Hello again city lovers! Today’s insider tour of Reykjavik, Iceland will be guided by Katie Hammel, writer of BootsnAll’s Iceland travel guide. She lives in Chicago (which actually has colder winter averages than Iceland!) but considers Reykjavik her home away from home.

Want to see your city on Intelligent Travel? Copy and paste our list of fill-in-the-blank questions into an e-mail, fill in your answers, and send your responses (with any photos, videos or links) to IntelligentTravel@ngs.org.

Reykjavik is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is to the top of Hallgrimskirkja church. There’s an observation deck up there from which you get great views of the colorful city of Reykjavik and the bay and mountains below.

Giovanna Palatucci (NGS)

When I crave an Icelandic hot dog I always go to Bæjarins bestu pylsur. You can find hot dogs all over Iceland, including at pretty much every gas station, but the name of this place (which means “best hot dog in town”) doesn’t lie.

To escape the random storms, flurries and rain that seem to descend on the city out of the blue, I head to Mokka cafe to sink into one of their cozy booths and warm up with a steaming cup of rich hot chocolate.

If I want to put my credit card to work, I go to 66° North, a retailer that sells high-quality (and expensive) outdoor and performance gear that will keep you warm on the coldest winter days.

For complete quiet, I can hide away in the garden of the Alþingishúsið, or Parliament House. Though this is where parliamentary staff sometimes have meetings, it’s open to the public and very quiet and peaceful.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with the Sólfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture. It’s modeled after a Viking boat and sits right at the water’s edge. It’s the quintessential tourist photo-op.

If you have to order one thing off the menu from Þrír Frakker it has to be the Plokkfiskur, an insanely rich and filling traditional dish made from boiled cod mixed with potatoes and a sauce of onion, butter, flour and milk, topped with béarnaise and cheese.

Kolaportið is my one-stop shop for great Icelandic souvenirs. It has everything from old DVDs to vintage clothes, but the best finds are the handknit lopapeysa (Icelandic sweaters) that can be found for much cheaper than in the souvenir shops.

Locals know to skip the Blue Lagoon and check out one of the city’s public swimming pools instead.

Noodle Station by Giovanna Palatucci (NGS)

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to the Noodle Station (Skólavörðustíg 21a) for a huge bowl of delicious hot noodles that costs around $10 and makes two big meals.

For a huge splurge I go to Fiskmarkadurinn (Fish Market) for their modern, Asian-fusion spin on Icelandic cuisine.

Photo ops in my city include the Hallgrimskirkja church and the best vantage point is looking up at the church at night from Skólavörðustígur street.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Zoey Deschanel. She’s beautiful, artsy, and a bit quirky. But you get the sense she could still kick your butt if she wanted to.

The most random thing about my city is the baby carriages and strollers you see– with children in them!– left outside of stores and cafes. Iceland is very safe, and many parents will leave their little ones outside and just watch them through the windows while they shop or eat.

My city has the most adorably witty men.

My city has the most stylish and sophisticated women.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves anything from going horseback riding to hiking to a hidden hot spring. Iceland offers so many ways to experience nature.

My city’s best museum is the 871 +/-2 Settlement Museum. In 2001, an ancient Viking longhouse was discovered beneath Reykjavik and around it was built a modern, multimedia and interactive museum that gives a comprehensive history of the country’s early settlement.

My favorite jogging/walking route is down the “Sculpture and Shore walk” that runs parallel to Saebraut or around Tjornin, the small pond in the city center.

For a night of dancing, go to Oliver. Or, for live music, check out NASA.

Bæjarins bestu pylsur (Iceland’s famous hot dog stand) is the spot for late-night eats. Come 4 a.m., there’ll be a line 30 or 40 people deep.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read The Reykjavik Grapevine.

You can tell a lot about my city from its elected leaders. The mayor is a former comedian who keeps an online “Diary of a Mayor” on Facebook and many of the other members of his “Best Party” come from art and music backgrounds rather than politics.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they have no problems pushing through a crowded bar to get a drink.

In the spring you should celebrate Beer Day, the commemoration of the day the 75-year ban on beer was repealed on March 1, 1989.

In the summer you should stay up late to experience the Midnight Sun, when the sun barely sets each night.

In the fall you should attend the Iceland Airwaves music festival.

In the winter you should look up! Although the Northern Lights are best viewed away from the lights of the city, on some clear nights, they can be seen from Reykjavik.

A hidden gem in my city is Our House guesthouse. Lodging in Reykjavik is expensive and this place is not only affordable, but it feels like your own cozy little house in the city.

For a great breakfast joint try Prikid. They have all the “American breakfast” standards, and if you’re in a bad way after partying all night, they offer a combo of a greasy sandwich, a chocolate shake spiked with Jack Daniels and a painkiller.

Don’t miss the Gay Pride festival in August. This year over 100,000 people (about a third of the country’s population) attended.

Just outside my city, you can visit the Golden Circle, the trifecta of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions: Geysir, Gullfoss, and Thingvellir National Park.

The best way to see my city is on foot, thanks to its compact size.

Johann Karlsson/My Shot

If my city were a pet it would be an Icelandic horse: friendly, smart, curious, strong and totally adorable.

If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live (where?) in north Iceland, near the small town of Husavik.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is Dansi Dans, by the Icelandic band For a Minor Reflection.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the Reykjavik Zoo, where kids can get up close to animals like sheep, horses, goats, reindeer and arctic fox.

Whale-watching trips leaving from a harbor where you can also find whale kebabs on a restaurant menu is something that could only happen in my city.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because for a tiny city on a small island country, it’s surprisingly modern but not sterile, charmingly pastoral without being cliche. The city has held tight to its traditions while looking to the future, making for a fascinating hodgepodge of old and new.

Follow Katie Hammel on Twitter at @BootsnAll and @WhyGoIceland.

Want to see your city on Intelligent Travel? Copy and paste our list of fill-in-the-blank questions into an e-mail, fill in your answers, and send your responses (with any photos, videos or links) to IntelligentTravel@ngs.org.

[Iceland Guide]

[Iceland Photos]

Comments

  1. Jay
    Bangkok, Thailand
    November 27, 2011, 7:49 am

    Thanks for information. It’s really useful. I plan to go to Reykjavik city on this Saturday (3 December).

  2. Thomas Slocumb
    Atlanta, Georgia, USA
    October 20, 2011, 12:20 pm

    HEy! great and very informative article! i, as well, am a huge fan of your writing. I have always been interested in Icelandic culture and particularly in the city of Reykjavik. Now i really want to visit. “Takk” for the article!

  3. Örn Blöndal
    Newcastle, UK
    August 19, 2011, 7:56 am

    Who goes to Iceland for hotdogs, Asian fusion, Jack Daniels and High sophistication? Might just as well stay in Chicago…Iceland isn’t the USA, why promote only the USA-type stuff? You can find McDonald’s in Japan, but when you go there do you write about it, or do you write about Japanese things?
    Iceland has it’s own culture.

  4. Peter, Sydney Group Dining
    Sydney, Australia
    August 12, 2011, 12:35 pm

    As always, awesome article! I am a fan of your work. You take me places. http://www.morethemerrier.com.au