Spark Design Space
Since a Professor of the Academy of Arts opened it in 2010, Spark is stop compulsory in the Icelandic for the most avant-garde because it is the only Gallery in the city. Designers and artists of all kinds show their different projects and events that play with our most primary senses. Thus, it works as a platform of support for local initiatives that involve collaboration between the creators and professionals who are in it. The exhibitions are temporary and usually last about two months, after which products in your store can be purchased.
In addition, local could not be better located, in the heart of Reykjavik next to Laugavegur, the main shopping street, and 10-minute walk from the port.
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Many people believe that this amazing geothermal spa is a natural lagoon. Nothing further from the truth! In fact, the high temperatures of Blue Lagoon are due to the energy that supplies the nearby power station Svartsengi.
His pale blue water that seems to relieve skin and bone disorders because of silica sediments containing remains of seaweed, ranges around 40 C degrees temperature. The mud from the lagoon, however, has as the main components sulfur and silica that are suited for the treatment of psoriasis. So many healing benefits have turned the complex into a pilgrimage of health tourism. They claim that these curative effects linger with time and that the experience will be really unforgettable.
To enjoy all its possibilities is recommended to dedicate a few hours to visit the hot spring resort. Relax with a long bath in the lake and spend some time in the natural sauna placed into a volcanic cave. Blue Lagoon is open year round and has an extensive schedule to get out of there completely renovated.
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Reykjavik – the World’s Northernmost Capital City
Nearly two thirds of Iceland’s inhabitants live in the capital, Reykjavik, regarded as one of the greenest, cleanest and safest cities on the planet. In winter, there are hardly 4 hours of sunlight a day. On the contrary, if you happen to visit it around the summer solstice, you will find yourself in a city where the sun never completely sets at all. This enables tourists to make the most of their time in Iceland’s capital city, before embarking on the customary trip around the Icelandic Ring Road which skirts the whole island.
The major sightseeing area in Reykjavik is the western district of Miðborg, the city’s historical centre. Hljómskálagarður park, with its Tjörnin lake, is a good starting point, as you can sit on a bench and get your bearings on a map before venturing out on a walking route which will take you to the most interesting places in the city. At one end of the lake stands Iceland University (Háskóli Íslands) while, if you cross the bridge over it, you come to the National Gallery of Iceland, housing exhibits by the country’s most famous artists and a performance centre for traditional Icelandic culture. Standing next to it is the Reykjavik Free Church, founded in 1899, an alternative to the National Lutheran Church.
Iceland’s Parliament, known as the Alþingi, is located just a few blocks away. Built of dressed stone, it dates from 1881, although the institution itself goes back to the year 930 and is one of the oldest elected assemblies in the world.
Time for a Snack
Whether in summer or winter, one’s notion of time is somewhat warped in Iceland, on account of the marked changes in daylight hours. If there is one thing sacred in life it is snacking and Reykjavik is no exception. Heading along Lækjargata street, you come across the striking Harpa concert and conference hall, but press on towards the city’s harbour. Shortly before arriving, you pass by one of the must-see sights of the city, a hotdog stand known as Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. Alright – we know it’s just a boiled sausage served in a typical bun smothered in various sauces, and it’s eaten outdoors, but at number 1 Tryggvagata street hundreds of sausages are served every day and long queues build up at the hotdog stand. This is undoubtedly one of the most popular gastronomic customs in Reykjavik and the most famous sausage in Iceland.
After building up your strength, it is time to continue exploring the city. The harbour is divided between the districts of Miðborg and Vesturbær. The latter is home to the Vikin Maritime Museum in which cod fishing is accorded special importance. You can taste Icelandic codfish in one of the restaurants in the harbour area, as well as other typical dishes such as lobster soup, salmon and lamb. To round off the experience, you can hire a fishing rod and while away the afternoon, or set sail on a whale-sighting excursion in Faxaflói bay.
The main area with bars is Austurstræti street and environs, while the shopping area is scattered along Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur street. Prominent among the stores selling garments, design and food is the Álafoss wool store, the best known and traditional Icelandic wool brand. Here you can also purchase a typical Icelandic jersey, known as a Lopapeysa.
Before nightfall, you should wrap up your visit by taking in the best views of the city, which are afforded by the vantage point that is Hallgrímskirkja Church. Access to the belfry costs ISK 600 (about €4), but it is well worth the price. You could end off the day in an inviting pop-up restaurant where you can taste a peculiar fusion between Basque and Icelandic cuisine. Sumendi, as it is called, organises several dinners during the year.
If you make the journey in summer, the sun will be a constant throughout your stay, so you’d best wind up the day at the famous sculpture known as Sólfar (The Sun Voyager), evocative of places to be discovered and countries to be seen, like those Vueling brings you close to through its air routes.
