"The world’s most northerly capital combines colourful buildings, quirky people, a wild nightlife and a capricious soul to devastating effect. Most visitors fall helplessly in love, returning home already saving to come back."
Quoted from Lonely Planet
Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is the home of more than half of the country's 300 000 inhabitants. Named after the steam from the geothermal areas the city is now known for its clean air, water and beautiful surroundings. Iceland was settled from Norway in the 9th century. The native language is Icelandic, a version of Old Norse.
According to Lonely Planet; "The city’s charm lies in its many peculiar contrasts, which, like tectonic plates clashing against one another, create an earthquake of energy. Reykjavík offers a bewitching combination of village innocence and big-city zeal. It’s populated by darkly cynical citizens (a quality brought very much to the fore by the country's recent near-bankruptcy) who are, in spite of everything, filled with unstoppable creativity and enduring spirit. In summer the streets are washed by 22 hours of daylight; in winter they’re scoured by blizzards and doused in never-ending night. Reykjavík is a city that treasures its Viking past but wants the future – the very best of it – NOW!"
It is believed the first settlers arrived from Norway around 870 AD, choosing Reykjavik as the place to start their new life. Ingólfur Arnarson, Iceland’s founding "father", is said to have decided the location of his settlement using a traditional Viking method; he cast his high seat pillars (Öndvegissúlur) into the ocean when he saw the coastline, then settled where the pillars came to shore. The steam rising from hot springs in the area is sad to have inspired Reykjavik’s name, which loosely translates to Smoke Cove.
In recent years Reykjavik’s culinary scene has grown exponentially and now the city boasts an extraordinary number of high quality restaurants which fiercely compete to out do each other. Where as before Reykjavik’s night life was the most talked about when referring to Europe's northern most capital, now the quality and vast variety of restaurants is what catches tourist most by surprise. No city in the world of a similar size (and many who are up to 4 times larger) can match Reykjavik in shear number of top restaurants. Icelandic chefs, having worked in some of the finest restaurants all over the world, have brought their experience home with them to fuse popular world cuisines with old traditional Icelandic dishes and the result is no short of amazing. We urge you to try as many as you can during your stay.
As mentioned above the Reykjavik night life is already world renowned and unique for a city of this size. Icelanders go out very late and stay out late and so the city centre can be very lively, especially on weekends where it is not uncommon to find nightclubs still full at 5 am. There are many types of bar, cocktail lounges and clubs making it easy for travellers to find the vibe they are looking for, however, if the weather is favourable the streets can be awash with people and so we recommend taking advantage as this is the ideal situation to get to know some of the locals.
Many fine museums are worth visiting, the biggest being the National History Museum which tells the story of the worlds oldest democracy and it's extraordinary past. For art lovers The Reykjavik Art Museum, housed in three separate locations, is definitely worth the visit while the unique (and slightly controversial) Phallic Museum is always popular.
To summarize, there is no place quite like this and do not forget your camera as the most spectacular thing about Reykjavik is the landscape. Mount Esja looms over the city just across the bay and your memory card will almost certainly be filled with images of Reykjavik’s most romantic mountain as well as such architectural masterpieces as the Harp,the new music hall, and colourful old town houses that continue to be the city's heart and soul.