It may be cold and dark these days in Iceland but that doesn’t stop us from hosting interesting events here in Reykjavik. These two upcoming events will be held in the capital in the coming days.
Dark Music Days
Dark Music Days, one of the oldest music festivals in Iceland (founded in 1980), did not get its name because of the music being dark but because it is held during the darkest period of the Icelandic winter. This year the festival will be held January 25-27.
This annual festival, founded by the Society of Icelandic Composers is a festival for contemporary and new music and is a platform for performing and getting to know new music with an emphasis on new Icelandic compositions and performers in addition to international artists. The Artistic Director of Dark Music Days 2018 is composer Gunnar Karel Másson. Gunnar studied composition at the Iceland Art Academy and The Royal Conservatory of Music in Copenhagen.
Dark Music Days takes place in various venues in downtown Reykjavík like Harpa concert hall, Fríkirkjan church, Iceland Art Museum and more.
Reykjavík International Games (RIG)
Reykjavík International Games is a multi sport event of 20 different sports, sponsored by WOW air and will take place from January 25th to February 4th 2018.
The competition will mostly take place in Laugardalur which is the centre for sports and recreation in Reykjavík.
Many of the best athletes in Iceland compete among world class elite athletes from all over the world.
Athletes will compete at high level in various sports like archery, badminton, dance, fencing, gymnastics, judo, powerlifting, swimming, table tennis and several more. This year there will also be an off-venue program where for the first time everyone can participate in the events.
January 6th, or the Thirteenth as Icelanders call it, is considered the last day of the epic Christmas season in Iceland. This is the day when Christmas decorations are taken down and when the last of the 13 Yule Lads, Kertasníkir (Candle Beggar), returns back to his home in the mountains.
Many Christmas lovers get the blues on this particular day, but on a brighter side, this is also a day that people celebrate in Iceland. Like on New Years Eve many families come together around big elf themed bonfires and sing and dance with elves and Yule lads.
According to Icelandic folklore mystical, supernatural events are connected with New Years and the Thirteenth as well as Christmas Eve and Midsummer night. These dates in a way border two worlds, our world and the world of the hidden people and the supernatural.
Various things gain special powers on these nights for example seals become human, cows gain the ability to speak in human tongue and the hidden people including elves become visible and some walk and dance amongst us.
There will be several bonfires in the greater Reykjavík area and the one closest to downtown is at Ægissíða by the seaside in the Western part of Reykjavík.
Oh and last but not least, get ready for more fireworks! Icelanders do like to make the most out of their holidays after all. 😉
If you’re celebrating New Years in Reykjavík, you are in for a treat. Icelanders sure know how to welcome in the new year.
In the early evening families gather for a feast. New Years Eve dinner is usually not as traditional as the Christmas meal. Some always stick to the same but most families mix things up a bit for New Years.
After dinner some families like to gather around neighbourhood bonfires and sing songs about (and with) the elves and hidden people that according to old Icelandic folklore are most prominent at this time of year and actually walk amongst us on New Years Eve some in disguises. The bonfires are more for the children and there are 17 bonfires in the greater Reykjavík area and the largest one is at Ægissíða by the seaside in the Western part of Reykjavík.
Reykjavik Excursions offers a great Bonfire Tour which allows you to experience this tradition with the locals. Also if you are interested in learning more about the strange Icelandic folklore connected to the magical New Year’s Eve, join the Magic & Mystery tour at New Year.
At 22:30 everyone gathers around the TV (literally everyone) to watch Áramótaskaupið which is a sarcastic comedy show that covers the highlights of the passing years events. You will notice the whole city shutting down during the show as everyone and their mother is inside watching it.
At 23:30, as soon as the Áramótaskaup ends, you will start to see and hear fireworks light up the sky which peak at midnight with fireworks covering the whole sky. Icelanders blow up about 600 tonnes of fireworks on NYE so get ready for a show, it is quite breathtaking.
Keep in mind that if you are planning on enjoying the fireworks from outside, safety googles are strongly recommended and due to the pollution caused by the excess amount of fireworks; it is wise for those who suffer from asthma to rather enjoy the show from inside.
Popular locations in Reykjavík to view the fireworks from are Hallgrímskirkja church and Perlan (The Pearl). Just make sure to dress warm as it’s going to be a chilly one and of course bring something bubbly and welcome the new year with a bang!
Lastly, like for Christmas, not all restaurants are open for New Years and the once that are open do book up fast so make sure to make a table reservation ahead of time. Most restaurants also offer a set New Years menu that are usually a more festive version of their normal menu.
All our three hotel Restaurants will be open for New Years Eve and New Years Day and you can view our New Years menus here: SKÝ Restaurant & Bar, Ísafold Restaurant and Jörgensen Kitchen.
Christmas is only few days away so the Christmas frenzy is at its peak in Reykjavík. After all Christmas is the most celebrated holiday in Iceland and many families tend to go all out when it comes to preparation.
We did cover a lot about the Christmas season in Iceland in our prior Christmas post but here’s some more insider information on how majority of Icelandic locals like to spend their holiest of holidays.
The celebration starts on December 23rd (Þorláksmessa) which is the biggest shopping day in Iceland. Locals flock downtown to do their last minute Christmas shopping in the evening so downtown Reykjavík becomes very lively with stores and cafés open as late as midnight. Taking a stroll down Laugavegur, Reykjavík’s main shopping street on December 23rd is quite an experience and sort of a must if you’re visiting. Checking out the holiday lights, sitting at a cafe and grabbing hot chocolate or Christmas beer while listening to Icelandic Christmas carols and even possibly running into a yule lad or two.
Another Icelandic tradition on this particular day is to gather with friends or family and eat fermented skate (the fish). Why this tradition is so popular is bizarre because the stench of the fermented fish is so strong that it takes days getting the smell out of your house or your clothes. Then again, Icelanders do love holding onto their Christmas traditions.
A lot of Icelanders also wait to put up and decorate their Christmas tree until December 23rd. However that tradition seems to be changing as people like enjoying their Christmas tree a bit longer during the dark December month.
On December 24th Christmas officially starts for Icelanders. At 18:00 precisely the churches ring their bells which symbolizes that Christmas is here. At that time Icelandic families sit down for their elaborate Christmas meal, followed with present openings. Yes, we don’t wait until Christmas morning to open presents. You may ask why and the answer is: why wait!?
Many spend the rest of the evening playing board games, some go to midnight mass and then end the night reading a book that they received for Christmas. It is a tradition in Iceland that everyone must receive at least one book for Christmas to read on Christmas eve, of course with some chocolate or cookies.
Christmas day is often spent home relaxing and/or at a family gathering. On December 26th, the second day of Christmas as we Icelanders call it, is the same as Christmas day just a bit more casual. For example many like to go out and hit the bars in the evening as bars stay open late.
Now you should have enough information to go and celebrate Christmas like an Icelandic local.
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.