Our last Iceland blog post from our grand 2.5 week journey around the country ends in the country’s capital and largest city – Reykjavik. We saved Reykjavik for last since it’s not too far from the airport and we had visited it on our last trip back in January. However, our last visit was only 2 hours, and now we were staying for 2 nights. We couldn’t wait to finally see more of what Reykjavik has to offer.
Turns out, 2 nights is surprisingly not enough to see all of Reykjavik. You could easily spend up to a week in this city, especially with a group of friends. There’s so much to see, do, and eat in Iceland’s capital despite the city being about 5 times smaller than where we live in Los Angeles. So after checking out of Hotel Rangá, we headed west for our final stop in Reykjavik.
We dropped our bags off at our first hotel during our visit, Reykjavik Residence Hotel. This hotel hosted the only king and queen of Iceland, King Christian X and Queen Alexandrine of Denmark, on their royal tour of Iceland in 1926. You can even stay in the same suites they did (sadly, the suites were already booked out during our stay)! After geeking out about the royal history of Iceland, we then hopped in a cab and headed to Kaffivagninn.
Kaffivagninn is located harborside and was the perfect spot for a yummy lunch of Danish smørrebrød (open faced sandwiches). I was so happy to find a place offering Danish food, although Icelandic is not really all that much different. After lunch by the water, we decided to walk around the city. It wasn’t really that cold and the city was already decorated for Christmas in early November, so I wanted to relish in all of it!
For our first night in Reykjavik, we dined at Messinn. I wasn’t ready to give up eating incredibly delicious Icelandic seafood, and Messinn did not disappoint. They were incredibly busy and full of Icelanders, which is always a good sign. We even saw the hostess have to turn people away if they did not have a reservation, so make sure you make one! We opted to share a bunch of different plates to be able to try as much as we could.
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For the main course, we split a salted cod which came served in its frying pan along with fresh vegetables and potatoes. It was sinfully good and a great way to end our first day in Reykjavik.
The next morning, we did some more sightseeing before we would be checking into our next hotel, Tower Suites Reykjavik. We headed to one of our favorite spots in the city for breakfast – Reykjavik Roasters. It’s such a unique little coffee shop not far from the famous Hallgrimskirkja church. You can sip your coffee (or in my case, hot chocolate) and munch on chocolate croissants while watching them grind and roast fresh coffee beans. It’s a bit mesmerizing actually!
After breakfast, we returned to Hallgrimskirkja once again. We visited this church on our last trip, but there was no way we were going to skip it this time. The view from the top makes it absolutely worth it. You really feel like belting, “I’m the King/Queen of the World!” like Jack Dawson in Titanic while up there. At the top, you can see out for miles. For a few minutes, I witnessed some Air Iceland Connect planes landing and taking off from Reykjavik’s city airport nearby. We could also see our next hotel from the top, as it’s in the tallest building in all of Reykjavik (and probably all of Iceland!).
After we came back down to the ground, we wandered the streets of Reykjavik some more before dipping into Snaps for lunch. I was craving a good French onion soup and French rosé (rosé wine from France tends to be drier than anywhere else which is what I prefer), so I knew this cute little French bistro would be the perfect spot.
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With our bellies full of soup, fish, and wine, we popped into the famous Brauð & Co. for some bread and a cookie before heading to our final Iceland hotel.
Hotel: Tower Suites Reykjavik
We couldn’t have asked for a better hotel to mark the end of our Iceland journey. Tower Suites Reykjavik is one of those rare touches of luxury you’ll find in Iceland. Located a bit outside the heart of downtown Reykjavik but still within a perfect distance to see all that Reykjavik has to offer, it’s the perfect spot for couples looking for some romantic, luxury, and a breathtaking view. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the hotel is set on the highest floor in the tallest building in the city. Each suite features unobstructed floor to ceiling windows with the most gorgeous panoramic views you could ever imagine. We were escorted to our room by our concierge, Seamus, and something tells me he is pretty used to the sound of jaws dropping the minute guests enter their suite. From our living room, we had an incredible view of downtown Reykjavik to the west as well as Akranes and Snaefellsnes peninsula to the north. Having a room facing north was a bonus since it would give us prime viewing for the Northern Lights.
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I felt at home in Tower Suites Reykjavik right away, and it felt like it was a bit of torture getting to only stay here one night and having to leave Iceland the next day. We could have and would have stayed forever! One of my favorite features was the bathtub, with it’s modern Scandinavian style facing the north, giving you the best spot in the city to watch the Northern Lights.
For our final night in Iceland, the hotel had recommended Fiskmarkaðurinn as the perfect date night spot a few months prior and very quickly made a reservation for us. It really was romantic! Set downstairs in a low-light setting with a menu featuring exquisite seafood and haute cuisine, we were very happy with this decision. Unfortunately, our camera died while en route to the restaurant and we had forgotten to put a newly charged spare battery in my purse like we always do, so sadly I do not have any photos of the amazing food. But take my word for it – imagine the most incredible and perhaps unusual combination of flavors, spices, and herbs coming together paired with a savory fish that melts in your mouth the minute you place it on your tongue and has you already craving for more. That’s what a dinner is like at Fiskmarkaðurinn. As soon as our waiter came by with the dessert menu, Tor noticed groups of people gathering outside and looking up. We looked at the people, then looked at each other without saying a word, and quickly signaled for the check. The Northern Lights!
We dashed back to the hotel to grab our camera and tripod and set it up in the room. Turns out, shooting the Northern Lights from behind the window wasn’t producing the kinds of images we wanted, so when the late night concierge at Tower Suites Reykjavik saw us darting for the elevator so we could run out to the pier, he suggested a better idea – the roof! After getting stuck for a few minutes while our concierge went to find the right key to let us up, we finally made it to the roof with drop dead gorgeous views of the city. Tor set up our tripod, and we waited for another round of the Northern Lights to pop up. In the 30 minutes we spent on the roof, we saw at least 4 different rounds. We couldn’t believe our luck getting to bookend our trip to Iceland with the aurora borealis. We had seen them on the plane from New York to Iceland, and then again on our first night in Iceland at the Blue Lagoon. Now we were seeing them 2.5 weeks later on our final night in the country. To me, it felt like the universe was saying to us, “Job well done.”
The next morning, I cried a little bit as we packed up our bags and prepared to head back to the USA. It had been the best 2.5 weeks of our lives. Don’t get me wrong, our honeymoon last year was fantastic, but we both agree this trip may have slightly topped that one. We got to truly immerse ourselves in Icelandic culture, we let ourselves be isolated and secluded amongst nature in the most remote corners of the country, we attempted speaking Icelandic when we could (and failed pronunciations absolutely miserably), we tried all different kinds of food as well as different kinds of activities such as snorkeling, snowmobiling, and horse riding. I wouldn’t be lying if I said I had googled “Iceland homes for sale” on our drive to Keflavik Airport (but then I saw my cats would be have to be in quarantine for about 2 months so that wouldn’t be possible).
The snow began to fall heavily as we drove out to the airport, blanketing the busy airport in a gorgeous layer of white. Since it’s Iceland, no one seemed to be fazed by the heavy snow falling but of course I was. Leaving Iceland covered in snow… nothing could be more beautiful. As our Icelandair flight began to takeoff, Tor held my hand as I cried – 1. because I hate flying especially over the ocean and 2. because I did not want to leave. Thank you for an incredible 17 days, Iceland! I know we will be back again soon (I can hear Tor have a heart attack reading that!).
Check out our final Iceland travel vlog below from our visit to Reykjavik, including some gorgeous Northern Lights shots!