Reykjavik Stories and Tips

The Old Harbour

The harbour Photo, Reykjavik, Iceland

The old harbour in Reykjavik is a great place to visit with so much to see - lots of different types of boats coming and going, plenty of places to explore and lots to keep children amused.

Amazingly, the harbour here was only built between 1913 and 1917 - before this ships had to drop anchor out at sea and transport goods into the city by rowing boat. Just by the entrance to the harbour is an old locomotive. Our son enjoyed climbing inside the locomotive and getting a really good look at it. This locomotive was what they used to haul away the dredged rocks when they made the harbour.

Most of the main boat traffic has now moved to the port at Sundahofn, which actually makes the old harbour here more pleasant - we especially enjoyed strolling around in the evenings.

Look out for the 4 remaining whale hunting ships. You can't miss them - they are on the eastern pier, absolutely huge,great hulking vessels with black hulls and white above. The word "Hvalur" is written across the bow and stern. I had read somewhere you could actually climb aboard these ships and have a look around, but saw no evidence of this during our visit. Something really ironic - the whale hunting ships are lined up right across from the whale watching tours - amazing but true!

There are lots of whale watching tours which leave at all times from the harbour. We didn't venture on one of these - it was extremely stormy during our stay and we didn't fancy tossing around on the high seas. If the weather had been calmer though, this is definitely something we would have wanted to do.

We enjoyed looking at the little fishing boats, but our 9 year old was most impressed by the huge coast guard vessels. The coast guard ships defend the country's fishing waters and are the closest thing Iceland has to a navy. Diplomatic relations between Iceland and Britain were broken off in the 1970's when these coast guard vessels sliced British fishing nets during the "Cod Wars."

We spent ages with our son strolling around the harbour and having a look at all the different ships - large and small. Look out also for the green houses which were once used by the fishermen. These now house little shops, restaurants and one was a museum. Also look out for the huge ship in dry dock - it towers above everything else and is quite a sight.

Before you leave the harbour, peer hard enough into the water - you will see lots and lots of little fish.

There is a walkway which leads from the harbour, past the Harpa Exhibition Centre and along by the seashore, towards the Viking longboat. This is a glorious place to walk - particularly late in the evening when the sun is setting. The sea crashes against the path, there are snow capped mountains on the horizon and the city on your right hand side. The Viking longboat is also a beautiful place to stop for photos. Our son, normally a bit of a grumbler on a walk like this, was impressed and awed by the scenery.

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