Europe,  Iceland,  TDM,  Travel Journal

[Road trip in Iceland] Day 13: Reykjavík in the rain


Part 1: Travel Diary Part
2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

Today we visit the Icelandic capital, Reykjavík. We visit it at the end of our trip in Iceland because it isn’t one of our priorities. I know that those who come here for 3 days to attend a concert or just for the Northern Lights, appreciate it very much.

Today, we are as “lucky” as yesterday, rain + wind combo, but with an even stronger wind, between 45km and 50km/h. The Icelandic weather forecast has even issued an alert for this wind.

Stop 1: Perlan

Well, when you can’t set foot outside, at the risk of being carried away by the wind, you take refuge where there is a roof. And there are plenty of places for that in Reykjavik. Including Perlan.

Perlan is the equivalent of the Geode in Paris. In fact, if the weather is bad, or if you come here for a short stopover, without having time to explore Iceland, you can come to Perlan for :

  • walking in an ice cave
  • watching the northern lights in a planetarium
  • see a trompe-l’oeil of the Silfra fault
  • experience a volcanic eruption
  • look at a model of basalt columns
  • admire the cliffs (fake) of West Iceland

In short, all the best of Iceland is shown here.

As we couldn’t see the Northern Lights, we bought a ticket to see them, on the screen. For 1900kr/person, it is specified that we are guaranteed to see the aurora 😀 It looks a bit pathetic like that ahahha but the 45 minutes movie is extremely interesting, because it shows, with super well done 3D images, the origin of the aurora, in which conditions we can see them etc.

We come out of the room less disgusted that we didn’t see them. Because even with the latest technology, it’s rare – even for them, over several months – to find and capture really intense auroras. So I sincerely think to the naked eye, we would have seen just a little green line of nothing at all – in April – and getting up at 3 o’clock to “chase them away”

At the top is a (well-known) café and a (well-known) restaurant. With a very nice view

Stop 2 : The cathedral

Emblematic figure of the city, one cannot come to Reykjavik and not visit its cathedral. The inside isn’t as sumptuous as the outside suggests, but we can take an elevator to get to the top (1000kr/person).

Parking near the cathedral is free of charge. What surprises us is that there is no guard to check that we bought a ticket. I have the impression that everything is based on the honesty and integrity of everyone. It’s so easy to cheat here, but nobody does it (we hope so anyway). One street away, the parking costs 3€/hour but people are super responsible, they come to visit the cathedral, park here, but don’t leave their car here all day long. As soon as they are finished, they take their car and go elsewhere. No one is cutting back to take the parking space reserved for the disabled. I think it’s really great!

Arrived at the top, the infrastructures aren’t top (0 decoration, it’s just concrete), but the view is very satisfactory. I let you click on each picture if you want to zoom.

Stop 3: Restaurant Lækjarbrekka

This restaurant, a stone’s throw from the tourist office, is very very pretty. Many tourists stop in front just to take a picture. It is one of the popular addresses to taste the Icelandic specialities.

And right next to the restaurant, there is the punk museum, installed in the old sanitary facilities.

Let’s go back to the restaurant now. At noon, there are some quite interesting menus to try a variety of Icelandic dishes. The menus are a little bit gastronomic, because we are entitled to a soup as a starter, two courses (fish + meat, or 2 x fish, it depends on the menus) to finish with a dessert.

My 7900kr menu also contains a board with smoked salmon, shark, dried fish, dried lamb and… 2 pieces of whale. I am ashamed! Really ashamed to have tasted those 2 pieces of whale, because as long as there is consumption, the hunt will continue, and nowadays, only 3% of the Icelandic population (i.e. 9000 people at the most) still eat whale.

In any case, this board isn’t high gastronomy. Whale meat looks like beef, with less taste. The pieces of dried meat and fish are weird. Even the smoked salmon is too smoky (unbearable weird taste – absolutely to be eaten with the yellow sauce otherwise it’s disgusting). And the marinated shark pouaaahhhhh looks like fish marinated in piss! I’ve eaten shark before, I even thought it was good, but here, the Icelandic technique – of marinade/smoked fish –isn’t well developed. Anyway, if you come to the same restaurant and you see “platter” something, don’t take that!

