Browsing Tag

iceland

Iceland, Travel

11 fun, free things to do in Reykjavik

March 14, 2017

11 fun and free things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland

It’s true; Reykjavik is an expensive city (especially if you’re British because the exchange rate is so bad for us). Luckily, there are plenty of free things you can do while exploring Iceland’s capital city.

 

Reykjavik street art magic rainbow unicorn

Admire some weird and wonderful street art [Read: 10 pieces of Reykjavik street art you need to see & where to find it]

Reykjavik has a reputation for it’s street art. It’s plentiful and it is all kinds of weird and beautiful.

You really don’t have to look far to find it either because you’ll find some of it adorning shop fronts down Laugavegur, you’ll catch glimpses of it down side streets, and if you go wandering you’ll find it decorating neighbourhoods.

Reykjavik street art I miss you, I miss the smell of your hair

My personal favourite was this really simple but powerful piece. I saw it and these whole waves of the feels hit me.

 

 

Reykjavik Harpa

See the city from Harpa

Impossible to miss, Harpa is Reykjavik’s concert and exhibition hall. While the events are ticketed, anyone can wander into the building, and up the stairs to see the city from a height.

The building itself is really pretty, with oddly shaped windows, some of which are tinted, which make for a nice pattern against the city.

 

Reykjavik sea wall at sunrise

Walk along the sea wall

Once you’ve visited Harpa, take a left out of the building and walk along the seawall where you can let the crisp air hit your face and take in views of Mount Esja.

 

 

Sun voyager, Reykjavik

Photograph sun voyager

This sculpture on the seawall is one of the most touristy spots in the city. I mean, it’s easy to see why; it’s a beautiful sculpture depicting a ship with the sea and Mt Esja in the background. And if you go down at sunrise or sunset, your bound to get a brilliant photo. Though you might have to wait your turn because everyone wants a photo in front of it.

 

Reykjavik walking tour Tjornin

Take a free walking tour [Read: Discover Reykjavik on a free walking tour from CityWalks]

CityWalks offer a very popular two-hour walking tour around Reykjavik, covering the history of the city and the Icelandic culture. From personal experience I can tell you that this tour is absolutely worth it and is a brilliant way to see and learn about the city.

This tour is listed as free, as it doesn’t have any kind of ticket price, and you basically pay what you think the tour is worth. Technically, it’s free as you don’t have to pay your guide anything. But if you do pay your guide, it’s probably one of the cheapest activities you can do in Reykjavik and is certainly worth it.

 

Reykjavik snowy Tjornin

Stroll around Tjornin

Tjornin is the park next to city hall, where you can take a nice leisurely stroll around a lake and enjoy looking at the nice neighbourhoods around it.

 

Map of Iceland in Reykjavik city hall

Get up close with Iceland…and a vagina?

Ok, so I’m going to start on the one that caught your attention here; the vagina. So, Iceland’s mayor decided that the best way to celebrate 100 years of women being allowed to vote in Iceland was to unveil some artwork depicting a vagina. It’s not immensely obscene and to be honest I probably wouldn’t have realised what it was had I not been told.

I mean, I kinda see the major’s idea; people don’t say the word ‘vagina’ all that often and look you’ve read it four times in the last minute! On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like the most progressive way to stop sexism but Reykajvik does also have a penis museum, so I guess it balances out. Plus, it is a very liberal city.

Once you’ve gotten over that, take a look at the huge 3D map of Iceland.

 

Get a panoramic view at the Perlan

The viewing deck of the Perlan offers 360 degree views of the surrounding area, making it a perfect place to get a really good view of the city. (The best place is probably Hallgrimskirkja right in the city, but that’s not free.) It’s completely free to get to the viewing deck, but there is a restaurant and a cafe if you fancy a bite to eat.

 

Reykjavik Hallgrimskirkja

Admire Hallgrimskirkja

While it will cost you to get up to the top of Hallgrimskirkja, walking around it and admiring the church is completely free. You can also go inside the church for free. If you do want to get up to the top, get there early or prepare to queue.

 

Seeing the northern lights in Reykjavik

See the northern lights

If the conditions are right, it’s possible to see lady aurora from the city. We headed down to the sea wall on a clear night, when good solar activity was forecast (you’ll find the aurora forecast website handy), and we were rewarded with a patch of green in the sky.

