We at CenterHotels are getting pumped for the holidays and to share the joy we will be hosting some fun events in December like Wine Tasting at Jörgensen Kitchen & Bar and Christmas Yoga & Spa at CenterHotel Miðgarður. You are of course more then welcome to join in on the fun.
DECEMBER 14 | WINE TASTING EVENING AT JÖRGENSEN KITCHEN & BAR
A wine specialist will be visiting us at Jörgensen Kitchen & Bar on December 14th offering a very special night for all you wine tasting fans. Perfect addition to a good evening for couples and a wonderful twist for group of friends longing to meet up during the festive holiday season.
The wine tasting evening will take place at 19:00 on December 14th and in the wine tasting you’ll enjoy the wisdom of our wine specialist that will be offering you a taste of four different types of wines.
The wine tasting experience will cost only 3.900 kr (30€) per person and limited seats are available.
To reserve a seat by by the wine tasting table, please book here.
DECEMBER 18 | HOLIDAY YOGA AT CENTERHOTEL MIÐGARÐUR
How about enjoying a little extra in terms of relaxation during your visit in Reykjavík? We are happy to announce that on December 18th we will be offering a special holiday yoga class at CenterHotel Miðgarður.
The wonderful yoga instructor Thorey Vidars will lead a one hour gentle hatha yoga class focusing on breathing exercises, easy poses and deep nourishing relaxation.
After the yoga class all our guests are welcome to try out our new Miðgarður spa which includes a spacious sauna and hot tubs both inside the spa as well as outside in a secluded garden.
The yoga will begin at 17:30 on December 18th.
The price of the yoga class & access to Miðgarður spa is only 3.900 kr (30€) per person. Limited space is available.
To register for the holiday yoga, please register here
We can’t wait to see you all in your best holiday mood. Christmas hats are preferred but not mandatory.
We LOVE our Christmas traditions in Iceland and most families hold onto them very tightly. As a matter of fact Iceland is so full of Holiday traditions that it’s not easy covering them all in just one blog post. We did our best but keep in mind that December has just started so there is more to come.
Advent and the Christmas spirit
It will certainly not go unnoticed when Christmas season in Iceland begins as it becomes a 6 week party for all of your senses.
The season starts for most when Advent begins which is the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas. This is when you see Christmas lights and decorations pop up everywhere, you will hear the sound of Christmas music and get a whiff of gingerbread cookies and mandarins wherever you go. The stores become busier and public places generally more lively. So in other words this is when you start to see, smell, hear and feel the spirit of Christmas everywhere around you.
The 13 Santa Clauses or Yule lads
Originating from Old Icelandic folklore there are 13 mischievous pranksters that live in a cave in the mountains and in modern days these lads have somehow become the Icelandic version of Santa Claus. Each Yule lad has their specific idiosyncrasy and will behave in a particular manner. For example Pot Licker steals leftovers out of pots, Door slammer likes to slam doors, especially during the night, and Skyrgámur has an affinity for skyr (Icelandic version of Greek yogurt).
But they’re not just bad, because starting 13 days before Christmas they come to town, one each night, and leave a treat in children’s shoes (or a rotten potato, depending on how the child behaved the preceding day). This is why children place their favourite shoe in their bedroom windowsill each evening starting 13 days before Christmas and of course try to be on their best behaviour in order to get a nice treat from Santa.
Fun time for the whole family
This is the season for kids after all so what really sets the Christmas tone in Reykjavík is the Christmas ice skating plaza, located at Ingólfstorg square, across from CenterHotel Plaza. You can rent ice skates for 990 ISK and enjoy food, drinks and other goods while getting into the Christmas spirit. The ice rink is open every day until December 24 from 12:00-22:00.
Another fun Christmas activity for the whole family would be to visit the Christmas village located in downtown Hafnafjörður (aprox 15-20 minute drive from Reykjavík). It offers live entertainment and you can walk through little Christmas houses with all sorts of handcrafted Icelandic designs and yummy home baked goodies for sale and of course Santa and elves will be around greeting the children. The Christmas village is open every Saturday and Sunday in December until Christmas.