On the other hand, the rest is extraordinary!!! The shrimp/mussel soup is so creamy. I really liked their yoghurt…

and especially their lamb, whose cooking is perfectly well executed, accompanied by fried potatoes, a little bit of cabbage (kale) very crispy. The Icelandic lamb, ahlalala !!! It’s real meat, very tender, it’s the meat of the happy animals, who can walk quietly on the plains all that ! It reminds me a lot of the Argentine beef, of the same quality.

Stop 3 : The Traveller of the Sun

It is a steel sculpture, much larger than I thought, located on the edge of the old port of the city. Admit it, it doesn’t make you think of Viking ships?

Stop 4 : Harpa

What could be better than to avoid the rain at Harpa, a concert hall / congress center. The windows are absolutely beautiful, it brings a lot of color and light inside. Here you can watch the show “how to become icelandic in 60 minutes”, I watched the excerpts, it looks super funny. There is also a 360° room which allows to visit virtually all the emblematic Icelandic sites (useful on a rainy day).

Stroll downtown

Now that it is no longer raining, we come back for a short walk downtown. The wind still blows very strong but we don’t care. There are several parking areas, P1, P2, P3… P1 being the most expensive (3€/h), so to pay less, we just have to go away from one or two streets. We find without any problem a place in the P2 zone (1,5€/h). You can pay for the parking by credit card, indicating your license plate number.

I find the downtown area pretty but not as pretty as I imagined. There are small detached houses in jail (and not made of wood – but that’s normal, there’s no wood in Iceland), very colorful, with a false basement (which is half above ground), like in Denmark. The streets are super clean (and deserted), but there are plenty of cafes, restaurants, places to chill out, bookshops etc. to avoid the cold, and sip a hot drink

Te & Kaffi

We make a stop at Te & Kaffi, a well-known, very cosy chain. Of the 12 customers sitting, 4 are working in front of their computers. Here they have a nice collection of teas, chocolates to go with the coffee – and they don’t laugh too much with the coffee. There is a multitude of coffees (I’m not a specialist but the offer seems to me to be quite long). 12€ for a tea-time, it’s expensive, but these are the Icelandic prices.

Laugardalslaug, the best swimming pool in the capital city

On average, every Icelander goes 15 times a year to the swimming pool/thermal spa. So naturally, in the capital there are many swimming pools. We did our research and apparently Laugardalslaug is their favorite.
The entrance costs only 1000kr/person. The water is heated by geothermal energy, so it’s not thermal water, but whatever the source of water, Icelandic water is very pure so it’s very good for the skin anyway

They have several hot baths (all outside), at varying temperatures. Between 36°C and 43°C. You have to run a little bit between the first hot bath and the next one, it isn’t very pleasant with such a weather. Their Olympic swimming pool is about 29°C. There are also two hammams, and a hot bath in salt water.

We find the infrastructure a bit old-fashioned but at least the baths are very hot. For 1000kr, we aren’t going to cry, and we highly recommend you! There were a lot of Icelanders there, and they come with their family, it’s really cute.

Guesthouse in Laugarvatn

As we still have 1,5 days left in Iceland, we take advantage of it to visit some places that we completely missed in the Golden Circle, of which the city of Laugarvatn, at the edge of a lake of the same name.

This guesthouse, Héraðsskólinn (link booking), located near the lake, is one of my favorites in Iceland. It’s a formerboarding school of renown, which shares the same architect as the cathedral we visited this morning.

We have access to all common areas, including the sublime library. There are plenty of period objects. It’s not Downton Abbey either, but I love the atmosphere!

The canteen is open until 10 pm and it isn’t too expensive compared to Icelandic rates.

By staying here, we get a 10% discount on the entrance ticket to the spa next door, the Laugarvatn Fontana that JB told you about here

The continuation and end of our adventure, it’s this way

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • Héraðsskólinn Guesthouse (Booking link): 53,1€
  • Access to the cathedral elevator: 1000kr/person
  • Postcard: 100kr
  • Parking: 1100kr for 4 hours of parking (P1 + P2)
  • Restaurant at noon: 16 000kr for two
  • Snack at the guesthouse: 840kr for two
  • Tea time : 1785kr for two
  • Fuel: 5000kr
  • Perlan: 1900kr/person for the Northern Lights show

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