Arriving at your destination in the middle of the night is never ideal, and is always something I avoid when I travel alone. But, with only a few hours of darkness in the summer, and Reykjavik being known as one of the safest cities in the world, I wasn’t concerned about it for my trip to Iceland.
I arrived at my hostel at about 2:30am on a Saturday morning and was I shocked at what I saw. The streets were packed, the music was blaring out of every bar on the street. It seemed like the night was just getting started, and in August, daylight was already showing its face. Exhausted from my flight, I went straight to sleep – at least I attempted to. Staying downtown means you will hear the partying on the street below. But, not an issue for me. I managed to fall asleep fine.
Despite the party on the streets below, it turns out I was in Reykjavik on a long weekend, when most of the locals are out of the City at a festival in the Westmund Islands. Nightlife during the week is quite different. I went out with a couple of girls from my hostel on a Tuesday night. We headed to Kex Hostel for some live Jazz music around 9:00pm. The band consisted of four guys in their 20s – not what I imagined when I thought of jazz. But it was great!
After they finished at about 10:30pm, we headed out to find another place. Multiple bars advertised live music, but were not delivering on their promise. In fact, almost everywhere we walked past had only a few people inside. We ventured into one restaurant (B4), which was about to close and the bartender offered us a drink. We picked his brain about nightlife in Reykjavik. We did the same every time we had a chance to talk to some locals. In many cases, we were talking to employees who were enjoying themselves at their workplace outside of work hours, and of course they all told us that their particular establishment was the best bar in Reykjavik. When we asked them to give us a serious answer, the other options they gave were mainly hostels. I’ll say that again – the locals like to hang out in hostels!
As a traveller, I always spend very little time in my hostel (or hotel). I try to get out into the city to meet locals and learn about life in that particular place. In Reykjavik, particularly during a long weekend, it is evident that there are a lot of tourists in the city. We asked the locals where to go to get away from the tourists – their answer was “if you wanted to avoid tourists, you should have been here five years ago!” Even if they don’t like how much tourism has taken over, they have learned to live with it and are open to talking about it. The fact that they hang out in hostels means that they aren’t trying to avoid tourists. So when you are in Reykjavik – or any other city – take a close look at the people spending time at the bar/restaurant of your hostel and strike up a conversation. You might learn more about the city than you expected!