Sunrise on our first morning in Reykjavik was 3:10 am – how cool is that! Our visit was at the end of May, not exactly 24 hour daylight time but not far off. We had blue skies until 11:30 at night, in fact it never really got dark. I found this so exhilarating and exciting.
One thing I didn’t find exhilarating was the stinky, sulphourous water. The warm water stinks of rotten eggs – quite the experience when you are having a shower. Not something I relished in Reykjavik, I have to say.
The Perlan was on our checklist for our first morning. This is a landmark building – we could see it from our balcony – a weird, alien looking glass dome balancing on top of some huge tanks. The tanks are actually water storage facilities. Geothermal water comes right out of the ground here, they store it in the tanks. This is the (stinky) water they use to supply the whole city with hot water, they even use it for the pools and to heat the streets in winter.
It is a little way out of the centre. We dismissed the bus option and chose to walk. A brisk 40 minute stroll, a lot of moaning from my 9 year old, and we were there. The walk is fairly easy – flat and straight but not that scenic. So although I was using my best persuasive skills on my son as to what a great idea the walk was, I actually got his point. On the plus side, you can’t really get lost and you can’t miss the Perlan – at 84 feet tall it dominates the landscape.
You get gorgeous views of the city below from the area in front of the entrance – it made the walk worthwhile. We checked out some funky musicians as well and watched some little planes come really close and land at the domestic airport nearby.
Up on the fourth floor you get even better views on the wraparound viewing gallery. The scene below is amazing and you get full appreciation for Reykjavik’s stunning location. The snow capped mountains in the distance, the waters of the Atlantic lapping at its shores, the colourful houses and buildings – you see it all from up here. They even have telescopes so you can get a closer look, should you so choose.
The only problem up there was the wind – freezing, biting and so intense and strong – it almost took your breath away and not in a good way. I felt a trifle woozy, so couldn’t stay outside for too long.
There is a posh restaurant on the top level which revolves. We though, opted for the cheap(ish) skate option – the cafe on the 4th floor. They had great snacks, coffees and ice creams. Yes, even after coming in from Arctic gale force winds, our 9 year old was able to manage an ice cream. We drank lovely coffee, feasted on cake and enjoyed the views.
There are a few little shops – a Christmas shop and gourmet food shop, but we didn’t feel tempted by any of their offerings.
Back downstairs, we decided to pay a visit to the Saga Museum. They have cleared out one of the water tanks and turned it into a neat little museum. You get an audio guide and wander through scenes from Iceland’s history. There are wax figures and it is really interesting. I didn’t have a very good grasp of the history of this wonderful country, but left feeling I knew a little more. One fascinating fact – the original male settlers were all Vikings, the original female settlers were all Irish women (kidnapped by aforementioned Vikings) – apparently there is a lot of red hair in Iceland, this explains it!
We couldn’t resist the temptation to dress up as a Viking on the way out, brandishing swords and spears we posed for some fierce photos.