Wednesday, 8 February 2012



Reykjavik is by far the largest community in Iceland, with a population of about 200,000. Including the neighbouring towns, the capital area has a total population of about 170,000, which is about 60% of Iceland’s population of 300,000 people. Iceland was settled by Norwegian and Celtic immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D. According to the medieval Book of Settlements, Ingolfur Arnarson – the first settler of Iceland – built his farm on the peninsula where Reykjavik stands today. The place was named Reykjavik – “Smoky Bay” - after the columns of steam that rose from the hot springs in the area and made such a profound impression on the original settlers.

Many centuries later, around the middle of the 18th century, a small town started to grow around the farm of Reykjavik, thanks to Royal Treasurer Skuli Magnusson, known as the Father of Reykjavik, who established wool workshops at Reykjavik as part of his efforts to modernise the Icelandic economy. This led to the beginnings of urban development at Reykjavik. Reykjavik received its town charter in 1786.

In the post-war years, the growth of Reykjavík accelerated. A mass exodus from the rural countryside began, largely due to improved technology in agriculture that reduced the need for manpower, and because of the population boom resulting from better living conditions in the country. A once primitive village was rapidly transformed into a modern city. Private cars became common and modern apartment complexes rose in the expanding suburbs. Much of Reykjavík lost its village feel.

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Reykjavík’s old harbour and the new Harpa Concert and Conference Centre are making their mark on the tourist map. This popular area has developed fast in the last few years and now features a wide variety of attractions and services
The Blue Lagoon

Laugavegur  is the primary commercial artery of downtown Reykjavík and one of the oldest shopping streets. The name means "wash road", as it used to lead to the hot springs in Laugardalur where in olden times the women of Reykjavík took their laundry for washing. 
It has experienced economic setbacks in recent years mostly because of the increase in popularity of shopping malls, most notably Kringlan and the recent Smáralind. It still maintains the charm of a historical shopping street and is still home to the more exclusive stores in Iceland. 
Reykjavík is often dubbed "the nightlife capital of the north". Icelanders tend to go out late so bars that look rather quiet can fill up suddenly—usually after midnight on a weekend. Alcohol is relatively expensive at bars. People tend to drink at home before going out. Beer was banned in Iceland until 1 March 1989, but has since become popular among many Icelanders as their alcoholic drink of choice. There are over 100 different bars and clubs in Reykjavík; most of them are located on Laugavegur and its side streets. It is very common for an establishment that is a café before dinner to turn into a bar in the evening. Closing time is usually around 4:30 am at weekends and 1 am during the week. 

The northern lights are a breathtakingly beautiful natural phenomenon. They can frequently be seen in Iceland in the winter time (October - April) on cold, clear and crisp nights. According to scientists, general conditions for viewing the northern lights in 2011-2013 in Iceland are exceedingly good, although their visibility is always subject to weather conditions.Seeing the northern lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, is something that many people dream of achieving in their lifetime. It seems 2012 will be a good year to realise such a dream, as NASA scientists predict the brightest northern lights display for 50 years.

The event will be caused by the Solar Maximum - a period when the sun's magnetic field on the solar equator rotates at a slightly faster pace than at the solar poles. The cycle between Solar Maximums takes an average of 11 years. The last Solar Maximum was in 2000 and NASA has predicted that 2012 will bring the greatest seen since 1958.

Several northern lights tours are on offer from Reykjavik, either by bus, jeep or boat. Sightings can never be guaranteed, but tour operators take visitors to places where viewing chances are best and normally offer another tour free of charge should guests fail to see the lights on the first night.

Reykjavik’s Top 5:
The Hallgrímskirkja
  1. The Hallgrímskirkja. Or church of Hallgrímur is a Lutheran (Church of Iceland) parish church. At 74.5 metres (244 ft), it is the largest church in Iceland and the sixth tallest architectural structure in the country. The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614 to 1674), author of the Passion Hymns. State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson's design of the church was commissioned in 1937. He is said to have designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland's landscape. It took 38 years to build the church. Construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1986, the landmark tower being completed long before the church's actual completion. The crypt beneath the choir was consecrated in 1948, the steeple and wings were completed in 1974. The nave was consecrated in 1986. Situated in the centre of Reykjavík, it is one of the city's best-known landmarks and is visible throughout the city. 
  2. The National Museum of Iceland was established on 24 February 1863, with Jón Árnason the first curator of the Icelandic collection, previously kept in Danish museums. The second curator, Sigurður Guðmundsson, advocated the creation of an antiquarian collection, and the museum was called theAntiquarian Collection until 1911. Before settling at its present location, at Suðurgata 41, 101 Reykjavík, in 1950, it was housed in various Reykjavík attics, finally the attic of the National Library building for forty years.
  3.  Perlan.  (English: The Pearl) Is a 25.7 metres (84.3 ft) high landmark building . It was originally designed by Ingimundur Sveinsson. Perlan is situated on the hill Öskjuhlíð where there had been hot water storage tanks for decades. In 1991 the tanks were updated and a hemispherical structure placed on top. This project was largely done at the behest of Davíð Oddsson, during his time as mayor of Reykjavík. Perlan has 10,000 cubic meters of exhibition space on the ground floor, known as the Winter Garden. It has hosted concerts by Icelandic artists such as GusGus and Emilíana Torrini as well as various expos and markets. There is a viewing deck on the fourth floor. It contains panoramic telescopes at each six corners of the deck with recorded descriptions in five different languages. The top floor houses a revolving restaurant.
  4. Reykjavik Art Museum. Founded in 1973, the museum possesses the largest art collection in Iceland and the most voluminous gallery space to be found amongst the country's galleries. In more than 3000 square meters of gallery space over twenty exhibitions are run every year, ranging from extensive exhibitions from the museum‘s collection to installations of contemporary art by young, international artists.
  5. The Blue Lagoon A geothermal spa, is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. The steamy waters are part of a lava formation. The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula,  approximately 39 km (24 miles) from Reykjavík
Perlan (The Pearl)

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