So you are going to spend the winter holidays in Reykjavik, and you are already dreaming of northern lights shining on the snow. Amazing nature aside, what else should you do during your Christmas break in Reykjavik? Wonder no more: we have put together a few suggestions so you can make the best out of your winter holiday break in the capital of Iceland.
Take a walk in the city
During the Christmas holidays, the atmosphere in Reykjavik is very festive. Stroll around the city, enjoy the seasonal displays and fairy lights. If you look carefully, you might even be able to spot the 13 Yule lads as their projections make mischief on various buildings across the city.
For the non-Nordics, the Yule lads are Iceland’s playful variation on Santa Claus: 13 cheeky lads who come down the mountain on the days leading to Christmas. Originally they arrived to steal items such as sausages, candles and skýr, but in more recent years they have been bringing small gifts to children, much like Santa – times 13.
Traditionally Reykjavik dwellers take advantage of the frozen pond Tjörn (right in front of the Town Hall) to go ice skating. This year, skating enthusiasts will also be able to slide to their content on a free ice skate rink which occupy Ingólfstorg square (in front of the House of Parliament) for the whole of December. Those too afraid of tumbling on the ice to join in the skating fun can instead visit the Christmas market that will be around the rink for the duration of the holidays.
Icelandic swimming pools are heated, even in the winter. If you have never tried dipping in a hot pool while the snow is falling all around you, this is the time! Most swimming pools in the capital area will be open throughout the holidays, with the exclusion of December 25th.
From gravlax to laufabrauð (a beautifully decorated, thin fried bread) to jólaöl (a festive drink consisting of malt and orange soda), there are plenty of seasonal delicacies to taste in Iceland. A word of warning: if you plan to eat out, make sure that you book in advance. In Reykjavik, Christmas is very much a family holiday, and many restaurants will be closed on December 25th and occasionally throughout the Christmas period. If you are looking for a place to eat, make sure you consult this useful list compiled by the guys at the Reykjavik Tourist Board.
New Year’s Eve in Iceland means fireworks, fireworks and fireworks (and probably snow). At midnight the whole town goes ablaze with tons of sparkles and flares being lit up in every street and every corner. If you are planning to enjoy the show, dress up in comfy boots and a thick jacket and head to a good viewing spot. The most popular ones are Perlan and Hallgrimskirkjan.
Finally, remember that the days are extremely short in Iceland during winter! At Christmastime, for instance, there are on average 4 hours of daylight, as the sun rises around 11:20 and sets around 15:30. Make good use of the limited daylight, and keep an eye on the weather forecast.
Is there anything we forgot to mention? What do you advise for a perfect Christmas break in Reykjavik?