Reykjavík is the capital of Iceland, the northernmost in the world, with a population too small to fit in a city. Reykjavík offers a wealth of sights and activities that appeal to lovers of culture, nature and nightlife. As in every city, the choice of activities is really abundant here. Here is the Reykjavik travel guide and 10 good things you can do!
Experience the Reykjavik Northern Lights
One of the best places in the world to experience the magnificent Northern Lights is Iceland. You may be able to view Aurora Borealis from downtown Reykjavik, but the best place to see it within the city limits is on Seltjarnarnes beach. The Grótta area is also beautiful; many birds nest there, and there is also an old lantern perfect for photography enthusiasts.
Explore Public Parks in Iceland
There are many green areas and parks you can visit in Reykjavik. Public gardens in the city include Hallargarður and Hljómskálagarður, the city pond, as well as Klambratún / Miklatún surrounding the art museum Kjarvalsstaðir. These are popular areas for outdoor games during the summer. A popular destination, Grótta features the iconic lighthouse and Faxaflói bay and views of Reykjavik’s mountain, Esjan.
Immerse Yourself in Art and Culture
Museums, galleries, outdoor sculptures and street art are all widely available in Reykjavik. Sun Voyager is a popular seaside attraction, close to Harpa Concert Hall. The statue has a great view towards Mt Esjan. If you keep your eyes open, you will probably be able to see other statues around the town. The two largest sculpture museums are the Einar Jónsson Museum (next to the Hallgrímskirkja church) and the Asmundur Laugardalur recreation area.
There are also dozens of art museums and smaller art galleries. The largests are Reykjavik Art Gallery, Kjarval Museum and Icelandic National Gallery. Marshall House is the newest member of this corporate family.
Besides these large institutions, you can also find smaller surrounding locations such as Mengi, Berg Contemporary, i8, Art Gallery 101, ART67 Gallery, Gallery Fold and Gallery List.
Visit the Harpa Concert Hall / Old Harbor
Harpa Concert and Conference Hall is an impressive glass building located next to the old Reykjavik harbor. This iconic building is worth visiting for its architecture alone, as you will be able to admire and take great pictures from both outside and inside.
You can see the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra during a rehearsal or attend a concert with Iceland’s most famous bands. It is worth checking out what is happening in Harpa during your stay in Iceland.
Try Icelandic Cuisine
Reykjavík has some truly outstanding local and international cuisines. You can find restaurants specializing in seafood or grilled meats. Besides Icelandic restaurants, there are also great Thai, Italian, Indian, Mexican, Japanese and even Ethiopian restaurants to be found in the city.
Local dishes focus on seafood and lamb. One of the most popular dishes at Matur og Drykkur is cod head cooked in chicken stock. Try it, you won’t regret it.
Most travelers recommend getting an Icelandic hot dog. The hot dog stand Bæjarins bestu (“The Town’s Best”), built near Reykjavík harbor, has a reputation for selling the tastiest sausages in Iceland, usually open in the afternoon and on weekends. Visitors claim that these sausages are the best in the world. Bill Clinton and James Hetfield, just two of the stand’s most recognizable guests.
According to some, Reykjavik nightlife is either famous or infamous. On Sundays and Thursdays, cafes are open until 1 am, but on Friday and Saturday nights, places remain open until 5 am. There are many bars and cafes that offer live music at night, and the city is full of all kinds of live entertainment: stand up comedy, theater, opera, drag show, cabaret shows, musicals and even poetry!
Weekly live jazz sessions are held in many cafes around the city. There is jazz every Sunday night at the Bryggjan Brewery, every Monday night at Húrra, Tuesday nights at Kex Hostel and every Wednesday night at the Peterson Suite. The Múlinn jazz bar on top of the Harpa Concert Hall is also worth seeing.
IÐNÓ is a venue that has events almost every night of the week, many public events as well as some special events (such as weddings). Public events include live music, theater or dance performances, music festivals, and regular poetry nights. Gaukurinn hosts a weekly stand-up comedy show in English on Monday nights. Tjarnarbíó is a great venue for theater, music and dance performances located right next to the Town Hall. Þjóðleikhúskjallarinn or National Theater Bodrum also hosts weekly theater improvement sessions and cabaret performances.
Take an Adventure in Iceland
Reykjavík is a city full of pleasant surprises. You can try to discover their hidden treasures on your own or hang out with some locals who want to show you around often.
For example, you can explore Reykjavík’s food scene and enjoy some of the most delicious flavors. Alternatively, you can take a scenic helicopter ride, where you can take a trip to the top of one of the mountains surrounding the city.
Other popular tours in and around the city include whale watching and seagull tours, as well as horse riding tours.
Take a Reykjavík City Tour
If you want to explore the streets of nearby Reykjavík city center from the Hallgrímskirkja church, the best way to do this is by walking or cycling. Be sure to visit the main shopping streets to truly discover the culture; Laugavegur, Bankastræti, Austurstræti, Lækjargata, Skólavörðustígur – easily accessible in the center of Reykjavik.
You will find Icelandic design extremely trendy; You can catch the latest trends in stores like Kraum, Spaks Manns Spjarir, Aurum, Herrafataverzlun Kormáks and Skjaldar, Verslun Guðsteins Eyjólfssonar, GK, Aftur and Jór.
Apart from shopping, there are many other neighborhoods in Reykjavík worth exploring. The Neighborhood of the Gods (Þingholtin) is a good example; these are the residential streets between the Hallgrímskirkja church and the city pond. The names of the streets in this neighborhood all derive from the Scandinavian religion.
Visit Hallgrimskirkja Church
The Hallgrímskirkja church, rising above the center of Reykjavik, can be seen from almost every corner of the city and is therefore easy to find. At the top of this 74.5-meter expressive building is a viewing platform that offers a 360 ° view of the entire city. With Perlan’s view on Öskjuhlíð Hill, it’s probably the best view you can get from the city and save air.
Visit Reykjavik’s Swimming Pools
From powerful glaciers to the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is a country defined by water in many ways. Thanks to Iceland’s renewable energy policies, water is very inexpensive to use at large capacities (e.g. for swimming pools / saunas), so it is a favorite activity among Icelanders.
Some of these pools have both an indoor and outdoor pool, sauna, and at least one hot tub. Fortunately, the pools have heated water, making it accessible all year round.
Think of Icelandic swimming pools more like a luxurious spa than your daily communal pool at home. For an entry price of only 900 ISK, this might be the cheapest spa you’ve ever encountered.