Iceland Day 1 | Exploring Downtown Reykjavik

We are in Iceland! This is real life! After months of waiting – the time is here and we’re here and we are so incredibly excited for all the adventure that this week holds! After getting a quick nap in and changing out of our air travel clothes, we headed out of our hotel and towards the Reykjavik city center.

Lucky Records | Reykjavik, Iceland
Lucky Records | Reykjavik, Iceland

Nearby our hotel was a quaint record store that was reminiscent of those near my house in Wicker Park. This one featured a variety of vinyls from the U.S. and Iceland. Katy and I perused the racks, but I had my eye on one prize – Billy Joel’s Stranger album. I have looked for it in every Chicago record store with no luck. Amazon and eBay searches came in at $40+. I finally found it here in Reykjavik, in my first 15 minutes strolling through town, and for only 1,000 króna ($7.39)! We’re off to a real good start.

We saw Faxaflói Bay (English, Faxa Bay) in front of us and strolled toward the water. It’s winter here, but the skies are much brighter than we’re used to back in the Midwest – even with overcast the sun shined bright through the clouds. The weather in Iceland is said to change frequently and we witnessed that today. From rain, to snow flurries, to bright sunny skies – in 5 minutes time you could experience entirely different weather.

The Sun Voyager | Reykjavik, Iceland 2015
The Sun Voyager | Reykjavik, Iceland 2015

On the bay sits the Sólfar (English, Sun Voyager), an Icelandic “dream boat.” This piece is pictured on every travel blog, website, Pinterest board or brochure on Iceland that you will find. As we approached, there were about 20 other tourists surrounding the sculpture. We patiently waited for them to leave and got some one on one time with it for selfies and artsy pictures galore!

Although it looks like I’m freezing, the temperatures actually felt pretty comfortable. Chicago’s experienced below zero temps for most of this winter, so we were thrilled to walk around in 34 degrees! While we were taking photos, the sun peaked out of the clouds and we were able to get some really neat photos of the light reflecting off of each piece of the sculpture and the mountains on the island in the background.

Harpa Music Hall | Rekjavik, Iceland | Photo Cred: Katy Wright
Harpa Music Hall | Rekjavik, Iceland | Photo Cred: Katy Wright

We continued on the path aside the bay and found ourselves in front of Harpa Music Hall, the “Gateway to Iceland.” The building’s architecture is deserving of attention as the façade is composed of uniquely shaped and stained window panes that beautifully reflect the light shining upon it. We spent some time inside and outside snapping photos and looking out at the bay.

City Center | Reykjavik, Iceland
City Center | Reykjavik, Iceland | Photo Cred: Katy Wright

As we continued our stroll through the city center, we came across the customary souvie shops packed with bric-a-brac (just learned this phrase) bearing the Iceland name. Katy and I were extremely excited to find a selection of patches right away, and we both purchased one to add to our collections. The downtown area is very clean and intentional – every building seems calculated, designed for efficiency and functionality. It’s a very beautiful city.

Iceland, gaman að kynnast þér (pleased to meet you)!

The Lebowski Bar

Located right on the city center’s main street, Laugavegur, sits this gem of a place that all fans of the Dude should visit. From the LCD’s reeling clips of the Big Lebowski and the best of Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana and Rolling Stones, to the bowling lane attached to the side of the wall, everything about this place is enjoyable and fun. The robust white russian menu brings the theme full circle, and they’re also super tasty.

Lebowski Bar | Reykjavik, Iceland 2014
Katy at The Lebowski Bar | Reykjavik, Iceland 2015

We arrived during happy hour, which must be relatively extensive since we came in at about 4 p.m. and it lasted until 7 p.m. The happy hour special was 2-for-1 beers and wine, yes please! We sampled our first pint of Iceland beer, a Gull Lager, voted best beer in the world in 2011. Katy and I both agreed that it was pretty damn good.

White Russians | The Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik, Iceland
White Russians | The Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik, Iceland

With about 10 White Russians to chose from, we went for “The Other Jeffrey Lebowski” and the standard white russian – Ljúffengur (delicious)! Out of respect for our waist line, we tried our luck at Lebowski’s roulette wheel for 2,000 krona (approx $17 USD) to win up to 6 beers, or two White Russians – only 1/4 chance of walking away with nothing. We walked away with nothing, then ordered another round of Gulls.

We also had dinner while we were there – burgers and fries. It was pretty standard American bar food, but the pricing was much less expensive than we anticipated. We’d heard before our trip that eating out in Iceland is incredibly expensive… and it hasn’t been too far off from what we’d expect from eating out in Chicago. And another perk, free post cards! Sitting on the bar were a collection of post cards to send home featuring pics and phrases from the Dude and the film.

Lebowski Bar | Reykjavik, Iceland
Lebowski Bar | Reykjavik, Iceland

The staff was incredibly friendly, switching out a few times while we were there. The crowd was a mix of locals working on laptops or meeting up for happy hour, and tourists like us working on our Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. 😉 If you’re a fan of The Big Lebowski, pop culture, or a good beer and a lively environment – make sure to stop here while visiting Reykjavik.

Northern Lights Tour

The last item on the list for day 1 was a bus tour out to a desolate area of Iceland to view Aurora Borealis a.k.a. “The Northern Lights”. It was a full bus – packed with tourists from all corners of the world. We journeyed about an hour outside of Reykjavik. When we arrived at the viewing point, it was pitch black. I have absolutely no idea where we were at. Our tour guide said “space conditions” were especially good for seeing the northern lights spectacular, but the local weather may be a problem. She was right. We re-boarded the bus a few times on our quest for the lights – but no dice. After about 4 hours of no luck, we headed back to Reykjavik. Bummer dudes.

Northern Lights Tour - Better Luck Next Time
Northern Lights Tour – Better Luck Next Time

Wish us luck tomorrow – we’ll be heading to the Blue Lagoon and then back out for a second stab at seeing this world wonder!

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