Reykjavík Marathon and Culture Night

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Reykjavík Marathon and Culture night (Menningarnótt) take place this Saturday, August 19th.

Reykjavík Marathon will start and finish in Lækjargata located in the center of Reykjavík and there are several things that make the Marathon stand out from other city marathons. First of all Reykjavik actually has some of the cleanest air of any city,  in addition to the Marathon and Half marathon distances; it also includes a 10k, 3k fun run and a kid´s marathon for children 8 years and younger which makes it an event for the whole family. Finally the course of the Reykjavik Marathon is exceptionally unique and scenic. The race is one lap and starts and finishes downtown within sight of the beautiful pond and the city hall. Runners pass along seaside with views of the ocean and Esjan and Snæfellsjökull glacier, through residential areas where many inhabitants come out of their houses to cheer the runners on. The participants also pass a number of famous buildings, including Höfdi House, a Reykjavik City Council reception venue where US President Ronald Reagan and USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev met for a summit in 1986.

The date of the marathon is planned to coincide with ‘Reykjavík Culture night’ or Menningarnótt.

The Reykjavik Culture Night is a yearly event that brings almost a third of the entire population of Iceland onto the streets to celebrate. It is held on or around August 18th every year which is the anniversary date of Reykjavík city. There is a long program of cultural events throughout the day and night such as art exhibitions, outdoor karaoke, youth circus for the children, food and music events and graffiti artists. The event peaks with a concert by Arnarhóll at 20:00 and ends with a not to be missed fireworks show over Harpa and the old harbour at 23:00. 

Enjoy a full day of fun this Saturday in Reykjavík!

Reykjavík Pride

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This week Reykjavík will be full of colors, happiness, glitter and glamour while celebrating Reykjavik Pride. The Pride has been an annual event celebrated in the Reykjavík since 1999.  When looking even further the event really goes back to 1993 when Icelandic gays and lesbians gathered together in the city demanding freedom and human rights.

Today the festivities are one of the largest events held in Reykjavik that attracts thousands of guests from all around the world. The celebration goes on for six days offering various events all around the city center. Some of the events are free of charge to attend while others are accessible for a moderate fee.

The events include amongst other the mayor of Reykjavík painting rainbow on the streets of Reykjavík, a photograph exhibition showing beautiful moments from queer couple’s stories at Skólavörðustígur, outdoor fun with the queer sport group at Klambratún,  George Michael tribute concerts at Gamla bíó and finally the Pride parade that will be held on Saturday (August 12th).  The parade becomes bigger and more glamorous every year attracting more participants and viewers.  This year the parade will depart from Hverfisgata at 2 o’clock ending up with a set of concerts at Hljómskálagarðurinn.

So, if you’re in town – you should definitely go and check it out!

Coming up this weekend: Verslunarmannahelgin

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This weekend Icelanders will be celebrating the Verslunarmannahelgi which is by far the biggest domestic travel and festival weekend in Iceland.

Verslunarmannahelgin which can be translated as the Shopkeepers weekend, is a labour day/bank holiday dedicated to Icelandic merchants and is celebrated every summer on the first Monday in August. Of course, only a small group of Icelanders really belong to the class of merchants but those that don’t still welcome this long weekend with a significant enthusiasm. And so, thousands of people get together and camp in the great outdoors to attend organized festivals with a lot of live music that are held all around the Island.

The festivals being held vary in size and so some of them are calmer ideal for families whereas others are quite busy and loud and do attract the younger that do like to party.

The biggest festival held during the Verslunarmannahelgi is without any doubt is the Þjóðhátíð í Eyjum (The Festival of the Nation in Westman Island) which is a festival held in Vestmannaeyjar, a small island on the southern part of Iceland. During this weekend, around 12.000 people travel from the mainland to the Island of 4000 inhabitants to enjoy the event which includes performances by famous and less famous musicians.

Other large festivals held during the weekend are the Ein með öllu (One with everything) festival held in the capital of the north, Akureyri, Mýrarboltinn (Mud-football and music) in the Westfjords and Síldarævintýrið (Herring adventure family festival) in Siglufjörður town. And then of course for those that do not prefer to go camping to enjoy live music and festivities they can just stay home in Reykjavík and attend the Innipúkinn (the couch potato) downtown Reykjavík music festival.

In conclusions, everyone should be able to find whatever suits them and enjoy the festivities during Verslunarmannahelgin.

Have a happy weekend!

Reykjavík in the rain

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Explore Reykjavík on a rainy day

Icelandic weather can be quite unpredictable, even in the summer. One moment may be sunny and the next it is rainy and windy. So don’t be surprised of the sudden weather changes and just look at it as a part of the Icelandic experience. Besides, there are still plenty of fun things to do and see in Reykjavík on a rainy day and here below we have gathered a few ideas. And if you just happen to need a raincoat you can pick one up at Reykjavík Raincoats.

