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When planning a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice, steamy hot springs, tumbling waterfalls, and aqua glaciers come to mind, but the capital city of Reykjavik is home to its own enchanting destinations. In addition to its cultural attractions and mouthwatering eateries, the Icelandic metropolis is recognized as one of the safest, cleanest, and greenest cities in the world. Whether you've come to marvel at the furtive puffins in Faxaflói Bay or visit the nation's oldest microbrewery, Reykjavik delivers. Named for the "smoky cove" that early settlers discovered upon setting foot on Reykjavik's shores, this beautiful international city offers something for every type of traveler.
Faxaflói Bay dazzles with an array of whale-watching, sea-angling, and bird-watching opportunities, so it's no wonder that Iceland's cultural capital is positioned steps from the bay’s sparkling waves. Areas like the Old Harbor and Grandi Harbor Area beckon with the city's hippest museums, concert halls, and Nordic bistros, while Laugardalur offers sprawling green spaces and a slower pace of life.
An enclave in the Miðborg region, Old Harbor is the destination for Iceland's trendiest travelers. A former fishing zone, this seaside district is dotted with sculptures like the Sun Voyager statue and cafes offering vinegary fish-and-chips and energizing dark-roast coffee. Hotspots include the progressive art center at Hafnarhús and countless places to grab a bite or savor a brew.
Yoga studios, a Northern Lights exhibit, and a whale museum dot the lanes beside bait huts and dry docks in the Grandi Harbor Area, an up-and-coming commercial enclave. Amid the hubbub of the waterfront, the Reykjavik Maritime Museum depicts the lineage of Icelandic fishing and the Saga Museum recreates events from Nordic history with wax figures.
East of Miðborg, Laugardalur is home to Iceland's national soccer stadium and a series of family-oriented parks. Kids love the Húsdýragarðurinn petting zoo, while adults delight in the Reykjavik Art Museum's Ásmundarsafn sculpture park, which showcases works by Ásmundur Sveinsson.
Beyond gazing at the ink-blue waters of Faxaflói Bay, there are a bevy of things to see in Reykjavik. If you want to take in a concert, head to the Harpa Concert Hall, where regional and mainstream acts take stage inside a modern edifice near the Old Harbor. For a more intimate affair, Café Rosenberg hosts local artists several nights a week. In addition to live music, miraculous landmarks like the Hallgrímskirkja cathedral and venerated institutions like the National Gallery of Iceland illustrate the rich history of the region.
Icelanders have a saying they use when they want to motivate each other: "On with the butter!" Use this phrase when it's time to tackle the wealth of things to do in and around Reykjavik and you're sure to go far. Begin by acclimating yourself to the city during a guided city bike tour that ushers you to sightseeing spots like the Alþingishúsið parliament building and tranquil Tjörnin lake. Then, pamper yourself with admission to the Blue Lagoon, where healing turquoise pools offer a bit of respite from urban life. Likewise, you can elect to behold the natural wonders of Thingvellir National Park, Strokkur Geyser, and Gullfoss Waterfall during a tour of the Golden Circle. Finally, for those who satisfy their inner-daredevil, whitewater rafting on the Gullfoss Canyon or a midnight sunset ATV adventure can be arranged.