Reykjavik like a native: 5 experiences you can’t miss
Reykjavik, like the whole of Iceland, is getting more and more popular, and as a consequence made-for-tourists posts are popping up left and right.
As a result, we often get questions about how to get a genuine experience of Icelandic life. Around two thirds of the Icelandic population lives in the greater Reykjavik area – but where do these locals go?
We have compiled a short list where you can meet the Reykja-vikings. If you have a free afternoon in Reykjavik, this is where you should head:
- Take a walk in Öskjuhlíð
Öskjuhlíð is a hill in the centre of town. It is easy to spot because Perlan, the famous landmark with a glass dome, sits at its top. Öskjuhlíð is a very popular jogging and walking spot: whatever the season, you will meet plenty of athletic Icelanders going up and down. There are beautiful views of the city from the hill, so do not forget to bring a camera! And keep your eyes open: rumour has it that a group of wild rabbits lives on the hill, keeping warm in the winter by burrowing in the hot ground close to the geothermal areas.
- Walk up Esja
Esja (or Esjan, “the Esja” as the locals affectionately call it) is a beautiful mountain range just 10 km North of the capital. Between May and October, a hike up Esja is a must for every Reykjavik- dweller. And rightfully so! The view from the top is astonishing, and although the summit should be left to more experienced climbers, even beginners can take part and enjoy the panorama. The hiking paths are well marked, warning hikers when the walk gets harder, so that unexperienced climbers can stop there, enjoy the view and leisurely stroll back down.
- Head to the swimming pool
Where do the locals go when it’s sunny? They go suntan at the swimming pool. Where do they go while it’s cold and snowy? You guessed it: they go warm up at the swimming pool. In Iceland swimming pools are very common (you’ll find one even in the smallest towns), pretty inexpensive and extremely popular. We recommend a stop at the pool to all sorts of travelers: a dip in the water or some soaking in the hot tub always do the trick, whether you are looking for a fun afternoon with the family, relaxation after a hike or a way to warm up on a chilly day.
- Take a trip to Viðey
Even if you have already been to Reykjavik, you may not have heard of Viðey. This tiny island is very close to the city, just inside the bay, and can be reached with a short ferry ride. Although the island is uninhabited, the main building (which is also a historical landmark, as it is Iceland’s first building to be built out of stone) hosts a café in the summer months. Viðey is a perfect place for people who wish to take a quiet walk, spot birds and relax. John Lennon fans might want to stop by at Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace tower, a contemporary work of art and tribute to Lennon.
- Have a dinner with the locals
How many times have you gone abroad and wished you could know more about local culture and habits? At the Tin Can Factory, a language school located in Reykjavik, you have a chance to meet the natives in front of a buffet of Icelandic delicacies. This is your chance to meet friendly locals, learn some basic Icelandic phrases and taste some traditional food – including delicious Icelandic pancakes. It’s a great idea for anyone who is curious about Icelandic history and traditions, wishes to know more about the language or would just like to have some nice food in good company.
What’s your experience? If you head to any of these places, we’d love to hear your story!