Reykjavik

Written by    Last updated: June 6, 2006

Find romance in the northern lights

In a nutshell…

This unusual European city is the world’s most northerly city and is perfect for anyone looking for something a little different as a location for a romantic break. The name means ‘Smoky Bay’ in Old Norse, because of the steaming sulphurous springs, which are used to heat public outdoor swimming pools.

The city is culturally very active, with a lively selection of museums, cafés and music venues where you can catch Iceland’s most famous musical export, Bjork. Alcohol is not cheap, but that does not stop hordes of Icelanders converging on the city of a Friday night for a huge drink‐up. Just outside Reykjavik, you can find lunar landscape deserts where geysers bubble under the winter snow, not to mention frozen waterfalls and snowscapes that lend themselves to sledging and snowball fights.

Magnetic attractions

  • Videy Island This small island, across the harbour from Reykjavik, has the flat‐topped Mount Esja on one side, formed when a volcano erupted under a glacier, and a former monastery on the other, from where you can do a sea‐walk to see the coastal basalt columns.
  • Arni Magnusson Institute To brush up on your knowledge of Old Norse sagas and Viking life, take a look at this institute containing the treasured sagas and a lot of records of the history of the marauding Danes.
  • Sundlaugar Reykjavikur This is one of the city’s geothermically‐heated outdoor swimming pools, where you can wallow with friends even when there is snow on the ground. There are many plunge pools with temperatures ranging from tepid to near boiling.

Romantic rendezvous

  • Aurora Borealis The northern lights are best from October to the end of February during periods of intense solar activity and the luminous curtains, arcs and greenish rays are sure to put you in a passionate mood.
  • Gullfoss This is Iceland’s most celebrated waterfall and worth the 50‐mile (80km) drive from Reykjavik. In winter, the 100ft plume of water is completely frozen.
  • The Wharf Stroll down to the harbour and watch the fishing boats come in around 4pm, then head to Kaffivagninn where the fishermen eat the freshest of the day’s catch.

Love bites and love potions

Reykjavik is a first‐class haven for lovers of seafood. Fish does not get any fresher than that served in the city’s sophisticated, but expensive restaurants. The adventurous may also wish to dine on the country’s more exotic fare like smoked puffin, wild reindeer and grouse. The Café Solon Islandus is light and airy, with modernist paintings on the walls, candles and jazz and a good place for that special meal. Drink is very expensive in restaurants, so have a couple of beers before you head out.

Propose here

If you happen to be in Reykjavik when the night sky is particularly clear and the Aurora Borealis is in full resplendent view, what better setting or more beautiful sign could you ask for?

To get you in the mood

Put on some Bjork, close your eyes and imagine you’re surrounded by hot‐springs in the middle of huge ice‐fields.

A flick through Letters from Iceland by WH Auden and Louis McNeice will tug at the heart strings, and look out for Three Icelandic Poets, a collection featuring the work of Steinn Steinnarr, Jon Ur Vor and Matthias Johannessen. Film‐wise, look out for Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, a haunting emotional drama set partly in Iceland, starring Julie Ormond and based on the novel by Peter Hoeg.

Language of love

Eg elska thig ‐‐ I love you

Til hamingju med daginn ‐‐ Happy anniversary

Til Hamingju ‐ Congratulations

Viltu giftast mer ‐‐ Will you marry me

Stags and hens

Reykjavik is a great place to party at the weekend because the entire young population moves into town for a big pub‐crawl that lasts well into the early hours of the morning. During the winter months, you can work off any hangovers by heading out for some sledging in the few hours of daylight.

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