Guest post by Alison Bailey
Reykjavik was the June destination of the Flybe inaugural flight from Birmingham, providing my first taste of Iceland. Before leaving, I took the opportunity to walk around Reykjavík, to explore the city, and enjoy some of the cultural institutions. Safe to say I’m impressed.
Reykjavík is unlike any other city I have visited, it is certainly unique, and that is part of its charm. The Icelandic capital, is rich in culture, arts and activities, and the country has culture all of its own. Partly due to its isolation, developing in the harsh climate of the North Atlantic, and under the constant threat of erupting volcanoes.
The Icelandic people are an incredibly resolute people, possibly due to their Viking heritage. They are also more in harmony with their natural surroundings than many nations. They not only take harsh winters, and volcanic eruptions in their stride, but embrace their environment; harnessing this geothermal activity to heat, and light their towns, and cities.
Reykjavík is an interesting city to explore on foot. The main street runs through the city centre is only a mile long, and it is perfect for a morning, or even a day of just wandering, browsing and exploring. Taking a few detours down the side streets, which feed off it. There are also free walking tours available, though reduced in winter, so checking the schedule before arrival is recommended.
Architecturally, it is an interesting city with traditional, often colourful painted buildings beside modern buildings, and the colour palate is very Scandinavian, perhaps a throw back to the links Iceland once had with Norway.
Something you won’t find in the city centre of Reykjavík are multinational chain stores. Sure, there are a couple, but these are confined to the outer limits. This in an Icelandic city, and the impression is that the residents intend to keep it that way, and not be invaded by ‘brand landmarks, like the golden arches. Indeed McDonalds did try to open a store in the city, but it closed due to lack of business. It’s just not what Reykjavík is about.
Instead Reykjavík is about Icelandic culture, it is about vibrant street art, Nordic produce, cafes, independent clothing, and footwear stores, bakeries, jewellers, bookstores, and music shops. It’s a proper traditional high street with a distinctly unique Icelandic style!
The sun goes down very early in the winter months, yet hardly at all in summer…. it is odd wandering around in full daylight at past 1am! When it does, the people of Reykjavík head indoors, at least until it is time to go out. Icelanders like to party, and enjoy a good laugh over a few local beers.
The lighting is daylight balanced to make up for the lack of sunlight in winter months, and provided by the geothermal power plant just outside the city. Renewable energy at its very best!
There is a wide range of accommodation available, options to suit any budget, or style choice. There are 5 star campsites, numerous quality hostels, guest houses, apartments, farms, city centre hotels, and spa resorts. There really is something for everyone, and Visit Reykjavík is an excellent resource, clear, with simple navigation, and plenty of choice.
This is a harbour city, and the docks at the bottom of the main street is home to the shiny new Harpa concert, and conference centre. It is a stunning piece of architecture, that would grace any major European city. Interestingly, the architects have used the space well, instead of merely devoting it to the arts or business, it has real benefit to the community, becoming a hub.
While the centre is capable of holding large concerts,and conferences, it is also home to two restaurants, and shops, one which specialises in Icelandic music, and other Nordic specific gifts. It’s an ideal meeting place, regardless of whether there are two or ten, settle on a sofa, or round a table, and enjoy a natter over coffee. It also provides a fabulous setting for a workspace, or to just admire the views of the harbour, and watch the ships come and go. A great example of how to build a centre attractive to multinational conferences, and a community hub for everybody in Reykjavík.
This is what I really loved about the city, it is inclusive, designed, and developed with people, not conglomerates in mind. That is an achievement, as Visit Reykjavík states; “Hip and Wholesome”, and without the stress that is usually apparent in other capital cities.
About Alison Bailey
I started as a photographer at the tender age of three when my Dad gave me my first camera, a Kodak Brownie. I crawled around ‘taking pictures’ of everything, even though there wasn’t any film, and I’ve been taking pictures ever since.
I’ve worked as a Lab Technician specialising in Pathology to the promised land of Olympus cameras, and even a spell in law enforcement. I’ve returned to my first love now however, specialising in wedding photography. I predominantly use digital today, but the traditionalist in me still loves film, and the skills required to develop it.
* All photography by Alison Bailey, © Copyright of BaileyPhotography 2014
Want to know more about Reykjavík, and Iceland, it’s all here