The Downtown Reykjavík area is the oldest part of the city and generates a very special charm with an appealing old-fashioned appearance and lively atmosphere!
Most of Reykjavík’s landmarks such as, Tjörnin pond, City Hall, Parliament and Hallgrímskirkja are located in the downtown area, which is also has the greatest concentration of cultural life and tourist attractions. With its collection of warm and welcoming cafes, restaurants and shops its considered to be the liveliest part of Reykjavík, where everyone can find something to their taste. Reykjavík is widely spread with low buildings, so in many places you can appreciate views right across to Videy, mount Esja and Snæfellnes.
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour was built between the years of 1913 and 1917. It serves not only as a shipping dock, but as lively centre for marine activities, restaurants and cafes. With its growing number of new attractions, such as the Maritime Museum and the new Northern Lights centre Aurora Reykjavik, the location is fast becoming one of the city’s trendiest quarters! Just across the street is the popular Kolaportið weekend flea market and a little further on you’ll see the magnificent Harpa concert hall and conference centre – Iceland’s newest architectural star!
Laugavegur og Skólavörðustígur
Laugavegur is one of the oldest shopping streets in Reykjavík and literally translates as "wash road"; that’s because it used to lead to the great old hot-springs and famous wash-spot in Laugardalur – where the entire city’s washing was once done! Whilst this historic component adds a lot to the charm, its popularity with locals and tourists is mainly down to its collection of prestigious shops and exclusive stores, which attract countless shoppers and visitors. In the evenings the street’s many bars, clubs and restaurants open up and draw in the party crowds - especially at the weekends.
Skólavörðustígur is one of the most attractive streets in Reykjavík. It runs from the corner of the main shopping streets Laugavegur and Bankastræti up to the magnificent church Hallgrímskirkja. In front of the church, facing down the street, is a statue of Leifur heppni ('the Lucky'), an Icelandic / Norwegian sailor and the first European to set foot in North-America.
The street has charming old houses with stores and galleries. You can find everything from Icelandic design, souvenirs, woolen goods, photographs of Iceland or exotic arts and crafts to cosy cafes and delicatessen.
The people living in Downtown Reykjavík, postcode 101 have often been referred to as downtown rats. The stereotype is a person who rarely leaves the downtown area, an arty hipster who hangs out at cafes. The 101 type knows what’s happening in contemporary art and music and is often seen dressed in vintage clothes mixed with designer brands.
Grjótþorpid or “Stone Village” is a cute residential area in Downtown Reykjavik and home to some famous houses such as, Unuhús which was a centre for culture in the beginning of the 20th century. Amongst the regular guests were Stefán frá Hvítadal, Steinn Steinarr, Halldór Laxness, Nína Tryggvadóttir and Þórbergur Þórðarson. The house is named after Una Gísladóttir (1855-1924), who rented out rooms in the house at a cheaper price attracting many young and talented artists.
HARPA - a striking addition to the Icelandic and international cultural and conference scene.
Harpa opened its doors on May 4th and celebrated its final opening ceremony in August 2011 when the building was formally inaugurated. Harpa provides outstanding facilities in the centre of Reykjavik, Iceland. The building is the ideal venue for various concerts and musical events, international conferences, conventions with accompanying trade shows, as well as meetings.
Harpa's façade is designed by renowned artist Olafur Eliasson, Henning Larsen Architects and Batteríið Architects. The design is based on a geometric principle, realized in two and three dimensions. Reminiscent of the crystallized basalt columns commonly found in Iceland, the southern facades create kaleidoscopic reflections of the city and the striking surrounding landscape.
Harpa has already welcomed over 500,000 guests and an impressive cast of celebrated musicians and cultural icons to its halls since opening in May 2011. Performers have included British pop sensation Jamie Cullum; German tenor Jonas Kaufmann; world-renowned pianist Maria Joao Pires, violinist and conductor Maxim Vengerov, conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Last fall, Harpa presented more iconic cultural figures and musicians such as Bjork and Yoko Ono, as part of the Iceland Airwaves annual music festival in October. Among the international conferences that have been held in Harpa since its opening are EUWIN 2011 and EABCT 2011 and among the many upcoming conferences in Harpa are You Are In Control and Eve Online Fanfest.
Reykjavík City Hall
Reykjavik City Hall is an impressive building on the northern shore of Lake Tjornin. Stark and modern, it is the neural centre of Reykjavik, connecting nature, water and bird life to the centre of town. Opening in 1992, it houses the Mayor and executive officials of Reykjavik.
On the ground floor you’ll find a helpful information desk, internet access and a lovely view of the lake at café Öndin as well as galleries with a steady stream of new and exciting exhibitions. A perennial favourite in the exhibition halls is the huge relief map of Iceland. It is equally interesting to examine before and after your explorations.
The building is open to visitors, Mondays to Fridays 8:00-19:00 and Saturdays and Sundays 12:00 to 18:00.