Not to miss over the holidays

Feeling lost in Iceland over the holidays? Bewildered when faced with the ö’s and ð’s and þ’s of the tourist brochures? Wondering why CNN nominated Reykjavík as one of the 10 best places to spend Christmas? To guide you through the Christmas season, we’ve come up with the definitive list of things to do in Reykjavík over the Christmas holidays.

Visit the Christmas Markets

750x400rvk_jolastemning_snjor_vetur_2011-420The Christmas markets are a relatively recent addition to the Icelandic holiday season. In the grand tradition of the German Weihnachtsmarks, wooden huts have been erected in the center of Reykjavík and Hafnafjörður and visitors can stuff their stockings with Christmas knick-knacks and artwork from local craftsmen, and wash down Icelandic horse sausages with hot cocoa and mulled wine.

Reykjavík Christmas market. Ingólfstorg. Open 12-22, and 12-23 on December 23.
Hafnafjörður Christmas market. Take Bus 1 to the center of Hafnarfjörður. Open 12-17 on the weekends, 16-21 weekdays.

Hunt for the Northern Lights

NASA forecasts the brightest northern lights this year since 1958 due to the solar maximum, the peak of sunspot counts during the sun’s 11-year cycle. You need to travel outside of Reykjavík to see the Northern lights, and various tour companies offer guided tours in search of the aurora borealis.

Pink Iceland and Reykjavík Excursions whisk you away by jeep or bus to search for the northern lights outside the city. A more affordable option is offered by Special Tours where you can buy a boat ride and look to the sky out on the North-Atlantic ocean.

You can time your tour by visiting the website of the Icelandic Meteorological Office which forecasts the activity of the aurora borealis.

Feast on Putrified Fish

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Hangikjöt

The traditional Icelandic Christmas meal is hangikjöt, smoked lamb, with bechamel sauce, potatoes and canned peas. You can purchase this traditional Christmas meal in just about every other restaurant in the city center, but GayIceland invites you to try a more exotic alternative, skata, or rotten fish, with mashed potatoes and brennivín, the Icelandic akvavit, a meal traditionally offered on the 23rd of December.

We need to dig deep into the murky past of Iceland to find the roots of this tradition. The last Catholic bishop was beheaded in Iceland in 1550 (along with two of his sons), but Catholicism is alive and well in Iceland one day year, December 23, St. Thorlak’s Day. The day commemorates the only Icelandic Catholic saint, St. Thorlak, who died in 1193 after a vigorous battle to uphold the clerical celibacy in Iceland (a principle which was routinely ignored in Iceland. The last Catholic bishop in Iceland, Jón Arason, had six children with his consort Helga Sigurðardóttir, the daughter of priest, and local legend says that every Icelander are descended from that happy couple).

In the Catholic era, it was traditional to fast until Christmas Eve, eating fish instead of meat. We still eat fish on December 23, where the traditional evening meal is skata, or putrid skate with mashed potatoes. Whole apartment buildings have banned the preparation of skata due to its pungent aroma.

Skata
Skata

Various restaurants in Reykjavík offer skata during lunch hour on December 23. You can dive into this putrid delicacy at the Fish Company, Sjávargrillið, Vox and the Hotel Saga Radisson BLU. Just remember to have plenty of brennivín at hand to wash the taste away.

Quaff Icelandic Christmas Ale

The traditional drink in Iceland over the holidays is jólaöl, or Chrismas Ale. Perhaps not unsurprisingly in a country where beer was illegal until 1989, this “ale” is non-alcoholic, a mixture of orange soda and malt extract. You can buy jólaöl in every grocery store year-round, but the DIY minded can make their own.

Every family has their own recipe of jólaöl. Now, the more boring families follow the basic recipe of 50% Egils Appelsín orange soda and 50% Egils Maltextrakt. The more adventurous of us spice up the drink with a slug of Coca Cola. Various theories abound about which jugs bring out the perfect taste of jólaöl, how many minutes the drink should stand before drinking, and in which order the different ingredients should be poured. For a quick taste, pour the appelsín orange soda before the malt extract, but if you have a couple of minutes, pour in the malt extract, wait five minutes, and then carefully add the appelsín orange soda. Top up with a slug of malt and (gasp) cola. This order will ensure the maximum density and quality of the jólaöl foam.

Visit the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Reykjavík Suburbs

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Árbæjarsafn offers visitors a chance to observe how Icelanders celebrated Christmas in days gone by. Visitors can learn how to make Christmas candles and gorge on traditional Icelandic Christmas bread and ale. There is a guided tour around the museum grounds every day at 1 pm except the 24., 25., 26. and 31st of December.

