News

12 fun facts about Iceland and Icelanders

Posted on Categories Culture, Equality, Food, Iceland, Nature, TraditionTags , , , , , ,

Since you’re visiting Iceland; we wouldn’t want you to be too shocked or surprised by our wonderfully unique culture or quirky habits. So here are 12 fun facts about us and our country so you can be properly prepared.

 

1. We LOVE Ice Cream

Cold temperature does not discourage Icelanders from standing in line at the Ice cream shop regardless of the season. You will find a Ice cream shop in almost every neighborhood in the capital area. 

 

2. One of the most Eco friendly countries in the world

Roughly 90% of Icelandic homes enjoy heating and electricity from renewable energy and natural geothermal resources. This is one of the main factors that make Iceland rank one of the greenest environments in Europe.

This is also the reason why Icelandic people use outdoor swimming pools in the winter just as much as in the summer as they are all heated geothermally all year round. Going to the swimming pool for an Icelander is like going to church for some. It’s a place where locals come together, chill in the Jacuzzi and catch up with other locals. And of course it’s a blast for the kids with all the water slides.  

 

3. No mosquitoes

Yep, you can relax and enjoy a summer evening in Iceland without worrying about getting bit by these annoying insects.

 

4. Icelanders speak 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.

 

5. An egalitarian nation

Iceland became the first country in the world to democratically elect a female president in 1980 Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and then an openly gay prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir in 2009.

 

6. Icelandic babies nap outside

Also no matter the season, it is very normal to see strollers and prams outside a coffee shop or a home as parents often let their babies nap outdoors (bundled up of course). 

 

7. Beer was illegal for 74 years

Yep, there was a ban put on alcoholic drinks in Iceland in 1915. In 1935 the ban was partially lifted where stronger spirits were legalized but beer was not included until March 1, 1989.

 

8. The smallest nation ever to qualify for World Cup finals

A mere year after making into the quarter finals at the 2016 Euro cup with an epic win against England, the Icelandic football team beat the odds again by qualifying for the world cup finals in 2018.

 

9. No surnames or family names

The Icelandic phone book 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.

 

10. No McDonald’s or Starbucks

Fast food restaurants do exist in Iceland but you will not find a McDonalds or Starbucks anywhere unlike in most other cities.

 

11. Iceland does not have an army, navy or air force.

Iceland has only waged one war, and it can barely be called war. Its name is Þorskastríðið, The Cod War, political disputes between the governments of Iceland and the UK over fishing grounds. The only weapons Icelanders used were scissors, to cut the enemies fishing nets…we won!

 

12. The Icelandic police does NOT carry guns.

The only officers permitted to carry firearms are on a special force called the Viking Squad, and they are seldom called out. One man has been shot by the police, ever.

Icelandic Street food and Food Halls

Posted on Categories Culture, Food, Iceland, ReykjavikTags , , , ,

Street food and Food Halls have been more and more prominent in Reykjavík in recent years. After all street food is the heart and soul of international cuisine and food halls offer the convenience of having selection of food from all over the world in one place. 

 

Box Street Food

Box Street Food is a great place if you would like to get a taste of different street food in one place. It’s open Thursday to Sunday June 1-June 29th and is located in Skeifan shopping area (a bit outside of downtown). The vibe is very raw with pallets, trucks and raw metal containers offering street food, pop up shops and a large screen that will be showing all the World Cup matches along with a music stage where musicians perform for all the hungry and thirsty people. Dishes are sold for low prices, and guests are encouraged to try different dishes, instead of buying one meal at one restaurant.

There are many other popular street food and food trucks in Reykjavík like Bæjarins beztu, the famous hot dog stand that offers one menu item only and Fish and Chips Vagninn located by the old harbour.  

 

See more in our blog ‘Reykjavík for the budget conscious’.

 

 

Hlemmur Food Hall (Hlemmur Mathöll) 

Hlemmur Food Hall opened in August 2017 and is located inside the legendary ‘Hlemmur’. Hlemmur  used to be the main public bus stations/terminals in Reykjavík and a regular hangout for many punk kids and other interesting characters. The food hall is inspired by the great European food halls, offering 10 different vendors.  So whether it may be Vietnamese street food at Bành Mí, Mexican burritos at La Poblana, freshly baked bread and cinnamon buns at Brauð&Co or cured meats with a glass of french wine or champagne at Kröst, you can be sure to find it there.  You can also be sure to find many locals visiting Hlemmur Mathöll, mostly for the delicious food but also because of the history of the building.

