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A city break in Reykjavik

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Icelanders often describe their country as the land of fire and ice. The diverse landscape is defined by volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers and geysers - but the capital city of Reykjavik has much to offer too.

 

With a population of just over 200,000, Reykjavik is home to two-thirds of Icelanders. Unlike most capitals cities, Reykjavik is small, spacious and welcoming. Colourful houses add to the quaintness, and pretty much everything worth seeing is within walking distance.

It's not just quaint, colourful houses, though - the outskirts of the city are more developed, and by Flexa Bay modern apartment buildings at least give the impression that the city has something of a skyline.

The tallest building in Reykjavik is Hallgrimskirkju, that cool church you've probably seen on Instagram. The church is free to enter, but it costs a few hundred krona to take the lift to the bell tower, which has panoramic views of the city. Don't go just before the hour though, or you'll be deaf from the bells for the rest of the day.

Inside the church, minimalistic design that is so synonymous with Iceland reigns. Aside from a 5,000 pipe organ centrepiece, the interior is completely plain yet also completely captivating.

As a city, Reykjavik has a colossal amount of street art - which makes the city feel immensely cool, though the weather helps too. Sometimes the art consumes entire buildings and is as much worth stopping to admire as a glacier in Southern Iceland.

Reykjavik also has a wealth of museums. Ones especially worth mentioning are the Art Museum, the Settlers Exhibition, the Phallological Museum and Perlan.

The Phallological Museum is a must simply for bragging rights. The exhibits on display include specimens taken from elephants, whales and even trolls. 

Perlan, meanwhile, is a bit of a trek away from the rest of Reykjavik's main attractions at about a 30-minute walk from Hallgrimskirkju. The museum is essentially a manufactured ice cave within an observation tower, and also offers 360-degree panoramic views of Reykjavik and the surrounding area from the top.

On the other side of Reykjavik is Harpa, which is a modern conference centre and concert hall. Harpa is free to enter, and there are regular performances in the evening. Flexa Bay and the Old Harbour a two-minute walk from here. The Old Harbour has a fishing village vibe, with a plethora of little places to eat and shop. This is also where boat tours can take you whale or puffin watching.

On the subject of whale, Iceland is one of few countries that controversially still eat the mammal, but this is something that is becoming more of a tourist activity. In fact, 30% of all the whale consumed in Iceland is consumed solely by tourists.

Food is something that is very expensive in Iceland. To combat this, budget-conscious tourists often just stock up on sandwiches from supermarkets and petrol stations. To save money on alcohol, it’s also a good idea to research happy hours, which often see drinks being sold at half the usual price.

Don't be afraid to walk the streets of Reykjavik after dark either. Reykjavik is one of the safest cities in the world and when it's dark, colourful lights draped across the street and fairy lights tangled in trees create a magical aura.

Whilst there is so much more of Iceland to explore, and you should definitely try to see as much as you can, Reykjavik is perfect for a city break with lots to offer tourists even if you just plan to stay for a couple of days.

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