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Saturday, July 9 update: Reykjavik harbor area, City Library, Photography Museum, and Settlement 871 ±2

We headed to the main downtown area of Reykjavik, in and around the harbor. This is just a 10 minute or so walk from the museums we went to yesterday, though it feels like a very different area.

First up was supposed to be lunch at the Laundromat Café, but it seems perpetually full. Instead of fighting for a table, we moved on to Café Paris just down the street. .

brunch cafe paris

Once we have opted not to go to the restaurant we planned for, our primary criteria for finding a place to eat is “How does the children’s menu look?” A good children’s menu can save a lot of money.

In this case, Café Paris offered a kid’s brunch for 1390 krona, or just over $11. The menu, which may or may not load in your browser, says this has an egg, bacon (which we omitted), american pancakes, toast, fruit, cheese, smoothie, and butter and jam. It’s a nice plate of food, though our kids thought the smoothie needed to be sweeter. That was easily remedied with some maple syrup.

After lunch we headed to the Reykjavik City Library. Give a quick look at their events page– you may find something happening while you are in town, and the events are often free. In this case, my son went to a computer event sponsored by Looks like everyone had a good time, or at least was hard at work:

library coding event

While he was doing that, we first explored the library. It’s a very welcoming place, with enough children’s books in English to keep the kids entertained for a while. And there are a variety of reading nooks and play areas; you’re encouraged to stick around for a while. It’s a good place to relax, and maybe meet some locals. The sign on the shelf below says “Children’s books in English.”

library kids books english

library chess

The library also houses the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, which is definitely worth the price of admission (free!) First, take the elevator up to the 6th floor, and see the main exhibits.

photography museum main

Then, take the stairs back down, and see all of the photographs along the walls the entire way down. But warn your kids to pay attention to the steps– spend too much time admiring the photos, and you’ll miss a step. Trust me.

photography museum stairs

Some of us stayed at the library, while others wandered around the harbor area. If the chess board in the library isn’t big enough for you, just cross the street to find this one:

harbor chess girl

On weekends, just down the block from the library is the Reykjavik flea market. We’ll spend more time here in a couple of weeks, but it’s large enough to browse for hours, looking for the perfect souvenir or Icelandic wool sweater.

harbor flea market

Finally, once the event at the library was over, we walked to The Settlement Exhibition, also called Reykjavik 871 ±2. I don’t really like the 871 name, as the main ruins exhibited at the museum are from much later than 871. The 871 ±2 refers to a volcano that erupted around the year 871, and left a distinctive colored layer of ash and rock; this layer makes it easy to determine if a building was built before or after 871. One of the steps down to the museum is a clever nod to this:871 clever step

In 2001, a construction project in downtown Reykjavik accidentally unearthed the ruins of a Viking longhouse; this house was built around 930– the very end of the “Settlement Age.” The ruins were preserved where they were found, and are exhibited as the Settlement House:

871 overview

You can press buttons to highlight different features of the house, and there are lots of multimedia exhibits around the sides of the museum:

871 cool wall moving

871 interactive table

At the far end of the house, there are some ruins that are from before 871 (no one knows how long before); this is the oldest manmade structure ever found in Reykjavik.

[Note added July 2017: The Settlement Sagas exhibit described below has closed. A new exhibit called “Viking Animals – The Secret of the Settlement” has opened as of May 2017. It shows the imporance of animals in the early settlement of Iceland. While the old exhibit had a separate admission fee, this one is included in the base admission price!]

A new and separate exhibit shows some old manuscripts from as early as the 1300s. Called the Settlement Sagas, there is an additional fee to get in to this separate room.

settlement saga overview settlement saga sample


Let’s take a look at admission prices. First, everything is free for kids under 18. For adults, it’s 1600isk for both exhibits. Note that, unlike the Saga Museum from yesterday, this is a city museum, and so it is included in the Reykjavik City card. This museum can pay for a decent portion of the cost of a 24 hour card …

I think the addition of the new exhibit makes this easier to recommend. The main museum offers a lot of interactive options, and adding in the Viking Animals exhibit makes this a better value. The Settlement Museum is open until 8 PM every night, so it’s a good option for an evening in Reykjavik.

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Saturday, July 9 update: Reykjavik harbor area, City Library, Photography Museum, and Settlement 871 ±2 was last modified: September 12th, 2017 by Eric