In Hot Water
Midwinter pool hopping in Iceland. By Wayne Curtis
A visit to one of Reykjavík’s thermal pools costs about $4, making it one of the better bargains in an expensive city. An alternative to individual admissions is the Reykjavík Tourist Card, which provides access to all pools, along with museums and other attractions; it’s available in one- ($17), two- ($24), and three-day ($31) increments. Full access to the Laugar Spa (011-354-533-0000) is about $50. For pool descriptions, go to www.spacity.is/English/spa.html.
The Blue Lagoon is an easy place to get your feet wet, given its proximity to the airport; arrange a stop on your way into the city, or on your way home, through Reykjavík Excursions (this firm also books northern-lights tours, on the seemingly few occasions when conditions are right for viewing). The facility offers a geothermal outdoor seawater pool; spa treatments and massages, which are performed on floating mattresses; and a stylish restaurant overlooking the lagoon. A visit costs $20.
The Blue Lagoon
For accommodations, try the Hótel Frón, on Reykjavík’s central downtown street. It has seventy-one simple but comfortable rooms, fifty-two of which have kitchenettes—convenient given the high cost of eating out. A grocery store is just a short walk away.
The Radisson SAS Saga Hotel is a large, modern inn on a busy street within easy walking distance of the city center. Rooms on the higher floors have good views of either the city skyline or the distant ocean—at least when there’s enough daylight to see.
Radisson SAS Saga Hotel
Reykjavík’s restaurants are so pricey that it’s not unusual to spot tourists staring in awe at the menus posted outside, as if peering into the Grand Canyon for the first time. A beer can cost $10, and a hamburger can set you back $20.
Sjávarkjallarinn (“Seafood Cellar”) is situated beneath a historic building, has a lean Philippe Starck decor, and has been regarded as one of the better high-end restaurants in the city since it opened, in 2003. The specialty, not surprisingly, is fresh seafood, but with Asian and Cuban influences. It’s worth a splurge.
Less aggressive toward the wallet is the swank downtown Thorvaldsen Bar, which serves comfort drinks like mojitos. The sushi menu, meanwhile, takes advantage of the ample supplies of fresh fish found in Icelandic waters. If you packed stylish clothes, this would be the place to wear them. The restaurant tends to attract a younger crowd, with hip-hop, house, and disco music for dancing on weekends.