Exploring Reykjavik

I’m in love. I’m absolutely in love.

We stayed at the Storm Hotel, just a quick walk from downtown Reykjavik. The hotel was so accommodating, allowing us to check in at 9am, instead of 3pm. I imagine they must get this all the time with early flights. While the room was small, it was cozy and just big enough for two people.

Before we left New Hampshire, I had made a list of the city’s sights and the best walking route to see everything in one day. We had just one day to see it all, and I didn’t want to miss anything. It worked out just fine, but I quickly learned that there was more to see than what I had planned for.

We started with the Sun Voyager, a statue of a ship. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a statue of a Viking ship, but rather a dream boat that symbolizes light and hope.


We visited the Harpa Concert Hall. The building was beautiful. At first glance, it looked like the exterior was built with mirrors, but upon closer inspection, it was made with glass panels.


(We later found out that the panels are illuminated at night with a very colorful display of colors).

We walked around the Old Harbor area, stopping for lunch at a little place called The Sea Baron (Sægreifinn, if you are looking for the Icelandic name). It looks like a little hole in the wall seafood shop compared to the restaurants next to it. The restaurant was very small, especially because the back room was closed. We sat with other tourists, bumping elbows and standing up every time someone wanted to get out of their seat and order food, but the lobster soup was worth it. It didn’t look like anything special, but it was warm and full of flavor – the chunks of lobster were a great surprise too. I’m a huge fan of lobster, and I can confidently say that this is the best lobster soup I’ve ever had. They had skewers of fresh seafood and peppers, whale steaks, and other foods on display for meals but the soup was so filling that we didn’t have a chance to try anything else.

After lunch, we took a tour of the rest of the city including: city hall, Hallgrimskirkja (the church), and the main shopping streets of Reykjavik.

The church was absolutely beautiful. We paid the entrance fee to the top of the church to see a 360 view of the city, and I was blown away. Literally. It was windy up there!

I’d say that we did (most) of Reykjavik in one day but it helped that we had a couple hours here and there on other days to explore and try different foods.

Some of my favorite restaurants we visited were… all of them:

Joylato – ice cream – is not your typical ice cream shop. You get to choose your base – fresh cow’s milk, coconut milk, or dates & cashews, your flavor, and your toppings. Then they make it right in front of your eyes, freezing it with liquid nitrogen. The end product was creamy, smooth and fresh. I tried both the cow’s milk (strawberry) and the coconut milk (raspberry)and they were both delicious. My boyfriend, CJ, had vanilla (cow’s milk) both times we went and he said it was the best vanilla ice he had ever tasted. He’s a self proclaimed vanilla ice cream connoisseur, so I trust his judgment. The staff was so friendly and kind, explaining the process the first time we were in there, and remembering us again the second time we went.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur – hot dogs – is probably what not what you’d expect Iceland to be famous for. I was very skeptical on eating hot dogs from a cart that listed no menu or descriptions of what came with it, but all the reviews and blogs I read said we had to try them. I’m not a huge fan of hot dogs in general, but I have to admit, it was so good that we went for hot dogs three nights in a row. The typical Icelandic hot dog with everything comes with the bun, hot dog, raw onions, fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard, and a remoulade sauce. I opted for everything except the raw, and it is probably the best hot dog I have ever tasted.

Pylsuhusid – hot dogs – was the other hot dog stand we tried while we were visiting. I liked this one better simply because they had different options, and a menu listing what they offered. Here, I tried the bacon dog that came with a toasted bun, hot dog wrapped in bacon, the three different sauces, and red cabbage, and I also tried the typical Icelandic hot dog with everything except raw. I don’t want to disagree with everyone, but I’d have to say that Pylsuhusid is a better choice than Bæjarins. Both times we went, there was no line and quick service, whereas Bæjarins typically has a long line. They also offer a toasted bun which adds to the flavor of the hot dog. As for the dog itself, it tasted pretty much the same to me.

Sakebarinn – sushi – had some of the freshest sushi I’ve ever eaten. All of the combinations they offered were different yet innovative, and I only wish I could’ve tried it all. We tried three rolls – softshell crab roll, volcano roll, and a third roll and I can’t remember for the life of me what it was called. It was a small, intimate restaurant with maybe less than 20 tables. We were lucky we got seated right away, because they quickly turned people without reservations away after that.

Mandi – Mediterranean/Middle Eastern – exceeded my expectations. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but I’ve never tried falafel before. CJ works for a god damn food truck that serves falafel, and I still live in lala land. Anyways, I tried falafel for the first time. It. Was. Delicious. The falafel from Mandi was, in CJ’s words, “fresh”. I had nothing else to compare it to, so all I knew was that I wanted more. One thing I can compare, is the hummus. It was smooth, delicious, full of flavor, and the spices/toppings they put on top were a great addition to it. It was served with pita chips that tasted home made. It was so good, we went back again the next night.

Sandholt – bakery – was delicious, and exactly what you’d expect from a European bakery. Unfortunately, I only tried two things while I was there, but fortunately, they were some of the best. I’m a sucker for a good chocolate croissant. One bite, and I was hooked. I couldn’t stop talking about how great it tasted! The second thing I tried was a mozzarella and tomato sandwich that tasted as good as it looked, with a little balsamic and pesto as a finishing touch. I wish we had more time, and a bigger stomach! They had so many different pastries, cakes, and sandwiches that I would’ve liked to try.

Reykjavik Chips – fries – was a great snack. I’m a fry monster – I’ll admit it. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right? We had passed this place a dozen times and I finally asked my boyfriend if we could at least stop and check out the menu. We were getting pretty hungry at that point, so we figured, hey why not? It’s pretty simple – you choose a fry size and a dipping sauce to go with it. CJ tried the bernaise sauce while I tried the Japanese chili mayo. I hate to keep using the word, but the fries were fresh. As in, I watched them slice the potatoes and fry them while we waited for them to be ready. Definitely stop here if you’re looking for a good afternoon pickup me or a snack while you’re doing some shopping!

Hamborgarafabrikkan – burgers – were your typical burgers, but in my opinion, better. The first time we ate there, I tried the lamb burger, which came with a lamb patty, grilled mushrooms, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and Bearnaise sauce. The second time we went, I tried the Hemminn, which came with a beef patty, bacon jam, chili mayo, cheese, bbq sauce and lettuce. I got my fries with truffle mayo both times. CJ got the Animal Park burger both times, which came with a beef patty and a lamb patty, cheese, bacon, lettuce, red onions, and a fried egg on top.

Everything just tastes better, when you’re in Iceland. Some of the restaurants we went to were so good, we couldn’t help ourselves but go more than once. And, although I knew this from traveling to Europe before, the soda there was good.  It actually tasted like something you’d want to drink, instead of something loaded with sugar, and the orange sodas actually tasted real. Photo cred of the food pics goes to CJ – I was too busy stuffing my face to think about taking pictures.

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