Grandi, a former industrial area by Reykjavik‘s old harbour, has in recent years transformed into one of the city‘s most vibrant and interesting neighbourhoods. As a person who was raised in the neighbourhood – and is still living there – I will share some of my favourite restaurants and things to do in Grandi. Enjoy!
You may already know that whale watching is a popular activity in Iceland. It is possible to catch a glimpse of these gentle giants throughout the year, almost everywhere off the coasts of Iceland. In Reykjavik, whale watching tours are operated from the Old Harbour, at the periphery of the Grandi area.
Sightings are common in the waters near the capital. Unsplash/Kristina Delp.
Although tours are available in winter and summer, sightings are more common during the summertime. However, chances that you will see some whales during winter are quite high. I have been on a whale watching tour two times during late summer/autumn and I saw plenty of minke whales and tons of seabirds. Here are a few tours I recommend:
FlyOver Iceland is another activity which I would consider a must if you’re in the neighbourhood. This VR experience imitates a scenic flight tour over the entire island. Scents and gusts of cold wind are a part of the show, making it even more realistic. I have to admit that when I heard about FlyOver Iceland for the first time, I was a bit sceptical about the whole thing. But when my sister tried it and told me that the show was so beautiful that she left the room with tears in her eyes, I decided that I had to try. There is usually no need to book in advance, but if you want to, it’s possible to do it here.
Another popular tourist attraction in Grandi is a museum called Whales of Iceland. As the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to whales. In this huge museum, you can find 23 sculptures of whales, that have been made by experts in order for them to look as real as possible. Two times a day, at 11 and 2:30 pm, a documentary on whales is screened at the museum. If you have kids, they are going to love this museum!
Apart from just strolling around and looking at the ships in the harbour, there is plenty of art to be found in the Grandi area. In the past few years, the neighbourhood has become a cultural hot spot, abundant whith restaurants, bars and museums.
If you‘re a fan of the arts, I strongly suggest that you visit the Marshall House (Marshallhúsið) which is home to two contemporary galleries called i8 and Kling&Bang. It also houses the Living Art Museum and artist Ólafur Elíasson‘s studio. The Marshall House, which used to be a herring factory, was largely financed by the Marshall Aid after World War II. Although it has a totally different purpose today, it still holds an industrial vibe. There is a superb Italian restaurant on the first floor called La Primavera.
An exhibition at the Living Art Museum. Wonderguide/Nina.
La Primavera, an Italian restaurant on the ground floor of the Marshall House. Wonderguide/Nina.
Art lovers should also check out one of the city‘s most fun outdoor art pieces – Þúfa by Icelandic artist Ólöf Nordal. Þúfa is a large man-made hill, just a stone‘s throw away from the Marshall House. There is a walking path that leads up to the top of the hill, where you can get a good look at the Harpa concert hall opposite of the harbour.
Þúfa (the hillock) by Ólöf Nordal. Wonderguide/Nina.
Harpa Concert Hall seen from the top of Þúfa. Wonderguide/Nina.
Magnificent view over the old harbour from the top of Þúfa. Wonderguide/Nina.
If you‘re feeling inspired after having experienced all this art, you can channel your inner creativity at a brand new café called Noztra. At this café, which is situated right by the harbour, guests can choose from a variety of unpainted ceramic items which they decorate themselves. After the items have been painted, they are glazed by the staff. Make sure to book in advance and note that glazing the item may take a few days. The pictures below demonstrate the process from beginning to end:
Most shops in the Grandi area are tiny little boutiques located in old fisherman’s huts. Some of them are definitely worthy of a visit, such as the design shop Kiosk, which focusses on independent Icelandic fashion designers.
Farmers and friends is another interesting shop for those who are curious about Icelandic fashion design. This clothing brand specialises in quality garments made from natural fabrics, such as wool and silk. For instance, they offer a variety of beautiful pullovers, gloves and scarves made from Icelandic lambswool. Finally, the Icelandic cosmetics brand Sóley Organics has a lovely little store in Grandi, where you can get all kinds of skincare products mostly made from Icelandic herbs.
Sharing is caring!