Hotel Borg by Keahotels is Reykjavik’s, no Iceland’s, most impressive hotel. The imposing white palatial art deco style hotel is located at the very heart of the Icelandic capital’s political, economic and cultural landscape. The rooms are huge, the views are spectacular, and the air of importance felt by every guest is memorable.
When I stayed at Hotel Borg, in a 4th floor suite no less, little did I expect to feel so special. The hotel was built in May 1930 by famous Icelandic strongman and adventurer Jóhannes Jósefsson after returning home from a round-the-world trip, and since its opening the hotel has played a significant role in developing the identity of this most famous Icelandic city.
From my private balcony, on a chilly winter morning, I could almost touch Iceland’s ancient stone parliament building, the Althingi, which is literally next door, and the green-roofed Iceland Cathedral, which is also next door. I didn’t have to venture outside though to enjoy the Icelandic capital. The room had underfloor heating, impressive panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows, pictures of old Reykjavik hanging on the wall, and luxurious cream colored duvets and pillows.
When I was there, the ground floor restaurant served the finest Icelandic dishes, including Skyr, a mouth-watering thick yogurt that came in all kinds of flavours, raspberry, strawberry, lingonberry, which apparently is made using the original Viking bacteria that was brought over from Denmark some 800 years ago. Now Jamie Oliver has set-up shop in the first international venture for his Jamie’s Italian chain. I am yet to sample Iceland’s version of Italian cuisine.
Literally a stone’s throw from the hotel entrance is everything that I could have wished for when visiting the Icelandic capital. It was Christmas time when I visited, so a towering green fir tree covered in twinkling lights, complete with young people choir singing Icelandic carol songs as the northern lights lit up the skies above, had been erected.
To the left of the hotel is the all-glass Reykjavik city hall and a peaceful lake, and to the right is the main shopping street of Laugavegur. The main street stretches from the Althingi to the space age Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran church which casts a shadow over the whole city. I was impressed by the colours of the old wooden buildings that line Laugavegur; the architects some centuries ago included every colour possible when designing this street – bright reds, dark blues, greens, yellows, and oranges. The shops offer a unique insight into Icelandic culture, some selling woolly jumpers, others wooden toys, and some completely (un)authentic Viking paraphernalia.
The area around Hotel Borg is constantly alive with all-night party goers darting from pub to bar (all drinking the local schnapps called Brennivin, or ‘Black Death’ of course!) and tourists wandering through the maze of old wooden buildings. But inside the hotel is another story. Inside I found it calm and peaceful, which became a home away from home as soon as I checked in.
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