It was hard to spot at first, and to begin with I wasn’t sure if it was a cloud and my brain was playing tricks on me and turning it green. But no. The green got stronger and we saw it for about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, I had broken my tri-pod the day before so my photos were not great (as you can see).

When it comes to the lights, it really is about having the perfect weather conditions, especially if you’re in a city where light pollution can make them even harder to see.

If you’re a keen photographer and want to head out of the city on a trip to see the lights, I cannot recommend Arctic Shots enough & you can read about my experience on their northern lights tour here.

 

Spot the Yule Lads

If you’re visiting Reykjavik during the festive period, make sure to keep your eye out for the Yule Lads being projected onto buildings.

The Yule Lads are part of Icelandic folklore. There are 13 of them and 13 days before Christmas, one comes into town each night.

Over Christmas, the Yule Lads can be seen projected onto buildings, which makes a pretty fun kinda treasure hunt; especially if you’ve got kids.

 

Would you add anything else to the list?

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Iceland, Travel

What to take on a winter trip to Iceland

February 21, 2017

What to pack for a winter trip to Iceland

There is a saying in Iceland, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing and bad attitudes” and it is so true. If you’re headed to Iceland during the winter and want to stay warm and dry, make sure you take these things with you.

How cold is Iceland during the winter?

Since getting back from Iceland, a few people have asked what the weather was like (duh, we’re British we love talking about the weather) and how cold it was. Honestly, it’s not as cold as you think it will be, thanks to the gulf stream.

My Mum and I visited Iceland in December, between Christmas and New Year, stayed in Reykjavik and did a couple of excursions out of the city. The temperature was between about -1C and 6C during the day, so it wasn’t that much colder than what we’re used to on a very cold day in the UK.

“If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” is another favourite Icelandic saying. The only certainty when it comes to Icelandic weather is that it’s unpredictable. One minute it can be sunny and blue skies, and then the next you can barely see 20m in front of you because it’s snowing sideways, and then it’s sunny again.

According to Iceland Travel, the average temperature in Reykjavik in December is -0.2C, -0.5C in January, and 0.4C in February. So, while it’s not as cold as you might expect it to be make sure you have all of these things with you because you’ll be in for an uncomfortable (and expensive if you have to buy things when you get there) trip otherwise. And on top of that, the last thing you want is to be surrounded by Iceland’s beautiful scenery, hating every second of it because you’re cold.

 

Reykjavik cathedral in the snow

1. Waterproof, grippy boots

In England, there only has to be the threat of a tiny bit of ice and everywhere gets covered in salt grit. In Iceland? Nah mate, they don’t bother with salt grit at all because some of their pavements are geothermally heated by the water pipes that run under them. But, not all the sidewalks are heated so you will need boots that will grip in snow and ice. And even then, when you come across thicker patches of ice you might find yourself almost falling over. Don’t worry, you won’t be alone there.

If you have a pair of walking boots already; they might not be good enough, so find out if they’re any good on snow and ice. I know mine would not have been because I was slip sliding about in them in a bit of British winter frost.

Don’t forget to make sure they’re waterproof too just in case you find yourself walking in snow that’s more than a few cm deep. It’s not like you need to go for boots that are 100% waterproof; ask yourself what you’ll be doing. If you’re spending most of the time in Reykjavik and doing a guided tour where you won’t be outside for huge amounts of time, you will probably be fine with boots that are waterproof for 3-5km. If you’re going to be outside for most of the day in snow, you’re going to need boots that will stay waterproof for longer. In fact, wellies might be a good option.

A pair of comfy, waterproof and grippy boots isn’t going to break the bank either.  I got mine from Decathlon for about £35.

 

2. Thermals

Do not make the mistake I almost made and think that you don’t need thermals. I almost didn’t get any, but my Mum talked sense into me and thanks to her I didn’t ruin her holiday moaning that I was cold the entire time. (Yes, I know I’m an idiot.)

A base layer will trap and keep the warmth close to your body, so that one layer of clothing can make all the difference and means you don’t necessarily have to fork out for skiing trousers or where so many layers you feel like the Michelin man.

I wore thermal trousers under my standard walking trousers, and a thermal top under a jumper and then my coat. That was more than enough to keep me nice and toasty. Again, I got my thermals from Decathlon and they cost me £3.99 a piece.

