Reykjavik is very different to any European city I’ve visited. It comes with Nordic charm and brutalist architecture that smells a bit like a distant memory of the Soviet era. I think those of you who have grown up in Eastern Europe would totally see where I am going with this.
The capital of Iceland is a popular tourist destination, so high prices are unavoidable. But here are a few fantastic activities we ended up partaking in that didn’t break the bank, with some of them being super fun and… FREE!
- Weekend Flea Market – Kolaportid. This is a treasure trove of everything you can get around Iceland but for slightly more reasonable prices. We spent a lovely time browsing through the vintage treasures, and stopped at the market’s cafeteria. It’s charmingly old school – but has refillable coffee, so no complaints. Another vintage gem is Sputnik, definitely check it out.
- Kex Hostel. Even if you are not staying at the hostel, have a beer at the bar. Or a burger. It’s a super swanky hipster place; don’t be discouraged by its slightly hidden location, brave it and enter.
- Walking Tour of Reykjavik. This was tons of fun and it was theoretically free. You pay what you can offer at the end of the tour – and it was so good, it would be a shame to leave without donating. I highly recommend it, the tour guides share a lot of information and you learn a thing or two about the history of Iceland.
- Laugardalslaug. We were super lucky that our AirBnB was 2 minutes away from this pool. It was a super cheap experience and fantastic for both starting the day in a healthy way as well as ending it.
- Heading out of Reykjavik. The city is lovely and tons of fun… But it’s important to venture out of it to get that full Iceland experience. Go small and see the Golden Circle or go big and plan a road trip around Ring Road. Hire a car and go, go, go!
You Can’t Leave Reykjavik Without Tried These Foods:
- Local ice cream. Rain, thunder or snow – Icelanders love their ice cream. They associate this sweet treat with coming home, relaxing in the warmth and opening a dreamy tub of the creamy stuff. I see exactly where they are coming from!
- Fish and Chips. I thought I had good fish and chips in my life. How wrong I was. After Iceland, I can say with confidence that I have now indeed had good fish and chips. Really good.
- Traditional Icelandic Lamb Meat Soup. Do you miss that heartiness of grandma’s soup from your childhood? Go down memory lane with this bowl of goodness.
- Skyr. This is not yogurt, this is not curd cheese, it’s in-between. It’s full of protein, fat-free and oh-so delicious. This was my breakfast of choice when in Iceland.
- Icelandic Hot Dogs. These are cheap and cheerful, and super popular among Icelanders and tourists alike.
- Flatkaka bread. Think of it as a musky, sexy older brother of the humble tortilla that you kind of fancy, and are 100% aware that the flavour is a bit on the wild, chargrilled side.
Don’t be surprised if you see these Icelandic delicacies on the menu in Reykjavik:
- Puffin hunting is still allowed in Iceland, and many eat puffin as a delicacy. It has been on the menu for hundreds of years – lest we forget that Iceland is a harsh island where for many centuries living meant surviving.
- While whaling is regulated (the cap is 200 per year which is yet to be reached), whale meat finds its way to Icelandic restaurants rather than home-made dinners.
- Fermented fish. This is the dish that is used to scare the tourists away. You probably heard of fermented shark or any other fish that is a popular traditional Icelandic meal. This probably isn’t the right dish for those sensitive to smell. The odour is very strong and it is what causes the biggest controversy when it comes to fermented fish. The flavour isn’t as strong, by the way.
- Boiled lamb head. Yep. The adventurers go for this one. If you are wondering how it looks like, I can tell you before you pop to Google images – it looks like a boiled lamb head.
- Liquorice. If you are a fan, cool. Ew, I am not.
Have tons of fun in Iceland!
Do You REALLY Need to be NUDE in Geothermal Baths, Blue Lagoon & Public Pools in Iceland?
So you’ve landed in Iceland, feeling pretty smug. You’ve made it to the land of ice and fire! That smugness is wiped out off your face as soon as those Icelandic winds make an appearance (which is the moment you step out of the aircraft). To warm up your bones, you book a trip to the Blue Lagoon, or any lagoon for that matter. But you’ve heard things, awkward things… like Do you REALLY need to be NUDE when enjoying the geothermal baths in Iceland? Oh goodness. Let’s find out:
- The naked truth, or the truth about nakedness. You don’t go topless, bottomless or nude to the public pools or lagoons themselves. All you need to do is take a shower nude, aka in your birthday suit, and not your bathing suit. This is to make sure you are completely clean before you enter the pools/baths, as the water in them is without chlorine. That’s right, the water is completely natural, without a chemical in sight. So the order is as follows: Come in dressed, undress, shower, put a swimsuit on, enjoy the baths, take swimsuit off, shower, put clothes back on. Not that scary, right? I must add, for those who are not body confident, there are slightly secluded showers, all the rest are public. The dressing rooms are separated by gender. It’s worth adding that no one really cares about how you look like with clothes or without clothes in these facilities. Literally, no one. People come here to relax and catch up with friends, and don’t really have time to deal with anyone’s insecurities. Their general advice is getting over it.
