Best Pool: Laugardalslaug
Oh, we know, we know! Everyone has such strong opinions about their local pool and fights for their sundlaug to the death, so people generally furious and defensive about this category. Through all the myriad opinions and local favouritisms, Laugardalslaug still manages to shine through like a beacon of watery pool goodness, especially since their extensive revamp that’s still in process. This pool literally has it all – fun and games, relaxation and leisure, exercise pools, therapeutic hot tubs and sports facilities. This place is so iconic, too; a must-go for any visitor.
Best Museum: The National Museum
There are so many curiosities about Icelandic culture, art and history that have been focused on in other museums around town, but this one has neatly condensed it all into one awesome building. We were totally on board to give it this honour as it’s one of those places that kind of blends into the landscape, but when you go for a visit, you remember how fucking cool this country is. The permanent collection is impeccably displayed and is full of hidden gems (look up, look down) and their temporary exhibits are state of the art. Plus, they turned 150 this year! Top THAT!
2012: Reykjavík Art Museum
2011: Einar Jónsson
2010: Reykjavík Art Museum
2009: Einar Jónsson
Best Gallery: i8 Gallery
In terms of the sheer level of success and popularity of a gallery’s artists, i8 is unquestionably leagues beyond the rest. They represent people like ólafur Elíasson, Ragnar Kjartansson, Elín Hansdóttir and Sigurður Guðmundsson consistently display work from top-notch international artists as well. Their space alone is great, being simple, stark and spacious, allowing the exhibitions to be unimpeded by structural bells and whistles. Plus, going to an opening there makes you feel so fucking fancy!
2012: i8 Gallery
2011: i8 Gallery
2010: i8 Gallery
2009: Gallery Kling og Bang
Best Place to Spend Time with Kids: Fjölskyldugarðurinn (The Family Park)
Nestled right in the same spot as our Best Place to Cheer Up (The Zoo), is another super uplifting, fun place that is pretty much unbeatable for entertaining the kiddies. Whether with your own or babysitting someone else’s, this activity park in Laugardalur is chock full of fun shit to do: a mega-huge trampoline to bounce on, little go-kart dealies for kids to speed around in, a small rollercoaster for thrills and a generally awesome playground. If your kids aren’t smiling when they leave here, you need to take them to the doctor.
2012: Lynghagaróló Playground
Best Place to Spend A Rainy Day: Reykjavík Art Museum – Hafnarhús
This was hard to settle on because, obviously, there are a fuckload of rainy days here and “on my couch watching movies!” wasn’t a valid contender (although that is one of our favourites). We had to agree that if you had to be out of a rainy day, you’d want to be dry, have lots to do and maybe be able to get some refreshments, all under one roof. Our winner is one of those places that you basically want a minimum of three hours in to take in the vast exhibits and permanent collection by Erró. Meanwhile, you can also sit and read about art in their little library or go upstairs for a coffee and light lunch. Bring on the rain!
2012: Bíó Paradís
2011: Bíó Paradís
2010: A hot tub
Best Place To Spend A Sunny Day: Nauthólsvík
You probably didn’t come to Iceland to hang out at the beach. You probably would have picked a tropical island if that’s what you were after. That said, Nauthóvísk is a pretty awesome beach and it’s probably the best place to spend a sunny day. The water is warm thanks to the hot geothermal water that gets pumped into the ocean and the sand was apparently imported from Morocco. There’s also a great beachfront hot tub there if it’s getting chilly.
Best Biking Tour: Nauthólsvík – Árbær
Nauthólsvík – Árbær
The City of Reykjavík is about pour money into maintenance that includes sprucing up streets, bike routes, and public spaces before the year is out. This promises good things for those of who like to get around by bike, as Reykjavík isn’t the most bike-friendly of towns. Still, there are some nice places to go for a ride and one of these is a ride that starts at Nauthólsvík and takes you into Fossvogsdalur and up to Árbær. It’s basically the same Best Biking Tour as last year, but this one goes even further, up to the swimming pool. It’s a good one. Bring your bathing suit. Even if you don’t top it off with that swim, it’s a pleasant ride mostly along the coast and you hardly ever have to cross any streets.
2012: Nauthólsvík – Fossvogsdalur
NEW: Best Place to go to a Movie: Bíó Paradís
Bíó Paradís is hands down the best place to go to a movie. This art house theatre always seems to have something exciting going on with regular festivals all year round. During the summer they have a series called ‘Cool Cuts,’ featuring six Icelandic films show with English subtitles. This summer they are showing ‘White Night Wedding,’ Sigur Rós’ ‘Heima,’ ‘Children of Nature,’ ‘Either Way,’ ‘Backyard,’ and ‘Noi the Albino’ (read a review of this one elsewhere in the issue). The theatre also has a huge room with tables where you can drink coffee or beer and play games or catch the occasional concert.
Best Romantic Walk: Grótta
There are really few walks as romantic as the one to Grótta. An island at the end of Seltjarnarnes, Grótta is easily reachable by foot. As you get further away from downtown Reykjavík, you won’t have anything to distract you from appreciating each other’s company (save for other romantic couples maybe). DO NOTE: The island is only reachable when the tide is low, so watch your step lest you get trapped by the lighthouse (and wouldn’t that be inconvenient? Being trapped on a beautiful remote island with your lover…hmm…).