 

3. Jumpers

You don’t need to go for the bulkiest jumper you can find, because you might end up feeling like you can barely move. I took four fairly thin, but warm jumpers with me. Two of them were from Decathlon (I promise, this is not sponsored by Decathlon, I just love that place) and two were woolen jumpers from Oasis.

 

4. Trousers

Again, this is going to depend on what you’re doing during your trip to Iceland. I took two pairs of standard walking trousers that had served me just fine between 2C – 12C while I was in Canada last summer and wore my thermal trousers underneath. If you’re worried about rain or snow storms, you can always get a pair of waterproof trousers to go over the top of your normal trousers.

Though if you’re going to be off out exploring all day, a pair of thicker, waterproof trousers is probably wise.

Whatever you do, avoid jeans. While you would probably be warm enough in a pair of jeans with thermals underneath, you know how horrible jeans can get if they get wet. We got caught in rain walking to our Air BnB on the first day while wearing jeans, and my legs got cold and sore so fast.

 

Harpa Reykjavik snow storm December

5. Waterproof and windproof coat

Have you got this image in your head of Iceland being windy and wet during the winter? Good, you’re on the right track. Make sure you take a coat that is warm, waterproof and windproof.

I took my Superdry coat, which isn’t actually advertised as being waterproof but it’s always been fine for me. Unfortunately, we got caught in a snowstorms on a trip and the bus was FREEZING so my coat couldn’t dry all day, and it ended up getting really wet. Thankfully it was just my coat that was wet through, not all of me, but learn from my stupidity; take an actual waterproof coat.

 

6. Gloves & glove liners

You know how normally your gloves advertise that they keep you warm to like -4C and they don’t? Yeah. Make sure you pick up a pair of glove liners to go underneath your gloves. You can even get glove liners that you can use your phone with, so you don’t have to choose between making your friends jealous and keeping all of your fingers.

 

Tjornin Reykjavik in the snow, December

7. Hat and scarf

It sure can be windy in Iceland, so do not underestimate the power of a hat and scarf to keep your ears and neck warm, and to stop your hair blowing all in your face. My boyfriend bought me a hat with flaps, which was perfect for making sure my ears were warm, and I would definitely take that again over a hat without flaps.

 

8. Good socks

Everyone loves a good pair of thick socks. What you need is socks that will keep your feet warm and dry even if you do end up getting your feet wet; and they’re not hard to find at all. Just go to any outdoor shop and you’ll be able to find them no problem.

 

Seeing the northern lights in Iceland

Tips for going on northern lights tours

If you’re headed out on a trip to try and spot the lights, I would advise taking an extra jumper or layer. When we went, it was -7C and three layers wasn’t going to cut it. My Mum and I both took a thin fleece jacket to put under our coats and that worked a treat for us. I would also consider taking an extra pair of socks because my feet have never been so cold in my life.

If you haven’t booked a tour yet, make sure to read my post about photographing the northern lights in Iceland because Arctic Shots were amazing; especially if you’re a keen photographer.

I promise, this was not sponsored by Decathlon – I just like it, a lot. However, this post does contain affiliate links.

 

Is there anything I’ve missed?

 

SAVE ME FOR LATER

What to pack for your winter trip to Iceland

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Iceland, Photography, Travel

I saw the northern lights in Iceland & I’m gonna spam you with photos of it

February 7, 2017

Northern Lights over an abandoned house in Iceland

Seeing the northern lights is probably on most people’s “list”, and that dream finally came true for me in Iceland a few weeks ago.

A few months before heading to Iceland, I came across Arctic Shots; a tour company based in Reykjavik that do trips around Iceland aimed at people who are interested in photography. There are lots of trips to see the Northern Lights from Reykjavik, but what I really wanted was someone who could show us how to photograph it, and Arctic Shots were the guys to do it.

We arrived in Reykjavik during the middle of a storm which lasted a few days, and for a while it looked like we might not see the lights at all. Luckily, the weather forecast was perfect for Friday night and we headed an hour out of the city with our guide, Siggi.

The aurora borealis over a farmhouse in Iceland

After a few minutes, a faint green glow appeared in the sky that got brighter and brighter. To my surprise, I discovered that the lights aren’t always as bright as you see them in photos. So, all these photos I’ve got on here? The lights weren’t really that bright to my naked eye; it’s all down to long exposure. Still, it is truly wonderful to see a green glow flicker across the sky.

