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A Mini Tour of Reykjavik

Harpa, Reykjavik IcelandThe Reykjavik city center is super small and easily explorable in a weekend or a day, if you hustle. It’s reassuring, actually, especially when you think you may have gotten punked via AirBnB. I wrote a food-based preview & recap of the city for the Town Dish, but this is a more general mini tour of Reykjavik. It’s interesting: Since our trip in 2012, there have been so many more “Hipster’s Guides to Reykjavik” and “Best Vintage Shops of Reykjavik”-type blog posts. It’s been great to reflect on what I enjoyed most (which, truth be told, was probably the Blue Lagoon), but I wish I had done this sooner. Without further ado:

Harpa Conference Center — Honeycomb glass walls and ceilings makes this brand new building cozy and warm like a greenhouse. It’s a nice break from the windy waterfront, and we were able to connect to the wifi inside to upload photos to Instagram & check Twitter. Because that’s how I do vacation. There are regular music shows, films, theater, and comedic acts featured here.


Hallgrimskirkja — Having studied abroad in Spain, I’m pretty over walking around in fancy cathedrals. I could tell that Hallgrimskirkja would be different, if only by the distinct architecture. The whole building turns into a steeple, which feels like it’s anchoring the whole city. It’s worth the few bucks to take an elevator to the top & check out the amazing views of the city, the water, and the mountains in the distance.

Icelandic hotdogs

Baejarins Beztu Pyslur — The oldest and most popular restaurant in Reykjavik is a legit hot dog stand. People pull over or get dropped off at the curb, and flock to this city staple. Icelandic hotdogs are mixed with lamb. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t stop here more than once an afternoon some days. In general, hot dogs are like drunk food of Iceland and you can get them on any old corner but Baejarins Beztu has the best.


Kolaportid Flea Market — Right near Harpa and Baejarins Beztu, the Kolaportid Flea takes place every weekend. It’s pretty overwhelming. I had a recent flashback while walking around the Punk Rock Flea in Philly last weekend, but the Kolaportid is even bigger and more crowded. Rows after rows of vendors sell everything from vintage clothing, costume jewelry, books, and antiques. We sourced Chad’s handmade Icelandic wool sweater from a sweet elderly woman who had learned Danish instead of English as her second language.


Fríða Frænka — If you’re into more upscale, pre-curated vintage or antiques, you really can’t miss Fríða Frænka. There’s barely room to turn around, but everything is eye catching so it’s difficult to not get sucked in for hours at a time. If only I had a little Icelandic cottage to furnish and fill with the impressive selection of midcentury modern pieces and unique tchotchkes & textiles. Maybe someday.

Red Cross — I got some treasures I still wear at this second-hand charity shop. I may or may not have purchased a handmade baby sweater for, you know, someday. I also scored my most-treasured Icelandic find here — an Icelandic wool blanket that I’ve relied on over and over again during the Philadelphia winters. It’s seriously one of my favorite things we own.

You can read about the rest of our adventures in Iceland in the archives

…also, there were cats. Lots of them.


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Iceland: Day 3

Our third day in Reykjavik was another wander-around-the-city day. As I mentioned, the whole city is really manageable in a day. We anticipated having more to explore within the city center. That is probably the only drawback of my preferred travel style. No tour, just show up and do your own thing. It usually yields excellent results and only rarely lets me down.

We decided to check out the hostel we originally wanted to stay at before we made our AirBnB plans. Kex, a converted biscuit factory, is just as amazing as we thought it would be. Even though it was a little out of our price range (we didn’t want to stay in a dorm style room), there’s a great bar and patio that anyone can visit. If you choose to stay inside, the library is one of the coziest most wonderful interiors I’ve ever seen. They have shows there at night, and you can even get a haircut. I really enjoy the aesthetic, and I’ve got a huge crush on their website.

Since we’d kind of gathered the main concepts of the city layout in the prior couple days, I was able to focus on its more subtle characteristics. Like the poetry in the streets. Delightful.

And we met yet another beautiful Icelandic cat. She was really friendly and almost followed us down to the water.

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Iceland: Day 1

We woke up on our first day in Iceland prepared to wander around Reykjavik and get the lay of the land. Our apartment was in a really convenient location, right in the center of the 101 district, so it was in the heart of everything, including tourist shops, which usually aren’t my thing. Reykjavik is so small that they can’t be avoided though. It seems like touristy things are mixed in with everything else. We quickly discovered that the 101 district is completely walkable in a day.

We left our cozy apartment and headed up Skólavörðustígur to look for Mokka Kaffi, a cafe I’d read about in preparation for our trip. I wrote a preview piece for Dish Trip, so I’d done a little food research ahead of time, which especially made our first day easy. I am prone to get hangry, especially when traveling.

We were surprised to see that in the mid-40s temps Icelanders still enjoy sipping their coffee at sidewalk tables. 

Interestingly, I thought the whole city smelled like waffles. 
We spent the rest of the day wandering around Reykjavik and getting our bearings. I love wandering days in new cities.
I took a million pictures of this church, Hallgrimskirkja. It dominates the small city.

This is the organ inside Hallgrimskirkja.

Have you ever seen those TV specials about people who are in love with inanimate objects? I told Chad that’s how I felt about this rough mountain in the distance.

The Harpa Conference Center is completely built out of this beautiful honeycomb glass. It’s beautiful inside and out, and toasty warm inside. We stopped here for a bit to use the free wifi.
This street-side hot dog stand is the most famous (and oldest?) restaurant in Reykjavik. We returned countless times during the week so Chad could get his fix. Turns out the secret ingredient is lamb. The hot dogs really are delicious, and you’re supposed to eat them with a special blend of toppings. Like a true 5 year old, I ate mine with ketchup only.

For something like $5, you can take a teeny-tiny elevator with 8 or so of your new best friends to the top of Hallgrimskirkja and appreciate stunning views of the city from all sides.