A day in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik

A day in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik (pronouncedas:  rei-ca-vik).  Reykjaviv is our homebase during our 5 days stay here in Iceland.  Reykjavik is clean, kid-friendly, safe and home of the friendliest people.

Iceland’s total population is about 300,000.  Reykjavik means “Smoky Bay“, a lot of hot springs can be found here.  Iceland is in Europe’s northernmost area with lots of man made and natural of attractions that one shouldn’t miss.

On our first day in Iceland, we took a bus tour with City Sightseeing and explore Reykjavík at your leisure, with the Hop on – Hop off bus, US$30.00 per person, good for 24 hours.  But it was just a disappointment because I think they only have 2 buses running around the city and wait was too long, 45 minutes.  And that day, it was the worst day ever because it was raining.  On our third day we got our rental car and did our own Hop On- Hop Off on our car 🙂

Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre

Located by the old harbor between Reykjavík city center and the North Atlantic, the new Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, stands out as a unique landmark in continuous interplay with its surroundings. The design was influenced by Iceland‘s exceptional and dramatic nature. Situated on the boundary between land and sea, the building is a gleaming sculpture reflecting both sky and harbor, as well as the vibrant life of the city.

The glass facade, which covers the entire building, was designed by renowned visual artist Olafur Eliasson (creator of the New York Harbor waterfall installation a few years ago). Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, the new home of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera, has four halls, the largest one accommodating up to 1,800 seated patrons.

 

Sun Voyage Sculpture (Solfar)

A massive steel sculpture by Jon Gunnar Arnason which may resemble a Viking shipThe epic view of Mount Esja, make this a favourite romantic destination for travellers and those with an appreciation of natural beauty.

 

Höfði House (pronounced Hov-di)

Hofdi is a historic Reykjavik building. The house was built in 1909 for the French consul in Iceland, but is best known as the site of the 1986 summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, widely believed to have been a turning point in ending the Cold War.

Among other renowned guests of Höfði House include celebrities and heads of state, amongst them the Queen of England, Winston Churchilll and Marlene Dietrich. In addition, the house is believed to be occupied by a ghost, “The White Lady”, experienced by a former British Ambassador who once occupied the house.  She caused so much distress that he persuaded the British Foreign Office to sell the house.  The municipality of Reykjavik bought the house and it has since been used for formal receptions and gatherings held by the city.

 

 

Hallgrimskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja church is Reykjavík’s main landmark and its tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. It is Iceland’s tallest building at 244 ft(74.5 m). It can be seen everywhere in the city.  The Lutheran church has a stylized concrete exterior inspired by the distinctive basalt formations found throughout Iceland.  This gives the building an appearance more like to a space ship then a place of worship.  Although construction began in 1945, the church took 38 years to build.

The church features, most notably, a gargantuan pipe organ designed and constructed by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn. Standing tall at an impressive 15m and weighing a remarkable 25 tons, this mechanical action organ is driven by four manuals and a pedal, 102 ranks, 72 stops and 5275 pipes, all designed to reproduce powerful notes capable of filling the huge and holy space with a range of tones – from the dulcet to the dramatic.

Another highlight here for us was going up the bell tower (via an elevator) to get the best panoramic views of Reykjavik.  Access to the church was free but the bell towers were 900 ISK($8.00 US).

Standing directly in front of the church, is a fine statue of Leifur Eiriksson (c. 970 – c. 1020) – the first European to discover America. Records suggest that Leifur landed on the shores of the new world in the year 1,000 A.D., that’s 500 years before Christopher Columbus. The statue, which was designed by Alexander Stirling Calder was a gift from the United States in honour of the 1930 Alþingi Millennial Festival, commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of the establishment of Iceland’s parliament at Þingvellir in 930 AD.

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Phallological Museum

The Icelandic Phallological Museum is one of the most informative, humorous, and unusual museums in Iceland and in the world. The world famous Phallological Museum or Penis museum.  It is the only museum in the world that contains a collection of penises belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals that can be found in Iceland.

Click here for more info and photos

Around the City

Driving and walking around the capital city, we noticed that there were not much crowds.   Icelandics love art, and you can see it along the streets and graffiti adorned many walls around city, amd colorful houses.

 

 

Whales… whales… whales…

Located at the far end of Reykjavik Old Harbour, this museum is worth the visit. The ambiance will give you the feeling of walking underwater, getting up close and personal with life size replicas of many different species of whales and dolphins. There are many amazing facts to learn inside.  They also have an audio guide, both one you can borrow, and a smart phone app you can download. The admission was a little pricey at 2900 isk (US$25.00) but definitely a must-see attraction if you are visiting Reykjavík.

The Museum is not as exciting as seeing them in real life but interesting to see how gigantic they are.

Towards the end of the exhibit, there is a complimentary tea/coffee included in the admission price. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

Perlan

On the outskirt of the city area, on top of a hilltop is a building called Perlan (The Pearl).  A glass dome sits on top of large water tanks that provide heat to the city.  The dome houses an atrium with various exhibits.  Up on the fourth level, there is a 360-degree viewing platform where you can get the best panoramic views of Reykjavik. Perlan houses both the Perlan café and the Perlan restaurant, and even an All Year Christmas Store.

 

Rain or shine, Reykjavik is a city packed with a lot of charm and originality that made it appealing to tourist.  It offers a wide range of unique activities, museums, attractions and friendly people.

 

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