We left Reykjavik just after 7pm, and we didn’t get back to our apartment until after 1am (I can’t remember the exact time), so we had a good few hours photographing the lights, and Siggi was on hand to help us with camera settings and any questions. (If you’re not entirely convinced that Arctic Shots are the people to take you to photograph the lights, just look at his photos on his Facebook page. I bet you’re convinced now.)

The northern lights over an abandoned house in Iceland

The northern lights over a farmhouse in Iceland

Northern lights over an Icelandic farmhouse

It was about -7C, so we didn’t spend the entire time photographing. To Siggi -7C seemed like nothing to fuss about, but I have never been so cold in my life and I had so many layers on I could barely move. We spent some time on the bus, and Siggi handed out shots of Brennivin, and Icelandic liquor, and hot chocolate to warm us up before we headed back outside.

Photographing the northern lights in Iceland with Arctic Shots

The northern lights behind a cloud in Iceland

This is by far one of my favourite photos I took of the northern lights

Getting to see the lights with my own eyes was a dream come true for me, and I am so glad the weather turned in our favour just in time. If you’re heading to Reykjavik and want to get some fantastic photos of the lights, and with the lights, I cannot recommend Arctic Shots enough.

Tips

If you’re planning to see the lights, here are a few tips I picked up / learnt the hard way.

  • DO NOT FORGET YOUR BATTERY CHARGER. I still can’t believe I did that. I went to Iceland with no battery charger and only two fully charged batteries. I’m such an idiot. Do not forget your battery charger because the cold weather really zaps your batteries, so make sure you head out with allllllll your batteries fully charged.
  • You don’t need to worry about taking a remote for your camera; just put the timer on a couple of seconds and you’re good to go.
  • Take the filter off. I use my UV filter so much that I forget it’s there. Luckily, Siggi spotted it and my photos came out much better afterwards.
  • Have two pairs of gloves. Before I went to Iceland, I discovered glove liners in Decathlon and they are amazing.

Save me for later

Seeing and photographing the northern lights in Iceland with Arctic Shots

This post may contain affiliate links. This is not a sponsored post.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Iceland, Photography, Travel

Discover Reykjavik with a free walking tour from CityWalks

January 31, 2017

domkirkjan church reykjavik

One of the best ways to find out about a destination is to speak with the locals; and that’s exactly what happens on CityWalks’ free walking tour of Reykjavik.

While my Mum and I were researching what to do in Reykjavik, we came across CityWalks on TripAdvisor. With so many rave reviews, it looked like a great way to explore the city and figure out what else we wanted to do while we were there.

Iceland's parliament building in Reykjavik

We met our guide Sara, a history graduate and local teacher, outside the parliament building; which, by the way, looks very understated in comparison to parliament buildings in other countries. With it being so early, and so cold, we didn’t really expect many other people to be on the tour with us, but there must have been about 25 people. Despite that, we had no problem hearing what Sara was saying and our experience wasn’t at all affected by it being a larger group of people than we expected.

While the snow fell outside the parliament building, Sara told us about the relationship between the Icelandic government and the Icelandic people, and it sounds like a pretty good one. When they were unhappy that their president was involved in the Panama Papers, they protested outside parliament and he stepped down. When Icelandic bankers were naughty in 2008 and fudged stuff up for everyone, Icelanders took to the square with pots and pans, and made a racket. And do you know what? It worked; they held bankers accountable and jailed them.

Tjornin, Reykjavik

From there, we headed to Tjornin, a popular park in the centre of Reykjavik. Thankfully, Tjornin is right next to the Town Hall, which provided us with some much needed warmth for a few minutes.

A yellow house in Reykjavik

Houses in Reykjavik

An elf rock in Reykjavik

Sara took us for a wander through some of Reykjavik’s prettiest neighbourhoods and explained a little about elves. In Iceland, some people believe in elves and being the nice, friendly country Iceland is, people accept and respect the wishes of elves.

When construction was being carried out in a neighbourhood, they came across a rock (yep, it’s that rock in the photo above – doesn’t look that big, huh?) that couldn’t be moved and all the machinery broke. There was no physical reason that they were unable to move the rock, so they decided it was an elf rock and that they needed to respect the elves wishes, and simple moved the construction project somewhere else. How nice!

