TOP 5 COOLEST FACTS ABOUT REYKJAVIK
Reykjavík, the bustling capital of Iceland, is no doubt a hot spot for unique Icelandic restaurants, bars, and shops! Though known for being the largest Icelandic city, what else makes Reykjavík so magnetizing for tourists in Iceland?
Why is it so cool (and we don’t just mean the weather)? We think there are so many things that make the city an intriguing place–not only for visitors, but for Icelanders, too! If you’re thinking about visiting Reykjavík, or are feeling nostalgic for your recent trip to Iceland, then check out our Top 5 Coolest Facts About Reykjavík!
Text by: Annemarie Jonsson
Last updated: 1. August 2018
1. BEAUTIFUL STREET ART
Reykjavík has some of the most creative and bold street art in Iceland. Icelandic street art emerged in the 1990s, and has since brought a number of intricate murals to the buildings throughout Reykjavík. More recent pieces may originate from Wall Poetry, a collaboration between the famous Iceland Airwaves Music Festival, which begins the first week of November, and esteemed art institute Urban Nation. Wall Poetry debuts illustrations inspired by the songs performed at each Iceland Airwaves festival.Ten musicians and ten artists team up every year to bring their collective vision to life and encourage artistic experimentation. It’s no wonder these murals are so visceral and give life to the Reykjavík experience!
This is usually the part of the blog where I post one really cool street art pick. But Reykjavik has A LOT of really great street art so here are a few of my favorites:
2. THE FIRST ICELANDIC SETTLEMENT
Reykjavík is currently home to 118,913 people, according to the World Population Review. Of course, there weren’t always this many! Reykjavík was actually the first permanent home for Nordic people in Iceland. Ingólfur Arnarson, the first settler, arrived in 874. He called the area “Reykjavík,” which translates to “Smoky Bay” in English. According to the stories, he fled Norway in the 9th century with his wife and brother, and promised to renew their lives wherever they washed ashore. After him, many more people sailed to Iceland and settled into the land. It’s a good thing they did! Iceland may not be what it is today without this piece of history–though some might dispute the historical accuracy. You can see the statue of Ingólfur Arnarson wearing his fierce viking helmet at Arnarhóll (a fitting name) during your stay in Reykjavík!
3. THE IMAGINE PEACE TOWER
Iceland is famous for being one of the most peaceful countries on the planet, toting one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and bearing no standing army to this day. This was probably one of the fundamental things that attracted infamous musicians John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Ono had the Imagine Peace Tower erected on Viðey Island, just outside the mainland of Reykjavík, to honor Lennon’s life and his passion for world peace. The tower is always lit from his birthday, October 9th, to the date of his death, December 8th, every year, and you can visit it by taking a short boat ride! It is a thoughtful construction that sends a beautiful message to all residents and visitors of Reykjavík, reminding us to not only “Imagine Peace,” but to create it, as well.
4. PHALLOLOGICAL MUSEUM
Perhaps not an aspect of Reykjavík meant for the sensitive or queasy. The Phallological Museum is the only museum in the world to have over two-hundred phallic and penile parts from 93 different species–what?! It’s a weird thing to have in Iceland of all places, and a bit of a shock at first. The museum even displays 24 folkloric specimens from the likes of mermen and elves! It’s up to you to decide how realistic they are…though maybe the Hidden People wouldn’t be so entertained! While created specifically for those studying the ancient science of phallology, the Phallological Museum has attracted lots of tourists to Reykjavik looking to explore something unique and unusual (and those who want to have a giggle or two).
5. MOUNT ESJA
One of the most enchanting elements of all in Reykjavík is the magnificent Mt. Esja (also called “Esjan”) which dominates the skyline of the capital region. At a distance, Esja may look a lot larger than it is (910m), and much wiser in contrast to its background. It’s like the protective older sibling of the city. Contrary to its name, Esja is not a stand-alone mountain, but a volcanic mountain range made up of basalt and tuff! On Esja itself there are lots of trails perfect for hiking during the summer in Iceland! It’s about a 30 minute drive from the center of the city. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit Esja, don’t worry, you’ll be able to spot its elegance from anywhere in Reykjavík! We promise you’ll never get tired of the view.
What do you think about these Top 5 Coolest Facts About Reykjavík? Did you learn anything new? Have you been to any of these locations or will you on your next trip to Iceland? Let us know YOUR favorite cool facts about Reykjavík on our Facebook and Instagram @wakeupreykjavik!
Also see our article on THE BEST DAY TOURS & THINGS TO DO IN REYKJAVIK!
Want to take a tour of Reykjavik? No worries–we can help! Find Wake Up Reykjavík tours here.