It may be your jumping off point to explore the rest of Iceland or perhaps just a stop on a layover, but whatever the purpose of your visit, there are some really cool things to do in Reykjavik! We’ve rounded up the very best the city has to offer – from can’t-miss sights to unforgettable foodie experiences as well as insider tips (we’ve been to Reykjavik 3 times!) – so you can plan the perfect trip!
While small in size, Reykjavik, Iceland is packed with spunk, charm, and fun things to do.
Super walkable, extremely safe, and full of Nordic charm, it’s truly one of the best cities to visit in Europe. We’ve visited this city a total of three times, and can tell you from personal experience that there are a ton of cool things to do in Reykjavik.
Not gonna lie, the real reason you come to this country is to chase waterfalls, walk on black sand beaches and gawk at adorable puffins (among other adventurous things to do in Iceland).
But it would be a shame to come all the way to this country and totally skip out on Reykjavik.
Whether you have just a handful of hours or a few days to explore Iceland’s charming capital city, we’ve got you covered with ideas of how to spend your time in Reykjavik.
In this round-up, you’ll find tons of ideas including:
- Free and cheap things to do
- Reykjavik’s top attractions
- Off the beaten path gems
Let’s jump right in so you can plan a memorable stay in Iceland’s capital city!
Reykjavik Travel Guide
For more tips and advice for planning your trip to Reykjavik, jump to the following sections (or just keep scrolling to see it all!).
- How many days do you need
- Reykjavik City Card: Is it worth it?
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
- How to get around
- Tips for visiting
- Where to eat
- Where to stay
- What to pack
Top things to do in Reykjavik
If you’re looking for the very best things to do in Reykjavik, here are our top recommendations:
- Go on a food tour
- Take in the views from Hallgrimskirkja Church
- Free walking tour
- Soak in luxury hot springs
- Stroll down Rainbow Street
- Day trip to the Golden Circle
Keep reading for more detailed information on each of these things and more ideas of fun things to do in Reykjavik.
1. Take a food tour
If you’re like us and you love sampling local flavors on your travels, there’s no better way to experience a huge amount of Icelandic cuisine at one time than by taking a food tour withReykjavik Food Walk. Along with a local guide and other travelers, you’ll sample dishes all over town and learn a lot about the country’s cuisine.
We don’t want to spoil too much of the tour for you, but you’ll eat at fancy spots as well as hole-in-the-wall
locales, and you’ll get to taste a variety of different dishes.
Sound like it’s up your alley? We’ve got an exclusive discount code just for you. When you make your reservation online, be sure to use the code TWS10 at checkout to get 10% off your tour.
If you don’t want to do an organized tour, we’ve created a list of all the different Icelandic foods to try during your trip so you can do a little DIY tour of your own!
Want to save time and energy on planning?
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2. Get the best view in town from the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church
Reykjavik from above is a beautiful sight — with its brightly-colored buildings and oceanside location. Being that it is a relatively flat city, you can’t really get a good glimpse from the ground.
The best viewpoint in town is from the viewing platform at the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church. Our advice is to use the Vedur app (the most accurate app for Icelandic weather forecasts and one of our top Iceland travel apps) to see which will be your clearest day inReykjavik, and use that to plan your visit to the viewing platform.
Good to know:
- Winter (October – April): 10 – 16:30
- Summer (May – September): 10 – 20:30
- The tower is closed on Sundays from 10:30 – 12:15 because there is 11 a.m. mass.
- Cost: The fee to get up to the viewing platform is 1,000 ISK per person (about $8 USD), and viewing the interior of the church is free.
In addition to seeing the view from above, be sure to get a good glimpse of the church from the ground, as it is beautiful and one of the most photographed spots inReykjavik.
3. Take a Free Walking Tour
We love taking free walking tours all around the world, as they are a great way to get acquainted with a new city and have a chance to meet a local and ask questions. We often find they are great resources to get advice for restaurant recommendations and tips on things to do in the area.
We had a great experience on the free walking tour with City Walk. Our guide was funny and shared all sorts of insights of what it was like growing up in Iceland. She was also very open to answering any questions we had – from general wonderings about Icelandic history to where to get the best fish in town.
We learned all sorts of tidbits about the city and Iceland as a whole that we never would have learned on our own.
Make a reservation here. (You can only make a booking a handful of days in advance.)
Good to know: Even though it is called a “free” walking tour, it is expected that you tip your guide for their time. The amount you choose to pay is up to you, but keep in mind that Iceland has a high cost of living, so your contribution should reflect that.
4. Take a stroll down “Rainbow Street”
The street that leads up to Hallgrimskirkja is famed for its rainbow design.
While the name of this street is Skólavörðustígur, that’s a mouthful. So let’s just call it the “Rainbow Street” from now on, shall we?
