Published August 15, 2008
If you’re like me, a new arrival to Reykjavík, the free walking tour that leaves from the tourist info centre on Aðalstræti is worth the time. It helped me get my bearings around town and was loaded with important cultural and historical facts, for example, I now know that Iceland was once famous for breeding the world’s best hunting hawks.
At two-plus hours, the walk around town at times felt a bit long. It promised to cover all the main sights of Reykjavík, which it did, but it could easily have accomplished this in an hour. However, tour guide Jónas Freydal’s blunt, savvy and often subversive observations about sex and politics in Iceland made for a tour that was as entertaining as it was informative.
Freydal was quick to mention that the tour has no sponsor (i.e. there would be no two-for-one coupons to substandard restaurants or shameless promotions of chintzy gift shops,) which was a refreshing new take on the word free. Instead, he gave away valuable local secrets such as where to get cheap souvenirs and the best place to buy used wool sweaters. He also pointed out local shops and encouraged us to stay away from tourist traps.
This made the experience feel more like a local friend showing us around rather than a tour guide. Highlights included a look at the oldest house in Reykjavík, a stop at a graveyard—now covered in pavement in the city centre, and a nice view of Tjörnin pond.
While the sights were a great way to be introduced to the city, Jonas’s personal touches made the tour unique. He compared the more dreary sections of the city’s architecture to “a bad day in Eastern Europe,” told us where to find “necro-pants” (trousers made from stripping the skin of a man’s lower half including testicles, in order to obtain his luck,) and a added taste of his own personal theology.
If you like free things and you want to be let in on little of the city’s more interesting secrets, then this tour is for you.