Iceland Travel Diary: Reykjavík
This year, I celebrated my birthday in another country: Iceland! For 3 and a half days surrounding my 23rd birthday, my best friend from high school and I went to Iceland. She is excellent at travel planning and really spearheaded our whole trip, which was awesome! I’m still learning how to be a savvy traveler.
For my quick trip to Iceland, my friend and I stayed in a hostel that was less than a ten minute drive from Reykjavík. We arrived in Iceland around 10 a.m. on Monday and spent most of that day just exploring the city.
First up: Checking out Hallgrímskirkja. We didn’t pay for entry into the tower, we just stood outside and ooh-and-ahhed at it, then went into the main hall and checked it out. It’s a lot smaller on the inside than I thought it would be and it’s nice, but not the coolest inside of a cathedral I’ve seen. Very simple.
For lunch, we went to Hlemmur Mathöll, a suggestion from another friend of mine who was in Iceland last year. It’s a cool building with multiple vendors and a communal seating area (like Anaheim Packing House in Orange County, CA or Avanti in Denver, CO). There is a wide variety of foods, from liquid nitrogen ice cream to Vietnamese street food. The best bakery in the world (yes, it’s bold to say that, but I stand by it), Braud & Co., also has a spot in Hlemmur Mathöll (more detail on Braud later).
When you leave Hlemmur and walk right down Laugavegur Street, there are a lot of fun shops, cafes and clubs. There’s also a lot of colorful buildings and murals. My favorite mural, however, was in a different part of town.
The majestic rainbow Bowie unicorn has been on my list since I booked my Iceland ticket, but when I found out what building it was part of, I kind of freaked out. The mural is on the side of the Samtökin '78 building, which is a queer organization:
“Samtökin ‘78, The National Queer Organization, is an interest and an activist group for lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, transgender and intersex people in Iceland. The organisation’s goal is for LGBTQIA people to be visible and recognised and enjoy their rights to the fullest in Icelandic society.”
I had never heard of Samtökin ‘78 before going to Iceland, but the kismet of this perfect mural being part of an organization I would be all about if I lived in Iceland was awesome. As a biexual person, any queer acceptance and love I see anywhere in the world makes me so damn happy.
Okay, back to food. A short walk away from the Samtökin ‘78 building is a super yummy place called Egill Jacobsen Kitchen & Bar. The food is delicious, the decor is vintage-inspired and the prices were pretty good.
Food in Iceland can definitely be a little pricey, but compared to the places I usually go in San Francisco, it’s not wildly overpriced. I don’t care for seafood, so I didn’t eat any traditional Icelandic dishes or anything fancy like that.
And now, I bring you back to Braud. Braud & Co. is, in my humble opinion, the best bakery in the world. Their cinnamon rolls are literally perfect - exactly what you think of when you think of the ideal cinnamon roll. I don’t have any pictures because I couldn’t wait more than 35 seconds after buying one to start eating it. If you want to drool, check out their Instagram.
One more food recommendation I have in Reykjavík is Café Babalú, which is in the same downtown area as Hallgrímskirkja. It’s an adorable café with a ton of funky decorations and a good variety of well-priced food. I had the vegetable chili and it was really good!
My final Reykjavík tip is to walk down past Hlemmur Mathöll to the waterfront. It’s just one of the many incredible landscapes in Iceland that looks unreal. The Sun Voyager sculpture down there is also really cool.
This post has been a bit all over the place, but I hope you enjoyed it. If you’ve been to Reykjavík before, tell me your favorite places!
PS - Iceland: Part 2 will be coming to the blog in a few days. I’ll cover waterfalls, the Blue Lagoon and more!