So why the rainbow?
Iceland is considered by many to be one of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world.Reykjavik has hosted a Pride event each year since 1999. In 2019, the street was painted for this festival and the decision was made to keep it a permanent part of the city.
It was no accident that the street leads up to the famed Hallgrimskirkja Church. Not only does it create an utterly beautiful photo opp, but it is also a powerful and symbolic juxtaposition.
Bustling with tourists and locals, this is one of the busiest walking streets in town.
While onReykjavik’s Rainbow Street, pop into photo galleries to see some spectacular photos of Iceland, and shop to your heart’s content at the cute boutiques that line this street. Or stop in a cafe or restaurant to warm up with a bowl of soup or hot coffee.
Good to know: There’s another “rainbow street” in the small town of Seyðisfjörður in eastern Iceland. Again, it leads up to the community’s small church, and makes a pretty epic photo opportunity.
5. Soak in luxury hot springs
Because of all the geothermal activity in Iceland, there are amazing hot springs all around the country! If you’re a soaking fiend (like we are!), you’ll be happy to know that two of the best hot springs in Iceland are located not far fromReykjavik’s city center, making it possible to enjoy them even if you are on a short stopover.
The Blue Lagoon is undoubtedly the most famous hot spring in the entire country, and for good reason. The milky blue waters surrounded by lava stones are stunning. Plus, with a complimentary beverage (prosecco, please!) and silica face mask, you’ll feel totally pampered soaking here.
The newly-opened Sky Lagoon is another luxurious soaking option nearReykjavik. Famed for its signature 7-step “Ritual”, hot spring goers will feel like they’re at a spa as they rotate between the cold dip, sauna (the coolest one we’ve ever seen!), salt scrub, cold mist, and more.
Neither the Blue Lagoon nor Sky Lagoon are cheap, but they’re both a worthy splurge if your budget allows.
Traveling on a budget? If you’re more of a “ramen noodle traveler” than a “fine Italian dining type”, read #8, as it’s a much more budget-friendly hot spring alternative…
6. Day trip to the Golden Circle
Driving the “Golden Circle” is sort of a rite of passage on most visitors’ first trip to Iceland. The popular driving route loops from Reykjavík past three major attractions and back to Reykjavík, making it the perfect day trip adventure.
Major attractions along the Golden Circle:
- Thingvellir National Park
- Gullfoss Waterfall
Our guide to the Golden Circle is packed with info on how to make this day trip, including useful tidbits and hidden gems along the way.
Psst! Be sure to check out our guide to getting a rental car in Iceland to find out how to get the best rates and all sorts of tips for driving in Iceland you may want to know before you hit the road!
7. Sample Reykjavik craft beer
If you’re a craft beer fan (hey, us too!), you won’t find a ton of options on tap throughout the far reaches of Iceland. However,Reykjavik has a pretty decent (and growing!) craft brewing scene that is worth checking out while in the city.
Small breweries are still a relatively new thing as beer was actually outlawed until 1989. (Yes, you read that correctly!)
Here are a few craft breweries to try inReykjavik:
- Skúli: This dimly-lit haunt has a pretty good selection of beers (we really loved their hazelnut stout), and a dart board for a low key night out.
- BrewDog: Upscale pub atmosphere that seems popular with young locals, this place had a good variety of beer types and a pub food menu. We really enjoyed the “lambstrami” sandwich.
- Kaldi Bar/Café: We haven’t personally been here but it looks like a cool hole-in-the-wall pub with a good craft beer selection. They also supposedly do a great gin and tonic!
Good to know: Alcohol in general is expensive in Iceland, and craft beer is no exception. Expect to pay somewhere around 1,000 – 1,400 ISK ($7.50 – $10.50) per pint of craft beer.
8. Chat with locals in a public pool
Not into the whole luxury hot spring thing (or just can’t justify the steep price tag!)? We get it, and luckily, there’s a much more budget-friendly alternative.
Instead of going to one of the luxury (and pricey!) hot springs mentioned above, head to a public pool. That’s right, public pools in Iceland are a big thing and are particularly popular with locals. In fact, you may be one of only a few tourists.
While public pools aren’t free, they are typically a very reasonable price (think somewhere between $8 – $10 per person.
Insider Tip: You should plan on bringing your own towel, as they typically are not provided. We like to pack a microfiber towel like this one on our trips because it packs up small and dries quickly.
Traveling on a budget? We’ve got all sorts of money-saving tips for Iceland here that should be helpful!
9. Explore the town by scooter
We’ve seen electric scooter rentals in cities around the world, but it wasn’t until our trip toReykjavik that we finally tried them out. And I’ve gotta say, it was really freaking fun!
Reykjavik is a pretty walkable city, but even so, getting from one side to the other can take a long time. Add to that the fact that it may very likely be cold, rainy or windy during your stay inReykjavik (shocker, I know!), so getting around a little more efficiently can be a huge perk.
