Reykjavik does sit along Iceland’s shores, so we have wide stretches of coastline to enjoy. However, a most favored spot of glassy calm waters is Tjörnin, or Reykjavik pond. Located in the city center surrounded by the National Gallery, City Hall, and many other points of interest, including art installations and many, many birds.
Your Friend in Reykjavik wants to share our favorite insights into the body of water that pulls together the city, as well as why some call it “the world’s largest bread soup”!
Not just a pond
If you look at Tjörnin, you might just consider it a lake. Actually, it is a series of five ponds and a wetland, Vatnsmýrin, covering about eight hectares, or just about 20 acres. Some call it a lagoon that is an extension of a barrier beach. It is connected to the ocean by the Lækurinn River, which now runs beneath the city, redirected as part of the city’s development in 1911. On your walks, be on the lookout for Lækjargata, or Stream Street, if you want to trace the river’s underground route! Then locks prevented the tides from bringing in seawater, changing the pond to a freshwater body, and a bridge turned into a road, splitting it into north and south halves.
Whatever you want to call it, this wonderful body of water offers visitors and locals alike a place for silent contemplation, for enjoying natural scenery, or for having outdoor fun.
Even with its great expanse, Tjörnin is very shallow, it is just under three feet at its deepest. This means that in the winter, much of the pond freezes, allowing for ice skating. Although the shallowness offers a safe environment, it is still best to check on conditions before lacing into your skates. You may also catch a football match or two (or soccer to some). Yes, local schools will take to the ice to play friendly games of football,
Birds and more await!
Even if you aren’t a birdwatcher, you may be mesmerized by the wide array of water birds that visit Reykjavik Pond. There are apparently over 40 different species, including terns, geese, and ducks, as well as swans and seagulls. Some consider the seagulls an issue as they prey on smaller birds and their nests. Never fear, though, other birds, including the Arctic tern, fight back. So a visit to the lake can turn into an interesting exhibit of predators and defenders!
Remember us mentioning the “world’s biggest bread soup”? Well, that was because for generations, a common pastime for families was to feed bread to the birds of Tjörnin. However, today, conservationists recommend feeding them seeds or grains, which are closer to their natural diet and unlikely to pollute the waters (think of all that yeast and processing that goes into bread heading into those waters.) Even in the coldest days of winter, you ca
n enjoy bird watching as warm water is pumped into one corner of the pond to ensure the birds have a place to frolic all year round.
If you prefer to take a stroll, you can head to Hljómskálagarður Park, filled with birch trees and paths for joggers and cyclists. As you walk, you may want to detour through the sculpture garden.Then you could wander to the historic buildings like Parliament or City Hall or the Free Church of Reykjavik, or you may want to visit the museums, theaters, and galleries that complement the natural beauty of the pond.
Let Your Friend in Reykjavik show you Tjörnin
Because it is central to life in Reykjavik, you can be sure that Your Friend in Reykjavik will stop by Tjörnin on one of our many walking tours of the city! Don’t forget to keep your camera handy for the many photo ops along the waters of our very own Reykjavik Pond.