There were two thoughts running through my head the moment I took my first step off the plane at Keflavik Airport.
1. I really should have reconsidered trying to stay longer and camp out a bit.
2. There is something very serene about looking out into a seemingly never ending stretch of nothing.
Reykjavik is a rather small city, so seeing it in a day is very doable. Conveniently, there is also luggage storage available at the airport (via Geysir rent-a-car) for a reasonable price, so we – as in, my mom and I – did not have to lug our giant bags into the city. And at just shy of $50 total for 24hr storage for 5 bags, I’d say it’s a pretty good deal.
Getting to Reykjavik
Back when I booked my tickets, I had reserved seats on Flybus to get from the aiport to the. Reykjavik bus terminal. The ride is about 45 minutes long, and once at the bus stop, you have the option of either taking a cab downtown, walking, or – what we did – taking a smaller shuttle that drops you off at your hotel/guesthouse (Flybus provides a list of places they offer drop-off service for, which you can find when reserving a spot on Flybus+).
So you’re in Reykjavik. Now what?
As I mentioned before, Reykjavik is rather small, so seeing most everything in a day is definitely possible. There are some buses and tour groups that can take you around, but, as is my habit, I prefer exploration on foot.
One of the advantages of this quasi-flâneur (or flâneuse) approach to doing things is that it allows for you to stumble upon some of Reykjavik’s wonderful street art.
As well as some rather interesting bike racks :
Of course, we also took the time to see some of the more well-known monuments, like the Sun Voyager :
And the Harpa
We were only able to take a look around on the ground floor of the building, but for those interested, they do offer guided tours (or you could also choose to see a concert).
We also took some time to stop in at the National Gallery of Iceland (they don’t allow photos inside, so no pictures, unfortunately). If you choose to visit here, note that your ticket also grants you admission to the Asgrimur Jonsson Collection and the Sigurjon Olafsson Museum.
Where (and what) we ate
As I meantioned earlier, Reykjavik is expensive, and this can somewhat affect how/what you plan for your meals. Since we were only there for a day, we didn’t worry too much about strategizing going out for meals with trips to the grocery store, but I will say that we did forego ordering any alcohol during our meals out (because that’s where things can get realllly pricey).
Also, as we were planning on going to bed early in the evening in order to get enough rest before waking up at 3am to catch our shuttle back to the airport, we stuck to two full meals: brunch and dinner.
Brunch was at a lovely bakery called Sandholt (Laugavegur 36). Here you can either grabbed some baked goods to go (just grab a ticket at the entrance and wait for your number to be called), or you can do as we did and eat in.
We shared a cinnamon bun (because you kind of need to in the Nordics – and these are particularly good ones), and I ordered some skyr with granola while my mom opted for some eggs with fresh-baked bread and a small salad. Everything was absolutely delicious, but due to how busy it was, our order somehow got lost in the shuffle. Thankfully the staff was very attentive, and the mistake was promptly rectified.
Brunch pretty much filled us up for the day, although I did insist on stopping for some coffee at Reykjavik Roasters later that afternoon (pretty sure I would have passed out mid-walk if I didn’t) :
Dinner was at a place called the Sægreifinn (or Seabaron) near the old Harbor. I chose this place on the recommendation of a friend, and I’m very glad I did because not only is this place a good value, the food is rather excellent as well.
The main thing on offer are fish skewers, with most of the fish being local (although they will tell you which ones are not if you ask. We ordered a couple of different kinds (my advice: get the monkfish) and split a bowl of lobster soup to start (an appropriate choice, given the chilly wind that picked up right before we got there).
We pretty much just went to sleep (or at least tried to sleep) after that. It still blows my mind how late the sun stays out when you’re so far north.
I really would like to come back to Iceland again someday. There was this moment when I was sitting by the Sun Voyager, looking out at the hills across the bay, and I could feel this pull towards them, this urge to plunge into this open expanse at once full of life and blissfully empty. Maybe that’s part of the whole renewal thing.