Our final full day in Iceland was dedicated to exploring Reykjavik as much as possible before taking the bus to our final night’s excellent AirBnb next to the airport (a wise decision to get a full night of sleep in the middle of a storm). This day solidified Reykjavik’s status as one of the world’s coolest cities for us with its vibrant architecture, fascinating attractions (Harpa, Penis museum, Hallgrim’s church, etc) and friendly people. It was also a day of many seafood adventures (you can already guess what we tried, probably).
Reykjavik’s cafe culture
We had planned to take the 3:30 PM bus out of Reykjavik so had very limited time to explore the city. We started early and headed straight to Mokka, a Reykjavik institution. Mokka was the first cafe in the city to install an espresso machine and so is the pioneer of this city’s excellent coffee culture (touched upon in our Day 1 writeup). They also had a waffle breakfast so we splurged 1600 ISK for a delicious breakfast + cappuccino.
A museum like no other
Our next stop was the innocuously named “Icelandic Phallogical Museum” or in layman terms – The Penis museum (1500 ISK). If you thought we wouldn’t visit a museum dedicated to genitalia, you’d be hugely mistaken. We had gone in expecting to snigger like the juveniles we are but it actually turned out to be a pretty interesting & educational experience. The museum itself contains penis-related paraphernalia on top of multiple penis specimens from various species (including humans).
We also learnt that the vagina museum is housed in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Gender equality for the win!
Downtown street art
While walking about in Downtown, we saw a few nice street art pieces. Had we just not arrived from Bristol (one of the world’s best cities for street art), we’d definitely be more impressed. Here’s our favourites.
Harbour attractions : Sun Voyager & Harpa
Though the winds were picking up, we braved them to see the famous boat-shaped Sun Voyager sculpture. It is a brilliant example of Nordic design and is made of stainless steel. The only thing that confused us what that it points North which is not towards the sun. Turns out that the architect himself wasn’t happy with the current location for the same reason.
A short walk from the Sun Voyager sculpture is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world – the Harpa concert hall. Reykjavik has a habit of completely subverting expectations in the most beautiful way possible. Imagine a European concert hall with its plush galleries and curves. Harpa instead is hyper-modern and flaunts its straight lines proudly. We walked around for around half an hour just staring at the architecture & taking pictures! We highly recommend visiting Harpa just to see the building.
Insane Icelandic seafood lunch
If you’ve been following our Iceland posts, you’ve seen that we haven’t splurged in restaurants like we generally do. This lunch was an exception, we were dying to try the Sea Baron restaurant and its touted Lobster soup. Note that Lobster in Iceland means Langoustine and not the huge lobsters that you may have imagined.
We have to start with the ambience,it is a very simple restaurant with 2 communal tables that get crowded easily and more tables in the back. This restaurant is famous because sailors used to come here to eat and that is evident from the decor. This is exactly the kind of place we like, good food and an honest ambience, do not expect cozy tables for 2 or tablecloths here.
Moving on to the food itself, they sell grilled fish on a stick outside of lobster soup. So we got the lunch special of Lobster soup + a stick of wolffish (similar to eel), a stick of tusk fish and a small Minke Whale sample (around 4700 ISK).
The lobster soup was delicious & very comforting. The lobster was melting in our mouth quite literally. On the other end of the spectrum, the Minke Whale was like nothing we’ve ever tasted before in seafood. The texture and flavour reminded us of a good steak making it exotic yet delicious. The grilled fish sticks were also cooked very well and gave us a slightly new flavour as we hand’t had those fishes before.
Tip: Though the portions aren’t big, Sea Barons food is great value for money in Reykjavik. Get there by 11:45 AM to guarantee seating & minimal queuing (lots of people come in during the weekdays too).
We took a shot of the harbour while waiting for the bus. We like the way the lines on the mountain on the top-right look like a scroll of words. 🙂
Hallgrímskirkja & the dreaded fermented shark
Our final stop of the day was the imposing Hallgrims church which we had already passed multiple times during our stay. This time we went inside and were yet again pleasantly surprised by the clean and minimal architecture. A lot of the interior is a pristine white but the signature of this cathedral is the statue of Jesus. It is so different from other interpretations we have seen and yet striking.
As we were carrying our luggage and beginning to get tired, we decided not to take the tower elevator and instead do the Icelandic tourist thing of eating fermented shark (Hakarl) with a shot of the local Schnapps (Brennevin) at Cafe Loki next to the church. We also had some of the Rye Bread icecream the cafe is famous for.
The servers told us that we’ll need the shots to clean our mouth once the ammonia aftertaste of the shark hits. We didn’t even need the shot! The shark was delicious and the aftertaste was milder than some strong liquorice we have tasted. The meat itself was fatty and tender. Everyone around us was trying the same thing and making a variety of faces but we genuinely liked eating it (is that normal?). The rye bread icecream was also quite nice and textured but a bit expensive at 800 ISK. Well after the shark, we enjoyed drinking our refreshingly sweet Brennivin Schnapps.
Bottom line is that as a first-time tourist to Iceland, you should try the shark if you eat meat. Who knows, you may even like it! 😉
We then headed to Reykjanesbaer for our final nights stay in heavy winds and took advantage of the cozy room & good wifi to writeup Day 1 of our Iceland trip. This post concludes our first Iceland trip, hope you enjoyed reading the series. We’ll be writing a Reykjavik summary post as well with all the info and none of the ramblings 🙂
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