J udging from most if not all guide books about Iceland these days the thing to do in Reykjavik is visit the brand new Harpa music and convention hall by the city harbor. Nothing could be further from the truth.
True, Harpa sits very comfortably close to Reykjavik downtown at a privileged location overlooking the old harbor. Also true the building is pretty. Not spectacular mind you, but pretty. Especially pretty in darkness when various colors wind their way around the whole building. A very impressive show for about five minutes.
Harpa is the Icelandic word for the musical instrument known as harp. That should tell you a wee bit about how difficult the Icelandic language really is. Its construction was highly debated in Iceland for the billionaire that green-lighted the project, went flat bankrupt shortly afterwards and has been hiding ever since. The city and the government stepped in and this made many a local mad with anger for neither had any money to spare.
Originally, this was supposed to be the headquarters of the billionaire and his bank. Naturally, no expenses were spared. Huge steel frames imported from Chinese specialist. Designs partly by famous artist Olafur Eliasson and floors made of gold. Well, the last part is a lie but you get our drift.
Problem is, for you the visitor, this place offers little. What there is to admire about Harpa concert hall is the building itself or rather the cacophony of lights and colors displayed there constantly.
Sure, you can take your coffee here or down some food. You can buy silly souvenirs and once in awhile you can see the Icelandic symphony orchestra play their hearts out. And yes, if lucky, you can also see some has-been musicians take to the stage. But this happens once or twice a year.
The other 364 days there is little to see here or do but admire the building in the darkness.
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