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April 7, 2016 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Which city should I travel to from Iceland?

I'm heading to Iceland at end of July-August as part of a 5-day artist residency program, and I was thinking of extending the trip a little bit. The program runs from July 29-Aug 3, I'll probably arrive a little early to have a day to myself and then head somewhere else on Aug 4 and then head home to LA on the 8th or 9th. I'm having a hard time deciding where to go!

Current considerations are:
- Just extend the trip in Iceland and do more exploring--I love Iceland and I'm sure it'd be worthwhile, but I'd love to see another place so this isn't the top choice
- London? - always wanted to visit, lots of city bustle, museums, etc
- somewhere in Switzerland - beautiful, always been interested in train travel, love reading about mountaineering/alpine climbing and might be cool to see some of those sights
- ____________???

Basically I'm open to any suggestion, but if someone can make a great argument for a specific city--especially given the dates/season--I'd love to hear it! I just have to buy plane tickets soon--like, by next week...I know I should have done it sooner.

- Fairly safe -- I'm traveling as a solo lady
- Easy means of transportation -- rather not rent a car (will if it's highly recommended)
- Interests: Bonkers beautiful natural landscapes, good food, museums, art, cool or once in a lifetime activities, concerts or shows
- Not into: I don't drink, no clubbing
- Not fancy or anything, but comfortable lodging options
- I want to go to just one city in the 4-5 days, unless it's something like "beautiful train ride between two cities in one area"

I've already been to Paris and Amsterdam, so not those cities.
posted by sprezzy to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Brussels. Good transit. Delicious food (and beer - you said you don't drink, but Belgian beer is a taste experience unlike practically all other beer). Very reasonable hotels. Gorgeous plazas. Underrated and eclectic museums. And it's an easy roundtrip via Icelandair.
posted by mightygodking at 10:24 AM on April 7, 2016

It has to be Edinburgh - you'll be there during the height of the arts season, featuring the incredible Edinburgh Festival. Accommodation will be expensive but the opera, theatre, music and dance on offer will be mind-blowing, probably the finest available anywhere in the world at that time.

And The Fringe! From the website:

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world and takes place every August for three weeks in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city.

Every year thousands of performers take to hundreds of stages all over Edinburgh to present shows for every taste. From big names in the world of entertainment to unknown artists looking to build their careers, the festival caters for everyone and includes theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children's shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events.

In 2015 there were 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues, making it the largest ever arts festival in the world.

The city is compact enough to get around easily and Scotland is mind-blowingly gorgeous if you want to get out of the city for a day to see some countryside.

And it's relatively close to Iceland, too - get there on Easyjet or WOW Air from Reykjavik or fly to Glasgow on Icelandair in about two hours.
posted by mdonley at 10:40 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you haven't been to London, I would push for that, because: London. However! I did Reykjavik —> Edinburgh a few months ago, and loved it. Our flight landed in Glasgow, and then we took the train to Edinburgh, and it was a relaxing, easy way to see a bit of the countryside. Edinburgh is a wonderful city to explore.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:55 AM on April 7, 2016

Have you looked at how Icelandair's Stopover program might work for you? Fly in from the US, "stop over" up to 7 nights in Iceland, then on to a final destination in Europe (27 options).

This might help reduce costs and also narrow your choices. The trick of course, would be to get from LA to one of the US airports that Icelandair flies to. But I'm guessing your LA to Reykjavik flight would include an East Coast stopover either way. You'd then have to compare that to just flying to Iceland and booking a separate flight to Europe.

In other words, compare:
(1)Domestic US flight; (2) Icelandair Stopover flight (Reykjavik + ?)
(1)US to Iceland; (2) Discount airline to Europe
posted by Kabanos at 11:02 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

A couple of left-field options that might meet your "Bonkers beautiful natural landscapes" criterion:
Air Iceland flies to both Greenland and the Faroe Islands. You'd have perfect timing for the Faroe Island's annual summer music festival.
posted by Kabanos at 11:14 AM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Gent, Belgium. It's a weird combination of medieval city and college town, in a way that's totally enjoyable. And you can take the train to Brussels, Brugge, Antwerpen, or anywhere else you'd like to go.

I could easily spend day after day just lounging in the central city's squares, and plazas, and spending evenings on the Graslei.
posted by entropone at 11:25 AM on April 7, 2016

Sounds like London fits the most of your criteria. It's a short flight and I think it is served by BA, Icelandair, *and* low-cost carrier WOW (not sure about that last one). If your trip were a day or two longer, I'd say "London plus train ride to Edinburgh," but that trip does eat up about half a day each way.
posted by praemunire at 11:56 AM on April 7, 2016

London is my favorite city on Earth--it's so exciting!--but given your short window, I'm with jdonley in recommending Edinburgh. It's a beautiful, walkable city with tons of history and charm. Book your arts festival/fringe tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 11:58 AM on April 7, 2016

Response by poster: Kabanos-- I have heard of the program! I used that last year and might do it again, I've been using kayak, matrix ITA, and icelandairs website to compare prices. Either way I think I'd try to book all the flights together. I have a fairly decent budget for the flight so it should be okay. Also, most of the cities I'm thinking of are available through the stopover program, with 4-5 days including travel I wasn't going to go very far out of the way anyways :)
posted by sprezzy at 12:05 PM on April 7, 2016

I think you could have a good time in London but would be wary of just how crowded it will be in the first week of August, ie very, very crowded indeed, and all around the touristy places.

Edinburgh seems like a brilliant idea though, yes it will be crowded, but all to good reason. Book accommodation early if you decide this is something that appeals.

If I was thinking Switzerland I would book an apartment somewhere, maybe close to a city but not specifically in a city, you don't really go to Switzerland for the cities, you go for the alps, so why not make the most of them, and save some money, by finding somewhere in nature and then going into the city when you want the urban side of things.
posted by biffa at 2:22 PM on April 7, 2016

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