We continue our journey through Iceland and arrive at the capital: Reykjavik. It is coming to an end (unfortunately). We leave the Snaefellsnes peninsula behind and head to what will be our hotel for the last two nights.
We chose the Laxness Hotel, a simple hotel located in the town of Mosfellsbær, about 15 km north of Reykjavik. It cost us €120 per night with a private bathroom.
Find the best hotels in Iceland at the best price with Agoda:
Since we still had some time, we left our things at the hotel and went for a walk around the nearby Mount Esja.
Mount Esja, located in Kjalarnes, is one of the most popular destinations in Iceland for day trips. Actually, Esja is not a mountain itself, but a volcanic chain, whose highest peak reaches 914 meters in height.
The way up the mountain is divided into different sections, with signs indicating the difficulty of each route.
The best known paths lead to the summits of Þverfellshorn (780 m) and Kerhólakambur (851 m). The highest point is called Hábunga and requires an additional three kilometer hike northeast of Þverfellshorn.
Approximately 200 m from the top, hikers find themselves on a large rock called Steinn. There they can choose three options: continue on the marked path, go directly to the top or simply enjoy the excellent views before descending. Climbing to the top is recommended only for experienced hikers.
The truth is that we, already exhausted from so many days and, above all from such a fascinating day, soon decided to turn around.
We got back in the car and went to the hotel.
For dinner we do not complicate life much. Right in front of the hotel there was a restaurant from the KFC chain and we had dinner right there. The truth is that it is much more expensive than in Spain. 4,087 ISK (€30) we got dinner.
We get up very early and we set out. At 12:00 we have to return the car and we had to take advantage of it.
We are going to try to do the hiking route that runs through the Geldingadalir volcano area again, which we had to cancel the first attempt due to inclement weather.
But today yes. We arrived at the car park (number 1, there are 3) and it was hardly windy and not very cold.
There are several routes up according to the difficulty. They are well signposted with the letters A, B and C. The A is about 3 km long and is the easiest.
The B is a little longer, about 3.5 km and is more difficult. When we were there it was cut off.
The C has two variants. By Langihryggur it is about 4 km. By Nátthagi it is 2 km and it is the easiest. In this one you can see the lava field but not the crater.
We did the A. At first the route is very beautiful, admiring the beautiful landscape of Reykjanes.
We started to climb uphill until we reached one of the edges of the still smoking lava field.
We continue up the even steeper path until we reach the top, from where we have a fascinating view of the lava field and the crater.
How to imagine that just a few days later, the ground would reopen in this area.
It was starting to get late to return the car, we decided to run to the rental office. We return it and take a walk to the bus stop to go to Reykjavik.
We arrive at the stop. WOW! It takes a long time for it to happen. We looked for somewhere to eat or buy something that the stomach began to complain. There was practically nothing open around but we did find a pylsur stall in front of the town hall. It’s called Pulsuvagninn and it was good… along the lines: cheap and tasty.
The bus arrives on time and the driver turned out to be the same horny one from the first day at the airport (it’s the same line). We did not hesitate and we got behind him. Laughing all the way once again.
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and its most populous city with almost 138,000 inhabitants and some 245,000 including its metropolitan area.
According to what is said in Landnámabók, Ingólfur Arnarson was the first settler of Iceland. He settled in the year 870 where the city stands today and named his hut Reykja (r) vík. Recent archaeological excavations in the area of Aðalstræti, Suðurgatu and Kirkjustræti seem to corroborate this.
We got off the bus next to the BSI station, which is the station of the direct airport bus company, not the public one.
If you want more comfort, discover the Civitatis Reykjavik Panoramic Tour.
From here we went for a walk to Hallgrímskirkja, about 15 minutes walk.
Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church located on top of the Skólavörðuhæð hill. And although many think so, it is not a cathedral, it is a “simple” church.
Almost 75 meters high, from its bell tower you get spectacular views of the entire city.
It was built between 1945 and 1986 according to the design of the architect Guðjón Samúelsson, who wanted to capture the spectacular Icelandic nature in the building. For this he was inspired by glaciers, mountains and lava formations, particularly the hexagonal basalt columns that surround the Svartifoss waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park.
It’s also designed to resemble Thor’s hammer, with the handle upturned, as a nod to Iceland’s religious history.
The interior is quite austere. A really simple decoration, highlighting the organ with more than 5,000 pipes built by the German company Johannes Klais from Bonn and installed in 1992.
Outside we find a statue of Leifur Eiríksson, the Nordic explorer who discovered North America 500 years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. The sculpture is the work of American sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder and was a gift from his government to Iceland in 1930, to commemorate the millennium of the Alþingi, the world’s first democratically elected parliament founded in 930 in Þingvellir.