 

Grandi Mathöll

Doesn’t look like much on the outside but it’s awesome on the inside. This new Reykjavík culinary treasure, located in a refurbished fish factory at Grandi Harbor District, celebrates Icelandic culture and industry. Grandi Mathöll offers a great sample of the best street food Iceland has to offer. You will find both traditional Icelandic cuisine like smoked Icelandic lamb from Fjárhúsið (The sheep stable) or fresh Icelandic vegetables from Rabbar Barinn and also dishes from elsewhere in the world like KORE a grub-delicious Korean street food.  

Summer Festivals in Iceland

Posted on Categories Activities, Culture, Events, Festivals, Iceland, Music, Nature, Reykjavik, TraditionTags , , , ,

Icelandic summer may not be the warmest or sunniest but that doesn’t stop Icelanders from celebrating it in various ways.

There are tons of festivals, big and small, held throughout the country every summer. The bigger once you may have heard of but the smaller local festivals probably not, but they can be just as fun. It’s a good opportunity to meet and mingle with the locals of the town.

The list of summer festivals is long but here you can learn about a few of our favorites.

 

JUNE

FISHERMAN’S SUNDAY
Fisherman’s Sunday, held the first Sunday in June to celebrate and honor the hard work and sacrifices of the Icelandic fisherman and importance that the fishing industry has had on the Icelandic culture. Each town has a celebration by the harbour with sea related entertainment for the whole family.

Learn more about Fisherman’s Sunday in our ‘Seaman’s Sunday blog’.

 

SECRET SOLSTICE
The Secret Solstice Music Festival takes place in Reykjavik over the summer solstice during the brightest part of the year. With over 150 acts both local and international, performing on several stages this festival has become one of the biggest music festivals in Iceland.

Learn more about Secret Solstice in our ‘Secret Solstice blog’.

 

KÓTELETTAN
A BBQ festival held in Selfoss, a town in the south of Iceland, with the focus on Icelandic meat and barbecuing. In addition to the presentation of Icelandic food there is an impressive program for the whole family from morning until night.

 

JULY

IRISH DAYS
An Irish festival held in Akranes, a port town located on the West coast of Iceland. The town was supposedly settled by the Irish in the 9th century so every July, the town celebrates so-called Irish days to commemorate their Irish heritage and celebrate the summer at the same time. It’s a family festival with Irish themed entertainment from morning until night.

 

FJARÐARBYGGÐIN HIKING WEEK
This is one of Iceland’s biggest outdoor recreation events held in Fjarðarbyggð located in the East fjords of Iceland. It is 8 days of entertainment and organised activities to suit the entire family which spans from family walks to historical walks and even to challenges for hiking mountaineers, as well as categories in between.

 

EISTNAFLUG
A metal festival held in Neskaupstaður a quaint little town located on the Norðfjörður fjord on the Eastern coast of Iceland. Eistnaflug is held annually on the second weekend of July each year.

 

BRÆÐSLAN
A fun annual music festival held the last weekend of July in Borgarfjörður Eystri which is located in East Iceland about 70 km from Egilsstaðir. The line up is usually mostly local bands. Most people camp and many bring their whole family.

 

AUGUST

VERSLUNARMANNAHELGIN / LABOR DAY WEEKEND
The first weekend of August is the Icelandic Labour Day weekend, a three day long weekend and the most travelled weekend in Iceland. Icelanders pack their camp gear and wool sweaters and flock out of town to set up camp at various festival sights around the country.  The main festivals are Þjóðhátíð in the Vestman Islands, Neistnaflug in Neskaupsstaður and Innipúkinn in Reykjavík to name a few.

 

FISKIDAGURINN MIKLI / THE GREAT FISH DAY
An annual festival held in North Iceland in a town called Dalvík,  held the first or the second Saturday in August. Fish producers invite guests to a sea food buffet between 11:00 and 17:00 at the harbour in Dalvík. The reason for this generous offer is to get as many people as possible together to taste fish and enjoy a good day in Dalvík. In the evening there is a big concert down by the harbour.

