Iceland’s capital Reykjavík is a city steeped in history and tradition. Its beginnings are said to stretch back as far as 870 AD and has since formed into a place of great significance in Europe. From its museums that are filled with irreplaceable artifacts, to its unique geographic landmarks, here are a few places that are great to visit on your gap year to gain a richer understanding of the intriguing history of Reykjavík.
Safnahúsið (National Museum)
Of the many fantastic cultural spaces in the city, the National Museum is the best place to start. There are always exciting new exhibitions that come and go, but for those wishing to step into the past, there is a permanent area where you can see relics of the country’s past that date back to the Viking era. One of the many Viking treasures and artifacts on show in the Museum, the Valþjófsstaðir church door from the 1200s is a must see. It was hand carved with beautiful depictions of a story known as Le Chevalier au Lion, which involved dragons battling a knight and his lion.
For those wishing to get back to nature, this forest reserve achieved conservation status in 1950 and has over 4 million planted trees. Whilst it is a pleasant area to walk in, for those looking for something a bit older, it is also the location of Rauðhólar, an area of lava fields and is over 5000 years old. Red in colour, the cluster is a striking reminder of earlier formations of a time before people settled in the country.
To the north of the city in Félagstún there lies a building of massive historical importance. Originally constructed as a home for French consul Jean-Paul Brillouin, it went on to be the location that prompted the beginning of the end of the Cold War. In 1986, U.S President Ronald Reagan and the U.S.S.R’s Mikhail Gorbachev met as part of the Reykjavík Summits, which paved a way for a stronger relationship between the two nations.
Another modern and man-made, but nevertheless integral, part of the Reykjavík’s culture is it’s Blue Lagoon. After a volcanic eruption 800 years prior, a pool formed in the area in the mid-seventies from the output of a nearby geothermal power plant. The next decade saw visitors bathing in it, which led people to learn of its ability to relieve psoriasis. The Blue Lagoon is a major hotspot (literally and figuratively) for tourists, as it is an experience that is typical and special to the country.
Have you been to visit visit Reykjavík on your gap year? Let us know in the comments below.