Reykjavik - Not just the Northern Lights

It's good to get out of the office sometimes so we recently took a small trip to visit Reykjavik in Iceland, a place we'd wanted to visit for some time. It was a great trip and we wanted to share some of the things we saw. Our first impressions [architecturally speaking] as we approached the city from the airport were a little disappointing - lots of largely characterless concrete low rise buildings in drab finishes. We soon found, however, that this was very unrepresentative of the general character of the city and ultimately fell in love with the place and vowed to return one day.

 Kex Hostel - Great place for a bite, beer and chat. 

Kex Hostel - Great place for a bite, beer and chat. 

Before making our trip we had stumbled across this blog by Rachael Gibson suggesting some great places to eat on a budget in the city. By pure coincidence our hotel was located very near to one of them - Hostel Kex - so we called in for a bite on our first night. What a great place - took us back to our student days....Amazing food and ambience - we were sorely tempted to come back every night. We loved the magnetic letters on the lift shaft and the industrial influenced interior design. Nice to see real candles on the table too - a good example of how lighting can influence the fell of a place.

 The Hallgrimskirkja Church, Reykjavik

The Hallgrimskirkja Church, Reykjavik

The Hallgrimskirkja Church designed by Guðjón Samuel is the most dominant landmark in Reykjavik and can be seen from numerous locations in and around the city. Some fantastic views from the viewing galleries in the clock tower too!

Reykjavik Building 1.JPG

We took a long walk around the city and were surprised to find that the traditional buildings of the 20th Century were clad in corrugated metal cladding as opposed to the timber cladding we were expecting and which is of course prevalent in Scandinavia. The chalet style architecture was apparently influenced by the Norwegians but we read somewhere that the iron cladding was imported from England! 

The above building did have timber cladding - we took this photo as we liked the two Louis Poulsen lights at either side of the doorway! 

Reykjavik Harpa Concert Hall 1.JPG

The Harpa Concert Hall designed by Henning Larsen Architects and completed in 2011 is a striking contemporary building located right on the seafront. The glazed facade is cellular as you can see and uses a variety of glass coatings to create a passive dynamic lit effect during the day as the different angles create shimmer and movement. Integrated RGB linear LED integrated into the cells is used to create an active lighting effect after the hours of darkness. The cellular theme is continued through into the atrium ceiling as shown in the photo below.

The next day we ventured out to visit some of the neighbouring sites. The volcanic landscape was stunning. We visited Þingvellir National Park which was to some extent the birthplace of modern Iceland as it was apparently where the first parliament was assembled. The area is also in a rift valley which marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The rifts caused by the movement of the two plates are pretty impressive. 

As we drove through the landscape, plumes of steam hinted at the volcanic thermal energy lurking under the earth's crust. The Icelanders harness this steam for energy production and heating. It also provides a spectacle for tourists visiting the geysers which can send superheated water metres up into the air.

Back in Reykjavik after a day touring the surroundings we stumbled across another hidden gem. This time it was Mikkeller and Friends - a great bar which served speciality beers. It was a great place to relax after a days travelling around. 

 Mikkeller and Friends

Mikkeller and Friends

We were sad to say goodbye to Reykjavik but will definitely be back some day. We did see the Northern lights too but photos can't do that justice! 

 Cheers!

Cheers!