 

GÆRAN
Gaeran, which means lambskin rug, is a music festival held in Mid-August in the northern part of Iceland, in the town of Sauðárkrókur. The festival focuses on offering a wide variety of genres, from folk to rap and everything in between.

 

CULTURE NIGHT

Another annual event held in Reykjavík on the Saturday on or around August 18th, the anniversary date of Reykjavík city. It is by far the biggest celebration in Reykjavík and brings almost a third of the entire population of Iceland onto the streets to celebrate with music, arts and more.

See more on Culture Night in our previous blog.

How to spend your quick stopover in Iceland

Posted on Categories Activities, Iceland, Nature, ToursTags , , , , Leave a comment on How to spend your quick stopover in Iceland

Are you here for a quick stopover? There is plenty you can do, see and experience in Iceland in just a couple of days as you can see in this example of how to spend two days in Iceland.

Day one:

Start the day by going on the Golden Circle tour, one of the more popular day trips from Reykjavík and for a reason. On the tour you will visit three of Iceland’s most captivating sights, the world-famous Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss- the queen of Icelandic waterfalls and Thingvellir National Park. The driving distance is approximately 220 kilometres and the entire tour takes 8 hours. 

After seeing three of Iceland’s natural wonders it’s time for dinner. Sky Restaurant & Bar is located on the 8th floor of CenterHotel Arnarhvoll and offers a spectacular view over the bay and Harpa Music Hall, great food, cocktails and a versatile group menu. And the best part is that CenterHotel guests receive a 10% discount of the  à la carte menu. 

Now if you have energy left we suggest you check out the Reykjavík nightlife. There are tons of bars, pubs and clubs in Reykjavík and they are all located within short walking distance from each other making bar hopping easy. You can even take a Pub Crawl tour for only 2.500 kr. which offers a guided tour of the Icelandic nightlife AND discounted drinks.  Can’t beat that! 

How to spend two days in Iceland

Day two:

Depending on how long you stayed out pub crawling we suggest spending your second day going on either a Glacier Adventure tour or a more relaxing but scenic tour of the South Coast.

The Glacier Adventure tour takes you on a snowmobiling adventure on top of Mýrdalsjökull glacier where you enjoy the beautiful view over South of Iceland, one of the most scenic part of the country.

If you want to experience this beautiful part of the country without the glacier/snowmobiling part then you can take the South Shore Adventure tour, a scenic drive along Iceland’s south coast. Along the way you will see the gorgeous Skógafoss waterfall and Seljalandsfoss waterfall which you can actually walk behind. Then you will stop at Reynisfjara black sand beach, one of the most spectacular beaches in Iceland and visit the charming village of Vík surrounded by beautiful bird cliffs.

After a full day of sightseeing you must be hungry so let’s end the day at Ísafold Restaurant, a cozy and romantic restaurant located at CenterHotel Þingholt with outstanding food and high-quality Icelandic ingredients.

A weekend of patriotism

Posted on Categories Events, Football, history, Holidays, IcelandTags , , , ,

There is a lot to feel patriotic about this upcoming weekend..well for us Icelander at least.
On Saturday, June 16th, Iceland breaks history by playing their first world cup match ever against Argentina in the World Cup 2018 in Russia. CenterHotel Plaza and CenterHotel Miðgarður will create a true World Cup atmosphere by broadcasting the match along with all other matches in the tournament. See more on our World Cup events here.

After Saturday’s World Cup celebrations, Icelanders will celebrate their Independence Day on Sunday, June 17th.
The day will be celebrated all over the country with customary parades led by marching bands and other family festivities and ceremonies. Ceremonies often include a poetry reading by a woman dressed as ‘fjallkonan’ (‘The Lady of the Mountain’). Fjallkonan is considered to be the female incarnation of Iceland and every year a young female figure (often actress) is chosen to read for the crowd in the national costume.

In Reykjavík the June 17th parade will start at 13:00 on the corner of Laugavegur shopping street and Snorrabraut (walking distance to all CenterHotels) and will end downtown at Hljómskálagarður. The parade will be lead by a pick up truck loaded with a popular local band playing fun tunes for participants.

At Hljómskálagarður there will be variety of entertainment throughout the day. The Icelandic circus will perform for the children, there will also be a puppet show for the youngest once and variety of live music on the big stage. So something for everyone. Enjoy!

Gleðilegan 17. Júní! Happy June 17th!

