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May 10, 2024

Our wonderful capital Reykjavik

Cityscape of Reykjavik, Iceland.

It’s Iceland’s only city and the world’s northernmost capital. The City of Reykjavik has a population of just over 140,000 while the larger metropolitan area has a population of 250,000*. These numbers may look incredibly small but they are in fact huge when you realize that the total population of Iceland is just over 380,000. That means that approx. 64% of the entire population of Iceland lives in the metropolitan area. The only logical explanation is that Reykjavik is an excellent place to live.
*Official numbers from Statistics IcelandLink opens in a new tab in May 2024.

Overachiever Reykjavik

Reykjavik may be a small city, but it has achieved some incredible feats and world records. It is the world's northernmost capital, with a latitude of 64 degrees north. The city is also one of the cleanest in the worldLink opens in a new tab, with a public transportation system that partially runs on renewable energy. In addition, Reykjavik is home to one of the world's largest geothermal heating systems, which provides hot water and heating to homes and buildings in the city.

The hot water (and the smell) in Reykjavik

The hot water in Reykjavik comes from the Hellisheiði and Nesjavellir Geothermal Power PlantsLink opens in a new tab as well as individual bore holes within the city. Look for small, oddly-shaped buildings with steam rising from them and you’ve stumbled upon a functional bore hole. The distinct smell of the hot water in Reykjavik is that of sulfur dioxide and while it isn’t harmful in any way it does smell like farts and it’s not advisable to drink it. If you struggle with the smell, know that you’ve just used one of the most renewable energy sources in the world and this abundance of hot water is truly what makes Iceland habitable. If you want to know the best way to enjoy this geothermal goldmine, just visit any of Reykjavik’s numerous swimming pools or splurge on a trip to a luxury lagoon/spa and you’ll see what we mean. The cold water obviously has no sulfur compounds and is, in our humble opinion, the best water in the world. This is one place where drinking tap water comes highly recommended.

Reykjavik’s most beloved streets

One of the things that makes Reykjavik such a charming city is its colorful and quirky architecture. Strolling through the streets of the city, visitors will find charming little houses in a rainbow of colors, many of which have unique and interesting designs. Some of the most beloved streets in Reykjavik include Laugavegur, the main shopping street in the city, and Skólavörðustígur, which is home to the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church. But look a little further and you might stumble upon gems like Tjarnargata by the city pond and Mjóstræti in the historical “stone village”. Then there’s the scenic routes and walkways along the shorelines because what is there in Reykjavik if not magnificent views? Try Sæbraut to the north for that iconic view of Mount Esja, Snæfellsjökull glacier and of course Harpa Concert Hall. Head to Ægisíða to the south and walk west towards Grótta for epic views of Reykjanes and the Atlantic Ocean. Or just wander around our fair city and discover its layers of lush greenery, cute houses and brutalist buildings from the 60s.

The cats of Reykjavik

Speaking of wandering the streets, Reykjavik is also known for its population of friendly and adorable cats. These felines can be found all over the city, lounging in the sun or curling up in cozy corners. The cats of Reykjavik are a beloved part of the city's culture, and usually more than willing to pose for photos with admiring fans. You’ll find free-roaming cats all over Reykjavik but some of the best places to find a feline friend to pet include the harbor area and the gardens around Hallgrímskirkja. Check out Kattakaffihúsið (Cat Café) in Bergstaðastræti if you really need to catch up on your kitty snuggles.

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Accommodation in Reykjavik

Reykjavik has a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and travel style. From luxury hotels to cozy guesthouses and hostels, there is something for everyone. One of the best things about staying in downtown Reykjavik is the proximity to the city's main attractions, as well as easy access to day trips and tours of the surrounding countryside. A not-to-be-missed attraction is a whale-watching tour from the city harbor. Popular areas to stay in Reykjavik include the downtown area and the nearby neighborhoods of Vesturbær and Laugardalur. Hotels are plentiful, the Airbnb selection is great and there’s even a campsite in the centrally located Laugardalur.

What’s on in Reykjavik

Despite its small size, Reykjavik has a vibrant and exciting cultural scene, with events and festivals happening throughout the year. From live music and theater to film screenings and art exhibitions, there is always something going on in Reykjavik. Some of the most popular events in the city include the Reykjavik International Film FestivalLink opens in a new tab, Dark Music DaysLink opens in a new tab, Reykjavik PrideLink opens in a new tab, and Reykjavik Culture NightLink opens in a new tab.

See the full festival calendar of Reykjavik hereLink opens in a new tab.

Museums in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is also home to a variety of fascinating museums that offer insights into the city's history, culture, and natural wonders. The National Museum of IcelandLink opens in a new tab is a must-visit for anyone interested in the country's past, while the Reykjavik Art MuseumLink opens in a new tab showcases contemporary Icelandic art. Other interesting museums in the city include the Icelandic Phallological MuseumLink opens in a new tab, which displays a collection of animal penises (including a human penis), and the Saga MuseumLink opens in a new tab, which brings Iceland's history to life with realistic wax figures. If you're in the mood for an otherworldly experience we recommend the Whales of Iceland exhibitionLink opens in a new tab which displays life-sized replicas of our most gentle giants.

Conclusion

Reykjavik may be a small city, but it is packed with charm, culture, and record-breaking achievements. From its colorful streets and friendly feline residents to its vibrant cultural scene and fascinating museums, there is something for everyone in this northernmost capital of the world. Whether visitors are looking for an adventure or wellness and relaxation, they are sure to find it in Reykjavik.

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