I didn’t end up purchasing anything. I did love the beautiful clothing at Geysir, the cute designs at Aurum and the charming home goods and accessories at Hrím Hönnunarhús. I popped into Svarta Kaffid, a restaurant that serves only soup in bread bowls and drinks to go with it.
This hearty meal was exactly what I needed after being out in the cold, wet weather. It was a small, cozy restaurant with Icelandic beer on tap, and I was happy to settle in for a bit to try and wait out the rain. It eventually cleared up and I headed over to the Iceland Culture House Museum which was free to enter and offered a unique look into Icelandic art and history.
It wasn’t very crowded, so I was free to take in the exhibits at a leisurely pace. The general theme was how Icelandic Artists interpret their country’s history in various mediums. I really enjoyed visiting this museum! At this point, jet lag set in hard, so I found a convenience store, where I purchased a ten ride pass for the bus (a decision I later regretted – such an unnecessary expense).
I took the bus back to my Airbnb, a 15 minute ride outside of downtown, and took it easy for the rest of the day. Reykjavik is such an easy city to fall in love with; it’s walkable, easy to navigate, and cute and colorful. After one day of exploring, I was already smitten.
Have you ever been to Reykjavik? Which city attraction was your favorite?