With a small and compact city center, meandering coastline and lots of parks, the Icelandic capital is ready-made for walking. Here’s the second our favorite urban hikes, the Sculpture & Shoreline Trail (SST) along the city’s scenic and hardworking waterfront:
The best thing about this walk — other than the gorgeous scenery and intriguing outdoor artwork — is the fact that it runs right past the place where the MV Ocean Diamond normally docks on the Miðbakki wharf. You can actually join the trail right at the bottom of the gangplank.
Rather than start in the middle, our description of the SST follows the path east to west from a starting point at the Sigurjón Ólafsson Museum in the Laugarnes neighborhood. A branch of the National Gallery of Iceland, the museum contains works, sketches and drawings by the celebrated Icelandic abstract sculptor in a space that was once his atelier.
Starting outside the museum, the trail meanders 1.7 miles along the waterfront to the ultra-modern Harpa Concert Hall. Along the way are numerous outdoor sculptures including “Partnership” by Pétur Bjarnason (which celebrates Icelandic-American friendship), “The Cairn” by Jóhann Eyfells, and the famous “Sólfarið – Sun Voyager” by Jón Gunnar Árnason. On the other side of the waterfront highway you might notice the whitewashed wooden Höfði House, where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev staged their landmark 1986 summit.
Unveiled in 2011 as the new home of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and Icelandic Opera, the Harpa is one of Iceland’s most distinctive structures, the dark-glass shell allegedly inspired by the island’s basalt lava fields. Grab a drink or snack at the Harpa’s Smurstodin cafe before continuing your walk.
The SST runs another 0.8 miles through the Fiskihofn harbor area to a cluster of new museums around the intersection of Grandagarður and Rastargata streets including the Reykjavik Maritime Museum with its collection of historic watercraft and the Saga Museum with its waxwork renderings of Icelandic history, myth and legend.
Next month: Green Reykjavik, a wander through the city’s parks and gardens.