White Christmas and Northern Lights
Who doesn’t wish for white Christmas? Well if you’re in Iceland you’re in luck because your chances of getting white Christmas here are a lot better than in many other places.
Your chances of seeing the northern Lights are also a reality since December is the darkest month of the year in Iceland. To view the Northern Lights in all their glory it’s best to be slightly away from the city lights so you might want to consider joining a guided tour.
Food & Drinks
Again, most Icelanders hold tightly onto their Christmas traditions and certainly no less when it comes to food, with recipes being handed down generations. The Christmas meal is the most special meal of the year so we go ALL OUT. Most families stick to the same meal every Christmas although this has changed in the last few decades.
The most common and traditional Christmas meal is smoked lamb or ‘Hangikjöt’ served with bechamel sauce, potatoes, peas and pickled red cabbage. This has been a Christmas classic for centuries.
Other popular Icelandic Christmas foods are Glazed rack of ham or ‘Hamborgarhryggur‘ which is traditionally a Danish meal or Ptarmigan ‘Rjúpa‘ which is a member of the grouse family and most people will serve it with caramelised potatoes, and of course pickled red cabbage.
Baking is also a big part of Icelandic Christmas like in many other cultures and most families will bake few sorts of cookies but one baking tradition is especially important to Icelanders and sticks out from other cultures and that is the baking of Leaf Bread or ‘Laufabrauð‘. Sometimes called ‘snowflake bread’ Leaf bread is a crispy thin cake, decorated with leaf-like geometric patterns and fried briefly in hot oil or fat and served with Christmas dinner.
We also have our traditional Christmas drinks, like Jólaöl which is a mixture of local non alcoholic Malt drink and orange soda and Jólaglöggor Mulled Wine, a spiced and usually alcoholic drink that is served warm and then of course we have a variety of Icelandic Christmas beer that are brewed only for the holiday season. Going Christmas beer tasting has become a fun part of the Icelandic holiday tradition in recent years. We suggest you visit the hotel bar and try some delicious Christmas beers.
If you are visiting Reykjavík for the holidays, we recommend booking a table at a restaurant in advance for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve as not nearly all restaurants are open those days and the once that are open book up quickly. Most restaurants also offer a set holiday menu that are usually a more festive version of their normal menu.
All our three hotel Restaurants will be open those days and you can view our holiday menus here: SKÝ Restaurant & Bar, Ísafold Restaurant and Jörgensen Kitchen.
When visiting Reykjavík you don’t have to go far to experience many of the country’s natural wonders. For example if you are here on a long layover or only have a few days to spare, you can still manage to see and experience a lot by simply taking day trips from Reykjavík.
One of the more popular day trips from Reykjavík is the Golden Circle and it is popular for a reason.
On this tour you go to the world-famous Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss- the queen of Icelandic waterfalls and Thingvellir National Park.
But something that not everyone knows is that the Golden Circle is much more than just picturesque landscape and natural wonders, each one of the magnificent places visited actually have a story to tell..
First stop is Geysir geothermal area which lies in the Haukadalur valley.
The oldest accounts of hot springs at Haukadalur date back to 1294, when earthquakes in the area caused significant changes in local neighbouring landscape creating several new hot springs.
The largest hotspring was named Geysir and eruptions at Geysir can shoot boiling water up to 70 meters in the air. In 1845, Geysir reached a height of 170 metres and all geysers in the world owe their name to this one.
Geysir eruptions have become more and more infrequent in recent years and have in the past stopped altogether for years at a time. However, Geysir’s brother Strokkur shoots up a column of water up to 30 meters (98 ft) into the air every few minutes.
Next stop is by one of the most iconic waterfalls in Iceland, Gullfoss with it’s spectacular view of the forces and beauty of untouched nature. The water plummets down 32 meters into a 62 meter deep canyon. Gullfoss means Golden waterfall because on a sunny day, the water takes on a golden-brown color. Also a beautiful rainbow appears over the waterfall when the sun shines making it very picturesque.
But Gullfoss is more than just a pretty waterfall, behind the waterfall is also a groundbreaking story about an inspiring woman of the early 20th century, Sigríður from Brattholt.
