Best pool: Laugardalslaug
Swimming is a favourite pastime in Iceland. Most towns around the country have a swimming pool and Reykjavík has seven of them. They do in fact all have their charm, but we think it’s safe to call Laugardalslaug the best pool. Why? Because it’s huge, it has a bunch of hot tubs at varying temperatures, it has a killer waterslide and the stadium seating blocks out the cold northerly winds, which are usually accompanied by sunny rays. Not to mention, it was just remodelled this past winter.
Note: we used to have two pool categories, “Best all around pool” and “Best pool for hot tubbing and lounging.” We’re now simply going with Best Pool. Why? Because we made Sundhöllin, the oldest pool in Reykjavík, a NEW institution.
(2011: Neslaug, 2010: Laugardalslaug, 2009: Laugardalslaug)
Best art museum: Reykjavík Art Museum
The Reykjavík Art Museum at Hafnarhús has had a great year, hosting some intriguing and thought-provoking displays from premier league artists as well as up-and-comers from the artworld’s underbelly. The permanent exhibit of Erró’s works is “mind-blowing,” and by making themselves open and available to the public by hosting various parties and events, they ensure a steady dialogue with the local community. Add to that the constant lectures and workshops on offer and you’ve got yourself a pretty vibrant art museum. Good work, Reykjavík Art Museum, keep it up!
(2011: Einar Jónsson museum and sculpture garden, 2010: Reykjavík Art Museum, 2009: Einar Jónsson museum and sculpture garden)
Best gallery: i8 Gallery
While we would love being all innovative and awarding ‘best gallery’ to a fresh, whippersnapping up-and-comer art gallery that’s ready to take on the art world with its edgy art and happening happenings, it just so happens that i8 is still way ahead of the rest of Reykjavík’s pack. Where are all the galleries from four years ago? Someone challenge i8, please!
Runner-up: Gallery Kling og Bang often hosts great shows and remains a must-visit for the curious art lover perusing downtown Reykjavík.
(2011: i8 Gallery, 2010: i8 Gallery, 2009: Gallery Kling og Bang)
Best museum: The National Museum
We think The National Museum is kicking ass. It’s Iceland’s largest museum and it covers everything from the Sagas to a Gameboy from the ‘90s. Well, not really, but you get the point. “A few years ago they changed everything up and there is a beautiful opaque cube in the middle and the exhibits are beautifully displayed along the walls,” one of our writers reasoned. “I really appreciate the curating over the last three years, like the fashion exhibit Tízka, that was pretty awesome.”
Runners-up: Penis Museum (It moved to Reykjavík from Húsavík this winter and it apparently has a lot of people excited), Icelandic Natural History Museum (That one is sitting in cardboard boxes in a basement somewhere, but we wish someone would unpack it!).
(2011: National Museum, 2010: Þjóðmenningarhús)
Best place to spend a rainy day: Bíó Paradís
It was a close race between the swimming pool/hot tub and Bíó Paradís, but after much back and forth we decided that the movie theatre is once again the place to be on a rainy day. Why? There are lots of movies. They have a huge area with tables and couches to hang out. They have games. They have beer. They have popcorn. And they don’t just have movies. They tend to have a unique selection of films that you can’t see at the chain theatres around town. We’re also pretty happy that the art house theatre is still in business. Read more on page 44.
(2011: Bíó Paradís, 2010: A hot tub, 2009: Borgarbókasafnið)
Best place to spend a sunny day: Hjartagarðurinn
Icelanders like to soak up the sun as much as possible. Coffeehouses spill out onto the streets where people hang out drinking coffee or beer. One such place is Austurvöllur. You’ll see a lot of people hanging out on the grass, but perhaps it’s become overrun? “There are too many people at Austurvöllur, too many people playing guitar and singing Bubbi songs,” someone noted. “Hjartagarðurinn with its shabby, Christiania-like vibe is nice. They also have DJs there and you can bring beer from a nearby establishment.” Read more about it on page 44.
(New Category: Perhaps we never thought it was sunny enough to do this one)
Best biking tour: Nauthólsvík – Fossvogsdalur
Reykjavík is not a particularly bike-friendly city. It’s most definitely a car city. Still, there are some nice places to bike and one of these is a ride that starts at Nauthólsvík and takes you into Fossvogsdalur. There’s a bike path along the coast most of the way so you don’t have to compete with the cars or pedestrians. It’s scenic and it’s a good work out. The weather also tends to be a bit nicer in Fossvogur, perhaps because it is a valley (for better directions and more information see page 18).
