Even more so than elsewhere in Scandinavia, everyone speaks excellent English and, if they’re under 30 or so, often with barely an accent (other than a TV-induced American one). Icelanders are friendly, courteous – but are very direct in their speech – and highly educated with 100 per cent literacy; they reputedly read and write more books per head of population than any other nationality.
101 hotel (www.101hotel.is) is generally cited as the epitome of Icelandic cool but for business travellers a more realistic option is the Radisson 1919 hotel (www.radissonblu.com) in the heart of the city. In a beautiful old shipping line office building, it offers all modern facilities needed by business travellers plus a very pleasant bar. It also has free internet connection throughout the hotel’s rooms and public areas.
Unsurprisingly, fish plays an important part in Iceland’s culinary traditions and the The Fish Market (Adalstraeti 12 Tel: +354 578 8877) is one of Reykjavik's best restaurants. Housed in one of the city centre's oldest buildings, ingredients are sourced from the nation’s farms, lakes, and sea to create modern Icelandic dishes.
One of the bars of the moment is Boston on Laugavegur 28b, which is hard to find with its discreet entrance. A narrow staircase leads up to an attractive and rather theatrical bar area with flickering candles and some rather disconcerting taxidermy. Most people stick to beer, though other drinks are available, and the atmosphere is welcoming and mellow. The bar is on the small side and by 10pm, it’s usually fairly packed.
Iceland might be a small island but it sustains two airlines. Icelandair traces its roots back to 1937 and today flies from London Heathrow (up to twice daily), Manchester and Glasgow into Keflavik International Airport. Since 2003 it has been joined by Iceland Express, which now flies from London Gatwick, Edinburgh, Belfast and Dublin.
There’s an efficient Flybus service which departs after every flight costing around £20 return to Reykjavik’s bus station or around £25 return to most hotels. Journey time to/from the bus station is 45 minutes. Car hire and taxis are also available. See: www.re.is/Flybus
Reykjavik is Iceland’s compact and attractive capital, home to some 60 per cent of the country’s population. Following Iceland’s financial woes it’s less expensive than it was but still far from a cheap destination. See: www.visiticeland.com
With a spare day in Reykjavik, the standard suggestion is the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa or the Golden Circle tour. Both are hugely enjoyable but why not try something really different and very memorable; glacier walking? With crampons and ice axe – the latter more for show than use – a three-hour walk on a glacier is one of life’s unique experiences.
“Few Icelanders have original surnames so directories list individuals by their first name. Surnames are based on the father’s first name plus ‘son’ or ‘daughter’. So, Andrew, the son of Magnus, would be known as Andrew Magnusson while Joanna would be known as Joanna Magnusdóttir“