Reykjavík is the capital city of Iceland. Ingólfur Arnarsson is said to be the first permanent Norse settler of Iceland, along with his family. He threw his high-seat posts overboard and said he would settle wherever his posts washed ashore in accordance with the will of his God. The posts were finally found in a small bay on the southwest corner of the island.
When they were found, they saw a lot of smoke coming from the ground, and it was in fact steam coming from hot water. They named this area Reykjavík. Reykja
means “smoke” and vík means “bay.”
The shield of Reykjavík has two seat posts and water waves between them, resembling how the posts were thrown into the sea.
The Reykjavík capital area is made of 7 different communities: ReykjavÍk, Seltjarnarnes. Kópavogur, Garðabær, Hafnarfjörður, Mosfellsbær and Kjósahreppur. The area is located in the southwest part of Iceland with about 228,000 people or 64% of the population.
I often wonder why they don’t merge some of the communities. Why have so many town council for this small area?
Seltjarnarnes, Reykjavik and Garðabær have grown together and could therefore have one city council. These communities even run some services together, such as waste management, fire departments, emergency and bus services and more and more. It would save a lot of money to merge some of these communities.
City Hall – Ráðhús
City Hall is by the pond in the center of Reykjavik. It was built in 1992, and the mayor of Reykjavik has his office there. The building is also used for all kinds of exhibitions. One of my favorites is the huge 3D map of Iceland. It is very good to have a close look at his 3D map before you go and explore the country, and it is also a great fun to have another look after your trip. This 3D map is usually on display, but it can be taken away if other exhibitions need the space. It is usually only gone for a few days at a time.
Harpa Concert Hall
Harpa is the huge building in the Reykjavik harbor area. It was completed in 2011. It was designed by the firm Henning Larsen Architect in co-operation with the Danish-Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson. Its beautiful design structure consists of a steel framework with shaped glass panels of different colors and lights.
It is the home of the Icaland Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera. In this beautiful house, you will find 8 different halls or exhibition areas along with restaurants. It is worth visiting and taking a tour of the building.
Alþingi is the oldest parliament in the world. It was founded the year 930 and is therefore around 1100 years old. The present parliament building is in the center of Reykjavik, along with the main church Dómkirkja in the Austurvelli Square. In this area are many restaurants, banks, stores and nightlife.
Prim Minister’s Office
Katrín Jakobsdóttir has been the prime minister of Iceland since 2017. The little white building in the center of Reykjavik used to be a jail house, but it is now the Prime Minister’s Office.
Cabinet meetings chaired by the prime minister are held at the Prime Minister’s Office. More office space is being built behind the building for the prime minister’s use.
In front of the office is a statue of Danish King Christian IX handing over Iceland’s first constitution in 1874.
On the top of the hill (Skólavörðuholt) in Reykjavík, you will see the biggest church in Iceland. You can see this church anywhere in Reykjavik, and it is good to use as navigation around Reykjavik.
The church is Hallgrímskirkja, and it took over 40 years to build. The church is named after the poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614-1674).
You can take a lift up to the top floor in the tower and enjoy the best views of Reykjavik.
On the hill Öskjhlíð are 5 hot water reservation tanks. In 1991, it was converted to a building open to the public. Now we have a planetarium, the first of its kind in Iceland. There is also a walk-through ice cave.
You can also visit the restaurant on top and have a look at the observation deck where you can take amazing pictures.
Perlan is a must-visit landmark of Reykjavik.
Sólfarið – The Sun Voyager
You will find this sculpture in Sæbraut on the coastline east of Harpa Concert Hall.
It is not a viking ship; it is a dream boat and an ode to the sun, created by the sculptor Jón Gunnar Árnason.
This is a great spot to take some beautiful pictures with Mt. Esja in the background.
Built in 1909, the Höfði House was originally a French embassy. Today, Höfði is best known as a location for the summit meeting of President Ronal Regan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986, which was a historical event that effectively marked the end of the Cold War.
Elliðaá a Salmon river in the capital city
A clean salmon river running through the capital city Reykjavik is a Gem. This is unheard off. Unpoluted in the middel of the city.
The picture above is me with my days catch. Two wonderful salmons to take home.
You can if you like go and watch the angelers fishing in Elliðaá. To fish in the river you need a licance. I was invited because I am a employer of the city of Reykjavik. The major invites some employers every year.
Bæjarins Bestu – Hot dog Stand
For as long as I can remember (about 69 years now!), there has been a hot dog stand in Tryggvagata. This is must-do in Reykjavik. There is always a queue but it does not take long. “Eina með öllu” means “one with everything” so you will get a hot dog with raw and fried onion, ketchup, mustard and relish.
