Reykjavik Stories and Tips

Reykjavik Walking Tour

The harbour Photo, Reykjavik, Iceland

We found this walking tour advertised on line on the Goecco website. It sounded interesting and a good way to get your bearings when you first arrive in the city, so we decided to try it out on our first afternoon in Iceland.

The tour - as the name suggests, is all on foot. It is an easy walk, more of a stroll around the city. It takes just under 2 hours and they reckon you walk about 2 miles in total, but it did not feel as far as that to us. The tours run every day between 15th May and 15th September and start at 1:00pm. You do not need to book in advance and the website says that there is no minimum number of guests, it will run if just one person turns up.

The meeting point is at the old harbour, right by the Elding Whale Watching place. We found it easily, saw a few people waiting there and joined them. We arrived about 15 minutes before the scheduled start time, the guide probably waited until 1:10 before he started.

Our guide was very good - a student from Reykjavik, so we got a local's perspective on the city. The only slight problem was that unless you were really close to him, he was quite difficult to hear. Also he did walk fairly quickly and start talking before people were all gathered, but you just had to be on your toes!

We started off in the harbour area, he told us a little about some of the common landmarks and gave us a brief history of Iceland as well as his personal views on some Icelandic issues.

We strolled through an area of mid 18th century wooden houses - really quaint and very pretty, they were made of driftwood. This was a part of the city I don't think we would have found by ourselves. We saw a big stone in a grassy area - supposedly where elves are living and heard from our guide about the locals' belief in elves and how building projects can be delayed or aborted if someone thinks it might disturb the resident elves! This stone was moved when they were building a house, to placate the elves.

We saw the huge house of a banker, now moved out of the country and our guide gave us an overview of the economic situation in Iceland, brought about in part by the shady dealings of some of the bankers. This was really fascinating.

We next walked past the Parliament Building, built in 1881 out of stone. We spent a little while in the lovely peaceful garden behind this building.

City Hall is a bit of a stark, modern building on the shores of Lake Tjornin. We went inside and had 15 minutes free to have coffee in the little cafe overlooking the lake. Afterwards we walked over the bridge on the lake and saw a lot of people with children feeding the ducks. This is the central lake, you can walk around it and there are some lovely, early 20th century timber houses along the western shore.

The tour ended at the far end of the lake. The guide recommended some coffee shops and restaurants and stayed around to answer questions afterwards. The tour was free, it was up to you whether you wanted to show appreciation and tip the guide - we did, we thought the tour had been fun and interesting. It is not a traditional type tour with a traditional type guide. Instead it is a bit quirky, the guide had an alternative sense of humour and was quite dark at times, but we really enjoyed it and the fact it took us to areas we might otherwise not have discovered.

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