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Why Iceland

Posted on Categories heritage, Iceland, Music, Nature, Northern Lights

Iceland has been a sizzling hot travel destination in recent years and it doesn’t seem to be going out of style anytime soon.

But what is it that attracts travelers to this island in the north Atlantic?

 

NATURE

Iceland is known for its unspoiled dramatic and oh so picturesque landscape with drastic cliffs, black beaches and spectacular waterfalls. It is unlike most places you see which is why your Instagram feed might be bombarded with pictures from Iceland. The country is often called the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ due to the numerous volcanoes and glaciers. 11% of the Iceland is actually covered by glaciers. Jökulsárlón, a large glacial lake in south-east Iceland is one of the most popular attractions and is most definitely worth the visit.

Another attraction for visitors are of course the infamous Northern Lights which can be visible from September to mid April and in the summertime you will experience the Midnight Sun where the sun never fully sets and the country comes alive with fun Midnight Sun events.  

 

HOT SPRINGS

Iceland is situated on a hot spot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge causing a lot of geothermal activity which is why you will find many hot springs and geothermal pools in Iceland. The most famous hot spring/lagoon in Iceland is called the Blue Lagoon, located only 30 minutes from Reykjavík and another popular hot spring  is Mývatn Nature Baths located in north Iceland. 

 

NO CRIMES

Iceland has a very low crime rate and according to the 2017 Global Peace Index Iceland is the safest country in the world, a position it has held since 2011.

However due to Icelandic rough nature and unpredictable weather one must take precaution when traveling around Iceland.

 

FOOD

Iceland is known for spectacular seafood and lamb and has many excellent restaurants serving Icelandic lamb and seafood dishes consisting of fresh locally sourced ingredients.

Other must tries while in Iceland are the Icelandic hot dogs, skyr (Icelandic jógurt) and make sure you stop by at least one bakery and try ‘Snúður’, a large cinnamon bun with chocolate frosting, a particular favorite of ours.

 

ICELANDIC HORSE

The Icelandic horse is a special breed that has captivated animal enthusiasts from all over the world and for a long time was Iceland’s main tourist attraction. 

 

MUSIC

Iceland has created quite the buzz in the world of art and music, so music lovers flock to Iceland yearly for the music and art scene or to visit one of the popular music festivals hosted in Iceland like Iceland Airwaves or Secret Solstice festival.

And last but not least majority of Icelandic people speak English fairly well  and with the country being ideally located in direct flight route between North America and Europe it makes the perfect stopover.

What we do for Easter

Posted on Categories Food, Holidays, Iceland, TraditionTags , , , ,

5 days of Easter vacation, so what do we do…?

WE ROCK OUT..

The Reykjavik Blues Festival started yesterday so if you are a blues lover you should check it out. Big blues concerts will be hosted at the Hilton Nordica tonight and tomorrow night with both local and international blues acts performing into the wee hours of the night.

If you prefer Jazz then be sure to visit CenterHotel Plaza on Monday night April 2, as there will be a live Jazz band playing in the Plaza lounge at 9pm.

Also taking place this weekend is the music festival ‘Aldrei fór ég suður’ held in the town of Ísafjörður located in the West Fjords. It’s a great family fun and it’s free. The festival also coincides with the official Ísafjörður ski week, another reason families flock to this remote town in the West Fjords for Easter weekend.

WE SKI..

Ísafjörður isn’t the only popular ski destination this weekend because many Icelandic families travel up north to Akureyri for Easter. Akureyri, the capital of the north, is not only a beautiful town worth visiting but it has a fun little ski mountain very close and accessible from town. And on Easter weekend Akureyri hosts a big family festival called ‘Hello Easter’ with art exhibitions, concerts and loads of fun for the whole family.

For those who wish to ski but not leave Reykjavík city, Bláfjöll ski mountain is only 30 minute drive from Reykjavík and it is a very popular ski area for Reykjavík locals. At Bláfjöll you can rent skiing equipment, but make sure to dress warm.

WE EAT..

And the most important part of Icelandic Easter (for kids at least)…THE Easter Egg. THE Easter Egg is not only a large chocolate egg, that comes in various sizes and is filled with candy and other goodies. It is so much more. Read our last years blog dedicated to THE Easter Egg.

Although we adults also greatly enjoy THE Easter Egg, because how can we not; we are also excited for the Roasted leg of lamb that is traditionally served in Icelandic homes on Easter Sunday.

