city reviews, iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is the little big city. Its official population is 119,000 people with about twice that living in the surrounding towns. In the US or most of Europe this would be quite a small city; however, Reykjavik really pulls off a bigger town feel.

Language:

Almost everyone in Reykjavik speaks decent English so communication shouldn’t be an issue if you know that language.

Transport:

The city is very navigable with a couple of larger roads but no real highways. There is plenty of free parking if you are willing to walk a few blocks which I always am! The city is quite walkable once you park. There are also public buses which will get you from place to place; however, they don’t come that often and were a bit hard to figure out for me.

Lodging:

I recommend Airbnb. I paid about $40/night to take a private room for two in an apartment. We had full range of the apartment and hardly saw the owner. Another visit we did use a hotel which was under $100/night for 3 people and included a large delicious European style breakfast. My upcoming trip I have rented a 5 bedroom house for a large group of us for about $350/night.

Eating:

Food is quite expensive in Reykjavik. Going out to eat at an average restaurant that might cost $10-20/person in the US would be about double that in Iceland. However, shopping for your own food is reasonable, sometimes cheaper than the US, but still more expensive than most of Europe.

Because of this I haven’t eaten out much in Reykjavik. There are plenty of other blogs where you can learn more about the cuisine there, but if you are budget traveling like me, you may want to skip it.

Two recommendations I can make: Omnom Chocolate: got a bunch of free samples from them and loved it. Quite delicious dark homemade chocolate bars. Reykjavik Roasters makes some awesome brews. They are located in a quaint red house that really sets that perfect coffee house mood.

Shops and stuff to see:

Most of Reykjavik’s shops and restaurants are located along Laugavegur street and its side streets. Here you will find numerous bars, restaurants, locally hand made products of all sorts, clothing shops, and more. Much of it is touristy of course so prices may be a bit higher than elsewhere. We discovered some cool pottery shops and lots of wool clothing stores on our last visit.

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A view of the city with the mountains behind it from one of the hotels I stayed in on my first ever visit to Iceland in 2015

Nightlife:

For its size Reykjavik has amazing nightlife. Both times I visited, I took one night to go out on the town and had an amazing time. Tons of people out including many locals not just tourists. Last time I met a guy who recognized me from my Instagram where he had seen photos from my previous visit. We also met some random Icelandic guys who showed a great time, skipping the line to get into a more exclusive club. One of the most fun bars in Reykjavik is the gay bar, Kíkí Queer Bar, fun music and a great mixed crowd. We also enjoyed Lebowski BarKaffibarinn, and Austur.

Because drinks are expensive in Reykjavik ($10/beer, $15/cocktail), I’d recommend a good pregame to get the night started. Drinking age is 20 and there are bouncers but they are pretty chill. Icelandic people love to drink and party (or so they have told me), and from what I’ve seen they seem to be right. Most of the bars are off that same main street with all the shops and restaurants. Just walk up and down and go bar hopping. You will have a good time!

Touristy Stuff:

Like most towns there are all sorts of tours including free walking tours. I’ve never done one in Reykjavik but I know that in some towns the system kind of rips off the tour guides, so make sure you tip well and maybe read up on the way the tour guides work before going on one.

Whale watching is tons of fun and a good way to enjoy the nearby natural beauty. I recommend Elding Adventures At Sea, whom I went with and quite enjoyed. They have their own museum about whales as well.

There is also a large swimming area (well lots of them but one in particular) in the city, taking full advantage of the thermal waters underneath Iceland. Every pool at this swimming park is somewhat warm and there are multiple hot tubs of various temperatures. The park is called Laugardalslaug and is open to the public.

Another popular tourist attraction is the Hallgrimskirkja, a large church deigned to resemble the natural volcanic rock formations found in Iceland. It is quite beautiful and offers a great view of the city from the top.

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Random tourist saying a prayer in front of the great church

The best thing about Reykjavik is you can do all this stuff in just a day or two, giving you tons more time to see the rest of the nature on the Island.

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

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A quick guide to visiting Iceland (part 3)

Icelandic Horses running through a field
Icelandic Horses running through a field

I didn’t realize there was so much to tell about Iceland. So here it is part 3!

Nightlife

Iceland has a surprisingly thriving nightlife given its size. Locals tell me that everyone there drinks. A lot. And when you go out you see this. Many of the people out at the bars and clubs are locals, not just tourists.