Sigríður lived on a sheep farm called Brattholt, located next to the massive waterfall and she loved the waterfall. In 1907 wealthy English investors approached Sigríður’s father, a farmer who owned the land at the time, and wanted to buy the waterfall in order to build a dam for electricity production. The farmer refused the offer but agreed to lease it.
Sigríður decided she needed to take matters in her hands and went through great efforts in order to protect the waterfall. In order to get the lease contract voided, she often walked or rode on horseback 120km to and from Reykjavík to urge powerful business men and political leaders to let the waterfall be. When all that failed she even threatened to throw herself into the waterfall in protest. Eventually with help of her lawyer, Sveinn Björnsson, who later became the first president of Iceland, they managed to have the contract disposed.
Sigríður’s struggle to preserve the waterfall brought attention to the importance of preserving nature and today she is called Iceland’s first environmentalist and became an inspiration to many women and men to come. Gullfoss and it’s environment was designated as nature reserve in 1979.
The third sight is Þingvellir National Park which is both geologically and historically significant.
Þingvellir – which directly translates to ‘the parliament fields’ is the location of the oldest parliament in the world, Alþingi. It became the assembly’s site in 930 AD where over thirty ruling chiefs met for the first time to discuss law on the island and to create a commonwealth.
Þingvellir also became the centre of Icelandic culture. Every year during the Commonwealth period, people would flock there from all over the country. And although the duties of the assembly were the main reason for going there, ordinary people also got together at Þingvellir for a various reasons. It became a meeting place for everyone in Iceland, laying the foundation for the language and literature that have been a prominent part of people’s lives right up to the present day.
Due to its long history, Þingvellir became a National park in 1930 and in 2004, it was accepted as part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Apart from being the location of the oldest parliament in the world, the Þingvellir’s geological traits are also fascinating.
Iceland is the only place in the world where the Mid-Atlantic ridge is above sea-level and the island is actually divided by the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates which pull the country apart by a couple of centimetres per year.
Þingvellir National Park lies in the valley between the two plates and nowhere else can you see the edges of both plates as clearly as in Þingvellir.
Some of the rifts are full of clear water, and one of them called Silfra has become a popular snorkeling and diving spot. It is a once in a lifetime experience where you get to dive between the two continental plates.
The Golden circle tour ends at Friðheimar greenhouse which is one of Iceland’s biggest greenhouses. There you will learn about growing vegetables in a country which doesn’t get much daylight for most of the year.
If you would like to join a Golden Circle tour and make your vacation to the land of fire and ice even more unforgettable you can book your tour here or with your friendly front desk staff.
There is plenty to to in Reykjavík on a cold winter day.
If you’re still in doubt.. join us on this full day of fun.
Perlan museum Wonders of Iceland
After filling up on a delicious CenterHotels breakfast let’s visit Perlan. Perlan (‘The Pearl’ in English) is a spectacular landmark building that overlooks Reykjavik and can be seen for miles around. The building is a large glass dome placed on top of geothermal water storage tanks with a 360 viewing platform. In the Perlan Wonders of Iceland museum you can learn about glaciers and even experience the feeling of walking through a real glacier cave, an accurate replica of an ice tunnel dug straight through a glacier and the only indoor ice cave of it’s kind in the world. Perlan even offers a free shuttle bus from Harpa concert hall to Perlan daily from 9:00 – 17:30.
Soup at Svarta kaffið
It’s time for lunch so we’re heading to Svarta Kaffið, a little warm and cozy café on Laugavegur strip and they are known for these hearty bread bowl soups, and for a reason, they are YUMMY!
Coffee at Reykjavík Roasters
We’re skipping our after lunch coffee at Svarta Kaffið because we’re going to Reykjavík Roasters for the best cup of Java in town.
Walking Tour of Reykjavík
Now that we’re full and high on caffeine it’s time to walk it all off by exploring Reykjavík on foot.
Citywalk offers a free 2 hour walking tour that takes you on foot around the heart of Reykjavík with an english speaking local.
Thermal pool or spa
After roaming around Reykjavík in the cold for 2 hours, a soak in one of Reykjavík’s many warm thermal pools does not sound bad at all.