Thermal Swimming pools
One big factor about Icelandic culture are our public geothermally heated outdoor swimming pools. We love them, even when it rains or snows. And what’s even better; it’s an inexpensive fun, approx 8 Euros for adults and FREE for children under 10 years old. Some of them even have a spa-like feel, with jacuzzis, steam rooms and saunas. Our favorite swimming pools in central Reykjavik are: Laugardalslaug, Vesturbæjarlaug and Sundhöll Reykjavíkur (this last one is indoors). After bathing with the locals make sure to have a hot dog as it an important part of the whole experience.

Omnom Chocolate Factory Tour
It´s hard to think of a more productive way of spending a rainy day then to learn the process and craft of chocolate making all the way from the cocoa bod to the chocolate bar. Tasting is of course included and believe me Omnom chocolate is AMAZING.

Kolaportið
Due to the unpredictability in Icelandic weather, the city’s flea market is located indoors and is open from 11-5 every weekend.
If you love vintage clothes, books and great food, visit Kolaportið located by the old harbor, as it’s a great way to spend a rainy afternoon and get a great deal while you’re at it.

Whales of Iceland
The largest whale exhibition in Europe showcasing full size models of 23 whale species found in Icelandic waters. The displays are interactive and audio guides will give you various information of these incredible creatures. It’s almost like being underwater with these giant mammals of the sea. Once you’re done exploring you can sit down and have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate while munching on a whale themed cake while trying out virtual reality glasses that let you swim with killer whales.

Libraries
Icelanders have a great appreciation of books and literature and we can’t think of a more cozy way to spend a rainy day then to read a good book. There are a number of libraries in Reykjavík and they have a lot to offer aside from just reading. To name a few: The Reykjavík City Library, The National Library of Iceland and The Nordic House Library.

Harpa
Located on the old harbor in Reykjvaík is Harpa concert and conference hall. It’s not only an architectural marvel but offers a lot of activities on a rainy day like variety of events and concerts. You can also take a guided tour of Harpa where you get to visit areas that are not open to the general public.

Happy Hour
After an active day of exploring Reykjavík in the rain you will without a doubt become quite thirsty. No worries because Icelanders love a good Happy hour. You can enjoy a drink with a spectacular view (over some of the sites you may have been visiting that day or maybe a rainbow across the horizon) at SKÝ Restaurant & Bar. Happy hour at SKÝ is every day from 16:00 to 18:00.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass..it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” -Vivian Greene.

Catch a selfie with the Icelandic Horse

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The Icelandic horse.
Originally from Mongolian descent, the Icelandic horse was moved here from Scandinavia by vikings more than 1000 years ago. It is aesthetically unique as it is shorter than other horse breeds. It also is built very strong and is conditioned to handle the worst kinds of weathers. It is generally easy to train and has a mild temperament which is one of the reasons the Icelandic horse is admired by horse lovers all over the world. There is just something very adorable about the Icelandic horse with those kind, intelligent eyes and shaggy long hair.

Horseback riding tours have been very popular tourist activity in Iceland for some years and still is, but now with the popularity of social media we are seeing another trend within our horse loving visitors which includes ‘selfies’ with the Icelandic horse.
When driving along route 1 you will often see travelers pulled over on the side of the road with the sole intention to catch a photographs of the Icelandic horse and some even try to feed them grass to lure them closer.

Sturlureykir horse petting and selfie stop.
Unfortunately due to the unforeseen weather and road conditions in Iceland it is not recommended to pull over aside the main road for the obvious reason of causing a road accident and it is also not popular by many horse owners and farmers that their horses are feed without permission. Some claim that it may ‘teach their horses bad habits’.
To solve this problem, a couple who breed and train horses in West Iceland decided to set up the perfect petting- and selfie-stop for horse lovers at their farm Sturlureykir in Borgarfjörður fjord! Sturlureykir has offered horse tours for more than two decades, but the new service will satisfy the needs of a broader group of travelers. For a small entrance fee visitors who might have a busy schedule can get a personal experience with horses and an Icelandic horse farm. The new meet-and-greet stable opened on June 1 and will remain open each day from 10-16, year-round.

Happy and Safe petting!

Extreme Chill Festival

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The 8th anniversary of the Icelandic music festival Extreme Chill will be held July 6th – July 9th in Reykjavík.

The festival is the first pure electronica festival in Iceland where both local and foreign musicians come together and perform under the inspiration of Icelandic nature. It caters to fans of underground Ambient, Electronica and Downtempo music.

The four day music festival has been held for seven years, 5 years in Hellissandur, a village on the mystical Snæfellsnes peninsula, one year in Berlin and last year in Vík í Mýrdal.

This year Extreme Chill will be held for the first time in Reykjavík and the reason for bringing the festival to the capital this year was simply because there aren’t many events in Reykjavík in the month of July.  There will be six different venues around the city: Húrra, Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík, Bíó Paradís, Mengi, Lucky Records & CenterHotel Miðgarður.

It will be the biggest to date featuring an impressive lineup of internationally renowned musicians such as The Orb (UK), Mixmaster Morris (UK), Courtesy (DK), Studnitzky (DE), Christopher Chaplin (UK), along with a host of talented local musicians: Jónas Sen, Jón Ólafsson & Futuregrapher, Yagya, Gyða Valtýsdóttir, Stereo Hypnosis, Reptilicus, Tonik Ensemble, Mikael Lind, SiGRÚN, Poco Apollo (Halldór Eldjárn) and many more.

