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March 11, 2009 8:56 PM   Subscribe

Reykjavik, Iceland, from Saturday to Thursday. Help me have some fun!

I'm leaving for Reykjavik, from this Saturday (3/14) to Thursday (3/19).

I'm going with my girlfriend, and we're from NYC, in our early-mid 20s, interested in contemporary & independent art, jazz/indie music, literature, etc. We're mostly planning on in wandering around, taking time to enjoy the city and the landscape, but we're also interested in attending some of the more independent/underground music/art venues or events going on in the city. Both of us probably won't return to Iceland for a while, so we'd also like to take the chance to do some must-do things.

Basically, any recommendations for anything whatsoever would be recommended. I've heard good things about the Blue Lagoon -- is it worth it? We're interested in seeing the Northern Lights -- what's the best way to do that? Are there any must-see-do things to do? Hidden paths to walk on? Are there any interesting music venues? Good street art locations? One-time performances at midnight? Et cetera..

Thanks a bunch in advance!
posted by suedehead to Travel & Transportation around Reykjavik, Iceland (22 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Do a day trip to Lake Myvatn. Here are a couple of photos I took around there last April.

The Golden Circle tours are worthwhile too.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 9:25 PM on March 11, 2009

Yes, go on the Golden Circle Tour: Thingvellir (the original site of the Althingi, also coincidentally the continental divide between the North American and European geological plates), Geysir (the original geyser), and Gullfoss (a really awesome waterfall).

As for the Northern Lights: that's going to be difficult in March, the lights are really most active in the dead of winter. March is going to be pretty split 12hrs night/12 hrs day. It's the equinox and up that north, the days really are totally equal. To spot them best, and just to get some good star-gazing in, drive out of the city a bit to get away from the light pollution.

I've never been to the Blue Lagoon, but the swimming pools in Reykjavík are totally awesome. Definitely worth the trip. They don't produce blue mud, but the hot-pots there are great.

I think I'm just going to link to a really long comment I posted before on awesome stuff in Reykjavík rather than try to remember all of it!

Enjoy your trip!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:36 AM on March 12, 2009

Take the boat out to Viðey and enjoy the view of the city and bay.

Go sit by the lake/city hall.

Eat at Prikið in Reykjavik (hangover special = delicious). I think they have music there at night, but I've only been in the morning, so I can't speak to it.

Definitely go to the Blue Lagoon. It's a tourist trap, but a delicious, sensual, spacey, relaxing tourist trap. You can't not go there at least once.

If you listen to the duck by the oboe and make it up to Myvatn (which is an awesome area) beware the bugs, and be sure stop by Jarðböðin við Mývatn. It's the Blue Lagoon only done up (much) cheaper, less fake/glossy, more dangerous ("Warning hot water exits here!"). Great views directly from the pool.
posted by wrok at 5:46 AM on March 12, 2009

One thing in regards to the Blue Lagoon:
It's between Reykjavik and the airport, so it's a GREAT place to stop on your way to the airport on your way home. Really gives you a relaxing "vacation" feel after a busy trip of touring Geyser, Gulfoss, Thingvellir!
posted by Grither at 5:54 AM on March 12, 2009

I'm seconding the Blue Lagoon on your last day on the way to the airport. It seems set up for this, actually. If you're flying back to NYC on Icelandair, your flight probably leaves mid afternoon. There is a Blue Lagoon/Airport shuttle that will pick you up at your hotel at 10 am, bring you to Blue Lagoon, then pick you up at Blue Lagoon and bring you to the airport to catch your flight. It is perfectly timed so that you spendexactly the right amount of time at Blue Lagoon, which in my opinion is not to be missed.
posted by newpotato at 6:09 AM on March 12, 2009

My full knowledge of Reykjavik comes from four lovely days last September, so I am no expert, and I have no idea what the recent shake-up has done to any of the places I will recommend, but... the Einar Jonsson museum is small, but awesome. I'd definitely put it on the list of things to do. Also - there are a couple of local swimming places with fantastic hot pots. Go hang out with the locals and just soak for a bit. It was one of the best things we did while we were there. Seriously. Also, an hour massage will get you an all-day admission to the Laugar Spa, which is fantastic, and kind of fun just to have a retinal scan to open doors.

The food in Reykjavik is fantastic across the board, but *very* expensive (at least, it was in September). I don't think we had a bad meal while we were there. But one of our favorites was at a place called Icelandic Fish & Chips. The rosemary chips are to die for.

As for music - I don't know much, but we saw a great show at NASA while we were there. We saw an ad for a klezmer concert, and thought it would be a ridiculous thing to do on our honeymoon - so we went. The club itself is decent - it's an intimate little venue, the acoustics were decent (especially given that it appears to be basically a nightclub), and we loved the local opening band Múgsefjun.

Have a great trip!
posted by dilettanti at 6:47 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is the Blue Lagoon "touristy"? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes! I was skeptical about it at first, but it was really wonderful. Like the others said, it's great to do right before you leave (we went the evening before a very early flight). They have easy locked storage for luggage, and you can rent anything you might need (towels robes). It's clean, comfortable, and so relaxing. And the trip out there is like being on the surface of the moon.
posted by kimdog at 6:51 AM on March 12, 2009

Oh! Forgot to mention that the lobster in Iceland (aka langoustines) is one of the best seafoods I have ever had. Much better than the lobster I'm used to eating in New England - better flavor, no rubbery texture. We had it a couple of places, but one place that stood out for us was the cleverly named Tapas, and excellent little restaurant that I recommend highly.

