Reykjavik Stories and Tips

The Most Over-Rated Capital City?

The problem I find with travel reviews, in particular those you can find in guide books is that they rarely say anything negative about a place at all. Therefore you often have an idyllic view of somewhere before having gone there. Summing up Iceland's capital Reykjavik - I would probably call it an over-rated tourist trap that lives off its name as the world's most northerly capital.

On the up side - there is an alcohol shop! Having been to Akureyri on a Sunday when everything was closed and our previous sip of the golden juice dating back to the previous week when a can of warm Viking was gifted to us by some Czechs who had travelled about 200km to stock up on it, we were in dire need of a beer! Better yet, there's a lot of immigrants in Reykjavik - so the shop was filled with decent foreign beer as opposed to the Icelandic water!

There's nothing in the way of natural wonders in comparison to the rest of the country but one wouldn't really expect that from a capital city. Instead, you will find suburbs with wide roads and enormous jeeps often with personal number plates (with only 300,000 Icelanders - it's easy not to clash!) such as the humorous "Big Boy" I managed to photograph. The centre is less rigid, in its road design but doesn't impress with bland architecture and expensive but ultimately dull boutiques that makes its southerly neighbour capital Torshavn look like Paris.

Perhaps the two buildings of note (other than the aforementioned bottle shop) is the impressing and uniquely shaped Hallgrímskirkja. Perlan, another inventive building is a glass dome on 4 water tanks which looks good from a distance but is fairly tacky inside with an expensive bar/restaurant and the mandatory souvenir shop (or are they called artefacts these days?!) Tjornin "The Pond" is a relatively nice area of the city near the city hall and a handful of museums and is very much the quintessential duck feeding destination.

The whale sighting tours (which I'm about to review) aren't a patch on the ones in Husavik and the guides seem to be aware of this as they spend the majority of the time talking about sea birds instead.

There are some nice woolen goods and there is the attraction of getting tax back at the airport due to Iceland's non EU status but any other souvenirs are mostly tacky and Viking or puffin related.

Iceland's most boring destination by far and probably the least interesting capital city in Europe, I would say. Reykjavik's so-called amazing nightlife is also a bit of a lie, in my book - whilst the Icelanders do like to get tanked particularly at the weekend and particularly at home, pubs and clubs don't really get going until about midnight when the locals are already to drunk to have that much fun. There is an array of live musicians though who mostly play that melancholy arty indie sound not too distant from the country's success stories - Bjork and Sigur Ros.

Hotdogs are stunning value in Reykjavik and the backbone of a budget traveller's diet there, banks are also an awesome little adventure (or were until the crisis at least), they are a bit like five star hotels with free water, coffee, biscuits and internet!

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