What’s Doing in Reykjavik, Iceland

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Viðey Island in Kollafjörður Bay near Reykjaví, the site of the Imagine Peace Tower memorial to John Lennon

Viðey Island in Kollafjörður Bay near Reykjaví, the site of the Imagine Peace Tower memorial to John Lennon

The Einar Jónsson Museum has a sculpture garden that is open year round and is named after and built around the works of Iceland’s first sculptor.

Just across from the city’s coast line is Viðey Island, a popular spot accessible by ferry where locals go to pick the caraway seeds that grow there and tourists come to see Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower, or Friðarsúlan. The tower, which opened in 2007, uses 15 searchlights that send the column of light vertically into the sky from a wishing well under which are buried the more than one million wishes Ono gathered as part of her Wish Trees project. The tower is illuminated on October 9, Lennon’s birthday, and stays on until December 8, the day he was assassinated.

Finally, spend an afternoon soaking in the Blue Lagoon or Bláa lónið, a 1.2-acre (0.49-hectare) geothermal pool on a lava field on the Reykjanes Peninsula, approximately 24 miles (39 kilometers) from the city. It’s one of the most visited attractions in Iceland, both by tourists and Icelanders themselves, and many visitors go on the way to or from the airport, which is only 12 miles (20 kilometers) away. Run out of the bathhouse barefoot into the cold and jump into the steaming 100° F (38° C) waters. Amenities include in-bath bars and restaurants.

Hraunfossar, a series of waterfalls outside Reykjavik

Hraunfossar, a series of waterfalls outside Reykjavik

WHERE TO STAY

One of the pleasant surprises we found about picking hotels to stay in Reykjavik was the predominance of independent and local brands and a paucity of international chains. Try for a hotel in the city center (postal code 101, a number you may see used in branding in the city), and it will be in walking distance of all things cultural, historical, and culinary.

Located in an elegant 1917 building that previously housed the Reykjavíkurapótek or Reykjavík Apothecary across from a picturesque square, the 45-room Apotek is in the heart of the downtown area and minutes away from shops, restaurants, and attractions. Rooms vary in size (ask for a large corner room as some are smaller than New York City apartments) and take advantage of the delicious buffet breakfast included with the room (the croissants in particular are to die for).

The brand new Fosshotel Reykjavík is located in the city’s business district, somewhat too removed to walk to many attractions and restaurants (although only a $7 taxi ride away), but it is near Laugavegur, the city’s main shopping street. The Fosshotel Reykjavík is also the city’s largest hotel with 320 rooms and its staff claims it has the fastest Internet of any hotel in the city, a claim that may very well be true as we observed first hand. Most rooms have magnificent city or harbor views and, while small, are quite comfortable if you are not planning to spend more time in the room than taking in the sights.

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