Don’t have access to an Icelandic family or a kitchen? Don’t worry, all three of our hotel restaurants SKÝ Restaurant & Bar, Ísafold Restaurant and Jörgensen Kitchen & Bar will be open for Easter and you can find delicious lamb dishes on their menus.

Happy Easter!

Eventful March

Posted on Categories Culture, Events, Food, Iceland, Music, News Feed, Reykjavik

The days are finally getting longer in Reykjavík with more sunlight, and the city is as vibrant as ever, offering two spectacular events this weekend.

 

Design March

Design March is Iceland’s most important annual design event and celebrates it’s 10th anniversary this year. The event will take place March 15-18th and will be the largest and most significant yet.

Design March offers a unique chance to see and experience Icelandic design, spiced with a handful of the most interesting international names.
From fashion to furniture, architecture to food design, the festival showcases the best of the local design scene alongside exciting international names.

So for four days, Reykjavík, the most northern capital in the world will host dozens of openings, exhibitions, workshops and other events. There are over 100 events-exhibitions, workshops, seminars and parties spread across the city. Usually, these sort of fairs are only open for professionals, however we Icelanders like to have fun, so everybody is invited to join in.

 

Sónar Reykjavík

Another event that is taking place this weekend AND celebrating it’s anniversary is Sónar Reykjavik music festival which will take place for it’s 25th executive year on March 16th and 17th at Harpa music hall.

Sónar is a well known music festival featuring mostly electronica, hip hop and advanced music both from the vibrant Icelandic music scene as well as international talent. The festival will be spread out across 4 different stages, all located indoors within the walls of the beautiful Harpa Concert House and headlining the SonarClub stage will be long-standing electronica innovators Underworld.

If you’re planing to going to Sónar Reykjavík, remember that SKÝ Restaurant & Bar is located right across the street from Harpa concert hall at CenterHotel Arnarhvoll and is the perfect place to grab a pre show dinner or a cocktail while enjoying a spectacular view over Harpa and the bay. And the best part is that CenterHotel guests receive 10% discount of the a la carte menu. It’s a win win win.

 

Happy Beer Day!

Posted on Categories Culture, Events, history, Iceland, Tradition

On March 1, we celebrate the National Beer Day in Iceland.

In 1908 Icelanders voted in favor of a ban on all alcoholic beverages and the ban went officially into effect in 1915. As soon as Iceland stopped purchasing Spanish wines, Spain refused to buy Icelandic fish (our main export at the time), so therefore the ban was partially lifted in 1921 with legalization of wine.

Then in 1935 the prohibition of alcohol was lifted  EXCEPT for beer (with alcohol content of more than 2.5 %) and the argument was that beer would lead to debauchery due to it’s low price. So in other words; Icelanders weren’t trusted to handle their booze.

During the time of the prohibition, smuggling and underground brewing was not uncommon and many pubs would serve light beer (Pilsner) with stronger liquor added to it (like vodka). But soon that was also banned by the minister of justice.

74 years and a few rallies later, the beer prohibition finally ended on March 1, 1989 and people were able to buy beer again legally in Iceland. This is the reason why some Icelanders celebrate Beer Day on March 1st. “We had to fight, for our right to party”.

Today beer has become the drink of choice for most Icelanders.
You can find local and imported beer in all pubs and most restaurants in Reykjavík. Beer is also sold in wine stores, however grocery stores only sell the light beer called  pilsner (less than 2.5%). There are several breweries in Iceland and some popular Icelandic beer is Viking, Thule, Einstök, Kaldi, Brío, Boli, Gull.

So if you like beer; March 1st is a great day and an excuse to go out and have an Icelandic brew..or two.

Skál!

The most peaceful country in the world

Posted on Categories Equality, Iceland, Peace, SafetyTags , , , , , ,

We can proudly say that Iceland remains the safest country in the world according to the 2017 Global Peace Index, a position it has held since 2011.  Our children play freely outside and babies are even left outdoors in their prams for nap time and Icelandic people are generally unconcerned about the possibility of other people causing them deliberate physical harm.

But what makes Iceland so safe?

 

No Class system

97% of Icelanders describe themselves as middle class so a class system is barely existent which reduces jealousy and crimes associated with poverty. Children have equal opportunities for education and go to the same schools.

 

An egalitarian nation
Iceland is also nr. 1 in gender equality and was the first country in the world to elect a female president in 1980, Vigdís Fimbogadóttir.

The LGBT community is also respected and the first openly gay prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, was democratically elected in 2009.