Renting electric scooters allowed us to see even more during our stay inReykjavik, and we still walked a TON.
Not only are electric scooters convenient and a good way to get around in a city where public transportation is limited and taxis are crazy expensive, but it’s fun too!
So how do you rent an electric scooter?
- All you need to do is download the app of the scooter brand you want to rent.
Good to know: There are a few companies that have scooter rentals throughout the city. The one we saw the most frequently is Hopp Scooters.
- Connect to cell signal*.
- Select the scooter you want to rent using your current GPS location. The scooter will be unlocked and you can hop on and head wherever you want to go.
- As soon as you’re done with the scooter, you will park it in a safe space, open the app, and “complete” your ride. It’s as simple as that!
*How to get Internet in Iceland: In order to start and complete your rental, you will need to have Internet access (either via WiFi or cell signal). The easiest and cheapest way to do this is to pick up a local SIM card at the airport or at a convenience store. It should be a bit more than $20 for 10GB of data. We explain more about how to get connected in our guide to essential Iceland travel apps.
10. Photograph the Sun Voyager
This statue is one of those things you “have to see” while inReykjavik, and while it’s not that large or intricate, it is a nice quick stop to add to your time in the city.
If you can time it right, seeing this sculpture at sunset is quite a sight, and it makes a pretty great photograph.
11. Harpa Concert Hall
Situated at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, this concert hall has won awards for the venue itself as well as for the architecture.
If you have the budget for it, see if there are any shows playing during your visit. However, even if you’re not going to catch a concert, it’s worth viewing this building in all its glory.
The architect, Olafur Eliasson, said he was inspired by Iceland’s unique landscape and brought elements of the natural world into his design. You’ll see geometric forms that together create the building’s facade. These were mimicked after the hexagonal basalt columns that are found around the country, in places like Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.
If you walk by this structure at night, you’ll notice the facade light up in undulating waves, which was inspired by the way the Northern Lights shimmer in Iceland’s sky. It is quote sight to behold.
Good to know: Unless there is an active event, you can typically go inside and see the building from within. Walk up to the top floor for a nice view!
12. Shop antiques at the weekend flea market
Kolaportið flea market is located downtown near the harbor and is worth a stroll if you’re in the area on a weekend. Only open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, this is Iceland’s only flea market.
Inside, you’ll find stands selling typical souvenirs as well as artisan-made goods like jewelry and Icelandic wool sweaters, known as Lopapeysa.
If you go a little further back, you’ll find food items, like dried fish (which you can sample free of charge) and gourmet infused salts (which make a great gift or souvenir). In the very back of the building there is an aisle dedicated to antique and thrifted items.
Overall, it’s kind of a small venue and the prices are higher than you may expect at a typical flea market, but you might just find some gems.
13. Cozy up in a cute cafe
Nevertheless, you’ll find plenty of cute cafes to cozy up inside and escape the wind or rain or snow (or all three!).
Just pop into whatever coffee shop looks most inviting, or check out this list of cuties to choose from:
- Reykjavik Roasters: with 3 locations around town, this place is known for excellent coffee
- Kattakaffihúsið Cat Cafe: kitties and coffee. ‘Nuff said.
- Café Babalú: quirky decor and yummy cakes
- Café Rosenberg: our Free Walking Tour guide said this is her go-to coffee shop. We always love local recommendations! (She also said they have a great happy hour!)
14. Go Whale Watching
Iceland is a great destination to spot these gentle giants, so if whale watching is on your bucket list listen up…
Reykjavik and Húsavík are the two most popular places to go on a whale watching tour in Iceland.
If your itinerary doesn’t include Húsavík, you’ll likely want to book a whale watching tour inReykjavik. Our advice is to look into the different tours and see how they compare. Opt for smaller tours if possible.
Good to know: Iceland has some very strict rules when it comes to this type of tourism. Whale watching boats are not allowed to use sonar to “find” the whales. They must keep their distance, allowing them to go about life in their natural habitats. These strict rules are a huge win in the world of responsible tourism, but just know that this means seeing whales is never guaranteed. We didn’t get super lucky on our whale watching tour, as we saw only one from a pretty far distance. But that makes seeing one up close even more special!
15. Taste the most famous hot dog in Iceland
You can’t leaveReykjavik without trying the city’s most famous hot dog!
Okay, well, if you’re a vegetarian, then you get a pass. And I should admit that I visitedReykjavik three times before trying this world-renowned street food.
Don’t be like me and miss out, because even as someone who generally just isn’t a huge fan of hot dogs, I have to admit, this one is pretty damn good.
