Street art might have, well, varying degrees of legality in Reykjavík, but the scene is so bright and lively that we sometimes choose to turn a blind eye to these artistic maybe-criminals. Checking out the murals that dot Reykjavík is one of the best free things you can do in the city. Here are some must-see pieces.
Guido van Helten murals
Two of Reykjavík’s largest and most well-known murals are a pair of towering photorealistic portraits by Dutch artist Guido van Helten. Located on buildings around the entrance to the Grandi harbour area, Guido’s paintings are striking large-scale images based on photographs of a local 1961 theatre production. They’re starting to deteriorate, so check them out while you can—and look out for more of Guido’s work dotted all around Iceland, from the Westman Islands to Akureyri. JR
One of the most-selfied pieces of street art in 101 is this large-scale cartoon of some kind of psychedelic cyclops-fish-bird emitting a tail of twisted wool in it’s surreal wake. If the Icelandic krútt music scene was a mural, this would be it. It was painted by Sara Riel, whose artwork adorns other walls around Reykjavík. Instagram it now, use it as experimental knitting inspo later. JR
“Ode To Mother”
Perhaps the most noticeable spot on Laugavegur is this Caratoes work that engulfs the whole building in a hallucinatory haze. Inspired by the song ‘Óður til Móður’ (‘Ode to Mother’) by Ylja, the mural was originally commissioned by the Iceland Airwaves festival in 2015. An acid trip of a view, the piece has everything from a hyper-realistic hand to scaley animalistic figures, all depicted in black and white with yellow accents. Freaky. HJC
The Selur One Series
Örn Tönsberg, better known as Selur One, is one of Reykjavík’s most prolific street artists. Over the years, his work has appeared and disappeared all over the city, adorning everything from the smoking area of Prikið to the much mourned Heart Park. Currently, you can pop by Laugavegur to observe his kaleidoscopic take on an eagle and trippy falcon, Vatnsstígur to gaze at a lovable cat, the Woolcano store to stare at some sheep, and stop at Hafnarstræti to ooh at his ‘Northern Lights’ collaboration, which—after its creation in 2003—has begun to tarnish. Most recently, he added a fiery cuckoo above the staircase of alt-haunt Gaukurinn. HJC
Brauð og Co.
If you’ve always wanted to take magic mushrooms but can’t afford ‘em, stop by this beloved bakery for not only a delightful croissant, but also a journey into some sort of rainbow paisley hippie dream world. Yes, the entire front of Brauð & Co. is covered in a mirage of phantasmagorica craziness. Drop by and grab a pic—no filter needed. HJC
That Flying Unicorn
Reykjavík Pride might be in August, but you can stay rainbow all year long with Lora Zombie’s iconic Suðurgata mural. Also commissioned for Iceland Airwaves, but in 2016, this fabulous unicorn has since become emblematic of Reykjavík’s queer scene. Flying high over the city, it’s basically Lisa Frank in space, but a unicorn. Hey, when in doubt, freak ‘em out. HJC
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