Reykjavik: A Lovely Autumn Day in October

Reykjavik in October

We took advan­tage of Icelandair’s free Ice­land stopover pro­gramme and had a love­ly two-night stay in Reyk­javik in Octo­ber on our way back to Cana­da from our two-week road trip around Scot­land. We arrived on the same day Hur­ri­cane Nicole arrived in Ice­land! It made for an inter­est­ing flight with two abort­ed land­ings before we final­ly touched down safe­ly on the tar­mac of the Keflavik air­port.

After we got all our lug­gage back, which took for­ev­er due to the bad weath­er, we hopped on a shut­tle bus for the 45 minute dri­ve to the heart of Reyk­javik. There are two com­pa­nies that run shut­tle busses from the air­port to Reyk­javik and vice ver­sa, but we’ve always gone with Gray­line because they charged slight­ly less than the oth­er com­pa­ny. We’ve been quite pleased with their ser­vice so far.

We stayed at a cozy apart­ment we rent­ed through Airbnb for two nights. Our host was very friend­ly and accom­mo­dat­ing. She had no prob­lem grant­i­ng our request for a late check-out on the last day as our plane back to Cana­da didn’t leave until 5pm. If not for our gra­cious host, we would’ve had to car­ry our lug­gage for a cou­ple of hours around town while wait­ing for the air­port shut­tle bus to pick us up! That wouldn’t have been fun, espe­cial­ly in the wet weath­er we were hav­ing that day.

If you’re not an Airbnb mem­ber yet and you would like to give it a try, sign up using our refer­ral link and we’ll all get CA$40/US$35 to spend on a stay! We’ve used Airbnb to find a place to stay the two times we were in Reyk­javik and had only good expe­ri­ence. It cost us less than a hotel room and we got to expe­ri­ence liv­ing like a local. If you’d like to know where we stayed, feel free to ask. :-)

We had already been to a few pop­u­lar Reyk­javik attrac­tions like the big Hall­grim­skirk­ja church, Harpa con­cert hall, and the, uh, Penis Muse­um on our first vis­it three years ago so we didn’t give them a prop­er vis­it. Our plan for the one full day we had in Reyk­javik was to vis­it the spots we had missed on our first vis­it, of which there were plen­ty. Here’s how we end­ed up spend­ing the day:

Tjörnin Pond by the Reykjavik City Hall

Tjörnin
Reyk­javik sky­line seen from the Tjörnin pond.

This was our first stop. The pond is a good place to take in a love­ly view of the Reyk­javik sky­line, for check­ing out the water­fowls, and also for see­ing some inter­est­ing pub­lic arts. While the down­town streets are scream­ing “tourist resorts”, I found the pond area quite authen­tic and very Ice­landic. I loved it there. The Reyk­javik City Hall build­ing itself has an inter­est­ing archi­tec­ture. It’s worth check­ing out if you’re into that sort of thing.

Reykjavik City Hall
Reyk­javik City Hall reflect­ing the build­ings across the street.

I got my hus­band to take some pic­tures of me with a cou­ple of the stat­ues. I know it’s sil­ly but I was in a sil­ly mood!

The Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat
Pos­ing with the Mon­u­ment to the Unknown Bureau­crat by Mag­nús Tómas­son.

The Reyk­javik Grapevine has a good list of Reyk­javik stat­ues that would’ve made a good guide but I for­got to con­sult it when I was there. Oh well.

The Harbour

Harpa Concert Hall
I love Harpa. It’s such a cool build­ing.

Next, we head­ed out to the har­bour. The Harpa con­cert hall is the land­mark at the har­bour. You won’t miss it. You can’t miss it. It’s an archi­tec­tur­al won­der. On our pre­vi­ous vis­it, we saw a com­e­dy show called “How to Become Ice­landic in 60 Min­utes” at Harpa, which we thor­ough­ly enjoyed and would high­ly rec­om­mend see­ing if you had a chance. This time, we only went into Harpa to take a break from walk­ing for a bit and enjoy the sights as there were no shows sched­uled for that day.

Harpa ceiling
The ceil­ing of the lob­by part of Harpa.

