1 Dec 2016

Staying in Reykjavik

Reykjavik has always been somewhere I've wanted to go, having never been to Scandanavia or any countries surrounding, the quirky city has long intrigued me and so the flights were finally booked to experience the place in November. Winter felt like the ideal time to travel, being the most likely time of the year to catch a glimpse of the northern lights and known for being the time the arctic island comes into it's own with snow-capped mountains and frosted landscapes (albeit the sub-zero temperatures are off-putting to many). With a suitcase full of layers, we set off for Heathrow last week and landed about half past three as the sun was beginning to set.

It didn't take long to become accustomed to Reykjavik. The city is full of charm and one of those places that grows on you the longer you stay. I thought the daylight-saving in the UK was dramatic, but Iceland sees only about five hours of sunlight a day (if that) in the winter solstice. Waking up at ten in the morning to pitch-black skies is disconcerting but really makes you appreciate the precious hours of sun and not feel as though you need to rush out in the morning to capture them (breakfast was the most relaxing time). Although we experienced some unpleasant weather conditions, we skipped any snowfall or unbearable minus-degree temperatures. A positive for body warmth, but I imagine the city would have been even more special blanketed with a layer of snow.

The Laundromat Cafe in downtown Reykjavik is a must-try, think American diner come quirky bookshop come working laundrette..

We didn't get a chance to go up the tower in the Hallgr√≠mskirkja as the tower was closed on both occasions we visited (all the more reason to go back..). I desperately wanted to see the views over the city of the colourful houses and rooftops as I've seen beautiful photographs of that shot. It's within a few minutes walk to the centre and it looks really quite striking against a blue sky if you're lucky enough to catch one. This is one of those cities where sightseeing and tourist hot-spots aren't on the top of the agenda, it is more about being within the city itself. 

There are cosy cafes and restaurants all over the city to while away the hours when sightseeing isn't on the cards. Our favourite was Stofan Cafe, a rustic wooden-lodge interior and lattes to die for. Stepping out from your hotel onto the Laugavegur, a colourful street but in muted-tones and cloudy, brooding skies is like stepping into a Scandinavian crime novel. What seems unassuming by day turns compartivly cosmopolitan come nightfall, with a big nightlife scene and all the bars (pre-drinks is a big thing in Iceland due to the extortionate cost of alcohol, with many not venturing out until 2pm). Our tour guide said that Iceland has never been busier, with hotels fully-booked this time of year, but the city felt relatively quiet during the day (with most busy off on tours) and it's only when you're looking for a restaurant to eat in at night that you notice it.

Christmas has arrived in the Hilton...

Next stop, the Blue Lagoon...

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