Reykjavík, A Cool Spot for Hot Arctic Nights
Nov. 12, 2003 — A freezing, windswept, remote island backwater
transforming itself into one of the world's most popular nightspots?
Not very likely. That is, until you've been to Iceland's capital, Reykjavík.
With planeloads of Europeans and Americans flying in with the sole
aim of partying non-stop, and seemingly more pubs, nightclubs and restaurants
than inhabitants, Reykjavík makes a credible claim to the title
"Capital of Cool".
It takes three hours of flying time from London or Paris to get here,
and five hours from the United States' east coast, but that doesn't
stop the crowds from flocking in — often just for a weekend.
"We spent all night going between bars and clubs," David,
a visitor from New York, told AFP after sampling the Reykjavík
nightlife. "It was amazing, maybe this is now the new city that
never sleeps," he said.
It used to be hellishly expensive to get here, but no-frill carriers
like Iceland Express have brought the cost of taking part in the action
down to a fraction of what it once was.
And national carrier Icelandair offers special deals on an "Iceland
Party Weekend" for students, or a "Gay Party Weekend"
which includes nightspot discounts and spa treatments.
Reykjavík was a hot tip for the international jet set crowd
long before cheap flights made it more accessible — Iceland's
tourist office claims that one British pop star was so taken with the
action that he purchased a share in his favorite Reykjavík pub
and an apartment nearby.
European-style cafes, chic bars, nightclubs with live entertainment,
discos, alternative clubs, strip joints, romantic piano lounges, a tapas
cafe, a French bar: it's all here. Including the obligatory Irish pub.
Most places close around 1 am on weekdays and 4 am, or not at all,
on weekends, as the nightlife really only gets hot around midnight.
Although drinks are expensive, with a pint of lager at six dollars
visitors, and locals, don't seem to care as they wander from place to
place in downtown Reykjavík where the party spots are close to
Here, the drumbeats of all flavors of music compete with each other,
offering more than just Bjork - the dreamy music of Sigurros has caught
on internationally as has the heavy beat of Quarashy, Minus and Singapore
The best place to catch live bands is Gaukur a Stong or NASA, while
the intellectuals gather at Olstofan next door to Vegamot, where the
expression is more focused on good looks and trendy outfits.
The young and hip also go to Hverfisbarinn, and the DJs have their
moments at Kaffibarinn, Prikid or Solon.
Those who want to flag their designer labels meet at the Thorvaldsen
bar and disco, have a drink at Apotek or sip a glass of quality French
wine at Vinbarinn.
Reykjavík also has a variety of restaurants offering fusion
dishes as good as in any metropolitan city - "in" places like
Apotekid, La Primavera, Vid Tjornina and, for those who dare, Thrir
Frakkar can offer you smoked puffin as a starter and a whale meat steak
as a main course.
Elegance and Bocuse d'Or chefs can be found at the Vox restaurant at
Nordica Hotel and in the Perlan restaurant, located in a revolving glass
dome on top of the tanks used to distribute the geothermal heat that
warms up this northern capital.
While most of the action in Reykjavík takes place during the
summer, or during what passes for summer this far north, the fun doesn't
dry up when the cold season descends.
The early winter chill will leave your cheeks rosy but the young and
trendy crowd that filled downtown streets during the recent Iceland
Airwaves music festival seemed immune to the cold.
"A few days ago we were walking around in a sweater and light
jacket. You couldn't believe you were close to the Arctic Circle,"
said Marcy, another New Yorker.
Inevitably, part of the attraction is the search for a partner for
casual sexy fun , a motivation not lost on Iceland's tourist business.
"Pick up a Viking in Iceland!", trumpets Icelandair on its
website, before explaining that it meant Viking beer, of course.
The airline has previously invited visitors to "pester a beauty
queen", and put a game on its website in which points are scored
by snatching the bikini tops off giggling girls. The campaign earned
the airline a lawsuit for sexist and degrading advertising.
But the geyser-like eruption of conflict has died down, and as long
as nobody oversteps the mark, Icelanders don't mind being portrayed
as eminently desirable.
As fashion magazine Vogue put it: "The women look either like
Uma Thurman or Patsy Kensit, and every third man resembles Brad Pitt."
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