Sadly I’m not spending Christmas in Iceland this year but quite a few of my friends are, so I asked Gudrun if she had any tips. Well Gudrun has come up Trumps with a huge list of sugestions and advice which I have attached below.
Thank you so much for this I’m sure everyone will have a really great time.
“First of all – do not assume “things” will be open from around midday on the 24th until midday 26th – less than 5 years ago there were no or very few restaurants and shops open and the public transport didn’t run at all! This is changing, but I don’t quite know to what extent, so worth a warning!
As I don’t know your interests or timings I’m just going to brainstorm!!!!
You have probably found these already, but :
http://www.straeto.is/english – these are the busses – maps times etc.
www.reykjavik.is – this is the official reykjavik sight, with all services etc – but also events (probably the same set as on visitreykjavik.com
My favourite spots in town are
Perlan – nice 180 degree view – self serv caffe where you can get ice-cream – restaurant in the glass “pearl” , which is said to be quite good, dont know about the cost www.perlan.is – then there is a wee “forest” around the building, with paths and short walk down to the sea.
Nauthólsvík – is by the sea beneath the Perlan – there is a this is Reykjavik´s beach and people do go swimming there all year round and there is a special Christmas/New Year mega swimming event. there is also a small pool which has an aditional hot spring source . there is also a nice new caffe/restaurant nearby
Harpan – necessary to view and visit – caffe which I’m told is fine, and a restaurant, which is grand both food and price!
Hallgrímskirkja – you can go up to the top of the tower – great view and a bit more of the Reykjavik rooftop view than the Perlan.
Grasagardurin, Laugardal ( plus the Zoo) http://www.reykjavik.is/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-4392 – its a bit of a botanic garden and next door is a Zoo (I think a small collection of Icelandic animals rather than a traditional Zoo!!!) but a nice area to walk around, Cafe Flora http://cafeflora.is/?page_id=17 )sorry cant find English but this is the location) is an excellent café and do great food and close to one of the large swimming pools and ice-skating ring . a bus ride from the centre.
The National Museum is quite new and nice, with a caffe – its very good on the early history, but:
Árbæjarsafn – the open air museum is better on how Icelanders used to live – got a couple of “mud”-houses and a -church where i got married once up on the time
If you like walking – one can walk from Árbæjarsafn down to Perlan without crossing a road (took me about 2 hours) and then on the coastal path, round the peninsular , past villas and a golf curse, Grótta light house, which you can walk upto on low tide and need to be careful not to get stranded, then along the north coast , all the way to the harbour – or of course you can get the bus to any of those places and do a smaller part of the path.
Swimming Pools are I think all good and all heated with geothermal water – most of them are outside
Its lovely to walk around the lake in the centre – surrounded with old houses and some of the older “public art” – and one of the art Galleries
On the eve of the 23rd – Þolláksmessa – all the shops are open til midnight and Laugavegur – the old shopping street is closed to traffic and heaving with people, walking, singing, shopping, playing instruments, possibly giving away hot chocolate. there is usually “classical concert” on the balcony of “Sólon Íslandus” ( a caffé close to the town centre end of the street)
restaurants – caffes http://www.restaurants.is
Sægreifinn – www.saegreifinn.is by the harbour – definitely worth a visit! got a great story to it
http://www.forrettabarinn.is/ – these seam like icelandic sushi – small tasty tasters – easy going surrounding
www.vegamot.is has been suggested to me as a fun/good bistro
Cafe Paris in the centre is one of the older ones and is steady good
Grandakaffi – Grandavegi 10 on the harbour – this one is one of my old favourites – it has not changed since the 70´s 80´s – uesd to open at 5 in the morning and only fishermen and eccentrics go there, but it has a great view of the fishing boats and more active part of the harbour – do old fashioned cakes and “kleinur” – also open sandwiches
Mokka kaffi – http://www.mokka.is/Mokka.html is also one of the old favourites – tiny – usually full of old eccentrics form the art scene – the nations favourite for “hot chocolate and waffles with jam and cream”
Laundromat Cafe | Austurstræti 9, 101 Reykjavík – a bit trendy, arty – based on a Danish concept and has a laundrette and a children’s playground in the basement
Geysi- http://www.geysirbistrobar.is/ this is in one of the old houses in the old centre and I think very popular and reasonably prised – there are lots in thos old houses but I dont know them – some are quite expensive, but probably good – one is opposite where I am staying and I have only been in for a glas of wine called :
Fjalarkötturinn www.fjalakotturinn.is – nice bar area atmos
Fiskfélagið – www.fiskfelagid.is has been suggested to me, but I havent been – “the fishing association”
Þrír Frakkar – http://3frakkar.com – “three overcoats” – this is one of the steady good ones – set up by one of our Jamy Olivers and has been at the top for a long while, but i am told quite reasonably prised
hangikjöt – smoked lamb – must
Icelandic lamb is usually very very nice
Kjötsúpa ö is the traditional lamb stew – not easy to come by in restaurants, but worth a try if you do
fish is usually good and cooked well, but probably just as expensive as meat
a lot of places do really good substantial soups – like seafood soups, with nice bread,
Sigin Skata – Skate – this refers to a dish which is nowadays pretty much only cooked on the 23rd of Dec and stinks like ammoniac – definitely acquired taste, but an absolut must yearly experience for a lot of Icelanders.
Shark – this is at the top of the things that might stretch your tolerance! – i would say worth a try!!!
Soured whale – less smelly and not a very strong taste – more of a texture
Dry fish – I like it just with a bit of butter – very dry and a bit blunt first, but gets tastier as you chew!
then there are Haggis and Black pudding type of things called Lifrapylsa and Blóðmör
Svið – Sheap heads – these are my favoured, but I have not been able to get any of my english friends to even try.
But seriously – Generally I think the food here is excellent quality, a cuisine that has been developed from lots of different cuisines – probably a bit of a “fusion” – there are Italian, Chines, Indian, Thai, Argentinian, etc. but you might not just stumble upon one – might need to ask.
Kolaportid – is a flee market in the centre, by the harbour – only open on weekends and i dont know how its open over the
Also by the harbour is a “hot-dog bar” called “Bæjarinns bestu” “the best in town” – pilgrimage !
The art Galleries are all good an worth a visit if you are interested.
For Icelandic wool or knitting there are lots of shops for that, but Handprjónasambandið – Skólavörðustígur 19 is the one Icelanders use most – “the association of hand knitters” and is in a way the most old fashioned, but always has all the colours that are produced and I think the most compatible prise, and all knitted in Iceland, still have the sort of “home-made” stamp on them – some of the other shops are selling machine knitted stuff from eastern Europe and China!!!
There are some day tours from Reykjavík, but you as the daylight is a bit limited at this time of the year, one needs to make sure they fit within that time as driving in the dark is not of much interest at all.
The northern lights have been quite jolly here in the autumn, but I don’t know what the expectations for the Christmas periods are, there is a site that is a bit like weather report – but i cant find it just now.
Blue Lagoon is really rather special, quite expensive, but unique and would go well with a set of northern lights”
From Gudrun x