 

Iceland does not have an army, navy or air force.
Iceland has only waged one war, ‘Þorskastríðið’ or the The Cod War and it was barely a war but political disputes between the governments of Iceland and the UK over fishing grounds. The only weapons Icelanders used in the war were scissors (to cut the fishing nets of the enemy). Iceland won!

 

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.

 

Plenty of guns but very little violent crime
In spite of high rate of civilian gun ownership, Iceland still has one of the lowest crime rates in the world with a murder rate of 0-1,5 per year, none that involve a firearm.

…but why is that?
Besides the above factors (and that there are no mosquitoes in Iceland); acquiring a gun and a hunting licence in Iceland is not an easy process.
Steps to gun ownership include a lot of paperwork, prospective gun owners also need to prove they have no criminal record, they need to have a full medical examination and take a three-day course and a written test on gun safety, management, what animals are allowed to be hunted and when and so on. So basically to get a gun in Iceland is a schlep and there are a lot of legal checkpoints to ensure public safety.

 

Enjoy your peaceful day in Iceland!

A week of three bizarre Icelandic holidays

Posted on Categories Events, Food, heritage, Holidays, Tradition, WinterTags , , , , , , ,

This week is a busy one in Iceland with international events and holidays like Valentines Day but today we’re going to focus on three quirky Icelandic holidays filled with indulgence and innocent fun.

 

Bolludagur – Bun Day

Bolludagur or Bun day is the first and yes we have a day named after a delicious chocolate glazed cream puff. Bolludagur always falls on a Monday six weeks prior to Easter and the tradition came to Iceland from Norway and Denmark and marks the start of Lent.

Lent being the time of self denial; what makes more sense than to stuff your face with puff pastry buns filled with jam and whipped cream, topped with chocolate glaze two days prior?

Traditionally local families will bake their own buns but you will find all sorts of buns in bakeries and grocery stores with variety of fillings and toppings.

Another interesting tradition associated with Bolludagur is that children in kindergarten make wooden decorated paddles which they use to spank their parents with in the morning of Bolludagur while yelling ‘Bolla, bolla, bolla’ in order to get a bun in return. A quite lovely tradition for us parents.. say no more. 

 

Sprengidagur

Sprengidagur is the day before Lent and day 2 of overindulgence.  
On Sprengidagur it is custom to eat a Lentil Soup or stew accompanied with salted lamb meat, potatoes and other root vegetables, a dish called ‘Saltkjöt og Baunir’. This meal is very savory and filling and although Icelanders don’t celebrate Lent by fasting anymore, the tradition of overeating Saltkjöt og Baunir on Sprengidagur is still very much alive.

 

Öskudagur – Ash Wednesday

The Icelandic tradition associated with this day is a bit strange. Young women would try and pin small pouches filled with ash onto the boy they fancied without them noticing.

Today however, Ash Wednesday has turned into more of a Halloween where children will dress up in costumes and walk between stores or houses and sing in hopes of receiving candy in return.

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So now you know why you’ll see children run between stores in costumes singing and the rest of the population may seem a bit dazed as most of us will be experiencing a mild case of food coma.

But don’t forget that Wednesday is not only Ashday but it’s also VALENTINES DAY and believe me when I say that we at CenterHotels are getting geared up for the day of loooove. Stay tuned on our Facebook sites.

RAINBOW REYKJAVIK WINTER PRIDE

Posted on Categories Events, Northern Lights, Reykjavik, Tours, WinterTags , , ,

Pink Party, Queer Bingo Extravaganza, Northern Lights Hunt, Masquerade Ball and plenty more fabulous fun is on Rainbow Reykjavík Winter Pride’s agenda this weekend February 8-11.

Going on for the 7th year in Reykjavík, this small pride festival has been a great success as it combines amazing nature, northern lights and nightlife. It is the perfect winter getaway and a great introduction to Iceland.

Guests are welcomed from all over the world so if Iceland is on your bucket list; the Rainbow Reykjavik Program covers it all.  You will be walking along the Continental Divide between the tectonic plates of Europe and North America, seeing geysers, beautiful waterfalls and nature of unparalleled beauty.  You will also relax in the Blue Lagoon and dine in world-class restaurants, sit in cozy cafes and of course party until the wee hours of the morning with LGBT people from all over the world.

CenterHotels works closely with Pink Iceland, the coordinators of Rainbow Reykjavík and this year, like every year, we proudly offer accommodations for visitors of Rainbow Reykjavík Winter Pride Festival.