Situated smack dab in downtownReykjavik, you’ll find a small street stand that would be unassuming if it weren’t for the near-constant line of locals and tourists waiting for their pylsa (aka Icelandic hot dog).
The stand is called Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, which translates to “the best in town”. And they’ve been serving up one dish, and one dish only, since 1937.
So what’s unique about an Icelandic hot dog?
Here’s what your pylsa will come with:
- The hot dog is made with 80% lamb and 20% pork/beef
- Sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep
- Rémoulade (a mayonnaise-based sauce with herbs and spices)
- Fried, crispy onions
- Raw onions
- Icelandic ketchup (made with apples instead of sugar)
Do you love trying local foods on your travels? Make sure you check out our list of Icelandic foods to sample on your trip (and which foods to skip!).
16. Wander the Old Harbour
Head down to the harbor for a fun late afternoon stroll. You’ll first pass through a section known as the Old Harbour where most of the sightseeing boats are moored. And if you keep going, you’ll eventually come to what’s known as the “new harbor”.
This area comes alive at night, with the garage-style doors in a somewhat industrial-looking area opening up to reveal trendy boutiques and cozy cafes. With lots of dining options, we’d recommend coming hungry!
Places worth checking out in the new harbor area:
- Kaffivagninn: oldest restaurant in Iceland, serving up seafood favorites like fish & chips and fish stew
- Grandi Mathöll: indoor food hall
- Omnom Ice Cream Shop: this popular chocolate brand has an ice cream shop at the end of the harbor with soft serve and creative toppings
- Valdis: ice cream shop with two locations in town, known for creative flavors
- Lamb street food: just what it sounds like – street food inspired by dishes from around the world that incorporate lamb
- Flatey Pizza: Neapolitan pizza made with ingredients that are imported from Italy. One local we met said it’s her favorite pizza in the whole city.
- The Coocoo’s Nest: cozy brunch spot with excellent sourdough
- Ægisgarður: craft brewery tucked away at the end of the harbor
Insider Tip: If you’re up for it, rent an electric scooter (#7 on this list) to explore this area, as it’s quite a walk!
17. Walk to the top of Þúfa
Toward the end of the harbor, you’ll spot a perfectly symmetrical grassy mound that seems a bit out of place. As you approach this grassy knoll, you will notice a trail that spirals upward to the top where a small wooden hut sits.
Good to know: Þúfa is pronounced th-oo-fha as the “Þ” symbol makes a “th” sound.
If you walk to this point and peek inside the locked hut, you’ll see a somewhat startling sight… dried fish hanging from strings. This is to illustrate the traditional way of making harðfiskur, or dried fish, which is a popular Icelandic snack.
Our opinion: Honestly, it’s not worth going too far out of your way to see this (in our opinions), but if you’re already down by the harbor, it is kind of a unique thing to do and offers a pretty unique view of the city.
18. Hike Mount Esja
Once at the top of this little hill, take in the views of the bay and the city. You’ll get a particularly good view of Harpa Concert Hall!
This art installation was created in 2013, and stands 8 meters (25 feet) tall, making it one of the largest artworks ever made in Iceland.
If you’re an avid hiker and are looking for a challenging trek near the capital city, Mount Esja is calling your name.
Mount Esja Hike
- Distance: 4.8 miles (7.7 km)
- Elevation gain: 2,372 feet (723 m)
- View the trail notes
The 4.8-mile trail is well marked and offers hikers sweeping views of the ocean and city on a clear day. While not technical, expect a steady elevation gain.
At just a 10 km drive fromReykjavik, this hike can be easily done as a day trip from the city.
19. Treat yo’self to a fancy dinner
If your budget allows, we’d highly recommend planning at least one “splurge meal” while inReykjavik, as there are so many spectacular restaurants in this city.
While we can only speak to a couple of fancy-schmancy restaurants, we have a foodie friend who lives inReykjavik and gave us some pretty killer recommendations:
- Apotek: craft cocktails & elevated dishes; their fresh fish and seafood dishes are particularly good (as is their dessert menu – we loved the “Double Passion”)
- Messinn: popular seafood spot downtown (we loved their take on Arctic Char)
- Sumac Grill + Drink: fine dining with dishes inspired from the Middle East
- Kol: upscale tasting menu & cocktails; they also do brunch
Insider Tip: We’d recommend making a reservation at most of these establishments, as they do get busy.
Fancy dinner won’t fit in your budget? No worries, there are plenty of more affordable options too. Check our recommended restaurants at the bottom of this article for some budget-friendly options.
20. Laugh the night away at a Comedy Show
We love a good comedy show and try to seek them out in big cities on our travels.
The Secret Cellar hosts regular shows in English that are sure to have you in tears (tears of laughter, that is!). Be sure to check their calendar to see if there are any shows during your stay in Reykjavik and reserve your seats in advance.