Soaking in hot water has many health benefits along with just being cozy on a cold winter day which is why bathing in warm thermal pools is a very common practice amongst Icelanders all year round and it dates back to the early settlement of Iceland. It’s not only good for the body and soul but it’s an inexpensive fun for the whole family, approx 8 Euros for adults and FREE for children under 10 years old. Our favorite thermal swimming pools in central Reykjavik are:Laugardalslaug and Vesturbæjarlaug.
If you fancy more pampering and don’t feel like venturing to one of the local swimming pools you should visit one of the CenterHotels wellness areas, Miðgarður Spa, Ísafold Spa or Arnarhvoll Wellness center. You can book your admission with the friendly front desk staff.
Dinner at Ísafold Restaurant
We’re feeling fresh and rejuvenated but starting to get hungry again so the next and last stop is Ísafold Restaurant located at CenterHotel Þingholt. Here we are literally going to get a taste of Iceland in one evening by ordering theOld Iceland menu, a three course speciality menu featuring the best of Icelandic culinary world. The bacalou main course is to die for!!
After dinner we will finish our evening with a whiskey tasting at Ísafold lounge. Their impressive whiskey collection features quality whiskeys from all corners of the world.
November 16th, has been deemed ‘the day of the Icelandic tongue’. The date is the birthday of Iceland’s beloved poet Jónas Hallgrímsson who fought to protect the Icelandic language from Danish influence in the 19th century. So to honour this day we have gathered some interesting facts about the Icelandic language:
Due to Iceland’s geographic location, small population and of course the nation’sefforts to preserve the purity of the language, Icelandic hasn’t changed much for hundreds of years. It still sounds much like the Old Norse, a medieval language once spoken across the Nordic countries.
We invent new words rather than borrowing them
There is actually a government committee with Icelandic linguists that work to create unique Icelandic terminology for new things rather than adopting foreign words, such as:
TV = ‘Sjónvarp’ (“vision projection”) Computer = ‘Tölva’ the combination of ‘tala’ (digit) and ‘völva’ (seeress) iPad = Spjaldtölva, the combination of ‘spjald’ (tablet) and ‘tölva’ (computer)
The Icelandic phonebook lists people by their first name and the reason is that Icelanders do not use family names. Instead they use the traditional Nordic naming system where the last name is taken from their father’s (or mother’s) first name with the addition of -dóttir (-daughter) or -son. Jón Ólafsson’s offspring, for example, might be Einar Jónsson and Sigríður Jónsdóttir.
The Icelandic alphabet consists of 32 letters versus 26 in the English alphabet. Some of the letters are duplicated with acute accents and in addition it includes the letter Ðð, the runic letter Þþ, Ææ and Öö.
We talk on the inhale
This may be a surprise to some Icelanders (only because it is so natural) but we often speak on the inhale, mostly when saying Já (yes). The reason is a mystery but if you pay attention; you’ll notice and hopefully get a giggle.
Devilishly difficult to learn
It’s just a hype, don’t be fooled. Although it may not sound like it, Icelandic is in fact closely related to English.
So if you put in the time, you’ll get there. Just keep in mind that only about 0.005% of the seven billion people on this globe speak Icelandic making it NOT the most practical language to learn. But Icelanders do love when you try to speak it to them in Icelandic..you may get laughed at a bit but it’s all a part of the fun.
On that note we’ll leave you with a few common Icelandic phrases/sentences so you can start practising:
‘Áfram með smjörið’ (On with the butter), meaning = stop slacking.
‘Takk fyrir síðast’ (Thanks for last time), meaning = nice seeing you again.
‘Góðan daginn’ (Good day), meaning = Hello or Good morning
‘Þetta reddast’ (chill, It’ll work out)
‘Glugga Veður’ (Window-Weather), meaning = the weather looks good through the window but is actually not good at all
‘Gefa undir fótinn’ (Give under the foot) meaning = Flirt
Our third and final Airwaves off-venue event this year will be held on Saturday, November 4th at the rooftop restaurant and bar SKÝ located at CenterHotel Arnarhvoll. Three mind blowing artists will be performing: Blindur, Hekla and Indolore.
