10 ‘hacks’ for first time visitors to Reykjavík

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1. Water. It’s the best in the world. It comes out of the tap for free. Don’t buy it in bottles! Hafdís Huld once gave me a huge telling off for buying water in Iceland. She was absolutely right.

2. Places to hide. Reykjavik City Hall (Ráðhús Reykjavíkur) is a great place to hide from the Icelandic weather. You can watch the bird life on Tjörnin, drink coffee or ogle the huge 3d map of Iceland.
Otherwise, Harpa has great coffee, interesting architecture and free tours. Both are warm and dry!

3. Buses in the city are great, but you need the exact change, and they don’t accept cards. On the plus side, they have free wifi on board, and even at some bus stops. Oh, and the website/app is amazing – you can even see a live map of where the buses are – www.straeto.is

4. Alcohol still isn’t cheap; stock up at the duty free store at the airport at Keflavík when you land. Just follow the herd of Icelanders piling shopping trollies full of booze. You’ll thank me for it later.

5. Geothermal hotpots are magical. Not only can they cure hangovers, but they are a mainstay of Icelandic culture. Icelanders chat in them, make business deals in them, watch the Northern lights from them, and just lounge around in them any chance they get. The ones at Nauthólsvík (at the geothermal beach) are free.

6. The souvenir shops in downtown Reykjavík can be tacky and expensive. Wait until the weekend and visit Kolaportið – the indoor market place by the harbour – you can buy everything from hand knitted lopapeysa to salty liquorice and er, guillemots eggs. Even if you don’t find a souvenir, you won’t quite believe your eyes.

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7. Berries. You don’t have to go far out of the city to find them in the summer, and they are delicious. Look out for people wandering around with empty ice cream tubs and blue fingers. Go for the Crowberries or the Bilberries (they look just like, and are often called blueberries, but they are not!). Don’t eat the poisonous ones.

8. Pylsur – the original Icelandic hotdog. Good enough for both Bill Clinton and Ainsley Harriott, the one to head for is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur which translates as ‘best hotdogs in town’. They are cheap, delicious and great for mopping up all the beer in your system after a night out. Also, the queue is often entertainment in itself, especially late at night, when it’s full of banter, flirting and debauchery.

9. Go on a walking tour. Reykjavik isn’t that big, and is a great place for a walk, but a tour will allow you to get your bearings and show you things that you might not normally see. Local girl Auður from I Heart Reykjavík has just started doing tours, after dispensing Reykjavik advice from her blog for a good long while.

10. It’s not all about the hustle and bustle. Elliðaárdalur valley is within the city limits, and yet is a little slice of natural Iceland. It has a salmon river, waterfalls, wildlife and is an ideal place to relax & unwind, or Seltjarnarnes has a lighthouse, views to Snæfellsjökull and attacking arctic terns.

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