And while I'm waxing ecstatic about Reykjavik, I want to give a shout-out to Apartment K - probably won't be of much use to you, suedehead - at least on this trip - but for anyone looking here later for Reykjavik tips, the unit we stayed in was simply wonderful, and Kathy was great to work with.
posted by dilettanti at 10:26 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

One quick note about the Blue Lagoon - I loved it, but regretting getting my hair wet (I needed a ton of conditioner to get it back to normal again). Nothing irreversible, but a pain in the tush.
posted by pammeke at 1:54 PM on March 12, 2009

Wow, thanks a lot, everybody! Do you guys have any specific recommendations for things a bit off the beaten path, as well?
posted by suedehead at 4:02 PM on March 12, 2009

Tomorrow night (14th) FM Belfast are playing at Karamba, they should be fun to see, if you're there by then. I'll let you know about other shows as I find out about them.
posted by Kattullus at 5:54 AM on March 13, 2009

Thanks Kattullus -- I'd be much obliged! FM Belfast sound great - do you have a consolidated newsletter or website that you're getting your info from?
posted by suedehead at 12:34 PM on March 13, 2009

No, I just asked some friends. Ask around when you're there.
posted by Kattullus at 10:56 PM on March 13, 2009


It's a flea market thing, open only on weekends. It smells of perfume, dried fish and assorted junk from people's houses. It's in downtown 101, near Hótel Borg not far from the parliament.


Also Sægreifinn, a small, ratty and excellent seafood restaurant-slash-shack. Ran by an authentic lecherous sea-dog, the langoustine soup is really really good. It's near Reykjavik Fish and Chips.

Also, Grái Kötturinn is nice for brunch or overeating in general. It's small, lined with books, serves bacon pancakes maple syrup and strong coffee. Hverfisgata 18, down near Lækjartorg. Just opposite the wreckage of the Central Bank.
DISCLAIMER: My girlfriend runs Grái Kötturinn. In fact I am going there now to wash the dishes.

I got some incredibly nice raw whale meat in my box of chirashi sushi at Sushibarinn on Laugavegur. I didn't know whale was supposed to taste good, let alone raw whale.

It's an indoor swimming pool with an outdoor hot tub. Downtown 101. Built in the '50s I tihnk, the architecture is sort of like a really cosy version of a Soviet bunker or meat packery. Hard to explain, I've not really captured it, but you must see it.

In fact, see all the swimming pools. Vesturbæjarlaug and Árbæjarlaug and Seltjarnarleslaug ... and Sundhöllin. One has a beautiful view over some accidental brushland in the Reykjavík area, one has an 108°F hot tub, one has weird salt water and lots of old people, and one is a high-top bunker.
posted by krilli at 3:30 AM on March 14, 2009

(Those are only my fave pools, there are others.
posted by krilli at 3:30 AM on March 14, 2009

At the bar Boston, there is a restaurant called Segurmo. The chef, a skater-looking dude, boasts about stealing lovage from back yards for the soup. Great non-expensive food. It's a proper restaurant though. Weekly rotational menu, this week looks to be good.
posted by krilli at 12:42 PM on March 14, 2009

We're currently here, wandering around, and it's great! Thanks, Krilli, for the raw whale meat sushi, Sundhöllin, and Segurmo recommendations. We walked by Grái Kötturin late yesterday and it was closed by then but it looked great -- we'll drop by later today or tomorrow, perhaps after we go to Kolaportið and Viðay today.

Mefi has been a great resource - thanks muchly, and further recommendations are always welcome!
posted by suedehead at 3:28 AM on March 15, 2009

Two good spots to ask around are Kaffi Hljómalind on Laugavegur and Nýlenduvöruverslun Hemma og Valda, which is across a corner from Hljómalind. There should be people there who could direct you to some interesting cultural happenings, musical or not. Check out Nýlistasafnið as well and the CD stores 12 Tónar on Skólavörðustígur and Smekkleysa on Laugavegur. They should be up on what's going on. I hesitate to recommend it because it's owned by my uncle but tourists tend to gather at Kaffi Babalú on Skólavörðustígur. It would be another good spot to ask around for cool things to do.
posted by Kattullus at 9:56 AM on March 15, 2009

I'll step in and recommend Kaffi Babalú then, it's nice.

Not as awesome as Grái Kötturinn though :D
posted by krilli at 10:55 AM on March 15, 2009

I just remembered -

Café Rosenberg has had some really good concerts lately. It's on Klapparstígur, down in 101, like most of the stuff I've been recommending. (Much to my own chagrin - I have become somewhat of a 101 hipster it seems.)
posted by krilli at 5:04 AM on March 17, 2009

Thanks Kattullus and krilli again. We went to Sundhöllin and 12 Tónar, which was reeally awesome, and went to Kaffi Babalú a little too late just before it closed. Oh, and we went to Rosenberg on Saturday, which was pretty awesome as well. If you see a young asian dude with a bright yellow scarf walking around Reykjavik the next two days, say hi!
posted by suedehead at 1:49 PM on March 17, 2009

posted by krilli at 8:17 AM on March 18, 2009

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