little bit of paradise is to be found in the form of a golden-sanded geothermal beach at Nauthólsvík in Reykjavík.

The Northern Lights

[1] Austurvöllur Park
Arguably the true heart of the city, Austurvöllur is where the locals flock to soak up the sun while it lasts during nice whether. It’s also where the locals gather to hurl skyr at parliament and bang pots and pans in protest when they’re not happy with the government.
[2] Jón Sigurðsson
(1811-1879) Born June 17, 1811, Jón Sigurðsson became the beloved leader of Iceland’s struggle for independence and separation from Danish rule in the 19th century. In his pursuit of freedom for Iceland, Jón crossed the Atlantic 29 times on cargo vessels and mail boats to plea with the Danish government. In the end, Danes granted Iceland a limited constitution in 1874. In commemoration for his efforts Iceland celebrates its independence day on Jón’s birthday. You’ll also find this handsome fellow on the 500 kr. note. Sculptor: Einar Jónsson
[3] Tryggvagarður Garden
Named after Tryggvi Gunnarsson (1835 – 1917), a renowned entrepreneur and prime minister of Iceland, this garden dates back to 1893 and is known as a place where the nation’s leaders come to make important decisions. After all, it’s located directly behind the House of Parliament.
[4] Skúli Magnússon
(1711-1794) Although many Icelanders cringe at the idea of bringing heavy industry to Iceland today, it was Constable Skúli Magnússon, dubbed the “Father of Reykjavík,” who first brought factory production to Reykjavík with the so-called “Innréttingar” industrial workshops. If you visit Viðey Island you can still see his residence, where he lived from 1754 until his death. Sculptor: Guðmundur Einarsson
[5] Fógetagarðurinn Park
The site of Reykjavík’s first cemetery dating back to the time of Iceland’s settlement, used for over 800 years. It is believed to contain the remains of 30 generations of Icelanders. Spreading its limbs across the park is Reykjavík’s oldest tree: a Rowan tree dating back to 1884.
[6] Suðurgata Cemetery
The green space opposite downtown on the other side of the pond is a cemetery, eerily treed in an otherwise nearly treeless cityscape (good fertilizer?). It was first used in 1838 and actually provides a lovely respite on a sunny day for stroll through the past.
[7] The Lakeside
In this area the past meets the present with Reykjavík’s modern palace of a city hall flanked by some of the city’s loveliest houses from the turn of the century on both sides of the lake.
[8] Bjarkargata Grove
In 1914 there were 400 birch trees planted on this spot, marking Iceland’s first concerted effort towards reforesting the island. As you can see, they have a long way to go.
[9] Bertel Thorvaldsen
(1770-1844) The humble son of an Icelandic woodcarver settles in Denmark and through hard work and diligence becomes one of the most sought after sculptors in Europe, working for royalty, aristocrats and renowned collectors. After a life of fame and fortune he dies in grand style at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen, buried at his own request under a bed of roses next to the museum housing his works. Sculptor: Bertel Thorvaldssen
[10] Pavilion Park
(Hljómskálagarðurinn) What used to by the city dump for the most part of the 19th century is now a popular place to picnic by the lakeside.
[11] Jónas Hallgrímsson
(1807-1845) If the pen is mightier than the sword, then this man was a Sherman tank. His sweeping romantic poetry on Icelandic nature and beauty coincided with the nation’s battle for independence. In fact, many consider his words to be one of the driving forces behind Icelanders insisting on escaping the Danish crown. Sculptor: Einar Jónsson
[12] Court Garden
(Hallagarðurinn) Originally a private garden, but in 1955 it became the first large recreation area in Iceland to be specifically designed by a landscape architect.
[13] Mothers’ Park
(Mæðragarðurinn) One of the city’s first playgrounds. In 1925 the area was declared a public park and dedicated to mothers with young children (hence the statue of mother with child).
[14] Hannes Hafstein
(1861-1922) Farm boy from the North makes good. Hannes graduated from the Icelandic National School in 1880 and later as a lawyer from Copenhagen University. In 1904, he became the first Icelander to be appointed to the Danish Cabinet as the Minister for Icelandic Affairs, reporting to the Icelandic parliament. Later he became Iceland’s first prime minister. Sculptor: Einar Jónsson
[15] Ingólfsbrekka Hill
Probably one of the best-preserved sections of old Reykjavik’s landscape. In 1806, it marked the eastern boundary of the city.
[16] Sheriff’s Garden
Dating back to 1862, this park is probably the oldest preserved household garden in Reykjavik. Through Hressingaskálinn café on Austurstræti you can access the garden and eat outside, or just sit down for a cup of coffee.
[17] King Christian IX
Ruled Denmark from 1863 to 1906, known as the “Grandfather of Europe” as many of his descendants married into other royal houses. In 1874, he issued a new constitution for Iceland, a compromise between Iceland’s demand for sovereignty and Denmark’s interest in maintaining the monarchy. When the king set foot in Iceland it became the country’s first royal visit—even if it was only to boot Iceland out of the kingdom. Sculptor: Einar Jónsson.
[18] Arnarhóll Hill
Before 1764, Reykjavík had no prison. Instead, Iceland shipped their undesirables out to Denmark for imprisonment and had to pay dearly for the service. In an effort to save some króna, in 1757 the Icelandic magistrates asked the Danish crown for permission to simply hang convicts instead of hassling to send them abroad. The king didn’t go for the idea, instead ordering that a proper prison be built on Arnarhóll Hill.
[19] Ingólfur Arnarson
According to Iceland’s Book of Settlement, it was 870 AD when the island’s first permanent settler, Ingólfur Arnarson, threw his two wooden chieftain poles overboard, believing that wherever they washed ashore was where he was fated to build his settlement, which later became Reykjavík. Archaeological excavations at Aðalstræti and Suðurgata streets have revealed evidence of an ancient settlement that supports this story. Sculptor: Einar Jónsson.
[20] Leif the Lucky
Christopher Columbus who? Icelanders will happily explain that it was their own Leifur Eiríksson who discovered America some 600 years before Columbus. As a “thanks for finding us” present to Iceland, America gave the nation this heroic statue of the Leif the Lucky, who now perches on the highest hill in downtown Reykjavík. Sculptor: Alexander S. Calder
[21] Einar Jónsson
Sculpture Garden
Behind the Einar Jónsson Museum is a garden exhibiting casts of Einar’s sculptures. The fierce Icelandic national pride is captured in these boldly rendered, allegorical figures.