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Experience the Quirky Charm of Reykjavik: An Unconventional Guide

submitted on 13 January 2024 by

Introduction: Iceland's Unlikely Capital of Cool

When most people think of holiday destinations, Reykjavik may not immediately spring to mind. This small, sparsely populated city in the far north of the world is undoubtedly one of Earth's more obscure choices for a getaway. But as any seasoned traveler knows, sometimes the greatest adventures can be found off the beaten path. So pack your parka, set aside your preconceptions, and prepare for one of the most absurdly delightful experiences of your life.

A Crash Course in Icelandic Culture: Vikings, Elves, and Trolls, Oh My!

Before we dive headfirst into the quirky world of Reykjavik, a brief lesson in Icelandic culture is necessary. This island nation was settled by Vikings in the 9th century and – given its remote location – has managed to preserve much of its unique history, folklore, and mythology. The result is an enchanting blend of Viking heritage, medieval sagas, and supernatural beings such as elves, trolls, and hidden people. Don’t be fooled by Reykjavik’s outward appearance as a modern, cosmopolitan city. Beneath the surface lies a rich tapestry of cultural curiosities waiting to be explored. And trust me, you will never tire of hearing Icelanders speak of their belief in elves with the utmost sincerity.

How to Get to Reykjavik: Beating the Odds and the Elements

First things first, getting to Reykjavik is an adventure in itself. The city is served by Keflavik International Airport, which is conveniently located in the middle of a lava field. As you might imagine, landing here can be a bit of a white-knuckle experience, particularly in winter when the runway is often blanketed in snow and ice. But fear not, intrepid traveler – you haven't come this far to be deterred by a little inclement weather.

What to Do in Reykjavik: No Shortage of Eccentricity Here

Once you've safely touched down in Reykjavik, the real fun begins. The city is small enough to be easily navigable on foot, and there are a plethora of peculiar attractions to keep you entertained.
  • The Penis Museum: Yes, you read that correctly. The Icelandic Phallological Museum is home to a vast collection of – ahem – phallic specimens from various mammals, including whales, walruses, and even humans. It's an oddly engrossing experience that is equal parts fascinating and hilarious.
  • Street Art: Reykjavik has embraced its creative side in recent years, resulting in an explosion of vibrant street art throughout the city. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the ever-changing array of murals and graffiti that adorn the buildings and alleyways.
  • The Punk Museum: Housed in a former public toilet, this tiny museum is a shrine to Iceland's punk rock scene of the 1980s and 90s. Peruse the memorabilia and listen to the music while contemplating the fact that Björk, Iceland's most famous export, got her start in a punk band called Tappi Tíkarrass – which translates to "Cork the Bitch's Ass." Yes, really.
  • The Elf School: Remember how I mentioned that many Icelanders believe in elves? Well, they also have a school dedicated to teaching visitors about these mythical creatures. At the Álfaskólinn (Elf School), you can learn all about the 13 different types of elves, trolls, and other supernatural beings that are said to inhabit the Icelandic landscape.

Where to Eat in Reykjavik: Embrace the Weird and the Delicious

Reykjavik's culinary scene is as delightfully bizarre as the rest of the city. For starters, hot dogs are a staple here, and you'll find the best ones at Bćjarins Beztu Pylsur – a humble hot dog stand that has been serving locals and visitors alike since 1937. Looking for something a bit more exotic? Sample some hákarl – fermented shark that packs a pungent punch and has been described as an "acquired taste" (to put it mildly). If you prefer something sweeter, indulge in a kleinur – a twisted, deep-fried doughnut that is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of Icelandic coffee.

Final Thoughts: Reykjavik's Magnetic Appeal

Reykjavik's charm lies in its uncanny ability to blend the ancient and the modern, the supernatural and the mundane, the familiar and the utterly bizarre. This city is a testament to the fact that sometimes the most unforgettable experiences can be found in the most unlikely of places. So go forth, brave traveler, and let the quirky magnetism of Reykjavik draw you in.
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