So you’ve decided to go to Iceland. Or you’re considering it. Or you’ve never been and never will go but you’re intrigued. If you are any of those, you have come to the right place. Iceland holds a special place in my heart, and not because it is the new millennial vacation hotspot, but because it is the one place where I have felt an actual connection to the Earth. I know, cliché and deep, who is she? I’ve been to Iceland a couple times and at different parts of the year. I’ve done all the things: see the northern lights, explore the only three towns on the island, and drive across the entire country. Reykjavik itself has so much personality; on one corner there is a quaint local bakery and on the next a hip bar, then down the street will be an ancient Viking artifact scene thing (I don’t really know, it’s a weird town). When going to Iceland, the best plan would be to spend a day in Reykjavik, so here are all the things I’d try to squeeze into the day:
Technically, your Iceland adventure will begin in Keflavik, where the plane lands. You then must set up a car rental, specifically one where you are picked up from the airport and taken to the rental place. It will be completely dark outside and freezing, unless you go in the summer. Then it will just be nippy. Still, bring gloves. Once you get your car (and brace yourself, you may have to make a $400 deposit that, though it will be returned, will make you gag) you drive 30 minutes to the city. The hostels in Reykjavik are centrally located, trendy, and really clean; however, I advise to get one where you share the room with as few people as possible. It really sucks to be woken up throughout the night to screaming drunks. There are some Air BnBs in the area, but it’s hard to find one in as good of a location for the same price.
Depending on what time of year that you go, there’s no need to wake up before 9 am. Check the weather and see when the sun is planning to rise. Then, go to the tourist shops, get coffee, and go to the thrift store, Góði Hirðirinn (I know, the name is intimidating, but ð is pronounced like “th” if that helps). It is a large warehouse full of venders where you’ll find clothes, coats, trinkets, records, books, and food of all different varieties. My friends had the courage to sample a shark fin and I happily bought the closest thing to a rice krispy treat that I could find. If you’re into it, you can always find the best pieces to make you look like a Russian mob star.
Be prepared, everything in Iceland is expensive. The people are happy, the landscape is beautiful, the country is environmentally friendly, but the prices will make you shrivel. The cheapest meal can be found in a little corner of Reykjavik at a restaurant called Svarta Kafflið and for $15-$18 you are given the option of two different stews served in a bread bowl. On the upside, it is bottomless and you get free stew refills and it is right beside a tap room where you can take your food in to eat and have a drink. This restaurant has become one of my favorites in the city. . They have platters of little finger desserts scattered around the place consisting of spice cake bites and miniature donuts. It is the oddest but the most genius restaurant idea and right in the middle of the city. I’ve made sure to visit every time I’ve gone to Iceland.
The other place I have to recommend is this charming cafe/restaurant in the middle of downtown that makes you feel as though you are in a Narnian treehouse, called Café Babaloù. There are sandwiches, soups, cookies, and hot drinks. I got the tomato soup and grilled cheese and proceeded to snuggle up on a couch upstairs that overlooked part of the city. It’s almost always dark there so you can be sure to see the lights around the water and of the village below you.
One of my favorite things about Reykjavik is that almost everyone there is a foreign twenty-something. They all have their own unique stories of the adventures that brought them to Iceland and why they ended up living there. It’s such a cool quirky town, be sure to not be shy and to communicate with those around you, they’re nice and want to talk to you!