A street in Reykjavik

Our tour covered other things such as their love for hot dogs, and how much natural energy the country has. Studies have found that even if there were 2 million people living in Iceland (there are around 323,000), they have enough resources for free heating indefinitely. Unfortunately I can’t actually find the source of that comment, but as an environment science fan I got so excited by the mere thought of it.

Harpa, Reykjavik, in a snowstorm

The windows in Harpa, Reykjavik

View over Reykjavik from Harpa

Typical to Icelandic weather, we got caught in a very sudden snowstorm and rushed to Harpa, their concert hall, for warmth. There, Sara continued to tell us about what it’s like to live in Iceland, and it sounds wonderful.

Iceland is a very progressive, welcoming, and open society. They have no military presence, are impartial, and no longer have foreign military bases on their island, as they believed it hypocritical to their peaceful nature. Higher education is very accessible, they seem to have a pretty decent healthcare system, your nationality, religion, or sexual preference doesn’t matter, and there’s a website to find out if you slept with a relative the night before as the population is so small. What more do you even want from a country? In short, Iceland is probably what most people would like their own country to be more like.

If you’re headed to Reykjavik and want to get your trip off to the best start, I cannot recommend CityWalks enough. Though the tour is advertised as free, you can obviously tip the guides. They do also do some other tours, which are paid for; you can find out about those on their website.

Have you ever been on a walking tour?

This post may contain some affiliate links.

Save me for later

Exploring Reykjavik with CityWalks free walking tour

Save

Save

Iceland, Travel

10 pieces of Reykjavik’s street art you need to see & where to find it

January 12, 2017

10 pieces of Reykjavik street art you need to see and where to find it

Reykjavik might not be the kind of city you’d associated with a big street art scene, but you cannot miss the colourful, and slightly bizarre, pieces plastered on shop fronts, peeking out from alleyways, and on the pavement.

This post is by no means an extensive list at all; it’s just the coolest stuff I saw that I think you should see too. I Heart Reykjavik lists some other great pieces.

According to Iceland Review, graffiti on public property is considered vandalism and is, as such, forbidden. Howe

Magical intergalactic rainbow unicorn

There is no better way to start any list of any kind than with an intergalactic rainbow unicorn, and my Mum is sure some kind of Davie Bowie reference needs to be added to that description too. We spotted this near Reykjavik’s city hall.

Where to see it: Near city hall, down Sudurgata. The exact location is here, and it’s the green building on Google Maps.

 

Reykjavik street art

Where to find them: You will spot the Reykjavik Design March piece on the end of a building on Vonarstraeti, and then the stamp piece will be right in front of you then; you can actually see that one on Google Maps too.

Godzilla and Bender attack Reykjavik

King Kong Reykjavik

Ok, so maybe this piece is my joint favourite. If Godzilla attacking Reykjavik isn’t cool enough on it’s own, Futurama’s Bender is also at it. And King Kong is just chilling round the corner.

Where to see it: About half way up Laugavegur; you can’t miss it.

 

Isey, Reykjavik

And while you’re searching for Godzilla and Bender, there’s no way you can miss Isey all painted pretty.

Where to see it: Isey on Laugavegur.

 

I love the detail and vastness of this piece. There’s just so much to look at, and I’m not entirely sure “what the message is”, but I like it.

Where to see it: Down Freyjugata. This is the exact location, but on Google Maps the building is blue and covered in ‘standard’ graffiti.

We won't be like them Reykjavik

I miss the smell of your hair reykjavik

This one really got to me. It’s just the simplicity of it; when I read it I could just feel someone’s longing, and since I wasn’t there with Daz and missed him, it got to me.

Where to see it: These are just a little down the road from the piece above, and on the end of a building that goes down the Valastigur alley. Again, this is the exact location but Google Maps is out of date. If you walk a few more metres down Valastigur, you’ll see a couple more pieces.

Wild Welva Reykjavik

I was really taken aback when I saw this piece; it’s just so detailed, and it reminded me of Rafiki from The Lion King. When I got home and did some research, the detail made sense. This piece was created by Wild Welva, a Spanish street artist, who first creates his work on paper and then pastes them onto walls. You can find out more about his work on his Facebook page

Where to see it: Keep going down from the magic hand piece towards Tjornin and you will come across this on the side of a building. This is the exact location, but the wall is just white on Maps.

Marley Coffee Reykjavik

Where to see it: Marley Coffee on the corner of Grettisgata.

Where’s the best street art you’ve seen?

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save