Israel: Reykjavik, the city that Damon Albarn fell in love with | The traveler

It is a custom: those who travel to Iceland in the summer time return home wanting to repeat in winter, and those who go in winter return thinking of returning in summer. Overall, it is always a good time to travel to the “island of the white day that returns”, as Borges defined it in his poem Iceland. Until recently, moving to this country was a significant outlay that would set anyone back. However, the irruption of the Icelandic low-cost company Fly Play has changed the rules of the game. The gateway is Reykjavik, a capital with the appearance of a town, unusual, comfortable and different, for which we propose a one-day route, which is what most usually stay before surrendering to the abundant natural wealth of the island.

10.00 Hallgrímskirkja, church-icon

For a first contact, nothing like Perlan (1), a museum built on the hill Öskjuhlíð. Not only for its permanent display Wonders of Iceland, a master class about the imprint of water, ice, volcanoes and native fauna (the polar bear, the Icelandic horse, the whale or the Arctic fox) in the history of the island, but because its revolving terrace gives the keys to orientation thanks to a 360 degree panorama. The planetarium and the spherical cafe restaurant also do justice to its name (pearl in Spanish).

On the way down it is inevitable to find the Hallgrímskirkja (2), its church-icon, whose 75 meters high make it visible from anywhere in the city. It has the name of a poet, as it is dedicated to the author of the Hymns of passion, Hallgrímur Pétursson, as Icelandic as its morphology, since the architect Guðjón Samúelsson was inspired by basaltic lava flows to evoke volcanoes and eruptions. From the bell tower, Reykjavik is like a luminous puzzle in which everything fits together piece by piece: the gray sea, the snowy summit, the green mountain, the colored facades. On the left, pay attention to the Museo Einar Jónsson (3), the first modern sculptor in the country, with all the works he offered to the city. A little higher up, next to the nearby Klambratun Park, even more decisive is the Museo Jóhannes S. Kjarval, el Kjarvalsstaðir (4), a capital painter in Icelandic culture, who represented its landscape and folklore with such uniqueness that his portrait is still present on the 2,000 kronor banknote.

12.00 Walk along the port

The street where everything happens is Laugavegur. Among its many shops (in plan nordic store, with giant bears at the entrance and all kinds of traditional wool sweaters), at this time the queue in front of the door surprises Sandholt (5), a bakery run by the fourth generation of artisans. The quality of its sandwiches and its prices make it essential. However, the weight of tradition pushes us down the street to the intersection between Tryggvagata and Hafnarstraeti, where it is located The Town’s Best Hot Dogs (6), the stand of hot dogs most famous in Iceland. There is also a queue, but it is easier to decide, there is only one dish: the house sausage with two mustards. No one in town can say they haven’t tried it.

We are touching the port, an optimal enclave for its interesting architecture (pay attention to the hamburger Thomas, its restaurants, the fundamental Reykjavik Art Museum (Tryggvagata, 17) and, of course, its ships, which once again show that the past and the future are a matter of the present. All this before Harp (7), building by Danish Henning Larsen (together with Olafur Eliasson): auditorium, cultural engine and architectural sparkle that since 2011 illuminates the border between the Old Harbor and the downtown.

14.00 Tribute of light to John Lennon

Following the curve of the breakwater, in Saebraut we will find one of the most sought after photographs: Sun Voyager (8), a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason with which he sought to symbolize the history, heritage and Viking memory of the first Icelanders and insinuate a tribute to the sun, to the dream of travel and discoveries. If there is time, there is no better complement than the museum of Sigurjón Ólafsson, a feast of sculptural sensibility, and the neighboring island of Videos (9), where Yoko Ono installed her Imagine Peace Tower in homage to John Lennon, a column of blue light whose light output traces a line of 4,000 meters.

16.00 Relax in the geothermal lagoon

Another myth, Johnny Rotten, traveled to Bankastræti, 2, in 2016 to inaugurate the Iceland Punk Museum (10), which obviously lacks a website and is accessed by going down some stairs that lead to some old public baths transformed into a gallery by former punk singer Svarti Álfur. Heirlooms from the glorious years fit in the form of clothing, posters or instruments. The walls speak of groups like The Sugarcubes, Björk’s first band. You can play drums or guitar with Svarti, with whom you get along without talking. The opposite experience consists of going to the refined Sky Lagoon (11), open this year. In the waters of this outdoor geothermal lagoon, with a drink in hand, facing the sea, there are only relaxed people.

18.00 Time to go to the bar

Damon Albarn was so fascinated by Iceland that he has just released an album dedicated to its landscapes with songs like Royal Morning Blue O Polaris, loaded with references. Before the Blur singer set up a bar in downtown Reykjavik, The Coffee Bar (12). It is not just any bar, it is the bar. You have to go at six in the afternoon because 15 minutes later there are no tables left. Six o’clock is a very interesting hour, the city awakens and the bars are winter quarters. There may not be a soul on the street, but there is no room at the Bastard, the Kaldi or the Íslenski. Another plan between books and jazz is in the bookstore House of Language and Culture (13).

20.00 Three options for dinner

It’s dinner time and they can’t be overlooked hits of local gastronomy such as cod and lamb. The Mat Bar (14) It is tempting for what it has of cocktails and brasserie creative. Somewhat more sophisticated are Jörgensen Kitchen (15) O Hédinn (16). It’s official that we are going back to the Kaffibarinn. Just as the traveler who comes in winter wants to return in summer, whoever has tried Kaffibarinn wants to repeat. And the auroras? Oh yes, of course, for later, the night is long.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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