It was already time to eat seriously so it was time to find a place. We go down towards the center along Skólavörðustígur street. On the way we bought some souvenirs. Almost at the end of the street, it becomes pedestrian and is renamed Regnbogagatan (Rainbow Street).
The floor of Regnbogagatan is painted in the colors of the rainbow representing the kindness and acceptance of Iceland towards its LGTBI community. Iceland is considered one of the friendliest countries with the LGTBI collective in the world.
There was a place here called Reykjavik Fish. Basically Fish & Chips and little else. It was quite good and not expensive: 5,670 ISK (€40).
After eating we went for a short walk through Laugavegur, one of the main shopping streets of the city. In it we can find hundreds of restaurants, clothing stores, souvenirs, etc…
Walking quietly we arrived at Laekjargata, another of the main streets of the city. Here we can find Stjórnarráðshúsið, the office of the Prime Minister of Iceland. The building was originally built as the first penitentiary in Iceland.
On March 20, 1759, King Frederick V of Denmark ordered the construction of a prison in Iceland. It was built between 1761 and 1771 and they used some convicts as labor.
In 1816 it stopped working as a prison and in 1904 reforms began to be the government building. In 1918 it began to function as a government building.
Nearby is Safnahúsið (house of culture), which is part of the National Gallery. The building was built between 1906 and 1908 by the Danish architect Johannes Magdahl Nielsen.
In 1908 the museum of antiquities was moved here until 1950 it was moved to its own building in 1950. Between 1908 and 1947 you could also find the Museum of Natural History of Iceland.
In 1909 the National Library and the National Archives were moved. The first until 1994 and the second until 1987.
Currently in the building is the permanent exhibition Points of View and temporary exhibitions.
We continue down to Austurstræti, another of the main shopping streets of the city. In it we can find some of the oldest buildings in the city.
Parallel to Austurstræti we find the Austurvöllur square. It is one of the most popular places to meet. Good for sunbathing, for coffee or for mass protests, since the Alþingi, the Icelandic Parliament, is located here.
In the square there are several noteworthy elements, such as the aforementioned Alþingi. As we already mentioned in the first journal entry, the Alþingi was formed in 930 AD, originally in the Þingvellir National Park.
In 1800, the Alþingi was temporarily dissolved by the Danish King Christian VII and replaced by a High Court in Reykjavík. In 1843 the parliament was re-established through a second royal decree.
Since then, the Alþingi has been modernized with the times. The right to vote grew to incorporate everyone, regardless of income and gender, and eventually, first by achieving Home Rule and then Independence from Denmark.
The current building, known as Alþingishúsið (Parliament House), opened in 1881 and is the work of Danish architect Ferdinand Meldahl. The Alþingishúsið was also the home of the National Library, until 1908, and of the National Gallery of Iceland, until 1950. The University of Iceland operated on the first floor of the building between 1911 and 1940, and the President of Iceland had his offices there. until 1973.
Returning to Austurvöllur square, we can find in the center a statue of Jón Sigurðsson, the leader of the Icelandic independence movement. That during our visit it was found covered by scaffolding.
In the square is also Svarta keilan – Minnisvarði um borgaralega óhlýðni (The Black Cone, Monument to Civil Disobedience). It was created by the Spanish Santiago Sierra and installed in 2012 to honor the protests that took place here after the economic crisis of 2008.
It is a large stone with a black metal cone embedded in it and a plaque written in Icelandic and English. In it you can read the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1793:
“When the government violates the rights of the people, the insurrection is for the people and each part of the people the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties.”
Next to Alþingishúsið is Dómkirkjan í Reykjavík, the Lutheran Cathedral of Reykjavik. It was originally built in the 18th century by the Danish architect Andreas Johannes Kirkerup.
Domkirkja is the seat of the Bishop of Iceland, the central Lutheran church in Iceland, and the central parish church in and around Reykjavik. The cathedral is the place where services are held before the opening of the National Parliament of Iceland and the inauguration of the President of Iceland since 1845.
From here we approach the nearby Reykjavíkurtjörn, Lake Tjörn, a shallow natural lake located in the center of the city. The lake has a great wealth of birds with some 40 different species of birds inhabiting it.
In winter it freezes completely and becomes an ice skating rink.
In its surroundings there are many noteworthy elements. As soon as we got to the north shore, we came across a sculpture… interesting?: Óþekkti embættismaðurinn, Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat… Created by Magnús Tómasson in 1993. Initially the work was located in a garden behind the Hotel Borg, but it has been given a much more visible home in front of Iðnó.