Centerhotel Miðgarður will be hosting Extreme Chill on Saturday July 8th (14:00 – 18:00) with a great line up of Icelandic artists performing in a beautiful surrounding. Admission to this venue is FREE so we can´t wait to see you there!

Tickets to the festival are only 7,900 ISK, with a limited amount of festival passes being available this year at midi.is.

Iceland’s South Shore for movie buffs

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Iceland has become quite the popular destination for film shooting in the recent years due to its unique landscape. It is also easy to travel to from the US and Europe, it has a developed economy and infrastructure, and everyone speaks English. This affords the big-budget movie producer some extraordinary opportunities here.

Among the more popular areas for film shoots In Iceland is the South Coast with it’s black sand beaches, stunning waterfalls and glaciers and of course Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon which was seen in two James Bond movies, A view to a kill and Die another day and also Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.  

Iceland´s South Coast is also portrayed as the planet Lah’mu in the Star Wars film Rogue One where Jyn Erso and her parents are in hiding at the very beginning of the film. Those black, sandy and alien looking beaches can be found in the south of Iceland. This is Mýrdalssandur which will also play a key role in the next season of the hit TV series Vikings. The trailer seems to show one of the main characters of the series, Flóki, standing on a black sand beach in South Iceland.

The nearby Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier in Europe is also popular site for filmmakers. In the 7th season of Game of of Thrones, everything that happens north of the wall is filmed there or at Svínafellsjökull which is a part of Vatnajökull, same location as in Batman Begins.

Too see all these landscapes with your own bare eyes we suggest you try the South Shore Adventure Tour or Jökulsárlón Glacial Boat Tour by Reykjavik Excursions or if you prefer to drive yourself it´s only approximately a 3 hour drive from Reykjavík, for car rental we recommend Procar.

Enjoy the incredible South Shore, we know you will!

 

Midsummer night – Jónsmessa

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Jónsmessa, also known as Midsummer Night, is an Icelandic holiday celebrated on June 24th. The holiday is named after John the Baptist and June 24th is supposedly his birthday.

The beauty of this holiday is how it interweaves magic and religion. According to Icelandic folklore there are four particular nights of the year when both good and evil forces unleash and you can expect mysterious things to occur, the nights are: Christmas eve, New Years Eve, Thirteenth Night (January 6th) and Midsummer night.

The tales tell that on Midsummer night various things gain special powers for example seals become human, cows gain the ability to speak in human tongue and the earth has special healing powers which is why rolling around naked in mud or dewy grass at midnight is considered good for your health and you can receive unbelievable healing. And while you are rolling around in the dew, be sure to make a wish because it is likely your wish will be granted on this special night. Icelandic folklore also states that if you sit at a crossroads where all four roads lead to separate churches, elves will attempt to seduce you with food and gifts.

There are some interesting midsummer events this weekend including the Midnight Sun Run which will take place on the evening of June 23rd and the Reykjavík Midsummer Music, a top notch music festival with some of today’s leading artists, held at Harpa music hall June 22-25.

Midnight Sun Run in Reykjavík

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Iceland’s Midnight Sun Run takes place for the 25th time on June 23rd in Reykjavik. The run is unique because it starts late in the evening, in the bright summer night. The race is held around summer solstice which means that during the night it does not get dark at all– it’s very much a midsummer celebration!  

The timing of the run is also unique because according to Icelandic folklore this particular night is considered very mystical. It is the night prior to Jónsmessa or Midsummer night, an Icelandic holiday named after John the Baptist, held on June 24th. The folklore claims that at midnight on June 23rd both good and evil forces unleash and you can expect mysterious things to happen.

Participants of the Midnight sun run can choose between three distances, 5k, 10k and half marathon. Close by the start and finish of the race is one of the city’s wonderful geothermal outdoor swimming pools, Laugardalslaug where participants are invited to take a midnight swim or relax in the hot tubs after the race. 

Icelandic Independence day – JUNE 17

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June 17th, 1944 is when Iceland was formed as a republic and gained its independence from Danish rule. The date was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, a major figure of Icelandic culture and the leader of the 19th century Icelandic independence movement.

Like in many countries, Icelanders celebrate their independence day with style starting with a parade down Laugavegurinn, the main shopping and restaurant strip in the city center. There will of course be a marching band and families singing and waving the Icelandic flag some with their face painted in the national colors.

Downtown there will be a big family festival with all sorts of shows, vendor booths and live music that goes on until late hours in the evening.

There will be a family concert in the beautiful Hljómskálagarðurinn, by the Reykjavík pond that starts at 14:00 and ends at 18:00.  

At Ingólfstorg, directly in front of centerhotel Plaza, MOLD SKATEBOARDS will host a skateboarding party starting at 15:00 with good music and skilled skateboarders showing off their tricks.  

Each urban area and towns in the country will have their own June 17th celebration with parades, music and lots of family fun.

Happy June 17th! ~ Gleðilegan 17.júní!