- Wait, people talk to you while you are in the pool? It’s a yes. For Icelanders, going to geothermal pools is an equivalent of us going to Starbucks. They catch up with friends, discuss the news, argue, make up, gossip etc while half naked in a 38 degree pool. People chatted to us, told us about their lives (I think they gave me enough info to write their biographies), and joked with us. So while it may be not that relaxing, attending some local geothermal baths was a very cultural experience.
- Is the Blue Lagoon Just a Tourist Trap? I didn’t have the pleasure of going to the Blue Lagoon, as it was actually booked out for the time I was there. We came up with plan B and went to Myvatn instead. At the time, I was quite upset thinking I missed our on something major, so I jumped into reading reviews. Some loved it, some hated it. The fact is that Icelanders seldom go to the Blue Lagoon, only tourists flock to the attraction. The second fact is that it is man-made, so it’s not a natural nature bath. The third fact is that it is very expensive, and the alternatives are just as good – just way cheaper. In the images above, I didn’t have to photoshop anyone out, as there was literally no one there. We rolled up really early to Myvatn nature baths, were the only ones there, and as more people started appearing, we were done. Should you go to the Blue Lagoon? If you can, do. Should I despair if I can’t make it? Nope. I can’t recommend Myvatn enough, especially in the morning to get the same serene experience we did. Plus, it was the perrrrfect photoshoot opp with zero photoshopping people out of the background.
- But it’s COLD outside! Yes, it is cold. This means you will want to hurry into the warm pool to enjoy the soothing warmness of the water. Then you’ll just run back into the changing rooms. It’s not that bad, and doesn’t really take away from the experience. People also asked: Should we wear hats, won’t our heads get cold? Short answer, no. You’ll be fine.
- It stinks? You will notice a smell here and there around the island, and it may become a bit intense if you are going towards the geothermal waters or turn on the hot water on your tap (I especially noticed it in Reykjavik). I can only describe the smell as rotten eggs. I am not going to lie – it ain’t pretty. But as Icelanders would say… Get over it and enjoy the good things.
Are you planning on visiting any public pools, natural baths or the Blue Lagoon in Iceland?
You can take the girl out of Eastern Europe, but you can’t take the Eastern Europe out of the girl. As someone who has lived in London for more than 10 years, I realised that there’s a ton of things that may seem weird about me… because they are total Eastern European superstitions!
What Are Some Typical Eastern European Things About Me?
- Whistling indoors. I physically cannot bear someone doing so. In Eastern European culture this is considered vulgar, and the saying goes that “you will whistle your funds away”. I am almost shivering even thinking about it. Stahp.
- Even number of flowers. While florists in London wouldn’t give two thoughts about even or uneven numbers of flowers in their beautiful arrangements, give an even number to an Eastern European and they will accuse you of wishing them death. This is because it is customary to bring a bouquet with an even number of flowers to a funeral, uneven to any other occasion.
- Describing someone else’s spot, bruise, cold sore etc while gesturing and showing it on yourself. Never ever show it on yourself as in Eastern European culture it may mean that you are next to get it!
- Sitting down in silence before travelling. This is something my parents taught me to do. It’s just a tradition of sitting down in silence for a minute or half before embarking on a long journey, even if you are late; the taxi driver will get it back home; but it’s not an excuse to be late here in London.
- Empty bottles on the floor. Not in my house! Don’t ask and don’t do it.
- Birthday greetings before the actual date. Who knows if we actually live to the date? I mean, anything can happen! Always greet an Eastern European on the day of their birthday or after; never before.
There are many more of these Eastern European superstitions, for example sitting on cold surfaces or at the corner of a table, or looking into a broken mirror – but luckily those haven’t been cemented in my brain.
If you are an expat, what are typical things that you do that are not customary in the country you reside?
Dress: Kain, Earrings: JeannieRichard, Sunglasses: Gucci, Sandals: Louis Vuitton, Ring: YSL
Isn’t Israel something? A place so beautiful it hurts. It taught me quite a few things but mostly to slow the fuck down. I am not going to go all hippie philosopher on you but I am going to tell you this, living the moment is so much more important than capturing it and uploading to Instagram. I travelled around Israel for two weeks and I didn’t end up taking too many images (literally just a few more than I posted here) simply because I absorbed every experience like a sponge. I really and truly enjoyed lingering in the moment, allowing myself to feel grateful, surprised, appreciated, biting and chewing slowly instead of an instant swallow – the latter is something the workforce and educational facilities trained me to do: quantity AND quality AND quickly. Faster, Edita, faster. Israel got me out of the sausage machine and back to basics; to inhale, exhale and enjoy all that’s right here and right now.
I ended up wearing this Kain dress for most of my stay, it’s perfect in its simplicity, requires zero thought and gives you the possibility to mould it into whatever you want. In the previous post it’s styled to look like a glamorous evening dress, here it plays the role of a functional basic – a must-have when absorbing high-levels of otherworldly beauty that is the landscape of the Promised Land.
I prefer not to touch any political or religious subjects but I am going to say one thing: the sight of the Wailing Wall, the most beautiful mosque right next to it along with stunning historical churches all around the Old City Jerusalem make for a gorgeous and peaceful sight.