Reykjavík is a compact, cosmopolitan and quirky city, with all of its major landmarks within easy reach of each other on foot.
There are hop on/off tourist buses, as well as a pleasingly efficient local service (Straeto.is) complete with an app for online payment and live route planning, but Iceland’s capital city is a wonder for the walker, with only a slight and comfortable incline to its highest point, where the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church dominates the skyline, visible for miles in all directions.
Starting on Lækjargata, a stroll uphill towards this striking structure will take you along Skólavörðustígur with its boutiques, including the Handknitting Association’s showcase of Icelandic woollens and 12 Tónar, an outstanding independent record store.
If you’re peckish, Cafe Babalu is on hand to offer coffee, cakes and light bites.
Once at the top of the hill, a look to the right will show you Cafe Loki, specialists in substantial, authentic Icelandic fare.
Alternatively, a turn to the left will lead you downhill past Reykjavík Roasters, dedicated purveyors of quality coffees and the splendidly decorated Brauð & Co bakery, whose cinnamon buns are a perfect confection.
Then another turn to the left and you’re on the famed Laugavegur strip, where there’s a seemingly endless array of bars, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and shops coolly competing to capture your attention.
Completing a loop at the foot of Skólavörðustígur, you’re now gently dropping down to Austurstræti, where there’s another selection of excellent pubs, cafes and restaurants, including The English Pub and Egill Jacobsen.
Carry on into Ingólfstorg square, veering off to the right, you’ll pass the Micro Bar, the lovely Stofan cafe, Tapas Barinn and then you’re soon approaching the Old Harbour.
This part of town is a Mecca for lovers of little local food shacks like the lobster soup specialists at Sea Baron, high quality coffee shops including Reykjavík Röst and funky bars such as Slipbarinn.
A little further along, you’re soon in Grandi, where the Saga Museum and the Maritime Museum may have seized your attention, but make sure you consider the delights of Kaffivagninn, declared as the “oldest restaurant in Reykjavík”, or perhaps a newer establishment like Flatey, home of the pizza in this part of town.
Returning back to the centre of town via Ingólfstorg square, hang right towards The Settlement Exhibition for a fascinating history lesson or perhaps towards the cafe at Iðnó, with views over Lake Tjörnin and the lovely Frikirkjan church.
Another turn to the left along Lækjargata, past the Prime Minister’s offices and more food and drink emporiums like Icelandic Street Food, will see you approaching the jewel in the crown, Harpa.
This marvellous building is an utter delight, both inside and out. By night, it’s glass cells light up in a series of dazzling displays, while sunlight dapples magically through them by day.
It’s interior calls to mind a real life Escher drawing, with epic staircases disappearing off into unlikely angles and elevations, offering unbeatable multilayered views across Faxafloi Bay to the distant Mount Esja.
Once you’ve torn yourself away from this design marvel, stroll further along the sea wall for about ten minutes and you’ll come upon Solfar, the Sun Voyager – a shimmering steel sculpture that references Iceland’s Viking explorer past.
All this can be seen within a couple of hours of happy wandering, but given the number of wonderful places to stop and savour the view along the way, you might need a little longer.
The city has turned itself into a living artwork too, with the approval of several large scale graffiti works occupying entire frontages in a number of locations, as well as a multitude of statues and sculptures.
See how many you can find.