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Reykjavik - a City of harmony
Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, conveniently located between Europe and North America, is a modern and forward-looking city with a rich cultural heritage. Harmoniously combining modern services and facilities with an unspoiled and unpolluted natural environment, Reykjavik is peaceful, safe and full of charm, a unique destination for its own sake and a bridge between the outside world and the magnificent Icelandic landscape. lceland's capital offers the best of both worlds; a small, close-knit community and a cosmopolitan European capital.

Hotel in central Reykjavik

The history of Iceland and Reykjavik go hand-in-hand. Icelandic history began when the first settler, the Viking Ingolfur Arnarson, built his house on an inlet south of Faxafloi Bay. Seeing what he thought was smoke rising from a small valley nearby, he named his homestead Reykjavik (Smoky Bay). "Steamy Bay" would have been closer to the truth, for the smoke was actually steam from the many hot springs in the area.

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For centuries, Reykjavik was really just farmland and in 1786, when it became a chartered township, it only had a population of 167 in 30 dwellings.

When Iceland became an independent republic on 17 June 1944, Reykjavik began to flourish as the cultural, social, commercial and administrative capital of this young state with ancient roots. Today, Reykjavik is home to over 100,000 people in 30,000 households, with another 50,000 living in the neighboring communities.

The air in modern and bustling Reykjavik is still as clear and fresh today as it was when it was first settled, and the view across the bay that greeted the first settler has hardly changed. The encircling mountains still change their hues to match the seasons and light.

Every summer the City of Reykjavik employs about a hundred young people to plant thousands of trees in Heidmork, the nature reserve on its outskirts, to fight the ever-increasing soil erosion.

Nature can still thrive in the company of man. Ellidaar, one of the best salmon rivers in the anglers' paradise of Iceland, flows within the city limits of the nation's capital.

Birds still flock to Reykjavik every spring to nest, as they have done since time immemorial.

One reason why Reykjavik has stayed clean and green in the age of technology are the main energy sources that drive it; geothermal heat from hot springs and hydro-electricity from highland waterfalls, both pollution-free and renewable natural resources.

Splendid natural wonders are only a short drive away. Nearby are the Thingvellir plains, bordered by a lava chasm and beautiful lake, where the Althing - the world's oldest extant parliament - was established in 930, and beyond them Gullfoss ("Golden Falls") and the spouting hot spring of Geysir. Winter attractions include skiing in Blafjoll and Sk√°lafell, only 30 minutes away by car. The most popular sport is swimming, a compulsory school subject but with an ageless appeal. In 1992 over 1.3 million people visited the city's swimming pools.

Cultural activities
Some 14 art museums and 28 galleries exhibit paintings and sculptures by international and Icelandic artists, both old and modern. The City of Reykjavik runs two of the above-mentioned art museums.

There are numerous theatres in Reykjavik, the two professional ones being the Municipal Theatre and the National Theatre.

Regular performances are given by the Icelandic Opera and Symphony Orchestra, and a wide selection of music - not only classical, but also rock, jazz and blues - can always be found at various smaller venues around the city, catering for every musical taste.

Its fine natural harbor has helped Reykjavik develop over the centuries into a major trade centre and fishing port. Iceland's traditional industry of fishing dates right back to the settlement and has developed into the modern food industry on which the national economy is largely based.

The bulk of Iceland's export trade and almost all its imports are handled through the Port of Reykjavik's new harbor facility. This role in international trade, along with the fact that Reykjavik is Iceland's centre of government, media, finance and social services such as health care, explains why nearly 70% of the capital's workforce is employed in trade or services.

Construction is an important industry in the rapidly growing capital, while manufacturing largely centers on food production and light industries, along with high-technology fields such as software design. Heavy industry, such as the metal factories which are Iceland's second most important export sector, have been deliberately located well away from Reykjavik to eliminate industrial pollution in the city.

On the international scene
International links are the order of the day in the cultural, business and political capital of Iceland. Regular visits by overseas artists and performers reach a peak every two years during the 2-3-week summer Reykjavik Arts Festival, a feast of music, visual arts and other creative activities featuring some of the biggest names around. Reykjavik played the key role when Iceland hosted the 1995 world handball championship and is still recalled as the place where Fischer and Spassky played the chess match of the century back in 1972. In the geo-political arena, Reykjavik played host to the Gorbachev-Reagan summit of 1986, when the first peaceful moves towards the new world order were made. That choice of venue was a high honor for a city that calls itself the mid-Atlantic meeting place and boasts a conference environment with a winning difference.

What to do in Reykjavik

Since many visitors to Reykjavik only have a few of days to see the city, it pays to use your time well and experience the best of what the city has to offer. Below are some suggestions for a two day stay in Reykjavik.

The Reykjavik Top 10 list - What to do in Reykjavik.

1. Swimming pools, the geothermal swimming pools of Reykjavik are great. A creation somewhere between a spa and a aqua park.

2. Visit the National Museum in Reykjavik, just reopened after years of rebuilding. See all the great Viking artifacts and the scrolls of the viking sagas.

3. Take a ride in the hydrogen bus, just to say that you are environment friendly. It's also a good way to get a tour of Reykjavik.

4. The infamous nightlife. What can we say more. Check for more information at the desk. If you need a hotel in central Reykjavik to be near the nightclubs, bars and restaurants try searching for hotels in the 101 area. But in 101 and press Check Availability.

5. Restaurants in Reykjavik are known for quality food. It might be expensive but great or as the great Homer Simpson said it grrr....

6. If you are for art try the New Art Museum or go to the great museum of the artist Kjarval.

7. Go to the movies, might sound strange but movie theaters are of the highest standards and if you are located in Reykjavik while a major movie is being shown (like Lord of the rings and so on) try the VIP-movie halls.

8. 66 north clothing, Icelanders have been using clothing from 696 degrees north for a long time. When the weather gets bad we just but our children in protective clothing by 66 north and throw the out to play. They always come back.

9. Laugavegur, the main and only real shopping street in Iceland. Not so much for shopping but more to just walk and sink in the Icelandic shopping culture. Specially fun when the weather is bad, then you should reward your self with a cup of cocoa afterwards.

10. Fishing Salmon in the city river. Reykjavik actually has a Salmon river right in the middle of the city, the river is called Ellida√°, or river Ellida (with strong emphasis on the double LL)

For more information on these ten things print them out and ask at the desk or at your  car rental. Get a map for free.

Have fun in Reykjavik

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