After the epic South Iceland adventure and two full days filled with an exhausting schedule (read more here, here and here), it was time to relax. And what better city to do it in than in chill Reykjavik?
Since I had already explored it during my stay in April 2015, I knew what sites I wanted to check out (again) and which ones I needn’t see another time.
Where to Relax:
My first stop was the Laugardalslaug pool on my first full day. Although the Blue Lagoon had been pretty epic and hardly able to be topped, this one was a bit different, as it was a public swimming pool. It was also much cheaper, with $9 entry, and had 4-6 different hot tubs to choose from. Each with varying temperatures ranging from 35C to 45C. Of course there was also a 3C ice tub, which was meant for anyone feeling tough and willing to jump into it before or after the hot tubes. Keep in mind that the temperature outside was still a freezing -5C (feeling like -10C thanks to wind chill and winter).
Laugardalslaug was only a 30 minute footwalk from my accommodation and I got to see a pretty industrial side to Reykjavik while walking towards it. The pools themselves were not overly crowded, despite it being a Sunday, but perhaps Reykjavik in general is not an overly crowded city.
As you might have seen in different reviews, I can only confirm your
worst fears. Yes, you will be fully naked when showering in front of other people. Of course the ladies’ and gents’ rooms are separated but there is pretty much no curtain in between showers once in the ladies’ room. I think the amount of naked 70-year-old Icelandic women I saw traipsing over the place certainly sensitized me to the issue and in the end I felt I did not need to see another naked old woman without pre-warning. But it’s not the biggest deal around, although it can be a bit awkward (even for the culturally open European I believe myself to be). You are not required to be naked in the sauna area (we aren’t in Scandinavia after all), so you can keep your bathing suits on there.
Overall, my Sunday after the tour was superbly relaxing and just what I had needed. I did decide against brunch, though, as the overall issue of food being unreasonably high priced had kind of gotten to me in the previous three days.
Where to Eat:
Keep in mind that food is certainly the most expensive factor during this entire trip. You are able to have a reasonably priced hotel or hostel room. But eventually you have to eat, and that’s where this island gets you. Although I heard the prices are quite similar to Scandinavia, so perhaps it’s their
bad influence which is driving up the prices.
The cheapest meal I found during my stay was a cute Vietnamese place called The Noodle Station on Laugavegur 86. Here you can get a noodle soup for less than $10 (if you’re vegetarian like me, it’s only 8 bucks. Sometimes it pays off to not eat meat!). There are different flavors and altogether it can keep you full for half a day.
Other than that, I was simply not impressed. I recall buying a simply Salmon Panini sandwich at a random café and paying the equivalent of $12 for it. In addition to $4 fries, which tasted quite mediocre.
Luckily I found this neat place called Svarta Kaffid, which offered a $16 soup during lunch time. But not any type of soup. It was served in a bread bowl and one of the best meals I tasted during the week-long stay. You can decide between two different types of dishes (one vegetarian and one lamb/beef-based). I was also pretty much stuffed for the better part of the day, and that was great since I was not planning on spending my entire savings on restaurants.
Good coffee was had around Hallgrimskirkja. Reykjavik Roasters is a short distance from this iconic church and one morning I ended up here, desperately craving caffeine. Although it took forever to finally get that cappuccino, I was happy once I had it because it finally tasted like decent coffee and the price was fair, too.
Where to Stay:
I stayed in Hlemmur Square, which is a great hostel (and also offers private rooms). I met the nicest solo girl travelers I could have wished for and we excitedly exchanged stories after every fun-packed tour day we had just conquered.
“Have you gone horse-back-riding at Laxnes Horse Farm yet?” one Namibian girl (who strangely enough spoke excellent German) asked me? Of course, and I was able to tell her all about it. Another Australian girl had befriended an Icelandic boy and she was describing a superbly amazing light show of northern lights at one point during her stay. I also met a girl from Missouri with an interesting story. She worked at REI and had the trip sponsored for (in return of her posting pictures online). What an amazing way to see bits and pieces of the world. I hope eventually someone will pay me to go on travels for them (fingers crossed).