2023 is my 4th trip to Iceland. This time my son Barrett is my travel partner. We were lucky that we found a Delta flight which had a layover at JFK and instead of taking the usual 3 days, it only took two. We landed at Reykjavik airport at 9 am and had a private ride waiting for us, Jon, who I had met last year with my aunt.
On this trip, we are spending several days in Iceland before boarding the Norwegian Cruise that goes completely around the island stopping in three ports, Djupivogur, Ayerkryi, and Isafjordur before heading to another three ports in Greenland.
After arriving at our hotel, the Hilton Konsulat, we stowed our baggage since the room wasn’t available yet and then headed out to downtown Reyjkavik. I was anxious to finally be able to show Barrett our Icelandic past.
We wandered up to Laugavegur street, also known as ‘rainbow road’ due to the brightly colored street and window shopped.
Laugavegur ends at the Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church and for the first time in four visits, the big heavy red doors are open and I can see the inside! I love the outside of the church, even though many people say it is ugly. I think it is sleek and beautiful. It took over 80 years to build the church, which is named after Icelandic cleric and poet Hallgrimur Petursson.
And besides, there’s a statue of my grandpa, Leifur Eiricksson out front! A gift from the United States in 1930 to commemorate that grandpa arrived in North America, in Vinland, off of Newfoundland at least 500 years before Christopher Columbus. It would take many ‘great, great’, greats’ to get to the beginning, but it doesn’t matter! VIKING GIRL!
After lunch at Kol, we wandered around some more to the city pond, passing by the Parliament House and enjoyed the beautiful weather. It was the first trip that I didn’t have to wear a coat!
Barrett spotted the Punk Museum with music blaring from downstairs and being a sport, I agreed to go in. The Punk Museum was opened in 2016 by Johnny Lydon, of the Sex Pistols. Located in a former public toilet, and still complete with stinky urinals and toilets and the original stalls, it was hard to get through. The stench remains. Oh my goodness, that was not so great!
As we exited the ‘museum,’ the pajama clad young man barely was able to lift his head from his phone as we said ‘thank you.’ I’m not sure ‘why’ we said thank you, but we did. If you decide to go, consider one of those left over N95 masks you might have laying around from COVID days so you can breathe a bit.
For the record, Barrett is no longer allowed to pick the museums….. his first choice was ….. ewwwww!
Following that learning experience, we walked toward the harbor to visit the Saga Museum. It is an audio tour that does a pretty good job depicting the early history and sagas of Iceland. The museum uses lifelike figures and chronicles various stories that impacted life in early Iceland. I think it’s well worth the 30-45 minutes to go through the museum and it doesn’t smell bad either!
While we were down in that area, we also stopped at the Maritime Museum. It was opened in 2005 and has seven exhibitions showing the maritime history of Iceland from the time of early settlement to the 20th century. It is an interesting museum, especially if you have interest in the importance of Icelanders by being fishermen, sailing, and surviving the tough climate they lived in.
And for dinner, our first Michelin * restaurant, Ox! Ox is a very small, 16 seat restaurant owned by Chef Thrainn Freyr Vigfusson. It isn’t cheap, but it is an experience! It is meant to feel like a traditional Icelandic kitchen on an upscale level. You can read more about our dinner at Ox on my ‘Eating Michelin’ link. https://wordpress.com/post/twosistersworldtravels.com/2695
The first day in Iceland with Barrett ends in the best way possible!
Day 2: We woke up to another day of leisure and visited one of my favorite places, the Settlement Museum. The museum’s main attraction is the excavated Viking long house but there is much more to it. It has been connected with the fairly new Reykjavik City Museum which is also very interesting.
The Settlement Museum not only has an excavated Viking long house, surrounding it is an interactive digital display that shows you what life was like in approx. 871 when the Viking house was built. To me, it is a ‘must see’ for anyone travelling to Iceland. It is so nicely preserved and many artifacts are also on display to continue expanding the story of the life of Icelanders.
The tunnel with information about Iceland and Reykjavik leads to the Reykjavik museum and ends in the oldest wooden structure, Adalstraeti 10 which is now a cute museum showing it once was a general goods store as well as well as home and office and home of the Bishop. Over the years, it has served many uses, including a bar and restaurant. Adalstraeti was built in 1762 and opened to the public as a museum in 2018.
The Harpa Concert Hall is a glass facade that was inspired by the Icelandic Basalt landscape. There are beautiful basalt columns, stacks and landscapes all over Iceland. The Sun Voyager is a fun sculpture that is also just a photo moment which commemorates the 200th anniversary of Reykjavik. I enjoy the peacefulness of the sculpture – there’s just something about it.
Dinner at Kopar, another of my favorites. I like that it is down near the harbor and the food is traditional ingredients. They offer different tasting menus, including an appetizer adventure, which is kind of fun and different. They also offer ala carte which is nice that restaurants are returning to giving us options as to what we want to eat. We tried, for the first time, the Icelandic birch bark liqueur. One we liked, the other tasted like…… well, bark.
The leisure day was exactly what we needed to recover from the long flight and prepare for the upcoming two-day tour to the west side of the island.