In no particular order…
#1 Whale Watching Boulevard
The Old Harbor is the home to my friends at Special Tours and the lovely people at Elding. That alone is a reason enough to go check it out. At Whale Watching Boulevard, or Ægisgarður as it is called in the phone book, you will find numerous companies willing to take you out to sea on amazing excursions and because they are all located at the same place you can just show up and shop around for the best deal.
You can also get guided tours around Reykjavík by scooters or bikes and I can tell you from my own experience that it’s a brilliant way to explore the city.
#2 Yummy restaurants and aromatic coffee
The Old Harbour is home to many fine restaurants such as The Burger Joint, Sea Baron and Tapas Húsið, all of which have been featured on this blog. Another place I’ve heard is great but I’ve never tried myself is Icelandic Fish and Chips but I hear from the staff at the Reykjavík Downtown Hostel that their guests are usually really happy with the food there. I can also recommend the Sushi at Sushismiðjan although it’s a tad more expensive than the sushi places I frequent.
Many swear that the best coffee in Reykjavík is brewed at Café Haiti, which is also located at the old harbour. I’m not a big coffee drinker myself so I can’t confirm that rumor but I do enjoy Café Haiti and should probably visit it more often.
#3 Lots of color
In recent years I feel like new buildings in Reykjavík have been lacking in the quirkiness that makes Reykjavík so unique and charming. Just before the economic collapse we got lost in minimalistic Scandinavian design and we forgot to put some color into our lives. This is not the case with the buildings at the old Harbour which are mostly brightly colored renovated fishing sheds.
I also appreciate the many different “colors” inside those sheds – both in regards to the products on display and the people who run the businesses. Anyone who has seen the Sea Baron’s Kjartan in action knows what I’m talking about.
#4 The sea
When I was young my grandfather made a living by going out to sea to fish. He would spend his summers up in the Westfjords, alone battling the elements, and I would visit my grandmother and keep her company during my summer holidays from school. When his boat was at the harbor I would go visit him with my dad and I remember being quite envious of those who were older than me and got to go out to sea with him. My dad and I would also go on drives on Sundays where we’d stop at an ice cream shop and then drive to the harbor to look at the big ships being painted in different colours and the men who were getting them ready for the next tour.
I think that’s one of the reasons I really love the old harbor area. It reminds me of those good old days when my biggest worry in life was whether I should get chocolate dip on my icecream or not. I’ve mentioned before that I have a strange attractionto the sea, , maybe I’m still secretly envious of family members that were allowed on my grandfather’s boat, and the Old Harbor is a great place to get close to it in a fun environment.
#5 Unity and harmony
Iceland has been a weird place ever since the so-called financial collapse in 2008 and it seems like the Icelandic nation cannot agree on anything. Everything is a ground for an argument and no issue is too small to cause a havoc over. To be completely honest I’m just so very tired of it.
Because of that it is refreshing to see a group of people come together and build up an area like the Old Harbor and set their differences aside for a greater cause. In theory the whale watching companies, for example. should be arch enimies fighting about the tourists wanting to explore the great open seas. I’m sure they are on some level but they have also come together to realize a vision they have for an area they care about. And it worked – the Old Harbor is one of the most exciting new areas in Reykjavík. I applaud them for that.
You can pick up a handy map of the Old Harbor area all over town which is good because their website is pretty useless.