Bring on the World Cup 2018

Posted on Categories Activities, Events, Football, IcelandTags , , , ,

Here we are again, anxiously waiting to cheer on “our boys” (as we like to call our men’s national football team) when they compete against football giants like Argentina in the FIFA World Cup 2018 that starts next week. HUH! (viking sheer)

 

Two years ago we watched the Icelandic team successfully reach the quarter-finals in the Euro Cup 2016, beating huge football nations like England. Being the total underdog and making it so far; the team along with their dentist coach became one of the most talked about teams of the tournament. Their indomitable team spirit and enthusiasm and of course the infamous viking cheer; made the Icelandic team a new favorite of many in the world. HUH!

 

The next challenge for the team was to qualify for the World Cup finals. Surely they did just that by winning their group outright, proving that their success at the Euro was no fluke. Being the smallest nation ever to qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals makes this a remarkable achievement for a nation so small. HUH!

 

So here we are, 7 days away from the World Cup kick off on Thursday, June 14th and 10 days away from Iceland’s first match against Argentina on June 16th. The second match of the group is against Nigeria on June 22nd and the final game on June 26th against Croatia. If you happen to be in Iceland during these matches get ready for some craziness. All bars, restaurants and many other places will most likely be broadcasting the matches and you will hear screaming and cheering and hopefully Icelandic people celebrating until the wee hours of the night. HUH!

 

You might as well join in on the festivities and celebrate with us.
Centertainment will be hosting World Cup events at both CenterHotel Plaza and CenterHotel Miðgarður, where all the World Cup matches will be broadcasted, offering Happy Hour prices on drinks and other fun bar specials. See more on the events here.
So, next Saturday  let’s all cheer for the underdogs when Iceland meets Argentina and hope that Iceland will beat the odds once again!

ÁFRAM ÍSLAND! HUH!!

 

Shopping for Icelandic design

Posted on Categories Culture, Design, Iceland, ReykjavikTags , , ,

Icelandic people are overall very fashion conscious.
One of the reasons may be that we vigorously seek information and updates through media on all the latest and the newest whatever it may be. That is most likely due to the fact that we live on an isolated island in the North Atlantic Ocean and this is our way of staying connected with the rest of the world. Another reason may be that there are only 330.000 of us; and because we are so few, we always thrive to be bigger and on par with other metropolitan cities. Also because of the small population the chances of running into someone you know is very big, which is why we always make an effort to look decent, even when just running to the local store for milk.
The downfall of being such a small and trendy bunch is that when a new trend gets discovered, it spreads out quickly and soon enough you’ll see everyone wearing the same outfit.

There are many talented Icelandic designers and you will find many of them in the below boutiques. Some of these stores are located on Skólavörðustígur; a trendy shopping street located within walking distance from all six CenterHotels. 

 

Kiosk
This is the place to stock up on Icelandic design. This co-op shop is owned by four Icelandic designers and has won the award “Best shop to buy local fashion design” seven years in a row. 

 

Geysir
You get a warm country feeling when you walk into a Geysir store.
Geysir designs are inspired by a balance of a Scandinavian city life as well as Iceland’s particular history of craft from natural materials and knitwear using locally sourced textiles and yarns.

 

Kron Kron
A beloved Icelandic fashion label that is particularly known for their shoe design and joyful color usage.

 

Cintamani
Want to stay warm but yet look fashionable while in Iceland? Look no further..Cintamani offers quality, nicely designed Icelandic outerwear.  You can also find the Icelandic street-wear brand Inklaw at Cintamani..a favorite of celebs like Justine Bieber.

 

Kirsuberjatréð / The Cherry Tree
One of Reykjavik’s hidden secrets and only two minute walk from CenterHotel Plaza. This contemporary store full of local art, design and handicrafts is owned by 11 artists, all ladies.  A unique and happy addition to your visit in Reykjavík.

 

Kormákur & Skjaldar
We love this store. Primarily men’s fashion that’s inspired by traditional British fashion staples, focusing on quality wool and clothing that is suitable for northern climates while holding a timeless elegance that never goes out of style.

 

Farmers Market
If you’re looking for Nordic design with a minimal modernism..this is the place. 

 

Ígló + Indi
Most loved Icelandic children label, that is all about crisp colors, unique prints and playfulness.