Winter Lights Festival in Reykjavík

Posted on Categories Culture, Events, Museums, Reykjavik, WinterTags , , , , ,

Winter Lights Festival is an annual event held in Reykjavík that celebrates both the winter world and the growing sunlight after a long period of darkness. The festival this year will be held February 1-4 and with the participation of all the major museums and thermal pools; it consists of light installations, culture and outdoor activities. There will be a Museum Night, Pool Night, Northern Lights Run and over 100 other events in the Greater Reykjavík area.

 

The Museum Night takes place on Friday, February 2nd and is Winter Lights Festival’s most popular event.  Museums across the capital area open their doors and entertain their guests with happenings such as dance, theatre, lectures, live music, film, literature readings and much more free of charge. All  museums are open from 18.00-23.00.

Check out the Glacier and Ice Cave exhibition at Perlan, it gives visitors the opportunity to experience travelling through a real man-made Ice Cave, and for you punks out there, the Icelandic Punk Museum will open their doors for public access and at the Saga Museum you will be able to meet real vikings where they will be entertaining visitors all night like only they know how.

In collaboration with the Winter Lights Festival, GoRed’s for women Heart walk will also take place on Feb 2nd. It starts at hallgrímskirkja church at 19:30 and ends at Harpa Concert Hall where a new interactive light installation dubbed ‘Heart’ will be revealed on Harpa luminous facade.

 

The Pool Night takes place on Saturday February 3rd and invites visitors to try many of the city’s exceptional thermal pools for FREE. Pool Night added attractions include thrilling in-pool activities, music and pool illuminations. And if you are lucky you might get a glimpse of the Northern Lights while relaxing in a hot tub in one of the outdoor pools. Here you can find a list of all swimming pools in Pool night.

 

Northern Lights Run is a part of the Reykjavík Winter Lights Festival and is a run or a walk through downtown Reykjavík where runners will see the city in a new and colourful light. All participants get their very own illuminating merchandise throughout the entire event, making you a part of the entire show from start to finish. The run takes place on Saturday night February 3rd.  More info on the Northern Lights Run here.

 

Dark Music Days & Reykjavik International Games

Posted on Categories Events, Iceland, Music, ReykjavikTags , , , ,

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.

Þorrablót – Midwinter Festival

Posted on Categories Culture, Culture, heritage, Iceland, TraditionTags , , , ,

Hip Hip Hooray-it’s midwinter in Iceland which means only one thing..it’s celebration time again!

According to the old Icelandic calendar which was developed in the 10th century, the fourth winter month (mid January to mid February) is called Þorrinn (Thorrinn).  The word is most likely derived from Thor the thunder god from the Norse mythology or from the Norwegian king Thorri Snærsson.
The old Icelandic calendar is not in use anymore but some Icelandic holidays and annual feasts are still calculated from it.

 

Þorrablót (Thorrafeast)

In pagan Iceland Þorrablót was a midwinter sacrifice, held to honor the Nordic gods, however with the Christianisation of Iceland the sacrificial festival was banned. Then in the 19th century, when Icelanders gained religious freedom, Þorrablót festival was brought back but without the sacrifice part. This midwinter festival is still a popular tradition in Iceland today and is a feast where locals get together and celebrate their heritage by singing, dancing and eating traditional viking food and of course lots of drinking because how else should we keep warm during these cold winter days.

The food, often served in wooden trays, consists of uncommon delicacies, like boiled sheep’s head, rams balls, blood and liver sausages, fermented shark, traditional herring and more.  All this is often washed down with an strong Icelandic schnapps made out of potato and caraway called Brennivín, also known as Black Death.

Assuming your mouth is starting to water, most grocery stores sell tasting trays during the month of Þorri.  And you can also find some Þorra inspired menu items at some local restaurants.

 

Bóndadagur (Farmers Day)

The first day of Þorrinn is called Bóndadagur (Farmers Day) and this year Bóndadagur is on Friday January 19th. On this day it is customary that the wives and girlfriends are especially attentive to their men.

So ladies, why not make your man feel like a viking for the night by treating him to the Old Iceland menu at Ísafold Restaurant, a three course menu that showcases the best of Icelandic traditional cuisine with a modern twist (don’t worry there is no rotten shark on the menu).  And if your man is a whisky fan, you can end the evening with the whisky flights tasting which consists of three different types of exquisite whiskeys on a specially designed tray.