Must See List: Reykjavík

I was recently reading an article about Euro 2016, the upcoming European soccer championship. There was a complaint from a government group within Iceland regarding the use of the players’ last names on their jerseys. Traditionally in sports, athletes have their last name on their backs. But in Iceland, last names aren’t quite the same as they are in most Western countries. Where we traditionally adopt the last name of our father at birth, in Iceland people take their father’s first name and add a suffix — -sson for males, -dottir for females — as their last name.

It made me wonder about this almost mythically beautiful country that really isn’t all that far away. In the last couple of years, Iceland has become one of the world’s hot, trendy tourist destinations. And I, too, have been drawn and intrigued by its siren call. Which is why Reykjavík is on My Must See List.

As the capital of Iceland, there is obviously no shortage of things to see and do in Reykjavík. Because I couldn’t possibly highlight them all, I’ve selected three to give you a taste.

Downtown Reykjavík

downtown Reykjavík

Whether you want to shop, eat, or just people watch, there is no better way to soak in local culture and get to know a new city than a visit to its downtown area. In Reykjavík that means a cozy and quaint city center that is more like that of a small town than that of a booming capital city. Colorful buildings dot Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur streets. The city’s Old Harbour is not only a site worth visiting for its historic importance but also for its cultural value. Today it houses events, restaurants and cafes.

Blue Lagoon

blue lagoon

Iceland is a volcanically active island. The country is home to many geysers and use of geothermal power is widespread. One of the most famous geothermal spas is the Blue Lagoon. In addition to being famous, it’s also a popular tourist destination. Situated just outside of Reykjavík, Blue Lagoon was formed in 1976 when a pool was formed from the waste water from a nearby geothermal power plant. In the 1980s, people started bathing in the waters. Soon after, the pool was opened to the public. Some visitors believe the mineral rich waters can help with skin diseases. National Geographic named the Blue Lagoon one of 25 “Wonders of the World.”

Looking for a less busy or less touristy pool? Or simply want to visit them all? There are plenty of other geothermal pools in and around Reykjavík. The city’s tourism board has compiled a list that’s worth exploring.

Aurora Reykjavík’s Northern Lights Center

aurora Reykjavík northern lights center

For many people, seeing the Northern Lights is on their bucket list. At Aurora Reykjavík’s Northern Lights Center you can do more than simply see the Northern Lights: you can experience them. At the Northern Lights Center you can view high-definition panoramic films of the Northern Lights as seen from Iceland. Visitors can also learn more about the science behind these amazing phenomenon. Since the Northern Lights aren’t visible the entire year, this is a great way to get a glimpse if you visit in the “off” season.

Looking for more Must Sees? Check out previously featured locations!

Photo overview photo from the city’s tourism Facebook, downtown Reykjavík from the city’s tourism Instagram, Blue Lagoon from the site’s Facebook, Aurora Reykjavík’s Northern Lights Center from the center’s Instagram.

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