Haritz Rodriguez is a travel journalist and blogger with over 17 years’ experience in radio, television, press and internet. He is an editor of Tokitan.tv and director of the Barking Blogs communication studio.more info
Where to Eat and Drink in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is the ideal starting point for an adventurous road trip along endless snowy roads, sometimes surrounded by vegetation, lunar landscapes and fascinatingly intriguing rocky backdrops. The geography of one of the most enchanting countries in the world consists of lakes, mountains, volcanoes, fjords and glaciers, among other spectacular landscape features. Its capital, Reykjavik, is a trendy paradise dominated by middle-class inhabitants. There you may bump into Björk enjoying a cappuccino in the carefree environment of a café where top quality food is served. To assist you in the choice of great dining options in Reykjavik, we have chosen 8 restaurants you can never go wrong with.
1. Lava Restaurant
Aside from being situated in a fairy-tale location, the Blue Lagoon restaurant is representative of Iceland's creative cuisine. Its chef, Viktor Orn Andresson, who was named best Nordic chef of 2014, offers creative, organic cuisine, with an emphasis on fresh fish and vegetables. Here you can see the geothermal waters and lava formations of the Blue Lagoon open-air spa by just looking out the dining room's glass walls. Alternatively, an outdoor bathe in these warm medicinal waters can be enjoyed regardless of the freezing ambient temperature, while indulging in Icelandic avant-garde cuisine. Their dishes range from mutton tartar with spicy radish to garlic and crayfish soup, to delicious cod with citrus fruits.
Charming restaurant with spectacular views, located by the harbour. This delightful eatery is always busy thanks to their delectable seasonal cuisine, fresh produce – lovingly prepared – and a no-nonsense approach. They boast a great international wine list, with slightly higher prices than the rest of the menu, in addition to a wonderful choice of lavish dishes, some among the best we have ever tried – the harbour-style tuna (lightly roasted, with garlic chips), cod tongue with garlic and cherry, and creamy lobster risotto. Undoubtedly a must.
A visit to Reykjavik is incomplete without gazing up at the stunning Harpa building. Located by the sea, it houses a macro concert and conference hall that won a Mies Van Der Rohe prize and is the headquarters of the Icelandic Symphonic Orchestra and Opera. After a photo shoot of this glazed building and a sneak-peak at their design store, we can take the lift up to the 4th floor to Kolabrautin, its snazzy restaurant. While soaking up what is likely the best view of the city, you can enjoy a well-blended fusion of Icelandic and Italian cuisine, accompanied by a blissful cocktail or a glass of wine. If you would rather venture into one of the numerous eateries of the main street – Laugavegur, a paradise of art, design and fashion shops, cute cafés and restaurants – you can always move on to Kolabrautin after supper for some drinks.
4. Café Babalú
From the cosmopolitan sophistication of the last three options to the informality of this enchanting café. Café Babalú welcomes anyone at any time of the day, with an original and picturesque ambience and a menu that ranges from homemade cakes to soups, sandwiches and vegetarian pies. When approaching it from the street you'll see a pretty yellow house and, on entering, you'll be greeted by an interior of various types of vintage furniture. This renders Babalú the ideal location to enjoy the marvellous view from its glass front while clutching a massive cappuccino with both hands. Their cheesecake is the city's most popular.
5. Te & Kaffi
This bookshop café is a required stop. From its terrace you can sit back and watch Reykjavik's placid everyday life.If the weather is not on your side, you can take a seat at an indoor table and enjoy a large coffee and an equally remarkably-sized slice of cake. Meanwhile, you can flip through one of their art and design books in a pleasant and cosy atmosphere. This chain of cafés can also be found in some shopping centres.
One of the first things that will strike you when you set foot in Reykjavik is that Icelanders love huge cafés and homemade pastries. Indeed, the city is teeming with establishments packed with surprisingly slim hipsters, considering the amount of cakes they put away. One of the busiest cafés in town is Mokka, frequented by local artists, where their wonderful waffles are a must-try. No Wi-Fi connection here but, so what?
7. The Laundromat Cafe
As most things in Reykjavik, this place is super cute but, take note, their hamburgers are among the best you will find here. A totally kid-friendly spot with a playroom, this delightful café with wood-panelled walls is just as trendy as it is cosy. Bright, spacious and charismatic, The Laundromat Café is always lively and – yes – you can do your laundry here.
8. Slipp Bar
Like other buildings across the road from Reykjavik harbour, the bar of the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina is a tribute to Scandinavian good taste (to the point it may give you Stendhal syndrome). An overnight stay at this soberly charming three-star is well worthwhile, and you'll almost fall asleep to the lullaby of the waves. Both Slipp Bar and the hotel are exquisitely decorated and are ideal spots to spend an afternoon in Reykjavik. Here you can enjoy a mid-morning coffee, a snack in the afternoon or a cocktail in the late evening, always with views over the sea and a designer lamp above you.
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Text and images by Laura Conde (Gastronomistas)