21. Scope out the city’s street art scene
Reykjavik is a colorful city. And we’re not just talking about the brightly hued building facades. If you look for it, you’ll find thatReykjavik has a pretty good street art scene, with murals and art installations on just about every block downtown.
22. Eat a many pastries as possible at Braud & Co
Typically on travels, we don’t repeat restaurants because there are so many to explore. But Braud & Co. was an exception. We got pastries here 3 times. THREE times. They’re that good.
Be sure to stop here at least once during your time inReykjavik for a super tasty treat. Everything we had there was great, so we’d suggest getting a few to sample. There aren’t signs labeling the pastries, but the staff do a good job of explaining what they are if you ask. Or, just point at whatever looks good!
Alternative: Another good pastry shop in town is Sandholt, though, we’re partial to the baked goods at Braud & Co.
23. Go museum hopping
Let your inner-nerd shine at one of the many, many museums in Reykjavik. For a small city, there sure are lots of options.
While we haven’t personally visited any of these establishments, here are some of the most popular and famous museums in Reykjavik:
Best overall museums
- National Museum of Iceland: Probably the most comprehensive immersion into Iceland’s history, visitors will see exhibits, artworks and artifacts from the past 1,200+ years. Admission tickets are 2,000 ISK ($15) for adults.
- Perlan Museum (pictured above): Known as the most popular attraction in Reykjavik, this museum has all sorts of exhibits – from man-made ice caves you can explore to a Northern Lights display and even a planetarium, Perlan focuses on Iceland’s nature and wildlife. Bonus: Perlan is located on a hill overlooking Reykjavik, so you’ll get a good view of the city. Tickets are 4,490 ISK ($35) for adults.
- Icelandic Phallological Museum: Yep, this is a museum dedicated to penises, and you’ll find more than 200 on display from all sorts of wildlife and sea creatures. To us, this seems like a thing to do to say you “did it”, but hey, it’s probably the only of its kind in the world, so if you wanna check that off your list, go for it!
- The Icelandic Punk Museum: Small museum dedicated to the history of punk in Iceland. You enter by taking stairs down to what looks like a metro station. This used to be an underground public restroom. Take that for quirky! For Iceland, the entrance fee of 1200 ISK ($9) is very cheap.
- The Einar Jónsson Museum: This free sculpture garden is located near Hallgrimskirkja Church, and features pieces made by Iceland’s first sculpture. Many of them represent parts of Icelandic history and Norse mythology.
Other popular Reykjavik museums
- National Museum of Iceland: discover artifacts, art, photography, and temporary exhibitions that date back to when Iceland was first settled to today.
- Whales of Iceland Museum: life size models and interactive features showcase Iceland’s regional whale populations.
- Saga Museum: this museum recreates key moments of Icelandic history.
- Reykjavik Maritime Museum: former fish factory with historic ships that tells the story of how Iceland’s fishing industry shaped the country.
- Aurora Reykjavik: interactive and educational museum about witnessing the northern lights in Iceland.
- Arbaer Open Air Museum: highlights the history and folklore of Iceland through relocated houses, objects, and other exhibits.
- Settlement Exhibition: explore remnants of a 10th century viking settlement.
24. Check out Laugavegur Street
The coolest and liveliest spot in Reykjavik is Laugavegur Street.
You can easily spend a day wandering along the road and stopping at everything that catches your eye. From innovative designs to housewares, clothes, and culture, you’ll get a taste of everything that encompasses Iceland’s charm.
25. Enjoy the city’s nightlife scene
Outside of Reykjavik, there is little nightlife to speak of. If you want to get your dance, or drink, or freak on while traveling in Iceland, you’ll be happy to know Reykajvik actually has quite a lively nightlife scene.
3 things to know about nightlife in Reykjavik:
- The best nightlife is on the weekends, when locals and foreigners alike hit the bars and clubs. On weeknights, things tend to be much more laidback.
- Locals dress up. And they look good, even in cold weather. Some of the nicer places in town have dress codes, but don’t worry if you didn’t pack a smart jacket and heels. There are plenty of places in town that have a more laid back vibe.
- Alcohol in Iceland isn’t cheap. Aim for happy hour if you’re on a budget. (Most happy hours end by 7 p.m. if not before.)
Best nightlife in Reykjavik:
You could simply wander down Laugavegur, aka the main street in Reykjavik, and pop into any bar or pub that speaks to you. But if you want some unique recommendations, we’ve got you covered.
Local and Laidback Vibes:
- Hidden gem feels: Kaldi Bar/Café
- Local vibe with a good happy hour: Bravó
- Laidback Reykjavik coffeehouse/club with DJs: Kaffibarinn
- Proper Irish pub atmosphere: The Irishman Pub
Unique Nightlife in Reykjavik:
- Bookstore + live music + drinks? Sign us up! Hús máls og menningar has a classy vibe and features live music and cocktails.