Anoth­er point of inter­est at the har­bour is Sól­far or Sun Voy­ager, the Viking boat stat­ue. It was a very pop­u­lar spot, so much so that I had to wait a while before I could take a pic­ture of the stat­ue with no one with­in the shot.

Sólfar
The Sun Voy­ager is big­ger than it seems.

Even just walk­ing by the har­bour was kind of nice. I love being able to smell the ocean and just gen­er­al­ly being close to the sea. I’m an island girl after all. As the cliché goes, you can take the girl out of the island but you can’t take the island out of the girl! Or some­thing to that effect.

The rest of downtown Reykjavik

Skólavörðustígur
The view up Skólavörðustígur towards Hall­grim­skirk­ja.

The rest of down­town Reyk­javik com­pris­es most­ly of shops, din­ing and drink­ing estab­lish­ments, and hotels. Still love­ly and colour­ful, but quite touristy, espe­cial­ly on Lau­gave­g­ur, the main shop­ping street. Skólavörðustígur is anoth­er pop­u­lar street. That’s the street you see in most pho­tos tak­en from up the tow­er of Hall­grim­skirk­ja church. We stayed in a top-floor apart­ment on Skólavörðustígur on our first vis­it to Reyk­javik and we still like to call the street “our street.” :-)

Laugavegur
Peo­ple-watch­ing in Lau­gave­g­ur.

We sat on a bench by Lau­gave­g­ur for a lit­tle while and did some peo­ple-watch­ing. It was fun, and free! We also did some win­dow-shop­ping. The only thing we bought was a wood­en sheep from a Dan­ish chain store called the Fly­ing Tiger on Lau­gave­g­ur 13. It was a bit like a high­er-end dol­lar store, except every­thing cost more than a dol­lar but still most­ly afford­able. If you like cute or nov­el­ty stuff or are look­ing to buy sou­venirs or a gift, you should def­i­nite­ly check out that store. (Hmm, I just noticed that there are some Fly­ing Tiger stores in New York as well. Inter­est­ing.)

Rainbow and Unicorn
I love this rain­bow and uni­corn street art.

Also worth check­ing out is the street art you can see all over down­town Reyk­javik. They are not unau­tho­rized graf­fi­tis but actu­al­ly art­work done by var­i­ous artists com­mis­sioned by the city. They usu­al­ly have some new street art up just before the annu­al Ice­land Air­waves music fes­ti­val that takes place at the end of autumn or begin­ning of win­ter in Reyk­javik every year.

Orange cat
This cute cat real­ly want­ed us to pet him/her!

Oh, I almost for­got. Did you know that Reyk­javik is famous for its cats? There’s even a Face­book page ded­i­cat­ed to them. And we got to pet one! If you love cats, you’ll love Reyk­javik.

And that is how we spent that love­ly autumn day in Reyk­javik. We were expect­ing the day to be rainy but it turned out to be quite dry, though still grey, cold, and a lit­tle windy. We were a bit sad that we didn’t get to see the North­ern Lights due to the unfavourable weath­er, but there’s always next time. Trust me, once you vis­it Ice­land, you’ll want to vis­it it over and over again! Not good for the wal­let! :-)

Where We Ate

Speak­ing of wal­lets, we only dined at wal­let-friend­ly places dur­ing our (way too short) stay, since we always trav­el on a bud­get. But even the wal­let-friend­ly eater­ies in Reyk­javik aren’t real­ly what we’d call cheap. Still, the fol­low­ing places shouldn’t break the bank (much):

The Noodle Station on Laugavegur 86

Chicken noodle soup
Chick­en noo­dle soup at the Noo­dle Sta­tion.

We had dined here before on our first vis­it to Reyk­javik three years ago and enjoyed it so much, we had to go back. We actu­al­ly had din­ner here two nights in a row! The first night we had the chick­en noo­dle soup and the sec­ond night beef noo­dle soup. They both had the exact same tasty broth. A bowl of soup cost about CA$16. Not over­ly cheap but quite fill­ing and nice to have on a cold night. They also had an option with veg­etable instead of meat and it cost a lot less.

