Sightseeing with a difference in Reykjavik

by Kris Arden
   
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With the addition of a new tower in 2007 the Grand Hotel Reykjavik became the largest hotel in Iceland, renowned for its stunning views of the city. Just a short walk from some of the city’s famous attractions, including Laugardaslaug – a massive thermal pool complex – the Grand Hotel Reykjavik ticked all our boxes for our weekend jaunt to Iceland.

Bedrooms are contemporary and spacious, with a large sleeping area as well as a living room space with armchairs and a massive flat-screen TV. Wooden floors, designer furniture and bright fabrics give a sense of modernity. From the windows of our Junior Suite we could see over the rooftops of Reykjavik to the Atlantic coast beyond – a wonderful view to wake up to. We indulged our aching bodies with a rejuvenating jacuzzi and set off exploring.

The hotel’s location is perfect for sightseeing – just a short taxi ride from some of the city’s famous craft shops and malls. Don’t forget to pick up a cosy traditional ‘Iopapeysa’ jumper – an ideal gift for those back home (and you may find it useful yourself during your stay – Iceland gets very cold!). We went on a whale-watching tour – the hotel can organise excursions and make reservations on your behalf.

Reykjavik is surrounded by the sea, with endless waterfront paths, ideal for walking, cycling or skating. We rented bikes through the hotel (they offer both standard and electric bikes) and were handed some bike routes incorporating some of the city’s landmarks. We cycled to Ellidaardalur Valley with its salmon river – something I never expected to find in the middle of a city.

Then we headed to the waterfront to admire Jon Gunnar Arnason’s famous Sun Voyager – a massive steel sculpture of a Viking ship that looked especially majestic at sunset.

The city of Reykjavik is known for its nightlife, and most people head out to the many bars and nightclubs after midnight. After a raucous evening exploring Reykjavik’s famous bar scene, we took our sore heads over to Laugardaslaug – a complex of thermal baths and pools incorporating a 50m pool, steam baths, sun lamps and more. We swam, enjoyed a thermal steam bath, and once we felt a bit brighter, had a go on the 86m-long water slide.

Don't miss
  • See the northern lights
  • Soak in the Blue Lagoon
  • Visit the Great Geysir and Gullfoss Waterfall
  • Swim in the thermal pools
  • Walk in the Laugardalur Valley
Hotel facilities
  • The Brasserie Grand serves fresh Icelandic seafood specialities and some international favourites
  • Bistro Bar has a happy hour
  • Fitness centre, swimming pool, bicycle hire
  • Spa and beauty treatments

Imagine playing golf at midnight in full sunshine, surrounded by an ancient lava plain – this is golfing Iceland-style. The golfing season runs from May to October, and during June and July there is 24-hour daylight, meaning you can play all day and all night.

We caught a shuttle to the Keilir Golf Club, just 10 minutes from the hotel. Many of the holes are played facing the Atlantic Ocean, with majestic views of the Snaefellsjokull glacier, where Jules Verne’s characters began their Journey to the Centre of the Earth. There is a huge difference between the front nine and the back nine holes. The front nine are surrounded by lava, while the back nine are placed on a small peninsula at the entrance into the Hafnafjördur harbour, with a spectacular view to the Alftanes peninsula and the famous Snaefells glacier. This course is more about skill and accuracy than power and distance – particularly the front nine holes. There are 65 courses in Iceland, and the hotel can advise on golfing trips.

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