Every village in Iceland with more than 100 inhabitants has a swimming pool, but Sundhöll Reykjavíkur on Barónsstígur is the most unforgettable. Opened in 1937 and built for 650,000 ISK, it was designed by state architect Guðjón Samúelsson, whose stunning Art Deco creations were once deemed ‘too dramatic’ for the Icelandic skyline. Thankfuly his work has now become the classic architectural style of the capital and this building had become a muse for the remarkable photographic mural by Roni Horn, Janus and Tinna’s underwater concerts in 2007 and a Gusgus’s movie.
Iceland’s swimming culture is vast and the popularity of the pastime is prominent in all of the venues, but the true experience at this pool in particular is in the changing room. Inspired by the countryside’s turf houses, the white arched, cavernous changing rooms and 30’s style locker system makes you feel like you’re lost in some kind of Grecian bath or Italian labyrinth.
The naturally filtered Icelandic water means low levels of chlorine but high levels of hygiene. Although this makes for a more relaxing swim, one must wash naked before getting in; a true test of confidence for naturally prudish British or American tourists.
The inside pool is large, cool and inviting with a high diving board where you can show off your athletic prowess by doing barrel-rolls. Outside in the open-air, the hot tubs are social and fun. You can sit in the water, stewing like a manatee at any time of year, making conversation or plotting world domination with the other inhabitants whilst the water spills over the entrance way steps like a waterfall. These little pools are even better in the winter and at night, the snow and rain making you feel even more cozy and warm, the steam evaporating like smoke up into the dark Icelandic sky. It’s an ideal aquatic venue for those in Iceland’s capital.
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