So when we weren’t exploring the Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle, we spent most of our time in Reykjavik just walking around. Thursday night, when we checked into our hostel, we met some people in our dorm. We explained that we were scheduled to do a Northern Lights tour on Friday, but were going to go out by ourselves Thursday and try and catch them. Because of the light in Reykjavik from the city, you have to travel outside of the city to see them. It also has to be clear skies of clouds. One of the boys in our dorm, Paul, said he’d been there for a week and would show us where he saw them if we didn’t mind him tagging along.
It wasn’t quite dark yet, so we walked around the city for a bit. Reykjavik is actually the only city in Iceland, but it is still incredibly small, it feels like more of a town than a city. Reykjavik has a lot of street art, so we explored that and saw Hallgrimskirkja, a beautiful church in Reykjavik and the tallest building in the city. We ate dinner at a little restaurant and I had the best chicken nachos I’ve ever had. This is where we quickly realized eating in Iceland is expensive. We tried to eat as cheaply as possible the whole time, but its pretty difficult to find a meal less than $15-20 and drinks are usually at least $12. After dinner, Paul took us on a bus to a lighthouse outside the city. It was right next to a sea and it was dark, and the whole time I thought to myself “we are walking with a stranger alone at night, this is everything my mom told me not to do when I went abroad.” Obviously, we trusted Paul and he was a great guide, but I laughed the whole time because we were basically breaking every rule for girls going abroad (which I do not encourage, but we were desperate to see the Northern Lights). Unfortunately, it was too cloudy and rainy that we didn’t see the Northern Lights that night. But as we were standing seaside next to the lighthouse in Iceland late at night under the stars, it was easy to forget my disappointment because what we were doing was already amazing enough.
Friday, we spent most of the day on the Golden Circle tour. We were supposed to go on a Northern Lights tour that night, but it got cancelled because of the weather. At this point we had pretty much accepted that we weren’t going to see them because we were supposed to fly out Saturday night. We went to Iceland for the Northern Lights, so we were pretty bummed but we all agreed the trip itself was still awesome and totally worth it. So we went to a Philological museum and ate some overpriced crepes to make up for it before heading back to the hostel. When we got there, the downstairs bar was pretty crowded and we didn’t want to miss out on the fun. So naturally we went upstairs, changed into our pajamas, and came back downstairs to hangout, ha. We had so much fun conversing with the locals and playing games in a warm, dry setting.
Saturday was our day to explore Reykjavik a lot more. I spent quite some time online making a list of things to do and see. The Google Maps app has a feature where you can map multiple destinations and customize your route, so we were able to walk the city and see most of it in a day before our flight later that night.
We started by walking back up to Hallgrimskirkja because we wanted to go inside. It cost $8 (tip: pay in the currency of the country, usually the conversion rate is cheaper) to go to the top of the tower. We definitely recommend doing this, the view is beautiful.
Right across the street is Einar Jonsson Sculpture Garden. It cost to go inside the museum so we decided to skip it, but we did see the sculptures outside which is free.
Throughout our walk, there was street art everywhere. The buildings all have intricate artwork covering them, there are sculptures lining the streets, and the sidewalks are decorated.
We then walked to Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík church. The inside was closed but we took some pictures on the outside, and its in front of a beautiful pond with cute houses lining the bank. This is also right next to Reykjavik City Hall which has beautiful architecture.
The National Gallery of Iceland wasn’t on our list, but it was right next to the church and it was warm, so we decided to walk in. It cost $8 with a student ID and the art was really cool. They had a classical music concert going on while we were there so we were able to stop and listen to a song.
After the gallery we walked to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a famous hot dog stand in Iceland. When we walked up, there was a line of people, probably because its the only thing in Iceland for less than $5. This was our cheapest meal, at only $4 and it was actually so good. The hotdogs come with ketchup, mayo, mustard, and onions.
We then walked over to the Harpa Concert Hall, which is one of the coolest looking buildings in the city. And this is right next to the Sun Voyager sculpture.
We also explored Laugavuer Street, which has a lot of street art, shopping, and restaurant! The fries at Reykjavik Chips are delicious!
After we walked this loop, we were back at our hostel. We grabbed our luggage and took a cab over to the Perlan Museum. This was one of our favorite things we did and we actually wished we had allotted more time. It does cost about $30 to get in, but they have an interactive Northern Lights display, a glacier replica (with real ice) you can go through, and a glass dome with a beautiful view of the city. Since we didn’t get to see the Northern Lights, we took a bunch of pictures in the interactive one in the museum and posted them on our stories, catfishing everyone like we were there. I got a text from my mom that she almost cried when she saw I got to see them, to which I had to explain it was fake, ha.
We took a bus we booked on Get your Guide from the city to the airport to catch our flight at 8pm. We had pretty much moved on from the fact that we weren’t going to see the Northern Lights. Miraculously, when we were on our flight, everyone was stirring and I wasn’t really sure what was going on, I looked to my left and it was the Northern Lights. I got SO lucky and I had the window seat on the side facing the lights, so I had the best view. Everyone was so excited because it had been bad weather all week so this was most everyones first time seeing them. They are amazing and it was an incredible end to our trip.