When I visit a city for the first time, I jump on a sightseeing bus, taking me to all the major attractions in that city. I have usually prepared my visit, so I jump off the bus and on again at selected places. This tour gives my a clear picture in my mind of what I would like to observe closer.
There is also another way to do this. You can use the bus system of the city and select a route you like and just ride along.
There are 6 outdoor swimming pools in Reykjavik with 1 in Seltjarnarnes and 2 in Kopavogur. They are open all year around. All the swimming pools have geothermal hot water. Swimming is great exercise because it uses most of your muscles and is good for your lungs. Many Icelanders start their day with a good swim before they go to work.
You can also relax in a hot tub or a cold tub after your swim.
There are 3 basic rules if you go swimming:
Take your shoes of before you enter the locker room. Take them with you to the locker to keep them safe.
Wash with soap without your bathing suit before going to the pool. There is free soap in the shower room.
Before entering the locker room again, please dry off in the shower area. There are boxes in the shower room where you can leave your towel or you can take it with you to the pool side. Please keep the locker room dry.
Some people find it hard to shower naked among other people, but Icelanders are used to it.
The swimming pools are open from 6:30 to 22:00 on work days but on weekends, the hours are shorter.
Golf is a very popular sport in Iceland. We have 6 eighteen-hole golf courses in the Great Reykjavik area. The golf season is very short but the long daylight helps. In June and July, you can play around the clock. There are over 100 golf courses around the country.
My first memories about the harbor are when I was 5 years old. I used to live in the west part of Reykjavik, so the harbor was part of our play area. This was back in 1955 – 1960. The harbor was very busy, and my friends and I loved it. We did some fishing, and we tried to help the fisherman unload their captures at the end of the day. Sometimes we were given a hadoc or cod to take home.
Now it is called old harbor and it is always nice to walk around the harbor area. If you start your journey at the Harpa Concert Hall, you will see the Icelandic coastguard ships if they are in the harbor. Close to them you will see some small private boats.
If you keep on to the west, you will find Ægisgarður. If you want to have a look at the whaleboats, they are on the left side. On the right, you can see the whale-watching boats.
If you go still further west to Grandagarður, you will see some big trawlers and other kinds of fishing boats. On Grandagarður, you will find great restaurants and coffee houses.
Fly Over Iceland
From Grandagarður, this is a breathtaking journey across Iceland. The ride gives the guests the feeling of flying over land, sea and ice. The ride takes about 35 minutes and is totally worth it.
Seasons in Iceland
In the days of the midnight sun, Reykjavik becomes a city that never sleeps. Everything comes alive, not only the trees and the flowers but also the people living in Reykjavik. You will see more children outside playing and people walking, running or bicycling. People work in their garden, play golf or go salmon fishing, even past midnight!
Perhaps one of the more remarkable summer destinations within Reykjavik is the geothermal beach at Nauthólsvík, where you can spend the afternoon in a heated ocean lagoon. Sea swimming is practiced all year long, and the swimmers can warm up after a swim in the Atlantic Ocean.
All the excellent coffee houses are filled with smiling customers who enjoy soaking up the midnight sun.
Reykjaviks’s calendar of events kicks into gear with festivals, conferences and cultural events taking place.
Yoko Ono invites peace lovers and John Lennon followers to join in an Imagine Peace Tower ceremony in October. The work of art is dedicated to John Lennon’s vision of peace, and it is lit every year on his birthday.
Iceland Airways is in early November. You can experience the Icelandic music scene all over Reykjavik.
Even if it is dark, there is never a dull moment in wintertime. With regular displays of the Northern lights, there is also a full calendar of culture, plays and many seasonal exhibitions.
Christmas season is always celebrated with greatness, and New Year’s Eve is something you will want to take part in. All over the city, people light fireworks, and at midnight, everything goes crazy. The most popular place to be is in front of Hallgríkskirkja on the top of Skólavörðuholt Hill.
In February, you can enjoy the tasty Food & Fun Festival, followed closely by the Winter Lights Festival.
As the snow melts away, you will see the nation getting back to its outdoor activities. You will smell the BBQ in the air and see the first blooms peak out.
March is dedicated to Icelandic design with the DesignMarch Festival transforming the city into one big venue for exhibitions and other design-related events.
If you have a comment or a question, please leave it below. I love to hear from you.
Þórhallur / Thorhallur
founder of FactsAboutIceland.com