Old Reykjavík is in the heart of the capital. A focal point of many historic and introductory walking tours about the town.
The area is anchored around Tjörnin, a placid lake at the centre of the city. It echoes with the honks, squawks and screeches of over 40 species of visiting birds, including swans, geese and Arctic terns; feeding the ducks is a popular pastime for the under-fives.
Pretty sculpture-dotted parks line the southern shores, and their lacing paths are much used by cyclists and joggers. In winter, hardy souls strap on ice skates and turn the lake into an outdoor rink.
Nearby, grassy Austurvöllur was once part of first settler Ingólfur Arnarson’s hay fields. Today it’s a favourite spot for lunchtime picnics and summer sunbathing and is sometimes used for open-air concerts and political demonstrations.The statue in the centre is of Jón Sigurðsson, who led the campaign for Icelandic independence.
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The Reykjavik Waterside Ráðhús
Sitting in the park and the pond are several buildings of interest, including Reykjavík’s waterside Ráðhús, a postmodern construction that divides all who see it into ‘hate-its’ or ‘love-its’.
Concrete stilts, tinted windows and mossy walls make it look like a half-bird, half-building rising from Tjörnin. Inside there’s a fabulous 3D map of Iceland – all mountains and volcanoes, with flecks of nothing-towns disappearing between the peaks.
The modern Alþingi
Also of note is the Alþingi, which was originally sited at Þingvellir some thousand years ago. The modern Alþingi (Icelandic parliament) moved here in 1881; a stylish glass-and-stone annexe was completed in 2002.