Throwback Travel: Things to do in an Icelandic Winter (Reykjav√≠k Style)

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The pond in the city center

Sorry for my delay in posting. I’ve had this post in draft for quite a while. I finally decided to go through my photos and try to finish it. ūüôā Above is a photo of¬†Tj√∂rnin, which is the small lake in the city center. While we strolled around the city, we spent some time by the lake, admiring the sparkling lights and the birds along the shore. I wasn’t crazy¬†enough to walk on the frozen parts of the lake, but there were plenty of brave souls who did! Fortunately¬†I didn’t see anyone fall through the ice.

By the way, how pretty is the twilight?!

Onto the things we did to escape the winter cold… ūüôā indoor Reykjavik activities!

Icelandic Phallological Museum

Find it at: Laugavegur 116, 105 Reykjavík, Iceland

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Inappropriate toys at the Philological Museum Рafter several seconds, this doll opens his robe and flashes you. Joyous.

I might be twisted, but¬†The Icelandic Phallological Museum¬†had been on my “I absolutely must do this!” list for Reykjavik. I had several friends visit and tell me about the absurdity of this museum, so I knew that I had to visit!

The Phallological¬†Museum was right off of Reykjavik’s main strip, Laugavegur, so it wasn’t out-of-the-way. The museum is pretty small (and pricey – I recall it being around 10-15 euros per person);¬†you can get through it pretty quickly unless you really¬†study the museum’s¬†goods. I didn’t necessarily catalog everything, but there were definitely more collective penises… peni?… there than any other place I’ve been (which makes sense, since it advertises itself as the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts). I particularly liked the collection of household decorations and goods that apparently numerous companies not only thought were a good idea to design, but manufacture and sell. A penis shaped landline phone – you bet! And oh, of course lighting fixtures.

If penis shaped household goods aren’t your style, you can also admire large whale penises (which were larger than me), various animal penises stored in¬†mason jars with¬†formaldehyde, and global artwork in suggestive shapes! Something for everyone!

If penile parts of the past aren’t enough, don’t worry! Previous visitors of the museum have helped to adorn the walls with photos¬†of their members around the world, usually in front of sites of interest. If any men were arrested in their endeavor to flash their goods while taking a photo, I would also appreciate those stories in the display. I didn’t see any, but I imagine some of those photos had to be taken quickly, stealthily, and outside of police presence.

Hallgrimskirkja (Church of Iceland)

Find it at: Hallgrímstorg 101, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

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View from the Hallgrimskirkja viewing platform.

Hallgr√≠mskirkja is a Lutheran Church and the largest Church in Iceland. It is also one of the tallest buildings in the entire country. You can see the church from most vantage points in the city, so it helps as a guide if you manage to get turned around in Reykjavik. The church was nice on the inside, but if you’re used to the highly ornate¬†European churches in other capital cities, this one will be a bit underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong,¬†the interior is nice, but it’s very clean and minimalist. There is also a massive organ,¬†which is nice if you visit while music plays.

My favorite part, though, was the observation tower. You can buy a ticket to take an elevator up to a viewing deck. The views of the city are really cool! You can admire the colorful buildings, the water, mountains, and for us during our winter travels – the snowy landscape. Highly recommended.

Afterward, we strolled down¬†Sk√≥lav√∂r√įust√≠gur, which was a cute shopping street with a lot of boutiques and food joints; there were a ton of jewelers, clothing shops, art galleries, and mom-and-pop boutiques on this road. It eventually intersects with¬†Laugavegur.

National Museum of Iceland

Find it at:¬†Su√įurgata 41, 101 Reykjav√≠k, Iceland

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National artifacts on an airport conveyor belt.

To continue the trend of finding indoor attractions to save¬†us from the cold, we spent an afternoon at the National Museum of Iceland. It’s a bit out-of-the-way if you’re staying downtown. Still,¬†we managed to walk and enjoy the stroll to the other side of Tj√∂rnin,¬†through neighborhoods with colorful houses and twinkling¬†lights.

The museum was really nice and a lot larger than I expected. You could easily spend 2¬†to¬†3 hours here. The museum has English signs throughout, which was much appreciated. The museum¬†illustrates the life of Iceland’s first inhabitants and explained the changes in power dynamics throughout the centuries. I thought the museum was generally pretty logically¬†laid out and the signs were easy to follow. I also liked the “airport conveyor” belt exhibit at the end that had more artifacts of modern Icelandic history and pop culture. Don’t worry – of course it had a Bjork album. I would have liked to have seen more about modern Icelandic contributions to larger Western¬†pop culture. Overall, it was a nice place to spend an afternoon. If you’re like me and into museum gift shops, I should add that the gift shop and cafe are nice. ūüôā

Overall, Iceland was a great destination in December. I am excited to return in the summer, when we can venture beyond the capital and the Golden Circle. Still, if you’re looking for a winter trip and want to admire the moonscape – I highly recommend Iceland. It’s a short flight from the U.S. East Coast, it’s not crowded, and nothing screams holiday spirit as¬†sipping hot chocolate while walking through the winter scenary¬†and admiring Christmas lights on¬†snow covered, brightly colored houses. Did I also mention there were folks selling roasted almonds? Warm, toasty, sugar-covered almonds! Isn’t that reason enough?

Throwback Travel: Icelandic Winter and Meeting the Natives

When we told our friends that we were planning a winter excursion to an island, this statement¬†likely conjured an image¬†of a warm, tropical Carribean island with throngs of tourists all with the same idea¬†–¬†escaping the winter cold. Not exactly what we were thinking at that time…

What is there to do in Iceland during the winter? Are you crazy?

Iceland had been on my bucket list for ages; I’ve always imagined that someday, I would visit and take a long road trip in a rugged vehicle around the famous Ring Road to see the entire island and all of its natural beauty¬†(I definitely plan to go back to do this!).

I started to do a lot of online research, and undoubtedly there are many more articles about things to do in the Land of the Midnight Sun during the summer months; the winter months even restrict tourists from certain activities and venturing to specific¬†areas. It’s dark! It’s cold.¬†Ice is in the country name! What could we possibly be thinking?

Still, we were determined to spend part of December in a winter wonderland. We wanted to go somewhere that felt like it was winter and perhaps even see Christmas markets. Iceland is also a lot closer than mainland Europe. All these factors helped us finally bite the bullet and book our tickets. We were headed to Reykjavik!

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View of the city from the Hallgrímskirkja

One of the first things we did in Iceland on our first night was visit the Tin Can Factory for its Meet the Natives session. We were able to walk from our AirBnB booking on the main street, Laugavegur. We booked the only reservations that night for the Meet the Natives session. We spent several hours at the Tin Can Factory, learning a bit about the history of Iceland, sampling Icelandic cuisine (which included fresh Icelandic butter and geothermal bread, pumpernickel bread, herbs and spices), and learning a bit about the language. We were even assigned our own Icelandic names!

Toward the end, we learned how¬†to make Icelandic pancakes, and sat down to enjoy our creations. The pancakes with cream, fruit toppings, and¬†homemade whipped cream were amazing. The classroom was dark, because the sun had long set by the time we started class. Here’s what the classroom looked like:

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The Tin Can Factory classroom

We also got to try some Christmas food and the Icelandic Christmas drink Malt go Appelsín.

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Icelandic food sampler

We headed back to our booked apartment, with stomachs stuffed and ready to spend a week exploring Reykjavik and the surrounding areas. So far, Iceland in winter was a winner!