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A Reykjavik travel guide – high-energy culture, culinary surprises and a thriving nightlife

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A Reykjavik city break is a high-energy experience. Step out of your Reykjavik hotel to discover a Viking past, legendary nightlife and nature’s marvels in Europe’s northernmost capital.

A living culture

Step back into the Viking past at Reykavjik 871 where the extensive ruins of a 9th-century farmhouse come complete with a buried animal spine for good luck. Iceland’s sense of nationhood is explored via the country’s greatest treasures at the National Museum. Watch the play of light over the monumental sculptures by Asmundur Sveinsson in his former white-domed functionalist ‘style house’. Iceland’s famed music and art scene come together at the Bad Taste Gallery which sells the artwork of local recording giants Sigur Rós, Björk and The Sugarcubes.

Eating and drinking

Halibut, Arctic char and more are fresh from Iceland’s unpolluted waters. Sheep and cattle roam free on wild pastureland and meadows that are fertiliser free. Treat yourself to sweet-tasting lamb, smoked puffin and grilled Icelandic langoustine in restaurants like traditional Laekjarbrekka – but at a price. Reykjavik has many good-value cafés, though, to keep the budget under control. Join local fishermen at an early breakfast or hearty lunch in the harbourside Kaffivagninn

Relax

The hot waters of geothermal pools produce a fog-like steam from which bathers emerge like ghosts. Near Keflavik airport, Blue Lagoon, the famous open-air spa outside Reykjavik, provides massage and therapeutic mud. Take the short ferry ride to Viðdey island for a look back over the city, or soak in the capital’s largest thermal pool at Laugardalur

Nightlife hotspots

Reykjavik rocks nightly, especially at weekends. The young chill out at bars like Hverfisbarinn; the chic gather under the Phillipe Starke lights at B5. The music scene takes off at places like Kaffi Oliver and Nasa. Festivals like October’s Iceland Airwaves Music Festival showcase hot new bands from metal to R ‘n’ B.