When you drive into Iceland’s main city, Reykjavik, one of the things that will draw your eye immediately is the gleaming blue-grey space-age looking glass dome perched on a hilltop just outside of town. That’s the Perlan, a water storage, restaurant and museum.
The water storage tanks have been on this hilltop for many years; in the early twentieth century the Icelanders perfected a method for harnessing the abundant thermal water below the ground and now the city is supplied for free with endless hot water, much of it is stored in these tanks. In 1991 the structure needed an upgrade and the then local mayor decided to take advantage of the hilltop position and build the Perlan, designed by local architect Ingimundur Sveinsson. Inside it’s a huge domed space rising many floors. At the lowest level is The Winter Garden, a huge exhibition and concert space. The acoustics of the dome have been carefully designed and local musicians often hold concerts here.
On the fourth level is a viewing platform with great views across Reykjavik (entry is free), and shops including souvenirs, gourmet local foods and a Christmas shop which is open all year around. There’s also a cafeteria for a quick snack. The top floor is a revolving restaurant and cocktail bar, which completes a full rotation in two hours – slow enough not to ruin your meal or spill your drink. It’s one of Iceland’s finest restaurants and offers local specialties such as reindeer and herring tartar. It does not however offer that famous Icelandic challenge of rotting shark – you’ll have to find that elsewhere if you’re really brave.
At night, thanks to the abundant thermal-powered electricity, the place is wonderfully lit up. One of the water towers has been converted into The Sagas Museum, recreating the famous historical stories and ways of life in Iceland over the millennia.