- Good happy hour & weekly trivia: Lebowski Bar:
- Trivia every Thursday night at 9 p.m., entry is free
- Happy hour from 4 – 7 p.m.
- Catch live music: Skugga Baldur Bar
- Shameless touristy experience: Magic Ice Bar
- Seriously good cocktails ($$$) with a vibe: Jungle Cocktail Bar
26. Find this hidden box
If you want to go on kind of a fun scavenger hunt, you can look for a geocache box that’s hidden in the city. We’ll give you a couple of clues…
- On the outside of this box, you’ll find this message inscribed: “In a crevice among some large rocks by the Atlantic Ocean in Reykjavik”. It’s a pretty good clue to its location.
- The box is located along a path between two of the city’s most famous landmarks.
If you do find this box (congrats!), try to find our entry (and maybe even our business card, hint, hint!) we left it in August 2021.
27. Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach
A local favorite just south of the city is this man made beach where you can sunbathe, picnic, sail, swim, and soak right off a small bay.
If the idea of plunging into Iceland’s frigid coast has you weary, there is a geothermal hot tub perfect for relaxing right along the beach!
How to get there: from the city center, head west on Njardargata. Turn left at the roundabout onto Route 49, then make a right onto Nautholsvegur, following it south all the way to the beach. Otherwise, take bus 5 to the HR stop next to Reykjavik University and walk 10-minutes to the beach.
28. Visit Videy Island
Natural beauty and renowned artistic works are trademarks of any visit to Videy Island.
The island is best known internationally for the home of the Imagine Peace Tower designed by Yoko Ono for John Lennon, but other notable sites are the “father of Reykjavik’s” home and famous sculpture titled ‘Milestones’, which can be found on the west side of the island.
How to get there: the only way to access the island is by ferry. They leave from the Skarfabakki pier at Sundahöfn harbor and it takes 25-minutes to get to Videy. You can buy tickets at the harbor or online. Otherwise the ticket is included if you have the Reykjavik City Card.
29. Glimpse the Grotta lighthouse
Unspoiled and unique nature surrounds this lighthouse on Grotta Island.
During low tide, wander here to admire and photograph this stunning lighthouse while looking for 106 species of birds and over 140 species of plant life.
How to get there: From downtown Reykjavik, follow Route 49 west, then take the second exit at the roundabout onto Eiðsgrandi. Continue straight until you reach the parking area. It’s about 6 km (3.72 miles) and takes 10-minutes.
Good to know: access to the lighthouse is closed from May 1st to July 15th for breeding season.
30. Snaefellsnes Peninsula day trip
Just northwest of Reykjavik are giant mountains, remote lakes, and sweeping vistas dotted along this iconic peninsula.
There are boundless highlights to see here, but you definitely don’t want to miss Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall, hiking in Snaefellsjokull National Park, and snapping photos at Arnarstapi and the Budir Black Church.
Given that it’s a 3-hour drive from Reykjavik, you’ll want to pack up your rental car early for this day trip.
Brush up on our guide to renting a car in Iceland for all the must-know information for road tripping and day tripping in Iceland.
How many days do you need in Reykjavik?
You could spend as little as a day in Reykjavik and see a majority of the main sites and landmarks around downtown. In fact, many people visit Reykjavik during a stopover so you won’t be disappointed even if you’re working on a time crunch.
Two to three days will give you more time to explore outside of downtown and many of the activities we’ve rounded up in this list.
More than three days will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the city, join a guided tour, and even make a day trip to the South Coast.
The Reykjavik City Card: Is it worth it?
The Reykjavik City Card works like a city pass where you pay a flat rate and you get entrance and discounts to select entertainment, museums, restaurants, and experiences around the city.
There are three different tiers available for purchase:
- Reykjavik City Card 24 hours. 4.600 ISK ($33.58 USD)
- Reykjavik City Card 48 hours. 6.400 ISK ($46.71 USD)
- Reykjavik City Card 72 hours. 7.890 ISK ($57.59 USD)
No matter which tier you choose, you have the same benefits and discounts around the city. You’ll get free entrance into the main museums in Reykjavik, all swimming pools in the city, and free unlimited bus travel, to name a few. View the entire list here.
We think it’s worth the cost if the activities that you’re doing outweigh the cost of the card. You’ll need to lay out everything you plan to do, what it costs, to weigh if the card is worth it for your specific trip.
You can purchase a Reykjavik City Card online.
Best time to visit Reykjavik
Reykjavik is a year round travel destination where each season has its own draw for visiting.
Summer is the peak season in Reykjavik, so you can expect expensive car rentals, food, excursions, and accommodation. This season is ideal for experiencing the midnight sun and joining fun day trips from the city, but you’ll need to book your trip far in advance.