I’ve been exper­i­ment­ing in the kitchen to try to come up with a copy­cat recipe for the Noo­dle Sta­tion soup ever since we got back from the trip and I think I’m on the right track. Def­i­nite­ly get­ting there. I might post the recipe here one day, once I’ve come up with some­thing that tastes very close to it. Just watch this space! :-)

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, the famous hotdog stand on Tryggvatagata 1

Com­ing from Harpa, you would have to go through some unsight­ly con­struc­tion zones to get there, and once you’re there, you might have to stand in line for a lit­tle while, but it would all be worth it. I had one with every­thing and it was sim­ply the best hot­dog I’ve ever had, and this is com­ing from some­one who doesn’t usu­al­ly like hot­dogs. It cost about CA$5 for a sin­gle hot­dog, and it wasn’t even a foot-long hot­dog. Def­i­nite­ly not cheap, but still, you might want to order at least two. You would be CA$10 poor­er but at least you wouldn’t regret not hav­ing anoth­er one like I do. We had one each for lunch. It filled us up for an hour or two. 

This was our first vis­it to the hot­dog stand, by the way. We had walked by it but my hus­band had been too afraid to give it a try three years ago! :-D My loss, real­ly. I actu­al­ly enjoyed the hot­dog more than he did.

Korniđ Bakery on Laekjargata 4

Kleinur
Klein­ur at Korniđ Bak­ery.

This bak­ery is locat­ed between Tjörnin and the Har­bour. Had to stop there because I had a han­ker­ing for kleina, my favourite Ice­landic pas­try. It is basi­cal­ly a knot-shaped donut but denser than the reg­u­lar donut and has the sweet and cit­rusy scent of car­damom. I bought one plain kleina and a choco­late-dipped one. They were big­ger than the reg­u­lar kleina. I end­ed up eat­ing one and pack­ing the oth­er one to have lat­er. They were about CA$2.50 each. I actu­al­ly liked the tra­di­tion­al plain kleina bet­ter than the choco­late-dipped one.

Eldur & Ís on Skólavörðustígur 2

We stopped here to have some ice cream even though it was a pret­ty cold day (we’re Cana­di­an after all). I had the Daim ice cream, which was good, but not as good as the Fer­rero Rocher ice cream I’d had at the same place three years ago (it wasn’t avail­able that day). This place is sup­posed to be famous for its crépes, but we’ve nev­er had any. Next time!

Sandholt Bakery on Laugavegur 36

We went there to have break­fast on our last day in Reyk­javik but we couldn’t find a table so we just bought some cin­na­mon buns and had them at our apart­ment. I don’t remem­ber how much they cost but their stuff is not the cheap­est. They used to have klein­ur (that’s plur­al for kleina) for sale three years ago but appar­ent­ly not any­more. It’s also worth men­tion­ing that Sand­holt is one of the old­est bak­eries in Ice­land, found­ed in 1920. His­tor­i­cal!

I love Reyk­javik. It’s small enough to not give me anx­i­ety and also very walk­a­ble. We actu­al­ly walked a whop­ping 10km on the only full day we had there. My legs didn’t like me very much after that, but it was total­ly worth the pain. I’d do it all over again! And Reyk­javik in Octo­ber is love­ly and not over­ly packed with tourists. Almost felt like our vis­it to the city in May years ago. Can’t wait to go back this Octo­ber!

4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Oh, what a swoony trip! (I have been stalk­ing your posts on Ice­land, am in the plan­ning stages…although it’s not look­ing like the trip will hap­pen as soon as I’d like.)

    xox

    1. Oh, it was, but I got­ta say, the temp­ta­tion to rent a car and dri­ve out­side Reyk­javik where all the moun­tains and the water­falls are was enor­mous! :-D Our next trip to Ice­land doesn’t look like it’s going to hap­pen as soon as I’d like either, but hey, plan­ning the trip is half the fun!

  2. Any luck with the soup? I have been try­ing to make this as well and haven’t been able to as of yet! We love their soup and have been dying to go back and of course it will be one of our first stops!
    Thanks

    1. If you fol­low this recipe, that’s pret­ty much it but with rice noo­dles, cel­ery, bean sprouts, and cilantro instead of bok choy, car­rots, cab­bage, and sweet pota­to, and lots of crushed peanuts on top (I use sweet soy sauce but if you don’t have it, add some sug­ar to taste into the soup). Mmm… I want some now!

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