Árbæjarsafn is located in Ártúnsholt, Reykjavík. Take Bus 19 from Hlemmur and get off at the bus stop Strengur. Other buses which stop near Árbæjarsafn are Bus 12 and Bus 24. See map.

Discover Non-Sigur Rós Icelandic Music (We do love Sigur Rós btw)

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Retro Stefson

Ásgeir Trausti released his first album in 2012 and is now one of the country’s most popular artists. He has just returned back to Iceland after touring Europe with Of Monsters and Men. On December 27 he will play in Gamla Bíó in Reykjavík, along with the Norwegian artist Kari Jahnsen, whose music has been described as a weird blend of Bon Iver, Poliça and Laura Marling. Gamla Bíó. December 27 at 8 pm. 3,500 ISK. Buy tickets here.

Wishing you had chosen to spend Christmas in the Balkans? You can, if only for one night, in Iðnó on December 27. The progressive Balkan folk bands Ophic oxtra and Skuggamyndir frá Býsans transport guests away from the chilly North to the balmy climes of Southeastern Europe. Iðnó. December 27 at 10 pm. 2,000 ISK. Buy tickets here.

Móses Hightower, Ylja and Snorri Helgason are the rising stars of the Icelandic progressive music scene. These bands join together for a special Christmas concert in Gamla bíó on December 28th. Gamla bíó. December 28 at 9 pm. 3,900 ISK. Buy tickets here.

In the mood to dance? Retro Stefson, Sísí Ey and Hermigervill mix it up in a dance party at Vodafonehöllin on December 30. The house opens at 9 pm and the music starts around 10 pm. Vodafonehöllin is an indoor sports arena just outside the city center. It does not offer alcoholic beverages. so remember to remember to show up sloshed. Vodafonehöllin. December 30 at 10 pm. 3,500 ISK. Buy tickets here.

For the fuddy-duddies who like to learn about a country’s history and cultural heritage (you know who you are), Harpa Concert Hall offers a medley showcasing traditional Icelandic music, folk songs, and psalms. The performers are young Icelandic musicians and the programme is annotated in English. You have five chances to catch the Pearls of Icelandic Song, December 28, 29 and 30 and January 2 and 3. Harpa. December 28, 29, 30, January 2, 3 at 5 pm. 3,900 ISK. Buy tickets here.

Attend the LGBTQ Christmas Ball

Samtökin ’78, the heart of the LGBTQ community in Iceland, hosts its annual Christmas ball at Kiki Queer Bar on December 28th. Look out for announcements (with further details) at the webpage of the National Queer Organization (Samtökin ’78).

Oh, and if you’re not really into the jingle bells, then why not check show up for some jazz at Kiki Queer Bar, tonight (Sunday) and next sunday, where hot frontsman Steini Sax and band will be showcasing their talents. No admission and a pint of beer for only 500 ISK.

Celebrate New Year’s Eve with Bonfires, Fireworks, and Frenzied Dancing

You haven’t really celebrated New Year’s until you’ve partied in Reykjavík. Begin the celebration by visiting one of the numerous bonfires erected in the city. We recommend the bonfire in Laugardalur, close to Laugardalur City Hostel, about a forty minute walk from the center of Reykjavík (or a five minute cab ride). The fire is lit at 8:30 pm and burns out around midnight. Remember to dress warmly, and bring a bottle of whiskey to discreetly warm your bones. See map.

Every household in Reykjavík buys fireworks for tens of thousands of kronas, and sporadic shooting starts early in the evening. Be prepared for a lull in the festivities at 10:30 pm when the Iceland Public Television station offers its annual New Year’s comedy show, but at 11:25 pm the whole population of Reykjavík runs out into the streets and starts shooting. A good place to enjoy the view is next to Hallgrímskirkja in the city center.

Spend the rest of the night wandering between the Reykjavík clubs, all of which open up at midnight (remember to bring enough cash; this is the only evening of the year clubs have a cover charge). The party lasts until the wee hours of New Year’s Day. We recommend Kiki Queer Bar, located on Laugavegur 22. Kiki is tremendously popular, so show up early around midnight to avoid waiting in line.

If you’d like guided tours, you can always join the fabulous Pink Iceland’s bubbly bonfire tour, where the operators worry about all those pesky logistical matters like transportation and cover charges whilst you can relax and enjoy yourself. Be prepared for dinner, a houseparty and some cocktails, besides enjoying a bonfire and some fireworks  The tour starts early evening and ends at 2 am at Kiki Queer Bar where you can mock the poor schmucks still waiting in line, since the Pink Iceland VIP pass gets you to the front of the queue.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

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        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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