Reykjavik is home to a metro population of about 200,000 or almost 2/3 of the population of the island. While the town is relatively small, it still offers a wide range of bars and clubs, from jazzy coffee shops serving whiskey late into the morning to ritzy night clubs with fancy cock-tales, to American style sports bars with more TVs than patrons. Everything is scaled down to the size of the country but there is still something for everyone.

If you like night life, I’d recommend taking one night to thoroughly enjoy it while in Iceland. If you go during the summer you will get to have the very odd experience of walking out of a club and finding it quite light outside almost as if you partied till 7am, except its only 2!

Alcohol 

Speaking of nightlife, alcohol is extremely expensive in Iceland. Even buying your on liquor or beer and mixing your own drinks can cost a lot. For example, the last time I went to Iceland I bout a 500ml bottle of regular Smirnoff Vodka for about $32. Meanwhile in your bars and clubs drinks start at about $15. Beers are about $9.

If you want to drink in Iceland and want to save money, I highly recommend buying duty free alcohol in the airport before you leave and taking it with you.

Culture and Art

I don’t have as much experience with the culture and art of Iceland but there is plenty to be had if you are interested. pretty much anywhere there are tourists, you can find hand made crafts and goods which may be a bit expensive but are usually beautifully done and support the local economy. Downtown Reykjavik has tons of shops with art, pottery, wool, and much more. There are also performing arts in the city as well

Happy Travels!

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

Follow JELTOWN on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and now on YouTube!

Save money by traveling like I do

$35 off your first Airbnb booking!

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Nikon D3300
Nikkor 18-140mm Zoom Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II

country profiles

A quick guide to visiting Iceland (part 2)

 

Getting around Iceland:

By far the best way to get around Iceland and see all that it has to offer is to rent a car. In the winter I’d recommend a 4 wheel drive or if you desire to go up the mountain into the national park or the glaciers even in the summer. However, from late spring to early fall, you can literally drive around the entire country in the most budget of cars without too much difficulty. How do I know? I’ve done it. In a Chevrolet Spark. Even over some treacherous gravel mountain passes!

Of course, there is public transportation in the main city, and then you can take bus tours of the popular tourist sites for sure. And there are frequest flights from the main city to smaller ones via small aircraft for a fee if you are willing.

But if you really want to get a feel for the beauty of this place, you need to rent a car. These run from about $25/day for an off season economy car with limited milage to over $200/day for an off road capable SUV.

Gas is expesnive in Iceland however. Fule can be up to $8/gallon.

The Famous Blue Lagoon:

The Blue Lagoon is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the country of Iceland. It is formed from the run off  hot spring water used to pwer a geo thermoal electrical plan which is then funneled into a natural looking man made pool with mud baths, massages, and bars surrounding it.

While this place is increddibly touristy and actualyl quite man made, it can be a relaxing place to visit.

Id recommend buying tickets in advance as they usually sell out. bring some snacks and sneak some alcohol in if you can as things are ridiculously expesnive inside. Get the basic package and then go enjoy a good full day in the park. There are steam rooms and saunas to enjoy as well as the beautiful pool with varying temperatures of water. There is plenty of mud to go around for skin cleansing and good facilities to clean up afterward. Tickets range from $40-55.

Food:

Food varies greatly in Iceland depending on iff you are are eating out or shopping at the super market. There are several discount super markets with prices as good or better than food costs in the US including Bonus and Kronan.

Eating out is very expensive. I imagine this is because of labor costs being high. I’m sure there are some more economical choices and from what I hear there are a few delicious restaurants that one must try. However if you are on a tight budget you may wish to forgo this option.

One note about food in Iceland. Some people will tell you that to truly experience Iceland culture you must try whale meat. While the Icelandic people have at times eaten whale, it is primarily a tourist attraction and completely unnecessary for your enjoyment of the Island. Please be humane and refrain from eating these highly intelligent beings and don’t eat at restaurants that serve whale meat.

Money

Iceland uses the Krona which is valued at 110 per US dollar at the time of this writing.

Most places take credit cards but do keep a few thousand in bills just in case.

Cell phone service

T-mobile has 4G service throughout Iceland as good or better than in the US. Your T-mobile plan allows you your normal data allowance and unlimited text in Iceland with no changes or additional charges. Calling is extra.

Other providers may have other plans options

 

Happy Travels!

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

Follow JELTOWN on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and now on YouTube!

Save money by traveling like I do

$35 off your first Airbnb booking!

Check out the Equipment I use

Nikon D3300
Nikkor 18-140mm Zoom Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II