Wednesday, August 12, 2020

24 Hours in Reykjavik

Trip date July 2019

Our Scandinavian adventure was coming to an end, but we still had one last stop. We left the Faroe Islands on a quick 45 minute flight to Iceland on Atlantic Airways. It was early morning, and although there are multiple FlyBus that will take you from the airport to the Blue Lagoon or your hotel, there wasn't one that we wouldn't have had to wait an hour for, so we just took a taxi for about $70.

I had made us reservations in advance as the last time I was in Reykjavik the thermal baths were booked solid so I missed out. We arrived at about 9:30am, stored our luggage with their bag check, and hit the locker rooms. 

This was Aaron's first time, in both Iceland and the Blue Lagoon, and I was very excited about my return trip to both places. We didn't book anything special, just the "Comfort" package which includes entrance, silica mud mask, use of a towel, and 1 free drink for $44. We soaked and explored the pool for a while, the water is different temperatures in different sections. There were quite a few people there but it didn't feel crowded. 

We spent a couple of hours soaking, having our mud mask, and enjoying a few mimosas before we made our way to Lava, the onsite restaurant, for our lunch reservation.
The restaurant looks out onto the pools and is casual (most people ate in their robes). There is a 3-course set menu for $50, or you can order a la carte. I think Aaron had the set menu but I wasn't in the mood for dessert so I chose 3 savory courses, which they charged me the same for.

I started with a bowl of langoustine soup which was just about perfect. Then a dish of cured arctic char, with horseradish cream and cucumber. Another winner. We both had lamb as our main course; it was cooked and plated perfectly.

To be honest neither of us expected much from a restaurant meal eaten in a bathrobe, but all of our dishes were excellent! I'd actually really recommend taking some time for a nice meal here!

We took one more quick soak/lap around the pool before getting cleaned up and catching the FlyBus that I had booked us on into Reykjavik. The bus dropped me off near Center Hotel Arnarhvoll where I was staying, after dropping Aaron at his hotel. 

The hotel is right across from the beautiful Harpa Concert Hall and my room had gorgeous views of the awesome architecture as well as the ocean. Besides the view, my room was good sized with a big comfy bed and roomy bathroom. I'd stay here again.

It had been a very early morning leaving the Faroe Islands so I was in desperate need of a nap. After that I went upstairs to the rooftop Skybar for a drink. My cocktail was fine, nothing to go out of your way for except to take in the awesome view. 

Aaron and I met up across the street at Harpa and did a little walk through. Unfortunately there was a private event so we couldn't tour the entire center. It's pretty amazing inside, I'd love to see a concert here! Maybe next time...

Time for a proper cocktail! We made our way down to the old harbor and one of Reykjavik's most well known bars, Slippbarinn. I had a great time drinking here when I stayed at the adjoining hotel last time, and the drinks and service were still great on this visit!

Walking back to the center of town, we were a little early for our dinner reservation but stumbled upon the bar Systir in the same building at Hverfisgata 12. The bar had been known before as the "no name pizza place" but was now a "sister" restaurant to ground floor Dill

The old historic building is full of both charm and artifacts, but downstairs in Dill it is clean and modern, no trace of the old stables that use to be. New Chef de Cuisine (at the time) Carl K Frederiksen had just recently arrived from Copenhagen, and he and Aaron are friends, so we had a great time sitting at the Chef's Counter and chatting with him throughout the meal. 

Dill was the first restaurant in Iceland to receive a Michelin star, but lost that a few years ago. Aaron and I could both tell that Chef Carl was gonna be a part of that star coming back and sure enough it has happened. 

Dinner was wonderful! We had about 10 little one-bite appetizers to start. Lovely little bites like salsify with strawberry, reindeer moss, chicken skin and parsley. We were also presented with a fried bread and skyr-butter. yum.

Seven courses followed these bites, which we chose to have the restaurant's wine pairings with. The restaurant uses locally grown and raised ingredients and also plays with traditional flavors, like this pork belly with rhubarb, lovage, and whey.

The entire meal was delicious, interesting, and fun! My meal, with a glass of champagne to start, wine pairings, and a cognac after came to about $220.

Chef Carl invited us upstairs for a post-shift beer at the Mikkeller pub. It had been a long day though so I said my goodbyes to both of them and headed home in the still-light 1am night. Aaron was off on an excursion to see more of Iceland the next day, while I would be flying home, so our big team Scandinavian adventure was over. Dinner at Dill was a great way to end it!
(Dill is now located on the second floor of Laugavegur 59. )

I had a lovely buffet breakfast the next morning, served at the rooftop Skybar with all those pretty views. I had arranged a late check out, packed my bags, and was wandering thru the streets of Reykjavik by 10am. I had 3 ½ hours before the FlyBus would pick me up for the airport.
There's a ton of construction going on around the city. Lots of new buildings, lots of new tourist shops. I didn't recall seeing this little craft market in the past; seems to be open most days.

Although this was my 3rd visit to the city, I had yet to fully explore the Settlement Museum. The exhibit is free and there is a 20 minute guided tour that I joined that was incredibly interesting. The museum explores the first people to inhabit Reykjavik, how they came to Iceland, and what life might have been like.

The exhibits surround an actual excavated longhouse, dating from 930. The guide was able to point out different areas of the dwelling and show items that were found on the grounds. This museum is well worth an hour stop!

I had just enough time do do a little grocery shopping before having lunch. Black salt licorice, bitafiskur (dried fish snacks), funny flavored chips, etc. Then I got a table at Laekjarbrekka and a bowl of their delicious lobster soup.

The restaurant is very cute, decked out in sheep skins and historic old photos. It was also very quiet on that Thursday afternoon.

And that was about it! One glass of wine back at the hotel while waiting for the FlyBus and then a quick walk across the street to board and be taken to the airport for my 5pm flight home. I paid a little extra for the roomier exit row, enjoyed a pink gin and tonic, and settled in. 

I still love Iceland but honestly it looks a little basic after being in the Faroe Islands! And the construction in the city dulled the charm for me a bit. But I'd still like to go back to explore the country's northern coast. It's on the list!

*due to COVID-19 Syster has closed permanently.*

All Iceland photos here.

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