EXPLORING REYKJAVIK: Walking Around Reykjavík, Iceland

exploring Reykjavik
Reykjavik

Perhaps you’ve been thinking about a trip to Iceland and exploring Reykjavik. Maybe you’ve seen photographs of the beautiful landscape, mountains that seem to go on forever, lava fields, Icelandic horses, and an abundance of waterfalls. Have you thought about what Reykjavík, the capital and largest city in Iceland, might be like? 

exploring Reykjavik
Reykjavik

While architecture of the past included turf houses, stone buildings emerged in the 18th century in Iceland. In the 20th century concrete was used as a construction material and then in the 1930’s functionalist architecture arrived, which is the style of many of the neighborhoods in Iceland.  

exploring Reykjavik
Reykjavik

After World War II, larger homes with higher roofs began appearing. After that, modern architecture appeared and as such, lower roofs with large windows began appearing in the country. Before the financial crisis of the last decade, Iceland constructed its first skyscrapers, the Höfðatorg and Smáratorg towers, which seem somewhat out of place with the architecture surrounding them. I happen to love the small town feel of Reykjavík and while I love the Harpa, I also love the look and feel of the city as is and hope that they don’t try to change it too much.  

exploring Reykjavik
Street map

For anyone considering exploring Reykjavik, walking is your best bet. As I walked around Reykjavík, I wanted to get a closer look at the architecture of the buildings and see if there was anything that was different or unusual. The map above gives an idea of the area I walked from the beautiful Hallgrimskirkja church to shopping in Laugavegur and the many streets in between. In case you didn’t know, Laugavegur means “wash road.” This is what Visit Reykjavik has to say about Laugavegur: 

Laugavegur is one of the oldest shopping streets in Reykjavík and literally translates as “wash road”; that’s because it used to lead to the great old hot-springs and famous wash-spot in Laugardalur – where the entire city’s washing was once done! Whilst this historic component adds a lot to the charm, its popularity with locals and tourists is mainly down to its collection of prestigious shops and exclusive stores, which attract countless shoppers and visitors. In the evenings the street’s many bars, clubs and restaurants open up and draw in the party crowds – especially at the weekends.

exploring Reykjavik
Drekinn located on the corner of Njásgata and Frakkastígur

Look at this bright red building, a grocery store that also serves food like hamburgers and hot dogs. It’s ridiculously charming and functional all rolled into one. I love exploring on my travels and the supermarket is usually one of my first stops. You can get a crash course on the language as well as find unique and fun items, too.  

Now let’s walk down Laugavegur and go shopping as we continue exploring Reykjavik. I’m headed to Bónus, the bright yellow grocery story with a chubby pink pig in the logo. Yes, that Bónus!

On this beautiful fall day in October, you can see how the leaves had changed color, but that didn’t stop people from venturing outside. Instead of running over to the Kringlan mall (ewwww… mall shopping? I hate doing that at home!), I loved how everyone was out spending the day shopping, grabbing something to eat, having a few drinks, and enjoying the day with family or friends.  

exploring Reykjavik
How to tie a tie

Just in case you forget how to tie your tie, stop here and follow the directions on the wall. How’s that for graffiti? 

I find when I’m in Iceland I often discover things that make me scratch my head. The Chuck Norris Grill was one of those discoveries on my walk. I guess if you’re a huge Chuck Norris fan, you’d be thrilled to see this place. As for me, I was far more intrigued by the signage and why anyone would want to go to an American themed restaurant. Plus they serve burgers, pulled pork, and the like so I wasn’t really into eating somewhere that smelled like meat. But if you are, it seems to get fairly decent reviews. 

It’s time to say goodbye to Chuck and keep walking people! I’m waiting for the Walking Dead Diner to show up in Reykjavík. 

exploring Reykjavik
Bunk Bar & Café

How could I not stop and appreciate the big old sugar skull in front of Bunk Bar & Café at Laugavegur 28. I didn’t have time to go in, but from what I hear, they have a pretty good happy hour. Wait… let me add that to my list. 

exploring Reykjavik
Spuutnik

I love thrift shops, second hand stores, and anything vintage. As I continued exploring Reykjavik, I soon discovered that there are a few shops in Reykjavík. What about this bad boy called Spuutnik located at Laugavegur 28b? I was easily distracted by the coats on the rack outside, but had to remind myself I wasn’t in town that long and had to move along.

exploring Reykjavik
Dillon Whiskey Bar

Located at Laugavegur 30, Dillon Whiskey Bar opens in the afternoon and stays open late. Happy hour is between 4 pm and 8 pm and live music upstairs, but didn’t you go in for the whiskey? Big whiskey selection for those that like that or good Icelandic beer, like Viking, on tap. Didn’t have a chance to have a drink here so you know the drill. Adding it to my list. 

exploring Reykjavik
Boston Bar

Voted Best All-Around Bar for 2014 by Reykjavík Grapevine, Boston Bar called to me, but I couldn’t make my way there. Instead, I offer you this blurb from the Reykjavík Grapevine as to why it earned the award: 

An old favourite, Boston continues carrying the flame of its proprietors’ former venture, the legendary Sirkús (you wish you’d been there). Aside from being an old-fashioned establishment within which you and your pals can congregate and share a couple of frothy pints of Gull, Boston doubles as one of Reykjavík’s trendiest meeting places. On weekends, you can expect minimalist microhouse beats and suave internationals, maybe even a surprise appearance from a member of Reykjavík’s indie-celebrity clique. In addition, Boston serves a selection of Mexican food via their Santa Karamba kitchen. A great all-rounder.

exploring Reykjavik
Kryddlegin Hjortu

I accidentally stumbled upon one of the vegetarian restaurants I had been looking for, Kryddlegin Hjorth, located at Hverfisgata 33 in Reykjavík. I ended up eating elsewhere, but I’m still adding it to my list for my next trip!

exploring Reykjavik
Graffiti

How could I walk past this awesome graffiti in Reykjavík and not take a picture? 

But now onto some of the unusual things I found on my walk in Reykjavík. 

exploring Reykjavik
Who’s the dummy now?

This was too good to be true. A hairdresser’s dummy head inside a hairdressing school, complete with mandatory Icelandic beard.  

exploring Reykjavik
Video store in Reykjavik

I did a double take when I walked past this video store.  Can you believe they still exist? 

exploring Reykjavik
Hello Kitty

If you look closely enough you’ll see Hello Kitty peeking out of the back of that car.  Her eyes are following me. 

I was able to see Icelandic architecture, quaint shops, fun themed restaurants and bars, and a few unusual things all on my walk while exploring Reykjavik. More of my trip to Iceland in my next posts.  Have you gone shopping, had a drink or a meal, or just walked along Laugavegur in Reykjavík?  If so, is there somewhere I should go next time I visit? 

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