Best Place To Go For A Jog: Ægissíða
Once again we’ve voted Ægissíða best place to go for a jog. With the ocean on one side and beautiful houses on the other, this coastal path in 107 ReykjavÃík is hard to beat. If you’re not super hardcore about your workout, you can stop along the way to admire the old fishing station there and read the information placards about the area and its history. And, like we said last year, if you’re feeling really good, you can run all the way to Nauthólsvík and take a dip in the hot tub. See: “Best Place To Spend A Sunny Day.”
Runner-up: Laugardalur, with its tree-lined paths and footbridges, is also a good option, especially if it’s a windy day and you don’t like the wind.
Best Place To Enjoy A Zen Moment: Tjörnin
It’s a common saying in zen practice to “keep your mind like calm water.” Since that is exactly what Tjörnin (“The pond”) is (except on some of the most astonishingly windy days), it’s the perfect spot to accept what is and feel relaxed and at peace. Those ducks know what we’re talking about.
2009: ReykjavÃk Botanical Gardens
NEW: Best Shock-Walk: 5:00 in the morning on Laugavegur
If you’re looking to be dragged into the throes of both utter disgust and complete amazement, try to stay lucid enough on a weekend night out to catch the revelry of the post-closing time parade on the main drag. A few things we’ve witnessed: people vomiting over their shoulder as they stumble-walk, girls hiking their skirts up and literally pissing in the middle of the sidewalk, two obvious strangers approaching and making out within 20 seconds, the list goes on. Maybe this is a bit of a no-brainer, but we still think Laugavegur at 5 AM is a sight to behold.
Best Place To Cheer Up: Húsdýragarðurinn
Another third time winner, ReykjavÃk’s petting zoo is just perfect if you’ve got a terminal case of the blues. There are few things as uplifting as watching the baby seal cubs swimming around in their massive pool, or watching those adorable lambs take their first shaky steps on the green meadows. If you’ve got a dark sense of humour, you can also cheer up over the fact that at the end of summer the seal cubs get fed to the foxes, and members of the staff eat the oh-so tender lambs.
2012: Reykjavík’s pond “Tjörnin”
Best Place To Read A Book: Stofan
If your living room isn’t good enough, Stofan is really the next best thing with its vintage parlour décor antique furniture that cradles you like a hug, mix-and-match wall hangings and unobtrusive music picked by the warm and lovely staff. It’s the ideal spot to really plow through those last chapters of that novel you can’t put down, whether its by day with their great coffee or by night with their even better whisky selection. Our book-reading, whisky sipping contingent gave this one out hands-down.
NEW: Best Day Trip from Reykjavík: Reykjadalur
Less than an hour’s drive away, the road takes a massive curve down to the southern lowlands and into the geothermal area of Hveragerðí. Here is one the closest and easiest places to escape to for a beautiful hike and a swim in a natural hot spring when you reach the end. This incited us to wholeheartedly declare this the best day (or night!) trip, given its proximity, ease and enjoyability. Plus, a bunch of bus companies organise tours now, so it’s as easy to go on your own or by public transport.
NEW: Best People-Watching Spot: The booths at Hressó
Okay, okay we admit it – we’ve given Hressó a lot of flak over the years! It was mostly about how much Nickelback they played, but we can’t deny that we kind of love that place. It’s charming and entertaining, and has the unquestionable best spot to spy on passersby in the form of the booths in the window that skirts Austurstræti. Get there early to watch your acquaintances and enemies drag their asses to work (or do the walk of shame), or head there after work to feast on the evening’s brewing debauchery.
NEW: Best Graveyard to Hangout In: Hólavallagarður Cemetery
Hanging out in cemeteries isn’t just for goths anymore! On a tangent discussion from another best of category, we suddenly realised that, holy shit, we LOVE hanging out in graveyards! Especially this one, which is actually full of vitality: plants grow abundantly from the graves creating one of the few places in town with a full canopy. It’s also crawling with neighbourhood cats, who accost people for cuddles and sit on headstones to lick their butts. Insert some platitude about life and death here!
NEW: Best Cheap Thrill: The City Library
This was a really strong winner as the library is not only a thrilling adventure of knowledge, but it’s also as cheap as you can get-free (lateness fees not included)! You can only take items out if you are a registered resident of the city, but everyone is welcome to browse, dawdle, skim, analyse and delve deeply into their vast collection of books of all types, in several different languages. There’s also a great AV collection, particularly for Icelandophiles, and the Reykjavík Museum of Photography is on the top floor. We told you so.
NEW: Best Walking Tour: Reykjavík Haunted Walk
Reykjavík Haunted Walk
With tourism booming, we’ve noticed a bunch of new walking tours in town. While most of them focus on a city’s notable sights, the Haunted Walk is more concerned with Reykjavík’s notable frights. Combining historical research, supernatural hearsay and a healthy dose of scepticism, this tour cannot guarantee you will see a ghost, but you will certainly walk away from it knowing more about dark Icelandic humour and Reykjavík’s unofficial history.
Book your day tours in Iceland right here!