Despite being one of Europe’s smallest capital cities, REYKJAVIK, the lively Icelandic hotspot offers all the cultural perks of a much larger place.

With just 200,000 residents, REYKJAVIK seems a small place.  But,  when Iceland’s total population only hovers around 300,000, it makes sense that the capital is known as the “big city”.

Reykjavik houses

“From live music almost every night to cosy cafes, colourful houses and friendly cats roaming the streets, REYKJAVIK has all the charms of a small town in a fun capital city,” says Kaelene Spence, who moved from Oregon, US, in 2014 and writes about the expat experience on her blog UNLOCKING KIKI.

The city has a surprisingly lively nightlife for its size ———- it is always buzzing during weekday happy hour and can go on until the early morning on weekends.  According to Spencer, the city has a “laid-back hipster vibe”, thanks to its independent, hard-working, friendly residents.
The spectacular scenery surrounding the city bewitches locals as much as visitors.  “In REYKJAVIK, by the oceans, you can see distant landscapes easily from the downtown centre and there are very few skyscrapers [to block the views]”, says RAGNA ROK JONS, who moved to the city from Los Angeles six years ago.

Reykjavik lights

According to the locals, you need to live downtown to really appreciate and enjoy the city.  The populated downtown areas —— 101, 105 and 107 postcodes —— are becoming increasingly expensive.  For less pricy options, Spense recommends SELTJARNARNES, a peninsula, 5km to the west, with plenty of walking trails along the coast or LAUGARDALUR, the hot spring valley, 5km to the east, known for having the city’s largest outdoor geo-thermal pool.

Reykjavik nothern lights

VESTURBAER(West Side) is home to the University of Iceland and is another affordable location that is close to downtown.  For expats looking for distance [and peace and quiet].  GAROABAER & KOPAVOGUR are good places, with each suburb about 10km and 4km south of the city centre respectively.

Reykjavik blue lagoon

Almost everyone in the city lives in apartments, even houses within the city are usually broken up into individual flats by floor.  While the buildings may look traditional on the outside, modern, stylish furnishings are DE RIGEUR within. Icelanders love to stay up with all the latest trends.

Reykjavik winter

Would-be renters should be prepared to move quickly if they see a potential place.  Apartments tend to rent within a few days of being listed.  The 2008 financial collapse only tightened the market further as loan approvals became harder to come by and new construction projects stalled.

Reykjavik downtown

While travellers flock to Iceland for its scenery and geo-thermal wonders, residents also appreciate the country’s beauty and love how easy it is to get out of the city.  In the geo-thermal area around the GEYSIR Hot Springs, you can see the STROKKUR hot spring spout every 6-8 minutes.

Reykjavik night

REYKJAVIK has been ranked as the 35th most expensive city in the world by cost-of-living site

———– Lindsey Galloway

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