Spring and fall bring a happy medium of fair weather, dwindling crowds, and relatively normal daylight hours. This is a good season to visit if you don’t mind working with the weather.
Although the winters in Reykjavik can have unpredictable weather, the lack of crowds, cheaper prices, and opportunity to see the northern lights are enough to draw anyone here in the coldest season.
If you’re planning to visit more than just Reykjavik, we have an in-depth look at regional seasons, weather patterns and other factors, in our complete guide to the best time to visit Iceland.
How to get to Reykjavik city center from the airport
There are a variety of different options and budgets to get to Reykjavik from the airport.
Given that most people explore Iceland as an epic road trip, driving a rental car to Reykjavik is one of the most common options. Rental cars are best picked up from the airport, so you’ll have your own set of wheels as soon as you arrive.
From the airport, it’s a straight shot into the city center as it follows Route 41 virtually the entire way. It’s a 52 km (32.2 mile) drive and takes roughly 45-minutes.
Flybus airport transfer
This is one of the most efficient ways to get to the city center that won’t break the bank.
The Flybus takes you from the airport to the BSI bus terminal for about 3.500 ISK ($25.68 USD). Expect it to take around 45-minutes.
One of the biggest perks is the unlimited baggage allowance. The other is that the departure times are based on flight schedules. They are scheduled to depart 30-40 minutes after a flight lands and will wait for you in case your flight is delayed.
If you’re traveling Iceland on a budget and don’t mind a little extra time in transit, Bus 55 is the best option for you.
A one way ticket to Reykjavik costs 1.850 ISK ($13.58 USD) and takes 1 hour, 20 minutes to get to the BSI Bus Terminal in Reykjavik.
These buses run everyday of the week, nearly all day. Check current timetables and routes using the Straeto app.
Uber and lyft do not operate in Iceland.
Taxis are an option, although they’re the most expensive. Rates start at around 15.000 ISK ($110 USD) depending on what service you use. You’re much better off having your own car rental or taking public transport to Reykjavik.
Transportation in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is a small and very walkable city, but there are plenty of additional transport options for you to get around.
You can zoom around the city quickly on an electric scooter using the Hopp Scooter App. These are a super quick, convenient, and affordable way to get across the city if you don’t want to rely on public transport.
Reykjavik’s bus system is another excellent way to get around. The buses are called Straeto and they run to all the major sites and attractions around town. Plan your bus route and pay for your rides using the Straeto App.
Psst! These are just a few of the useful apps we used while traveling around. Find more in our guide to Iceland Travel Apps.
There are several 24-hour taxi services in Reykjavik, but note this is the most expensive way to get around the city. That said, Uber and Lyft do not operate so if you’re looking for a driver of any kind, this is your only route.
Tips for visiting Reykjavik
Keep these useful tips in your back pocket as you explore all these amazing things to do in Reykjavik.
- Card is king. Debit and credit is the primary payment method nearly everywhere in Reykjavik. Some cash will be handy, but you won’t need too much.
- You can drink tap water. In fact, you likely won’t catch locals drinking bottled water since Iceland’s tap water is so pure. There are even water fill up stations around the city center.
- International flights arrive outside of the city. Although you’d expect to fly directly into Reykjavik when visiting Iceland, the airport is actually in Keflavik, about 45-minutes outside of the city.
- English is widely spoken. Virtually everyone in Iceland know’s English, so not to worry if you didn’t brush up on some staple Icelandic words before arriving.
Where to eat in Reykjavik
Even for a small city, Reykjavik has an amazing food scene. From world cuisines served in casual settings to some seriously fine dining opportunities, Reykjavik has something for just about every traveler.
Here are some of our favorite Reykjavik dining options:
- 101 Reykjavik Street Food ($): An excellent place to sample some of Iceland’s more traditional dishes at a reasonable price
- Svarta Kaffið ($): only two dishes on the menu (vegetarian or meat-based soup in a bread bowl), they do soup very well
- Apotek ($$$): craft cocktails and elevated dishes in a posh setting (order the Double Passion for dessert and thank us later!)
- Messinn ($$$): fresh seafood (try the Arctic Char!)
- Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur ($): Home to Iceland’s most famous hot dog
- Cafe Loki ($$): popular with tourists, this is a good place to try authentic Icelandic dishes (the rye bread ice cream is excellent!)
- Kröns ($$): an eclectic menu of flatbreads, burgers and tacos
- Hlemmur Mathöll ($$): food hall with lots of dining options
- Garðurinn ($$): If you’re vegan and/or gluten-free, this is your spot! They have a menu that rotates daily.
- Mama Reykjavik ($$): Another fabulous vegan option.
