"There is no more sagacious animal than the Icelandic horse. He is stopped by neither snow, nor storm, nor impassable roads, nor rocks, glaciers, or anything. He is courageous, sober, and surefooted." — Jules Verne
It's hard to believe that Iceland has just 300,000 people in the entire country and almost two-thirds of them live in Reykjavík! Don't let the smallish population fool you, as Reykjavík is a sprawling metropolis filled with plenty of entertainment to match the majestic landscape of the 'Land of Fire and Ice'.
The heart of downtown Reykjavík is filled with shops, restaurants and even an underground museum on the history of the country's punk rock music, The Icelandic Punk Museum. When scanning over the skyline, one of the most notable features is the Hallgrímskirkja, a glorious spire cathedral that stands as a bright beacon in the night. In front of the Cathedral is a monument to Leif Erikson, the first Viking to land in Iceland in the 600's. There is also geothermal beaches, whale watching and the Harpa Concert Hall.
During our family's visit there, one of our favorite attractions in the city was the Perlan, a glass dome that serves as the largest national history museum in Iceland. It was the perfect spot to visit before setting off on our numerous adventures throughout the country, because it taught us about the volcanic origins of the country, the settlement of the first Vikings and of course, the numerous glaciers all over the island. It also offered us the most incredible 360-degree view of the entire city of Reykjavík! And, it has to be said that once we did begin our trek into the Icelandic countryside, the ultimate highlight of our entire trip was getting to see Icelandic horses.
FUN CITY FACTS ABOUT REYKJAVÍK
1. REYKJAVÍK MEANS 'SMOKEY BAY'.
The capital city of Iceland was founded by Norse settler Ingólfur Arnarson in 874 AD, who called the territory Reykjavík as he sought to describe the smokey fog rising over the bay from the natural hot springs and geysers.
2. REYKJAVÍK IS THE NORTHERNMOST CAPITAL CITY IN THE WORLD.
Reykjavík is the northernmost capital city of a sovereign state in the world. Only Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, is further north than Reykjavík.
3. REYKJAVÍK IS ALSO THE PUFFIN CAPITAL OF THE WORLD.
Iceland is home to the largest and most important nesting grounds of the Atlantic puffin, as an estimated 60 percent of the entire world's puffin population nests in Iceland — as many as 3 or 4 million pairs of puffins annually. Reykjavík is the only capital city in the world that can claim to be home to such a major puffin breeding colony.
4. EVEN THOUGH IT SEEMS LIKE A LARGE METROPOLIS, REYKJAVÍK IS A VERY SMALL CITY.
Considered a very small big city, Reykjavík's population is similar to that of Des Moines, Iowa in the United States. In 2015, there were 211,282 people living in the capital region. Of those, 121,822 lived in Reykjavík proper, and the rest resided in other municipalities in the metropolitan area. Learn more.
5. ICELAND WAS THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH TO BE SETTLED BY HUMANS.
Over 1,100 years ago, Vikings from Norway discovered Iceland by accident. Iceland is known as one of the youngest landmasses on the planet; therefore, it was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans. Learn more.
6. ONE IN TEN ICELANDERS WILL PUBLISH A BOOK.
The tradition of reading in Iceland dates back to the 13th century. In fact, in 2011, Reykjavík was the fifth city to be named a City of Literature by UNESCO, thanks to its 'invaluable heritage of ancient medieval literature' and 'the central role literature plays within the modern urban landscape'. Learn more.
7. ICELANDERS HAVE THE LONGEST WORKING LIFE IN EUROPE.
On average, Icelanders work 45 hours per week, which is longer than any other country in Europe. Learn more.
8. THERE ARE NO NATURAL KNOWN PREDATORS IN ICELAND.
Icelandic horses and other livestock are super laid back, since there are no natural known predators in Iceland. Speaking of Icelandic horses, the breed is so selective that no horses from outside countries can be brought onto the island, and if an Icelandic horse is ever taken off island, it can not come back.
9. YOU CAN DRINK WATER STRAIGHT FROM ICELANDIC STREAMS.
Because there are parts of the island that don't have any industry and the water comes straight from glacial melting, you can dip your water bottle into some streams and drink straight from them.
10. NATIVE ICELANDIC TREES ONLY GROW TO ABOUT FOUR FEET TALL.
The well-known joke among natives is "If you can't see someone in an Icelandic forest, just stand up!"
11. ICELAND IS ONE OF THE MOST ECO-FRIENDLY COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD.
Recently ranked one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world, almost all of Iceland's electricity is produced using renewable energy sources. Reykjavík won the Nordic Nature and Environment Prize in 2014, and is working towards a goal of being a carbon-neutral city by 2040. Learn more.
12. DON'T DISTURB THE NAPPING BABY.
Should you spot a seemingly-abandoned baby napping outside in Reykjavík — don't panic! For generations, Icelanders have believed in letting infants sleep in the fresh air, even in cold temperatures. Routinely they will leave their precious cargo in their strollers while they run errands. Learn more.
13. THE IMAGINE PEACE TOWER IS A TOWER OF LIGHT THAT EMANATES WISDOM, HEALING AND JOY.
The Imagine Peace Tower is an outdoor work of art conceived by Yoko Ono and revealed on October 8, 2007 in memory of her late husband, John Lennon, on what would have been his 67th birthday. It is situated on Viðey Island in Reykjavík. Ono said, "I hope the Imagine Peace Tower will give light to the strong wishes of World Peace from all corners of the planet. And give encouragement, inspiration and a sense of solidarity in a world now filled with fear and confusion. Let us come together to realize a peaceful world." Now, the light tower is lit annually from October 9 to December 8, December 21 to December 31, February 18 and March 20 to March 27.
Jaq Jaq Bird's Cities of Wonder Erasable Book Collection allows children to trace and illustrate their travels, in-person or imaginary, all while learning to love the world around them. Each book includes an educational, interactive map guide featuring landmarks, facts and more about the city.