BlogIcelandic Culture11 Interesting Facts About Reykjavík
Reykjavik Iceland city scape frop the top with Hallgrimskirkja church

11 Interesting Facts About Reykjavík

The main hub of Iceland is the lively city of Reykjavík. A popular tourist destination that also functions as a home to many Icelanders. The city is known for its fun nightlife, delicious restaurant scene, tranquil hot springs, and so much more. But did you also know there are some fascinating attributes about this quirky city? Here are 11 intriguing and interesting facts about Reykjavik, Iceland’s adored capital.

It’s A Craft Beer Lover’s Paradise

If craft beer is your thing then head to Reykjavik. Which is home to over 26 breweries. The beer scene has certainly taken off here. Back in 1915, the sale of beer was prohibited in Iceland. Even though hard liquor was legal.

This ironically led locals to venture into at-home brewing. It is the time-old tale of “You always want what you can’t have”. So, Icelanders enjoyed each other’s homemade beers, in secret of course. The prohibition fully ended in 1989, a long time to wait for a cold brew. The history led to some amazing craft beer spots throughout the country. Reykjavik is the go-to for a lot of them.

You can try some favorite craft beers throughout the city of Reyjavik. A prime spot is Skúli Craft Bar. They have around fourteen beers on tap, so you can try a little bit of everything. RVK Brewing Company has an extensive tap list of their very own brewed beer, including Rúgbrauð and Sumarsveifla. The country's oldest brewery, Ölgerðin Brewery, has a spot in Reykjavik too. They even use Iceland’s water as an ingredient when it is brewed. A historic and thirst-quenching place to visit on your craft beer tour of the city.

People celebrating in Iceland

Home Of Iceland’s Population

Did you know that about 60% of Iceland’s population lives in Reykjavik? There are over 376,248 people that live in the country as of January 1, 2022. Since most of the population lives here, it has become the country's economic center. That means more jobs are available, in addition to it being a hot spot for nightlife and dining. Which attracts even more visitors. 

So what is the cost of living in Reykjavik? Estimated monthly costs are $1,152 or 158,684kr for a single person, without rent. Reykjavik is only 11.39% less expensive than New York City, and that is not including rent.

The monthly rent for a 900-square-foot apartment, in a nice area of Reykjavik, is around $2,000 or 284,594 kr. A higher place than the average household in the United States. But with the breathtaking views of the city and being a short drive from Iceland's nature, it is oh so worth it.  All you need to do is rent a small car and enjoy the quick trip.

Reykjavik city, Iceland

The Leif Erikson statue

While the United States has the Statue of Liberty, Iceland has the Leif Erikson Statue. The statue was a gift from the United States to Iceland in 1930. It became a memento to celebrate the one-thousandth anniversary of Alþingi, which is the parliament of Iceland.

So who is Leif Erikson? Simply put, he was the first European explorer to reach North America. This was known to have happened four centuries before 1492 when Christopher Columbus arrived.

There are other Leif Erikson statues located in America too. Boston, Massachusetts, and Chicago are a few cities that have it. In 1887 Boston installed the statue, which was the first public sculpture to honor the explorer. Chicago’s statue is located in the infamous Humboldt Park. You can even make it a life goal of yours, to visit all of the Lief Erikson statues located throughout the world.

Statue of explorer Leif Erikson, Iceland

It Has 24 Hours Of Daylight

Once a year between June 16th and June 29th, Iceland’s sky showcases 24 hours of pure sunlight. Why? This unique event occurs due to When the Earth's axis tilts towards the sun. The midnight sun then occurs. This fun and lively event is known as the Midnight Sun and has become an Icelandic celebration. 

Reykjavik even hosts the Suzuki Midnight Sun Run. There are three different distances offered: half marathon, 10k, and 5k. The runs begin in the streets of the valley of Laugardalur but after that, the course mostly follows paths. You then go through residential neighborhoods and the Elliðaárdalur valley. The valley run provides views of the famous salmon rivers Elliðaár. Enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime run, that brings you throughout the areas in and around Reykjavik.

Vibrant Street Art Scene

Did you know Reyjakvik has an extensive street art scene? You can spot colorful artwork on the sides of buildings and walls throughout the city. Some of these vibrant murals and tags are done by Margeir Dire, Geoffrey Skywalker, Arnór Kári, and many more. 

The art scene first started back in the 1990s and early 2000s. It began with tagging underneath bridges and underpasses. From there it took off, cascading art into huge murals, that the city has grown to love. You can find this passionate art across the Reyjavik city walls and alleyways. We recommended doing a graffiti walk during your time in Reykjavik. You can learn a lot just by observing the artwork. Some of it may even bring you to a new unique and cool place.

Street art, Iceland

A Geothermal Energy Hotspot

Geothermal Energy heats the entire city of Reykjavik. How does this work? The steam is emitted from fissures and the mineral-rich water is operated by geothermal energy plants to heat fresh water. Then the high-pressure steam is used for electricity. While low-pressure steam and separated water are used for heating fresh groundwater. With all of these combined, the Reykjavik region becomes heated.

If soaking in geothermal water is more than what you are looking for, Reykavik has got that covered for you too. You can check out Sky Lagoon, a geothermal pool that is located only ten minutes away from Reykjavik City Center. You can spend your day relaxing in their pool or trying their seven-step ritual. A spa day that allows you to dive in a cold plunge, relax in a steam room, soak in a geothermal pool and so much more.