Surf’s up in Iceland

Posted on Categories Activities, Iceland, Nature, surfTags , , , , ,

When you’re planning a surf vacation, Iceland may not be the first place you think of.
However in recent years the surf community in Iceland has slowly been growing and it is starting to attract surfers from all over the world. Despite the cold water, surfers are looking at Iceland as a new surfing destination due to its world class surf spots and unspoiled nature, offering surfers a unique one of a kind surfing experience.

Iceland offers all kinds of surf breaks, from beach breaks and mellow point breaks to heavy reef slabs and you don’t have to go far from Reykjavik to find good surf spots. The closest one to Reykjavik city is Grótta, located on the west tip of Reykjavik city. You will see Grótta lighthouse and the break is visible from the parking lot.

Reykjanes peninsula is also known to be heaven for windsurfers and surfers alike with some of the best and most consistent waves in Iceland. It also is very picturesque with it’s volcanic landscape and geothermal pools.
The magical Snæfellsnes peninsula also has some great surf spots. It is located about  2.5hrs drive North of Reykjavik and has some great south facing beach breaks and incredibly stunning landscape.

For advanced surfers; the best time to surf in Iceland is between October and March. That is when the heavy storms and big swells come in. Just keep in mind that during the winter months the water is cold, 3-5°C, and can sometimes drop down to freezing temperature but you can also expect some amazing northern lights to light up the darkness.

The summer time is not as consistent and big as the colder months but it is warmer and you get 24/7 daylight. This is a better time for beginners or intermediate surfers to experience some Icelandic surf. Arctic Surfers offers  surf school / day at the beach programs running June, July and August.

As the weather keeps changing in Iceland you will have to be constantly checking the forecast. And in case the conditions aren’t good or the weather not favorable then don’t worry, there is plenty of other things to do in Iceland as you can find out in our previous blogs.

EUROVISION, can’t help but to love it

Posted on Categories Events, News Feed, TraditionTags , , , , ,

EUROVISION song contest 2018 will be held this Saturday, May 12th.

It is the world’s biggest music show and is held every year, usually in May. The contest has been broadcast for 62 years or since 1956 and is one of the most watched non-sporting event in the world. The show is always held in the country that won the previous year and this year it is held in Lisbon, Portugal.

Eurovision is a great exposure and stepping stool for participating artists and  several winners of the Eurovision song contest have had successful careers after the contest such as Abba, Céline Dion, Cliff Richard and Julio Iglesias.

Icelanders are generally very enthusiastic about Eurovision and particularly since Iceland started participating back in 1986. Some Icelanders would beg to differ but that is probably because they are closet fans and too embarrassed to admit that they love Eurovision. 

In fact there are few things that bring out extreme patriotism in Icelanders, the success of the national football team is one of them (Duhhh) and Eurovision is another. The contest unites Icelanders every year with its glitz and glamour, over the top outfits and of course with it’s (debatably) great song performances.

CENTERTAINMENT will host a Eurovision party at Centerhotel Plaza on the evening of May 12th for our Eurovision loving guests. The show will be broadcasted on a big screen, the bar will offer extended Happy Hour and Portuguese tapas, and to make things even more exciting there will be score cards for guests that would like to participate in the fun.

Free event so give in to your guilty Eurovision pleasure and join in on the fun.

CENTERTAINMENT

Posted on Categories Events, Music, our-hotelsTags , , , , , ,

We understand how important entertainment is, especially when on vacation.

So, to make sure that our guests get the most out of their hotel stay we decided to offer regular entertainment for both guests and other visitors.

CENTERTAINMENT, as we call it, is a line up of all sorts of fun events and happenings, hosted at our hotels and restaurants. The events vary from live music or DJ nights, to yoga, Happy Hour, art openings, cocktail nights, wine tastings and more.

This summer CENTERTAINMENT is featuring ‘Music in the Garden’.
Music in the Garden is a series of musical events hosted every other Thursday at CenterHotel Miðgarður. There will be various genres of live music, DJ’s and bar offers and outside BBQs in the garden (when weather allows).

The next Music in the Garden event is tonight, May 3rd and the talented Andrés Thor and Haraldur Ægir will perform well-known jazz standards and pop songs in jazz form. The event is from 18:00 – 20:00.
Admission is free, extended Happy Hour and 20% discount off bar snacks during the event.

We look forward to seeing you at one of our events. See full line up here.