The land of fire and ice had initially drawn me in with its promises of Northern Lights hunting, glaciers galore and active volcanoes, but I knew there was more to Iceland than its natural beauty. The city of Reykjavik had me as equally thunderstruck with its colourful, graffiti-lined streets and hidden alleyways that reveal snow-topped mountains in the distance. It didn’t matter where you went in the city, peace followed. Perhaps it was down to visiting in the peak of Winter, or that despite being the capital city of Iceland, it still only has a population of just over 120,000, but I have never heard quiet like it.
This quiet isn’t the bad kind – the kind that leaves you feeling uneasy with a sense of impending doom – this quiet made you feel as though the city was in a protective bubble that kept out all evil.
Everyone was welcoming. Reykjavik is very independent, and you won’t see many large chain stores in the city, so don’t expect to do a big shopping trip here. Iceland in general feels like a country that does what it wants, living happily in its own small corner of the world. I found the stores and the graffiti to show an expressive culture, one that brings an artistic personality to a country otherwise ruled by nature. You can of course see the full spectrum of colours and creativity that radiates from the city by heading up to the observation deck at Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland.
The church itself is an extraordinary piece of architecture that looms over the city day and night, and is home to an impressive pipe organ that stands at 15 metres tall.
Iceland is also home to lots of quirky cafes, bars and fine-dining restaurants. Food was by no means a highlight of my trip, but I did find some amazing little gems in the heart of the city.
The Lebowski Bar is a general favourite for visitors to Iceland, and you don’t necessarily have to be a fan of the movie. Stop by for a good old fashioned American style burger and fries.
Iceland in general is fairly expensive. On our last night we wanted to go to a nice restaurant, but we also only had limited funds left at the end of our trip. Meze is a fantastic Mediterranean restaurant that serves delicious food at an affordable price.
Café Babalú was a pick for a cosy evening coffee and cake. The café is small, but it reflects that wonderful, quirky vibe the whole city gives off. The cake was incredible too.
Perhaps my favourite part of exploring Reykjavík was on the final day. Walking past the City Hall and seeing a frozen Lake Tjörnin.
The lake was already the pitch for a football match between some local boys, so I couldn’t resist having some of my own fun. The first step was slightly unnerving, but then it just felt incredible to be standing in the middle of a frozen lake as the sun set around me. I couldn’t help but want to dance, leap and skate around despite me barely being able to feel my toes or my face. It was just a simple moment that didn’t cost a thing, but it was unbelievably perfect.