Sky Lagoon, Iceland

No mosquitoes

There are 1,600 species of dryland animals living in Iceland, according to the Icelandic Web of Science. Despite this variety, one species is missing: the mosquito! Iceland is among the few places on earth without mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes, Iceland

There Are No McDonald’s Here

Sorry McDonald's fans, you aren’t going to win this one. There was once a McDonald's restaurant in Reykjavik back in 1993. The prime minister even ordered a Big Mac at this In Reykjavik location. The issue was that the meat was coming from local Icelandic farms when the meat shortage entered the country. The menu items were then imported from Germany, which came with heavy taxes during the crisis. This caused the menu items to soar to 20% more than usual. Iceland had the highest-priced Big Mac in the entire world in the year 2009. The restaurant then closed down in 2009 due to the financial impact that happened in 2008. On the final day that McDonald’s was open, Icelanders crowded the restaurant for one last time. More than 10,000 burgers were sold that day.

But there are some awesome alternatives you can try instead. Vita bar is another well-known burger spot in Reykjavik. This burger place is a common recommendation from locals to tourists visiting Iceland. The popular Hamborgarabúllan is another favorite spot, also known as Tommi’s Burger Joint’ They offer some appetizing burgers that visitors rave about.

There are some other fast food chains though, including Taco Bell. But we recommend that you eat locally instead.

McDonald Logo

It’s Never Been Over 80 Degrees

Did you know that heat waves are not an issue in Reykjavik? It has never been hotter than 80 degrees. The warmest month of the year in the city is July. 56°F is the high average temperature, with lows sitting at 48°F. In July of 2008, the Icelandic Meteorological Office reported that Reykjavik hit 78.2 Fahrenheit. This was the highest temperature ever recorded in Reykjavik. Not necessarily a normal heat wave, but a little summer treat for the locals.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the whole country of Iceland was on the east side of the Island. This happened in 1939 when Iceland reached 30.5 degrees Celsius or 86.9 F.

In contrast, Reykjavik’ss coldest day in history was in January of 1971. The temperatures dropped to -19.7 °C or -3.5 °F. A very frigid day in the city. In this day and age, the coldest temperature each year falls around -10/-12 °C or 10/14 °F. A slight improvement from 1971.

Sun in Iceland

It Has A Penis Museum

That’s right! Reykjavik is home to a big museum full of different types of penises. It may sound a little crazy but it is an educational experience to have when visiting Iceland. The Icelandic Phallological Museum contains a group of more than two hundred penises and penile parts belonging to nearly all the land and sea. 

When you visit the museum you will see fifty-five specimens belonging to sixteen different kinds of whales. How cool is that? One specimen was taken from a rogue polar bear and thirty-six specimens belonging to seven different kinds of seal and walrus. There are also more than one hundred fifteen specimens originating from twenty different kinds of land mammals. That is a lot of different mammal penises for you to learn about. But hey, let’s face it, this is probably the only time in your life you will have the opportunity to check them out. So keep Reyjavik weird and add the Icelandic Phallological Museum to your list! You can even take home a funky souvenir from the gift shop on your way out.

Phallological Museum, Iceland

Reykjavik Means 'Bay of Smokes'

All the way back in 874, explorer Ingolfur Arnarson brought his family to Iceland. They settled on the southwest peninsula in a place he called the “Bay of Smokes” also known as Reykjavik. But why? These Vikings saw the steam rising from geothermal vents upon their arrival. Luckily, the waters had nothing to do with the smoke, and are instead the city's popular hot springs. 

Either way, the name stuck and today it is a name known around the world. Want to experience the “Bay of Smokes” for yourself? Plan a visit to one of the geothermal pools in the area or visit one of Iceland’s favorite hot springs. Rent a comfortable car for a long drive, like a 4X4 vehicle, a midsize car or a small car, to be able to discover all places and wonders that Iceland hides.

Reykjavik is the place to be when visiting Iceland. Whether you want to start or end your trip here, the possibilities are endless. We also love this city because of how weird and unique it truly is. Spend some time chatting with the locals or venture out and explore its lively scene. Whatever you chose to do, Reykjavik is ready to share some of its eccentric vibes with you during your next visit to Iceland.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Reykjavík mean in English?

Reykjavík translates to "Smoky Bay", referencing geothermal steam the settlers observed.

How big is Reykjavík?

The city of Reykjavik is 105.4 mi². This means the city covers a total surface area of 273 kilometers squared or 105 square miles.

Why is Reykjavík called the northernmost capital?

Reykjavík is the northernmost capital because it's the closest to the North Pole among all capital cities.

What is the midnight sun phenomenon in Reykjavík?

The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon in summer where the sun is visible at midnight in Reykjavík.

What is the population of Reykjavík?

A: As of 2023, Reykjavík's population is about 130,000, making it the largest city in Iceland.

What is the currency used in Reykjavík?

The currency used in Reykjavík, and throughout Iceland, is the Icelandic króna.

Is English widely spoken in Reykjavík?

Yes, English is widely spoken in Reykjavík and most Icelanders are fluent in it.

What is the best time to visit Reykjavík?

The best time to visit Reykjavík is in the summer (June-August) when days are longest and temperatures are mild.

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