Reykjavik might be small in size but it’s big in just about everything else: raw natural beauty, bustling nightlife and an innovative design scene all characterise the Icelandic capital’s quirky personality.
Despite being a city that gets barely four hours of daylight during the winter, Reykjavik is a vivid and effervescent place. Most immediately, there’s the colourful, postcard-perfect Nordic buildings, which on Laugavegur street are home to natty boutiques offering whimsical Icelandic fashions (which, alas, are often a little more urbane than hometown girl Björk’s 2001 Academy Awards swan outfit). Meanwhile, nearby Laekjargata bustles with trendy nightclubs and cosy bars filled with friendly locals passing around brennivín shots, a traditional schnapps that brightens up the mood in its own colourful way.
Reykjavik translates as ‘Bay of Smoke' due to the prevalence of misty geothermal springs, and taking a healing dip is a rite of passage for visitors. More beautiful still is the icy wilderness and rugged crags within striking distance from the city. Adventurous types can soak in the views from atop the Snæfellsjökull glacier to the north or from the Reykjanes range to the southwest, or for a more sedate outing make for Reykjavíkurtjörn, a small lake in the city centre that in the winter serves as a skating rink. Supernaturally stunning natural scenery and inimitable Nordic charm? It’s not wonder that Reykjavik is solidly one of Europe’s most alluring capitals.