48 Hours in Reykjavik – 4 Things to Do

Iceland’s small but perfectly formed capital, Reykjavik, is holistic heaven with plenty to feed the mind, body and soul…plus fun and plenty of Norse style! Words by Jennifer Newton – Lifestyle and Interiors Journalist.

For the mind: Immerse yourself in art 

Not just any converted warehouse-cum-gallery, the Höfuðstöðin Art and Culture Centre is the new permanent home for leading contemporary Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir (AKA Shoplifter).

Her monumental, large-scale installation Chromo Sapiens was featured at the 2019 Venice Biennale. This hypernatural environment is made from synthetic hair which equally shocks, overwhelms and finally soothes in its hirsute womb-like centre. It needs to be dwelled in and as the artist said, it’s an organism that goes home with you. You’ll see! hofudstodin.com

Not to be missed too – Erró at Reykjavik Art Museum – Hafnarhús. This is one museum but in three locations with Hafnarhús as the leading venue for contemporary art. Based in the old harbour in central Reykjavik this edgy warehouse was transformed into the home of the 2000+ works donated by Erró – a significant player in the international pop art scene. listasafnreykjavikur.is

For the body: Dip in geothermal waters 

Sky Lagoon is the latest geothermal spa, brand spanking new, luxurious but with all the traditions and health benefits that are core to Icelandic culture. Simply put this involves soaking and steaming in open-air style mineral-rich 38º C waters. It is said the minerals in the water detoxify the body, improve circulation, and ease arthritis.

These hot lagoons are in abundance in Iceland, however, Sky Lagoon (not to be confused with the older, more well-known Blue Lagoon) is located just a 10-minute drive from downtown Reykjavik, making it the city-break lagoon to experience par excellence.

The surprising bit? This seemingly natural demi-paradise is man-made but the sympathetic Scandi chic design of volcanic greys, moss greens and warm wood makes it seem anything but.

No detail has been forgotten – from the 50 luxurious private changing rooms to the moody café serving up-filling rustic meals, to the swim-to secret cave bar.

Many take a three-hour day package while others hanker to spend a whole day or evening there. Consider the Seven-Step Spa Ritual, based on traditional Icelandic bathing wellness and worth it just for the glass-fronted sauna sea views and cavernous cooling mist fog. And to finish? Re-enter the hot lagoon waters – take a slow swim, stroll or doggy paddle in the 75m infinity pool but end up at the cave lagoon bar! www.skylagoon.com

For the soul: Iceland Airwaves music festival

Whether rock, pop, indie, or folk is your thing, Iceland’s Airwaves has it. Not held since 2019 due to Covid, Airwaves is returning to Reykjavik, on 3-5 November for three days and nights of music and madness under the Northern Lights. And this being Iceland it doesn’t just happen in any old soulless venue – over 60 local and international artists will be performing in a host of bars, nightclubs, churches and even pool settings. Both Airwaves and Gay Pride started in 1999 and while Pride is Summer’s big party, where everyone is welcome regardless of sexuality, the same can be said for Airwaves in the Winter, making it Iceland’s inclusive go-to music festival, covering all genres and championing Icelandic artists. 

As a taster for 2022, artists include Combos; Marius DC; Nation of Language, Crack Cloud and the stimulatingly named Amyl & the Sniffers. Following in the twinkle-toed footsteps of the elfin Björk, homegrown Icelandic music abounds too from indie ice queen Sóley and jazz superstar Laufey to feelgood pop from Flott. Check out the full line-up at icelandairwaves.is

For fun and style: Stay in the old harbour

Most of the fishing and shipping companies have left the old harbour but the traditional brightly painted warehouses remain, transformed into designer boutiques, cafes, galleries and museums.  Indeed, the city’s tiny core focuses on the historic lanes near the old port and around the city’s thriving shopping district of Laugavegur street, which is moments from the port. Its setting is breathtaking, with sea and volcanic mountain views.

It’s from here you can grab a 3-hour whale-watching cruise – ignore the cold and spray from the deck, wet weather gear is provided and feel your heart skip a beat as you observe Humpback and Minke whales, Harbour Porpoises and White-Beaked Dolphins frolicking in the Icelandic surf. Book with Elding at www.elding.is

Back on terra firma, concealed within the old port, Edition Reykjavik is the latest in luxury spa hotels. Less than a year old, this lux hotel exploits spectacular views with floor-to-ceiling windows and Nordic-style rooms with draped furs, crisp whites, smokey greys and blond wood furniture. The panoramic rooftop bar takes in the 360º degree views and the nine-meter thermal plunge pool, Hammam and saunas are a testament to the healing, holistic power of this magical city that renews and re-energises the mind, body and soul. www.editionhotels.com/reykjavik

Return economy flights with Icelandair flying from Berlin to Keflavik are available from €315. Available at www.icelandair.com/de-de

Words by
Jennifer Newton – Lifestyle and Interiors Journalist.