Blindur – 17:00-18:00
The evening starts with the Italian band BLINDUR. Blindur is a musical project; a collective; a crossroad of artists; an idea; an hallucination; a confession; a clear demonstration of fidgetiness; a mix of beautiful and ugly things, artless and articled things, and for all these reasons, sincere things.
Hekla – 18:00-19:00
Hekla plays electronic music out of thin air. The music is centered around layers of theremins that interlace with one another creating a cinematic sci-fi atmosphere. Theremins come disguised as voices and other times vocals are disguised as theremins.
Indolore – 19:00-20:00
Last on stage is INDOLORE. Exploring pop/folk-based influences like Nick Drake and Damien Rice, french indie-folk musician INDOLORE began his career in London in a band called Shine, opening for Sia and Morcheeba and working with British rock legend Terry Reid. His debut EP “Positive Girls” got hundreds of streams. He was invited to SXSW in Austin, Texas in 2016. INDOLORE is back to Iceland where he recorded his new EP “Love Letters From Eylenda” in the studio of the magic Sigur Rós last summer. It’s out now on all digital platforms.
SKÝ Restaurant and Bar will be offering Happy Hour prices during the event as well as special Airwaves food & beer combos. Be sure to ask for the Airwaves Cocktail, it’s a good one this year.
Our second Airwaves off-venue event this year will be held on Friday, November 3rd at Ísafold/CenterHotel Þingholt with three great bands: Ylfa Marín, Keto and Ingunn Huld.
Ylfa Marín – 17:00-18:00
The musician Ylfa Marín starts the show with her smooth and sweet voice. Ylfa is passionate about diverse genres of music and has participated in various projects that mostly have gained popularity abroad. Earlier this year she released an electronica record and since then she has been working on a solo project.
Keto – 18:00-19:00
Second on stage is Keto. Keto bring their own style of lo-fi folk, likened to Cat Power and Elliot Smith, with audience members describing it ashypnotic. Playing shows alongside Lower Dens, Eaves, and getting the chance to sing with Sun Kil Moon in Hackney, Keto has gained support from 6music, Drowned in Sound, Clash Mag, and John Kennedy, with her single ‘Change’.
Ingunn Huld – 19:00-20:00
Ingunn Huld is a singer-songwriter that studied jazz singing and released her debut album, Fjúk in November 2015. She has performed at various cafes and smaller venues in and around Reykjavík. Despite her studies as a jazz vocalist and her interest in jazz, she mainly performs pop and folk music. In October 2017 she released her song Splendid along with a music video. In the off-venue concerts she will be accompanied by the bassist Árni Magnùsson and together they will play new songs in English along with a few songs from the album Fjúk.
Ísafold Lounge will be offering Happy Hour prices during the show and 10% discount will be off the a la carte menu at Ísafold Restaurant. Be sure to try the Moscow Mule, our official Airwaves Cocktail this year.
Our Off-Venue schedule this year kicks off this Thursday November 2nd at CenterHotel Miðgarður with three amazing Icelandic bands: VAR, INDRIÐI and HUGAR.
VAR – 17:00-18:00
VAR is a five piece band from Iceland. Their music is full of power and melodies drawing influence from various directions, as members of the band hail from different musical backgrounds. Their live performance is powerful and energetic and is sure to move you in many ways.
INDRIDI – 18:00-19:00
Indridi is the music composed by Indriði Arnar Ingólfsson an Icelandic musician born of Reykjavik’s DIY punk scene, founding member of intense punk band MUCK and collaborator of artists such as Jófríður Ákadóttir (JFDR, Samaris, Pascal Pinon), Úlfur Hansson (Klive), and The Heavy Experience. Indriði’s first solo record was released via new record label figureight in fall of 2016. Comprising of ten original tracks written, produced and recorded by Indriði, Makril reflects his ideas of self-exploration and leaving the insular society of Iceland, themes which are expressed through the album’s beautifully sparse soundscapes, melodic guitar motifs, and vocals that are weighed down with both emotion and experience.
HUGAR – 19:00-20:00
The duo Hugar consists of Bergur Þórisson & Pétur Jónsson. Both have been creating music of all kinds in their native Iceland since toddlers. Few years ago they sat down, put their minds together and decided to pursue some new, fresh avenues where they could flex their creative muscles (Hugar means “Minds” in Icelandic).
