World’s Most Northerly Capital

Originally posted: 12 July 2017

We landed in Reykjavik at about 7pm, by the time we got our bags and got the shuttle to the hostel it was almost 10pm.  Our room was on the 4th floor of a building with no elevator, not easy with my 20kg+ backpack – really regretting being lazy at work and getting the elevator instead of stairs all the time.

We were starving so went downstairs to the bar to get a meal and a drink.  Looked at the menu and saw the Spicy “Freedom” Burger, well of course I want to know what freedom tastes like. Ordered that plus a beer, handed over the cash.  We sat down and I was like oh I should check the exchange rate. $51AUD!!!!! Whyyyyyyyy??? I just paid $51 for a damn freedom burger and a crap beer… I couldn’t finish the burger and I reckon I left about $7 on the plate! I’m a disgrace.

Sian and I were really confused by the daylight, it was almost midnight and the sun was only just setting.  We went for a quick walk down along the water to check it out, it was still slowly setting at half past midnight so we decided to go back to the room and to bed.

Sun Voyager Sculpture at midnight sunset

The following day we went out and explored Reykjavik. Breakfast was an Ostaslaufa from Reykjavik’s first and oldest bakery – Bernhoftsbakari, established in 1834. An Ostaslaufa is a bread roll of sorts filled with cream cheese and with poppy seeds on top. Delicious and also only cost me $4.30 which was amazingly cheap after my stupid freedom burger!


We walked into town, I don’t know how to describe Reykjavik… it is very quiet and clean.  Lots of colourful buildings and street art everywhere.  It is very much catered to tourists though, not surprising considering the booming tourism industry.  Last year they had 1.75 million tourists and it’s growing, bear in mind the population is 334,000.

We wandered down the main shopping street, looking in the stores and checking restaurant food prices (outrageous of course).  We went into a Christmas shop, there was really nothing that great in it. I was more preoccupied with the bulk poppy seeds stuck in my teeth from breakfast, spotted a mirror and leaned over to check out my teeth… anddd I smacked a little figurine onto the ground. Of course it broke and of course it happened 10 seconds after I read the sign that said you break it you pay for it. I awkwardly grabbed all the broken bits, shopkeeper looked mad. Don’t see why she was mad, I now had to pay for this little ugly gnome man which I bet no one would buy anyway because it was crap. I prepared myself for the ridiculous price, but was pleasantly surprised when she said it was 800ISK (approx. $10AUD). Paid for the statue, she was going to keep it, but I was like no give me the ugly gnome man, and walked out feeling sorry for myself… and I still had stupid poppy seeds in my teeth.

We continued walking down the road, turned up a side street to head towards Hallgrimskirkja. Hallgrimskirkja is the main church in Reykjavik, you can see it from most parts of the city. Quite distinctive architecture… I can’t decide if I like it or think it’s the ugliest thing ever.  We didn’t go inside because it was during mass, might check it out when we come back to Reykjavik after our road trip.

Walked on to Reykjavikurtjornin, small lake in the city. Saw MORE white swans! These ones had yellow beaks though, so that was exciting! Took excessive amount of photos as per usual.

Swans on Reykjavikurtjornin

We were feeling hungry so started to look out for somewhere to eat.  I’d read about hotdog stands throughout the city which are a cheap delicious food option.  Found one fairly quickly, but decided to try out the place next door which was selling subs. Took forever to order… partly because I’m indecisive but also because I was stuck behind a group of tourists who were more interested in talking about the night before than ordering their food. Their friend was in hospital with a broken arm, unlucky mate.

My sub was 990ISK (an Icelandic bargain!) and included a drink.  I wasn’t expecting much, but wow, I think I might have died with taste bud happiness. It was soo delicious! I got Lamb Teriyaki and it had red onion, pickles and crispy fried onions as well. Every bite was a crunchy mouthful of heaven. Definitely coming back for more!

After lunch we went to the Settlement Museum, very informative exhibition.  All about the Vikings coming to Iceland, where they came from, what they did, farmed, ate etc. and inside the exhibition was the ruins of one of the old houses.

Next we headed towards the sea in search of the flea market, eventually found it.  Lots of second hand clothing, woollen Icelandic sweaters, books etc.  There was a food section which was interesting to look at, so much of the food is frozen here. Frozen bananas, mangos, beans, meat, seafood – you get the gist.

We slowly made our way back to the hostel along the esplanade, walked past the Harpa – big fancy concert hall, there were lots of signposts along the way with history of Reykjavik.

We got back to the hostel, went to the bar just after 5 and it was happy hour yay! Beers were 650ISK ($7.50AUD), tried the Icelandic Beer Brio – delicious! Spent next couple of hours enjoying happy hour and ate some yummy parmesan chips.

We got chatting to couple of guys from America, ended up going out for a few drinks.  One of them was Jewish and was saying he had done a birthright trip to Israel couple years earlier.  Apparently there is some rich Jewish guy in Vegas who spends millions each year sending under 25 year old Jewish people to Israel for free so that “they can love God more” – his words not mine.

Headed into the city looking for a bar, ended up at the American Bar, had an expensive beer and then moved on. Went to the English Pub because they had 600ISK beers. While waiting at the bar one of the guys asked me why the girl sitting next to us was wearing a see-through night gown. I was a bit confused but shrugged and was like maybe that’s the look she was going for. We sat down at one of the tables, and started to take in our surroundings. It was only after a couple more girls appeared wearing lingerie that we realised there was a gentlemen’s club upstairs.  Took note of who was in the bar and everything suddenly seemed a lot seedier.

Detour to Hallgrimskirkja on the way back to the Hostel – taken just before 1am.

Quickly finished our beers then Sian and I headed back to the hostel because we were sleepy. Ended up asleep just after 1am – I’ve stopped passing out at 5pm, and instead I’m going to bed after midnight, mostly because we haven’t adjusted to the 24 hour daylight! (is that better or worse?)

Fun facts about Reykjavik

  • Everyone we have encountered speaks English, which I am so grateful for because Icelandic is just not an easy language. Seriously you try pronouncing snaefellsnes, patreksfjordur, eyjafjallajokull… you get the point.
  • Reykjavik has an estimated 20,000 cats in the city, supposedly you can see them everywhere. We only saw one – super disappointing!
  • During WWII the British occupied Iceland to deny it to Germany.  The US then came in to get rid of the Brits and at the time there were 50,000 troops here, which at the time was almost half the population!
  • Reykjavik is the only Western European capital that doesn’t have a McDonalds! McDonalds was not able to successfully break into the market and they closed the last one in 2009.

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Hey, I'm Shannon!
I've been travelling since I was 6 years old and have been lucky enough to visit 70 countries! From overlanding through Africa and road-tripping in Samoa to Salsa-ing in Cuba and visiting wineries in India. I love new adventures and can't wait to share them with you in this blog!