Where to stay in Reykjavik
First off, let’s start with a little advice…
Since taxis in Iceland are hella expensive and public transportation doesn’t run very frequently (you’ll typically have to wait 30 minutes between buses), we’d highly recommend choosing a hotel or Airbnb in a central location.
While you may save a bit of money staying on the outskirts of town, you’ll end up paying more to get around or end up spending tons of time going from place to place.
We’d recommend staying somewhat close to the area between the Reykjavik Art Museum and Hallgrimskirkja Church (see the teal section on the map above for the general area to which we’re referring). This is where most of the sights you’ll want to see are located.
Hotels in Reykjavik
Budget-friendly stay: Reykjavik Downtown Hotel
This is a pretty bare-bones hotel, but it’s in a great location right in the center of downtown. They offer a range of single, double, triple and quadruple occupancy rooms at various price points so it’s a great option for groups traveling on a budget.
Cute Mid-range B&B: Reykjavik Treasure B&B
I stayed at this B&B with my mom in 2019. It is centrally located and includes a delicious breakfast. The rooms are fitted with comfy beds, modern touches and ensuite bathrooms.
Luxury Stay with all the Amenities: Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik
This modern luxury hotel has a great location in downtown Reykjavík. The rooms feature minimalist Icelandic designs with modern touches and high end finishes. The property also includes a fitness center, free Wifi and complimentary breakfast.
Airbnbs in Reykjavik
Budget stay: Cozy apartment near Reykjavik Harbor
This stylish and modern 1 bedroom apartment comes with everything you will need to make your Iceland stay comfortable. Conveniently located near the Reykjavik Harbor and near the center and a quick walk to downtown. You’ll be right in the center of the action.
Reykjavik Domes is part of a camping resort just east of downtown. They offer private domes – one standard and one luxury – outfitted with a king sized bed, wood burning fireplace and even a private hot tub (for the luxury dome only). The one thing they don’t have is a private bathroom – you’ll have to use the communal bathrooms shared with other campers.
Want more options? Check out our article on the best Airbnbs in Iceland. We have a whole section with Airbnbs in Reykjavík as well as some cool stays just outside of town.
Hostels in Reykjavik
KEX Hostel: Kex is the Icelandic word for biscuit, which may sound like an odd thing to name your hostel, but this highly-rated social hostel in downtown Reykjavik was converted from an old biscuit factory. With an onsite cafe, bar and heated outdoor patio, you’ll have plenty of space to socialize and meet other travelers.
Galaxy Pod Hostel: This quirky pod-themed hostel is just a 10-minute walk from the city center of Reykjavik. Instead of the traditional hostel bunks, Galaxy offers single and double-occupancy pods that may look a bit like you’re sleeping on a spaceship, but at least you’ll have your privacy!
What to pack for traveling to Reykjavik
One of the most frequently asked questions we get from people planning a trip to Reykjavik seems to be what to pack for Iceland and what to wear on your trip.
Here are some specific items we’d recommend packing for traveling to Reykjavik:
- bug repellant (solids are the way to go)
- insulated water bottle and thermos
- reusable straw & reusable bag (say no to single-use plastic!)
- gloves, winter hat, scarves (no matter which season!)
- wool socks
- sun protection
- portable charger
- waterproof jacket (the outer layer should be water and windproof)
- travel umbrella
- daypack with rain cover
- “Nicer” outfit to wear to a fancy dinner
Get our complete Iceland packing list, packed with insider tips and valuable information in this downloadable PDF. All you have to do is click below to enter your email and we’ll send it straight to your inbox, completely FREE!
Round up of the best things to do in Reykjavik
Here’s a recap of all the best things to do in Reykjavik so you can see everything in one place.
- Food tour
- Hallgrimskirkja Church
- Free walking tour
- Luxury hot springs
- Rainbow Street
- Day trip to the Golden Circle
- Sample craft beer
- Public pool
- Explore on scooter
- Sun Voyager
- Harpa Concert Hall
- Weekend flea market
- Reykjavik cafes
- Whale watching
- Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dogs
- Wander the harbor
- Hike Mount Esja
- Fancy dinner
- Comedy show
- Street art
- Braud & Co. pastries
- Laugavegur Street
- Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach
- Videy Island
- Grotta lighthouse
- Snaefellsnes Peninsula day trip
Are you planning a trip to Iceland?
We have TONS of resources on travel in Iceland and how to make the most out of your trip. Check out our Ultimate Iceland Travel Guide for all the answers to your most burning questions, or read some of our favorite articles below.
- Perfect Iceland Itinerary
- Iceland Trip Cost + Surprising Budget Tips
- Golden Circle Iceland: The Ultimate Guide
- Iceland Campervan Rental Guide (+ Exclusive Discount)
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Are you planning a trip toReykjavik soon? What’s the one thing you’re most excited about doing there? Do you have more questions about traveling inReykjavik? Comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you!