There must be everything in the world…
The sculpture stands in front of Iðnaðamnarhúsið or Iðnó. It is a restaurant and meeting house where the Leikfélag Reykjavíkur theater company was located until 1989, the oldest in Iceland founded in 1897.
At the northwestern end of the lake is Ráðhús Reykjavíkur, the town hall building. Here are the town hall offices, the tourist information office and a huge 3D map of Iceland.
The building was inaugurated in 1992 according to the design of Estudio Granda. The designers fused traditional Icelandic materials with modern Nordic design, but arguably the most distinctive feature of the building is how it appears to rest on the body of water that is Tjörnin.
Since 2017 the building houses the tourist office and can be freely visited (there is a free WC… important information).
On the east bank we find Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík, the Free Church of Reykjavik, which is an independent Lutheran congregation from the State, founded in 1899.
Next to it is Listasafn Íslands, the National Gallery of Iceland, founded in 1884 in Copenhagen by Birn Bjarnarson.
The building was built by the Icelandic architect Samuelsson Guðjón in 1916 to be a frozen food factory. It started working as an art gallery when the collections were transferred from Alþingishúsið in 1950.
From here we head to Landakotskirkja, the Cathedral or Basilica of Christ the King. It is the Catholic cathedral of Iceland. In 1864, the small Catholic community of Reykjavik built a small chapel on this site, which was replaced a few years later by a wooden church.
On July 23, 1929, the new building built by the architect Guðjón Samúelsson in neo-Gothic style was consecrated.
Going down the hill where the cathedral is located, we went to Landnámssýningin, The Settlement Exhibition. In it we find Viking elements discovered in 2001 during an excavation in the area.
Part of a 10th-century longhouse was discovered, as well as relics dating from before 871, even before the settlement era officially began.
The exhibition also features multimedia and interactive installations where this part of Icelandic history can be explored. The entrance price is 1,600 ISK (€11.36).
As we needed to rest a bit, right next to it is a cafeteria called Uppsalir where we had some delicious coffees. A quiet and comfortable place.
After the break we headed towards Old Harbour. It is the main port of departure for whale watching and puffin tours, as well as Northern Lights cruises.
At first it was dedicated exclusively to fishing and commerce, but in recent years they have been replaced by tourism.
From Old Harbor you can see in the background Þúfa, a work of art designed by Icelandic artist Ólöf Nordal. He was looking for a perfect place to meditate away from the bustle of the city.
The word Þúfa, “túfa”, in Icelandic means kill, but it can also mean a small mountain or a mound. At the top of the hill is a shed for drying fish. The work was commissioned in 2013 by the HB Grandi fish factory.
From here you can see beautiful views of the city, although you have to walk a lot.
Continuing our walk through Old Harbor we passed several sculptures, such as the commemorative statue “Looking at the Sea“, the work of Ingi Þ. gislason.
Behind it is Listasafn Reykjavíkur – Hafnarhús, one of the buildings of the Reykjavik Art Museum. The rear facade, the front was the street raised by works (and it was a pain in the ass).
This building is the most recent in the museum complex. It was built between 1913 and 1917 to be a port warehouse. The building was completely renovated and reopened in 2000, coinciding with Reykjavik’s status as the “European Capital of Culture”.
We continue in the direction to Harpa but along the way we come across something that caught our attention: Hið íslenzka reðasafn, the Icelandic penis museum!
It is a museum dedicated to the male sexual organ founded in 1997 by history professor Sigurður Hjartarson. The objective of the museum is to have the penises of all the species of mammals in Iceland, including those of different species that are in danger of extinction in that country. The museum also exhibits some specimens of mammalian penises that do not live in Iceland. In addition, it has representations of the phalluses of mythological creatures (such as elves, trolls, sea monsters, etc.) and related artistic works.
We continue our walk and arrive at Harpa, the Reykjavik Conference Center and Concert Hall. It was designed between the Danish-Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson and the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects.
Its construction began in 2007 but with the arrival of the financial crisis of 2008 the works were paralyzed. Finally the necessary funds were obtained and it was inaugurated in 2011.
We set off again and walk along the promenade parallel to the sea to Sólfarið, the Traveler of the Sun.
It is a steel sculpture representing a ship. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a Viking ship. It is one of the most visited places in the capital, where people gather daily to contemplate the sun reflecting on the stainless steel of this remarkable monument.
The project was the winner of a contest held in 1986 during the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the city. The sculpture was unveiled in its location in August 1990, a few months after the death of its author Jón Gunnar Árnason.
