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Sagas and geothermal swimming swimming pools – Reykjavík strikes to a unique rhythm | Iceland holidays



It is alleged that when Norse explorer Ingólfur Arnarson and his spouse Hallveig Fróðadóttir threw some picket posts from their ship in AD878 they floated to a bay lined with steaming springs, therefore the title Reykjavík, or “stormy bay”, and that’s the place Arnarson determined to settle. I’m right here researching ladies in Icelandic sagas for my subsequent ebook, and our two babies have accompanied me, with their father sharing childcare.

We do the standard touristy tour across the Golden Circle, and the youngsters pet Icelandic horses, swim in Iceland’s oldest geothermal bathtub and see the aurora borealis. However Reykjavík itself is an fascinating, child-friendly metropolis with a lot to supply. Our kids particularly benefit from the Nationwide Gallery of Iceland and studying about trolls and Viking historical past on the Saga Museum.


On a folklore tour they learn to get up zombies with Eleventh-century magic as we traipse by the enchanting Hólavallagarður Cemetery. Many distinguished Icelanders, together with Ingibjörg H Bjarnason, first feminine member of parliament, and Jón Sigurðsson, father of Icelandic independence, are buried right here. One afternoon we take a taxi over to Bessastaðir, the President’s residence, on the Alftanes Peninsula. I’ve a gathering with the First Girl, Eliza Reid, and the youngsters come alongside to have a tour of the buildings. This website was first settled in AD1,000 as a farm for Snorri Sturluson, author of the well-known Icelandic sagas. Consecrated in 1796, Bessastaðir church is without doubt one of the oldest cemented stone buildings in Iceland, with a stupendous painted triptych altarpiece and stained-glass home windows.

Pool with a view: a sundown soak in one of many metropolis’s many thermal swimming pools. {Photograph}: Artur Debat/Getty Pictures

We stroll over a couple of instances to Sundhöllin, one of many many swimming swimming pools in Reykjavík. It’s teeming with households, and free for youngsters beneath 15. The kids be taught that it’s completely OK to bathe bare and our bodies don’t should be sexualised: a helpful lesson all younger folks ought to get.


A number of months earlier than arriving right here I found that Might Morris, a proponent of the Arts and Crafts motion and youngest daughter of William Morris, travelled to Iceland many instances, first in 1922, sketching and writing about it. As I am going round Reykjavík, I examine her travels and in addition make many sketches of the buildings, making an attempt to present a language to my recollections. One of the vital elegant new buildings is the Harpa live performance corridor on the seafront, designed in co-operation with Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The glass-fronted constructing is like shards of basalt rising up, reflecting the colors of the sky and sea round it. Not removed from right here is the historic Höfði Home, the place Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan famously met to determine the tip of the Chilly Warfare in 1986. Some say it’s haunted.

Rainbow Road, or Skólavörðustígur, is 5 minutes from Óðinsgata, the place we’re renting a small condo. The road is painted in rainbow colors in assist of Reykjavík Satisfaction, held right here yearly since 1999, and the Eymundsson bookshop, the most important within the nation, can be across the nook. Simply up from this nook is the distinctive Hallgrímskirkja church, named after Seventeenth-century clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson, its stepped concrete facade paying homage to the Icelandic topography. We take a elevate up the 74m tower, one of many tallest buildings in the entire of Iceland, to the statement deck to see a shocking panoramic view of the town and its vibrant corrugated iron homes.

Mild and sound: the Harpa live performance corridor. {Photograph}: Doug Armand/Getty Pictures

A small boat takes us throughout the bay to eerie Viðey island, solely about 1.6 sq km in space and uninhabited since 1943. It’s house to Yoko Ono’s Think about Peace Tower, lit up yearly on John Lennon’s birthday, and Milestones, an artwork set up by sculptor Richard Serra. Gunnar Gunnarsson, a famend novelist, is buried within the church right here.

Based on the 2023 World Happiness Report, Iceland is the third happiest nation on this planet. It’s straightforward to see why. Most mornings I stroll throughout the bridge on the Tjörnin lake to work within the Nationwide Library. Even when the lake is totally frozen over, one nook is frequently pumped with heated water for the 40-plus species of geese and swans. This reality alone makes me so comfortable that I may need raised the happiness rating of Reykjavík by a number of factors. That, and the cardamom buns from BakaBaka bakery on Bankastræti, the perfect I’ve ever eaten. We largely store in Krónan grocery store and prepare dinner easy meals in our tiny kitchen. However the vibrant Café Babalú is tough to overlook for glorious breakfast crepes, and Reykjavík Roasters have the perfect coffees.

I’m studying Louis MacNeice and WH Auden’s letters throughout their travels in Iceland the place MacNeice writes quite wistfully: “Here’s a completely different rhythm, the juggled balls/ Dangle within the air – the pause earlier than the soufflé falls/ Right here we are able to take a breath.” I positively really feel like there’s a completely different rhythm to the town, one the place I can breathe extra freely.

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