Iceland has mystique. It lives in the collective consciousness of humanity and our mytho-poetic DNA. A land of fire and ice, sagas, heroes and villains. This was evident when our plane made its first pass near the black, volcanic coastline. Excited passenger hurried to snap photos, giddy.
Because of its high latitude, remote location and otherworldly landscapes Iceland is a byword for the extreme and exotic. Yet it is also a Nordic country with a modern, intriguing capital. Reykjavik holds much in common with other Scandinavian first cities as the seat of government, commercial hub and initial point of contact for most travelers. Yet there is something different. Yes, there is the culture and some architecture (the Harpa Centre for instance) in common. But Reykjavik is still an outpost, an outlier and an aspect of Icelandic sublime.
Reykjavik is the most northerly capital in the world. It’s location on the shores of Faxa Bay, surrounded by high, snow covered peaks, is alluring and inspires the imagination and exploration. Arriving from eastern Europe, we were up early the next day and descended into the city from the Suðurhlíðar neighborhood where we stayed initially. Coming by bicycle, it was very cold and patches of black ice caused a few small accidents.
Be that as it may, we slid down to Hotel Óðinsvé in the centre of Reykjavik and met the manager Bjarni Hákonarson, a gracious gentleman. Bjarni was our host for three nights at this perfect location, close to everything yet somehow quiet on a less traveled street. The Hotel Óðinsvé is one of the city’s exclusive hotels, but also homey and comfortable. Our room had two levels with TVs in both spaces. Upstairs there was a minibar and sofa which promoted listening to music, relaxing and looking out the window.
Hotel Óðinsvé has 50 rooms, 10 luxury apartments as well as country homes for rent by travelers enjoying the rural areas of Iceland. This is a boutique hotel, where each room is different. There is eye-catching art and photography throughout the property invoking the Icelandic landscape and people. Importantly, the quiet setting and peaceful atmosphere of Hotel Óðinsvé ensures a good night’s rest and refreshing start to the day. The competent and convivial staff makes sure everything runs smoothly for your stay.
The hotel houses the restaurant SNAPS, a French style bistro with Scandinavian cuisine. SNAPS is considered one of Reykjavik’s best restaurants and a landmark for meetings and cocktails. A continental breakfast is served at SNAPS from 7-10 every morning for hotel guests.
Because Hotel Óðinsvé is in the heart of Reykjavik its easy to walk everywhere and explore the city. The main shopping street Laugavegur is five minutes away. After breakfast, start the day off right with a cold one at Session Craft Bar, 14 Bankastræti street, just a few minutes from the hotel. The owners are friendly and will let you know all about the quality beer scene in Iceland
We also liked Kaffi Vinyl for its bohemian vibe, daytime happy hour and quality vegan lunch fare. Kaffi Vinyl spins cool music constantly on the turntable. The staff is warm, the beer is cold, the address is Hverfisgata 76.
A must visit for the crafty artsy set is the Stúdentakjallarinn, the student bar and restaurant at the University of Iceland west of downtown. Here you can sit in the dark with a cheap drink, good food and hatch creative conspiracies. There is usually an old movie on the big screen or live music. Stúdentakjallarinn can be found downstairs near the bookstore.
Back near Hotel Óðinsvé is the famous Hallgrimskirkja church. Designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, this Lutheran church was constructed between 1945-1986 and is a masterpiece of expressionist architecture
Hallgrimskirkja is one of the tallest structures in Iceland and can be viewed from all over Reykjavik. In front of the church is a statue of medieval explorer and native Icelander Leif Erikson, a gift from the United States. Only apropos as Erikson is thought to be the first European to have visited North America. If you are counting the days to Leif Erikson Day, it’s October 9th, a perfect time to visit Hotel Óðinsvé and Reykjavik. https://www.hotelodinsve.is/