Whenever we visit Reykjavik, we seem to gravitate toward the old harbour. And for good reason, this is one of the most enchanting districts of the city, although the most recent property developments there seem to be somewhat ill conceived. We opted to settle in at 101 Hotel, occupying a characterful, historic 1930s building in downtown Reykjavik, overlooking stunning harbour views. The hotel takes its name from the postcode of central Reykjavik, the W1 of Iceland’s capital.
On arrival we find our chic design hotel to be a stylish haven with its sleek interior monochrome palette. This is juxtaposed by extraordinary artwork by Icelandic artists found throughout the public areas. We are greeted by friendly, dedicated staff inviting us to relax and enjoy the comfortable suite on the top floor bathed in natural light facing North and East. From here you can rest your eyes either on the distant mountain range across Faxaflòi Bay or some of the most beautiful and impressive architecture you can find in Reykjavik, the National Heritage Museum and the National Theatre across the road or admiring the more recent Harpa Concert Hall by the harbour.
We are told, given the proximity, that the hotel frequently accommodates many of the artists performing in Harpa. It didn’t spoil the occasion to know that we shared the premises with one of the biggest attractions of the season. And you can sense that this is a popular meeting place with the lounge offering the opportunity to relax with a drink from a wide selection of cocktails, wine and spirits. But the hotel’s beating heart is the casual Reykjavik restaurant. From the narrow bar, hamburgers and fashionable dishes are served sitting side by side on the menu, all for a reasonable price by Icelandic standards. The restaurant is one of the trendiest places in town and serves a combination of modern Icelandic and international cuisine.
This time we were spending our time in Reykjavik, but for those seeking adventure there is a varied selection of tours and activities the concierge will be more than happy to arrange for you. Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe with an average of three inhabitants per square km. As many have discovered, Iceland is a refreshingly unconventional destination. People coming from more densely populated parts of the world find the Icelandic nature unspoiled, exotic and mystical with its spouting geysers, active volcanoes, tumbling waterfalls, towering mountains, vast lava plains and magical lakes. It is fair to say that Iceland's fjords, glaciers and highland plains present visitors with some of the most beautiful and enchanting places they will ever see, as well as a rare feeling of tranquillity.
But for us this was to be a relaxing weekend visiting friends and family, seeing Nick Cave at Harpa, going for a stroll or two, combining visits to some of our favourite restaurants by the harbour and the Reykjavik Art Museum. This is housed in an imposing building of harbour industry of old, adapted magnificently to its current role by the celebrated architects Studio Granda, well worth a visit. Not that you would need to go far to enjoy contemporary local art. From the hotel’s black and white stylish reception, you can explore curated collection of artwork by local artists. This could be perfectly complemented with relaxing in the futuristic bar and lounge, adorned with glass walls and ceiling or having a steam bath, jacuzzi and a massage in the modern SPA.
For us, however, nothing compares to a full size Icelandic 50 metre swimming pool for exercise and relaxation. For that, we needed to rely on our trusted companion for the visit from Lotus Cars rental because our favourite pool lies in the neighbouring Kópavogur, some 5 km South of central Reykjavik. Very much a social forum for discussion about current affairs, often with heated political overtones, the geothermal pools in Iceland are one of the most colourful elements in the social fabric of this small nation, not to be overlooked by visitors who would be more than welcome to join the conversation.
All too quickly the weekend passed, soon these treasured days of lavish leisure would be but a distant memory. But Reykjavik stays with us as does Iceland.