We continue taking a pleasant walk in the cool. Walking, walking we reached Viti við Höfða, the Höfði lighthouse. It was built in 2019 but is inspired by the lighthouses that were in the Reykjavik harbor until 1910.
Opposite the lighthouse is one of the most remarkable historical buildings in the city: Höfði.
It was built in 1909 for the French consul Jean-Paul Brillouin.
Between 1914 and 1917 it was the residence of the Icelandic businessman poet Einar Benediktsson.
Between 1938 and 1951 it housed the embassy and the residence of the ambassador of the United Kingdom.
Since 1958 it has been used for formal receptions and festive occasions.
But it was in 1986 when he caught the attention of the whole world. Between October 11 and 12 of that year, the presidents of the US and the USSR, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, met here for the first time. This was the beginning of the end of the Cold War.
Here we almost end the day. We go to a bus stop. He comes, we get on and try to pay with our mobile. Well, in the urban areas of Reykjavik you can’t.
We tell the driver that we have no cash, that in 10 days we have not touched a single crown. The kid freaks out but doesn’t force us to get off. As the journey lasted about 20 minutes, we had time to download the company’s application. In it you can buy single tickets and validate them with the mobile in the travel card reader.
For dinner we did not complicate our lives and we ate at the KFC that was right in front of the hotel.
Last moments in Iceland. We leave the hotel and go to the BSI station. There we have lockers where you can store your suitcases. The large locker costs us 1,490 ISK (€10.60) and we can fit two large suitcases and a backpack. There are different prices for three different sizes of lockers.
Today the only plan is to visit Perlan (The Pearl). It is a museum and a revolving glass dome that sits on top of Öskjuhlíð hill.
In 1939 cisterns where geothermal waters were stored were built here. In 1991 the current building, the work of the architect, was inaugurated. The building consists of a huge glass dome that rests on six district heating tanks, each of which can hold around 4 million liters of geothermal water.
The museum has various exhibits on the nature of Iceland. In it we can learn about the geology, fauna, flora and history of the country. It is really complete and it will take you about 3 hours to go through it.
It has a planetarium where we can learn everything about the northern lights (in English) and an ice cave simulation (in which it is terribly cold).
On the top floor, where the dome is located, we have a restaurant and a viewing terrace from which we have impressive 360º views.
We were not very convinced but it was really worth it. I think it is one of the essential visits in Reykjavik. The entrance price is 4,690 ISK (€33.40).
You can buy your ticket a little cheaper at Civitatis:
After the long visit we went for the last walk through the city. From here we went to the Einar Jónsson museum, next to Hallgrímskirkja.
Einar Jónsson (1874-1954) was Iceland’s first sculptor. He attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen from 1896 to 1899.
After residing in Rome from 1902 to 1903, Jónsson rejected naturalistic representation altogether and was publicly critical of the classical art tradition, which he felt had burdened artists. He stressed the need for artists to forge their own path and cultivate their originality and imagination rather than follow in the footsteps of others.
Discover the best activities and tours in Reykjavik with Civitatis:
Jónsson’s exposure to the ideas of the Swedish theosophist Emanuel Swedenborg in 1910 had a significant influence on his life and art. From that time until the end of his life, he created works of figurative art whose complex symbolism was based on theosophy.
Einar Jónsson was a pioneering figure in Icelandic sculpture and his influence on the visual arts in Iceland has been considerable, if indirect. He moved permanently to Iceland in 1920 at the age of 46 and resided there until his death in 1954.
From here we went for a walk towards the center in search of somewhere to eat.
On the way to Old Harbor we pass through a very, very touristy place: Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. It is a hot dog stand famous because former US President Bill Clinton ate one and said it was the best he had ever tasted.
Like good tourists we got in line. About half an hour later we already had our pylsur. It was good but nothing special. One more tourist tour to do.
As it wasn’t too crowded we continued our search for a place to eat. We did it in the same place as the day before, although in another place located in Old Harbour.
It was time to start going back to the station to take the bus to the airport, but without rushing. Let’s go for a walk.
On the way we stopped at a cafeteria from which came an exquisite smell of coffee. It’s called Reykjavik Roasters. It’s a very hipster place with very good coffee and… very expensive. 690 ISK for coffee (€5).
Yes now. We’re going to the station. We pick up our bags and take the bus, which stops at a shelter in front of the station.
At 9:55 p.m. it took off punctually to Barcelona, from where we had a stopover to our final destination: Bilbao.
Balance of the trip
What can I say. He dreamed of this destination since he was a child. More than 30 years later I was able to fulfill it and not only does it not disappoint, but it offers even more than expected.
The incredible landscapes that remain etched in the retina and its kind and friendly people. Although tremendously expensive.
A destination to repeat.