Their self-titled debut album was released in 2014, containing some ethereal pieces of instrumental music. Two songs from that album got playlisted on the ‘Peaceful Piano’ Spotify Playlist (followed by 2 million users). Hugar are in good company on said playlist (Aphex Twin, Yann Tiersen, Ólafur Arnalds, Alicia Keys among others) and the tracks have now gathered millions of plays.
Jörgensen Kitchen & bar will be offering Happy Hour prices during the show and 10% discount will be off the a la carte menu at Jörgensen Kitchen. Be sure to try the Moscow Mule, our official Airwaves Cocktail this year.
Get ready for the coolest music festival in the world
Iceland Airwaves is the most spectacular music festival in Iceland and is held every year in early November at various music venues, record stores, art museums, bars and even in a church, all located in downtown Reykjavík. This year the music festival will also be held for the first time in Akureyri, the northern capital of Iceland.
Iceland Airwaves was founded in 1999 and the idea was to showcase Icelandic bands for foreign industry leaders and to attract foreign travellers in the low season. At first Airwaves was a one-off gig held in an air plane hangar with only 5 bands. But since then it has established itself as the biggest and hippest music celebration in Iceland, attracting thousands of festival visitors from all over the world.
Why is it the coolest
There is a reason music lovers flock to Iceland for this one of a kind festival. Live music literally fills the city center, but it’s not just about the concerts. You get a true feel for the Reykjavík music culture, underground to mainstream. You also get the opportunity to check out the most diverse places and venues around town, have a taste of some quality Icelandic beer and indulge in some fine Icelandic cuisine.
This year the festival boasts an awesome line-up of both established and up-and-coming artists such as Mumford & Sons, GusGus, Pinegrove, Emiliana Torrini, Billy Bragg and Fleet Foxes. There are still festival tickets available and you can get yours here.
CenterHotels Off-Venue Events
If you don’t plan on getting a ticket to the festival; don’t worry because CenterHotels is a proud partner with Iceland Airwaves and will be hosting three off-venue events November 2-4 showcasing nine incredible bands. All three events start at 17:00, a special Airwaves cocktail will be served and food and drink specials offered. The line-ups are mind blowing and admission is FREE so don’t miss out!
The famous hot dog stand that offers one menu item only: The best hot dog in the Universe. The hot dog is served with raw and crispy fried onions, sweet mustard, ketchup and remoulade sauce. A must try quick bite.
Curry in a hurry – For your quick curry fix
For only 950 ISK you get a choice of 3 curry dishes, meat or veggie, served with Naan bread. Curry in a hurry is only served for lunch and for take away at Shalimar, a Pakistani restaurant located downtown Reykjavík.
After a refreshing happy hour drink at Jörgensen Kitchen, we suggest you walk across the street to Hlemmur Food Hall. This new Reykjavík culinary treasure offers all kinds of food, whether it may be Vietnamese street food, Mexican burritos or cured meats with a glass of french wine, you can be sure to find it there.
If you’re a fish and chips lover then you won’t be disappointed by this small fish and chips stand located on the old harbor. Serving fresh quality Icelandic cod, cooked to perfection and served with fries and mushy peas. YUM!
A new..ish burger joint located on Vesturgata 12, in very close vicinity to CenterHotel Plaza. Unlike other fast food joints across the city, Bio Borgari specialises in offering a healthier alternative, using only products that are either organic or have been sustainably farmed. Burgers are served on a organic roll with root vegetable chips.
A tiny noodle bar offering delicious Ramen, dumplings and other delights. The first noodle station in Iceland to produce organic fresh noodles and most of the ingredients used are made in Iceland to support local market.
Chinese bao bun food truck parked outside Skúli Craft Bar, also short walk from CenterHotel Plaza, offers steamed bread like buns filled with variety of fillings like portobello mushrooms, beef strips or pulled pork with Korean Kimchi and sriracha mayo. Served with sweet potato fries, Bao bun is a great substitution if you can’t stomach another Icelandic hot dog :).