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© David Williams

Reykjavík: visiting the city and taking trips from it


Reykjavík, the world`s most northerly capital, is establishing itself as one of Europe`s most fascinating short-break holiday destinations. This article briefly mentions some of the places to see in the city. There are also descriptions of three trips that often catch visitors` imaginations: the "Golden Circle" tour, the "Blue Lagoon" and the Vatnajökull ice-cap.
The tall Hallgrímskirkja church dominates the city skyline. In front of it stands a statue depicting Leif Eiríksson, discoverer of "Vinland" (America) in 1000.
A stall selling traditional Icelandic woollen goods.

Despite all the difficulties of living in the northern latitudes, the citizens of Reykjavík have built themselves a major city of 100,000 or so people in just over one hundred years (its population was only seven hundred in 1860). The country`s first settler, Ingólfur Árnarson, called Reykjavík "smokey bay" after the tall white plumes of vapour that rose from the warm ground. Today it is a bustling metropolis but its atmosphere is devoid of the fumes and smoke so common in other cities thanks to the use of geothermally-heated water to heat the buildings.

The city`s centre is the square of Austurvöllur, once Ingólfur`s homefield, and the parliament house stands just opposite it. The city is small enough to explore on foot and the fishing harbour, the little lake of Tjörnin, the national museum and many other places of interest are within easy walking distance of Austurvöllur. Two particular places to visit are Hallgrímskirkja and Laugardalur. Hallgrímskirkja is a tall modern church set on a hill in the middle of Reykjavík; it can be seen from well over forty kilometres away and the view from its observation platform is quite superb. From there, one of the landmarks to the north-west is the ice-capped volcano of Snæfellsjökull, the starting point for Jules Verne`s explorers in Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Laugardalur is the site of Reykjavík`s main swimming pool, where natural warm water at 37°C soothes the aches of the traveller`s body; but if that temperature is too tame then try one of the "hot-pots" — small pools where the temperature can be as high as 45°C!

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