Best romantic walk: Grótta
Grótta is a tiny island on the outskirts of Seltjarnarnes that’s only properly accessible during low tide and is the perfect place to watch sunsets during summer and aurora in winter. The island with its lighthouse positively oozes romance, and a walk there from downtown Reykjavík (around five kilometres each way) is very possibly the most romantic thing you can get up to in the city. This is doubly so if you use the opportunity to take a cosy foot bath in Ólöf Nordal’s sculpture ‘Kvika,’ which is located on your right side as you near the island on the path parallel to Norðurströnd. Pack a lunch and immerse yourself in the salty sea air.
(2011: Grasagarðurinn , 2010: Sæbraut, 2009: Öskjuhlíð)
Best Place to go for a jog: Ægissíða
Last year Laugardalur was the best place to go for a jog and it’s without a doubt still a nice place with its various paths sheltered from the wind. This year one us remarked: “I’m just amazed that you people jog.” The rest of us joggers or pretend-joggers are most into Ægissíða, which runs along the coast in 107 Reykjavík. It’s hard to beat running by the ocean with the nice salty sea breeze. While it can get windy by the ocean, we decided that wind resistance is good training. It’s a beautiful, windy path that takes you past a famous person’s house, an old fishing station and football fields. And if you’re feeling really good, you can run all the way to Nauthólsvík and take a dip in the hot tub.
Runner-up: Elliðaárdalur for the bunnies.
(2011: Laugardalur, 2010: Laugardalur, 2009: Elliðaárdalur)
Best place to go fishing: Elliðaárdalur
Elliðaárdalur valley is a beautiful haven within Reykjavík’s city limits, perfect for long walks on bright summer nights. It is also is home to Elliðaá river, where you can catch trout (from May 1 – June 15) or salmon (June 20 – August 31) in a beautiful, peaceful location accessible by bus or bike. Just remember to acquaint yourself with the river’s rules and acquire a permit before you start reeling ‘em in.
(2011: Reykjavík harbour, 2010: Reykjavík harbour, 2009: Elliðaárdalur)
Best place to enjoy a Zen moment: Deep inside Öskjuhlíð
We have long found that taking long, aimless strolls through the hills and forests (!) of Öskjuhlíð is the perfect method to clear the mind and spirit.
(2011: Húsdýragarðurinn, 2010: Alþingi, 2009: Reykjavík Botanical Gardens)
Best place to cheer up: The Pond
While it was a refreshing swim at Nauthólsvík last year, we decided on Reykjavík’s pond “Tjörnin” this time. We thought: “What’s a good all-year-round place to cheer up? People need to be able to cheer up in the winter too.” And that ruled out swimming in Nauthólsvík. “But the pond!” someone exclaimed. “You can go ice skating there in the winter when it’s a real winter wonderland, and then you can always feed the ducks.” Seconding that, someone wrote us: “Feed the ducks at the pond because they’re funny and there’s always some over excited chubby cheeked kid to cheer you up.”
(2011: Nauthólsvík, 2010: Húsdýragarðurinn, 2009: Húsdýragarðurinn)
Best place to read a book: Stofan
There are a bunch of nice places to read a book, but many of them are weather-dependent and relying on the weather is risky at best. If it’s sunny we agree that the botanical garden is a pretty nice, quiet place to read. You can find a spot there sheltered from the wind, but if it’s cold and rainy, you probably don’t want to be outside. That’s why we decided to go with Stofan, a cosy café with comfortable couches. It feels super homey, like grandma’s house homey, and it’s typically pretty quiet.
Best place to spend outdoor time with kids: The Lynghagaróló playground
There are many public playgrounds (“róló”) in Reykjavík—especially in the older, more established neighbourhoods—and all of them bear a distinct charm that reflects their surrounding areas and inhabitants (save for a couple of really run down ones). They usually feature any number of swing sets, seesaws, slides and sandboxes along with anything else the caretakers can think of that will entertain the local children. One such playground is Lynghagaróló by Lynghagi in vesturbær. More than one of our advisors insisted we mention them in this newfangled category, as it is “impeccably maintained by a group of passionate neighbours,” and is “the perfect place to spend a sunny day with your kids and other parents.”
Best daytrip via public transport: Mosfellsbær and Esja
Reykjavík’s bus system sometimes gets a bad rap, but it can still take you to some pretty great places at a minimal cost. You can for instance ride a bus straight to the roots of majestic Mt. Esja and hike a number of paths to the top for a stunning view of Reykjavík. If you’ve time to spare after the hike, why not take the bus back and exit in Mosfellsbær, where you can wander around the quaint Álafosskvos (where Sigur Rós keep their studio) and from there take in the rest of the town’s various attractions by foot. Mosfellsbær’s bakery and swimming pool both come highly recommended. When you’re all done, simply take the bus back to civilization. More info on www.bus.is