So you’re heading to Iceland (!!!) and you land in/you have to drive through Reykjavik. You may have heard to just stop in Reykjavik for a couple of hours and then move on or skip it entirely. Well we couldn’t disagree more. If you have the time, (because you also definitely don’t want to miss any of the incredible sights and landscapes there are to see throughout the rest of Iceland!), we’d recommend at least a full day or even make it two to leisurely explore all that Reykjavik has to offer (which is a lot)! We spent multiple days exploring this city and learning as much as we could. During this time we walked over 25 miles (Reykjavik is super walkable! But don’t worry you don’t need to walk 25 miles to see everything. We just like to walk a lot). This led us to feel pretty confident in putting together our 10 things to do in Reykjavik list.
An important point to note: during the multiple days we spent in Reykjavik, there was not a single instance when credit/debit cards were not accepted. This was the case for both small and large transactions made. For 6 days in Iceland, we did not go to an ATM once!
If you don’t feel like reading, you can also... Check out the YouTube video of 10 THINGS TO DO IN REYKJAVIK - ICELAND TRAVEL TIPS at: https://youtu.be/F74Bl2N-czw
Anyways, now on to the good stuff! Keep on reading to immerse yourself in these Iceland travel tips:
1. Eat at Icelandic Street Food
This isn’t a genre but the name of a restaurant! And a must-visit when in Iceland. While it offers similar Icelandic food options (like fresh seafood and multiple kinds of soups) as other restaurants, it has them priced a little more budget-friendly. Your wallet (as well as your stomach) will thank you! The staff is really friendly and a lot of fun to interact with too meaning you get more of an experience rather than just a spot to fill your belly. Also BONUS - they offer free desserts and you can have as much as you want!
2. Visit the GRÓTTA Lighthouse
After you’ve filled your belly with some Icelandic Street Food, the next thing to do in Reykjavik is visit the Grotta Lighthouse. You can either walk there to work off some of the delicious food you just ate, or drive if you have a car, or grab a cab! The Grotta lighthouse is a great spot to visit because you can see all of downtown Reykjavik picturesque on the coastline along with a beautiful and unique black sand beach. When the tide is low, you can walk all the way out to the lighthouse, but at higher tide the path is not accessible (so we recommend going at low tide)! Also at night as the lighthouse is also a well-known viewpoint for people interested in seeing the northern lights.
3. Visit the Perlan
The Perlan is a unique structure in Iceland sitting right downtown near the Reykjavik airport (not to be confused with the international airport you’ll probably fly into in Keflavik)! The Perlan is a museum sitting on 6 massive water tanks storing Reykjavik’s hot water. You can spend just a little time or the whole day at the Perlan depending on what you’re looking for! There are multiple ticket packages to choose from: The lowest ticket price is under $10 USD and gives you access to the observation deck where you have amazing 360° views of Reykjavik. Or you can purchase the highest package which is around $35 USD and gives you access to a Wonders of Iceland exhibition, a real indoor ice cave, the 360° observation deck, a Water in Iceland exhibition, and an Arora planetarium show. We went to multiple viewpoints around Reykjavik and would say that the one from the Perlan 360° observation deck was the best!
4. Walk down Bankastræti (the Main Street)
This main street in Reykjavik was one of our favorite parts of the city (it accounted for several of the 25 miles we walked but isn’t a mile long if that tells you anything)! You can find whatever you need there whether you’re looking for groceries, clothing, or a chill bar to enjoy a beer.
5. Visit the Hallgrimskirkja (Iconic church)
Along with the Perlan, the Hallgrimskirkja is another iconic part of Reykjavik. This massive church stretches 244 feet into the sky (74.5 meters) and can be seen from most of Reykjavik. Visitors can walk around the ground level of the church and/or choose to pay roughly $8 USD to take an elevator up to the viewing deck at the top of the church. We did this and found it to be another terrific viewpoint to see all around Reykjavik (and beyond)!
6. Eat Icelandic hotdogs
Fun fact: Reykjavik is known for its hotdogs! And after trying them for ourselves, we can see why. Recommended by locals and tourists alike, they are a must-eat when in Iceland. What makes up an Icelandic hotdog? A mixture of toppings that all come together to create a hotdog that will be gone in seconds after the first bite: white onions, crispy fried onions, sweet brown mustard, ketchup (with a maple syrup base!), and remoulade. The most well-known spot to get them is downtown at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. There may be a line but it goes super quickly and is worth the wait!
7. Find (and maybe take some Instagram shots with) the rainbow!
The next item on the list for things to do in Reykjavik is to find the rainbow. What are we talking about? Every year in Reykjavik, to celebrate equality and gay pride, an area of the city (a road, a prominent pathway, etc.) is painted like a rainbow. This year, it was a road right off the Main Street - you (obviously) can’t miss it! It’s really fun to see and walk down; and you can of course get some great photos here, especially this year with the Hallgrimskirkja in the background!
8. Watch the sunset on the water
As sunset lovers, we always try to find the best possible spot to enjoy a sunset. We stumbled upon a great spot where we found some locals and just a handful of other tourists sitting on the rocks, just west of the harbor, enjoying an amazing sunset across the water (that is when you are lucky enough to have a sunny evening in Reykjavik). This is also FREE of course to watch so definitely a great addition to your list of things to do in Reykjavik.
9. Experience the nightlife - B5 bar
We ourselves read some Reykjavik, Iceland travel tips before our trip. One of the blog posts seemed to make it very clear that there was not good nightlife in Reykjavik. Well after just one night out exploring, we beg to differ! You can visit bars around the city and each one has a unique personality to it. If you enjoy later nightlife and a little more than just sitting and enjoying a few beers, you can head over to B5 bar. This place turns more into a dancing bar/club around 12-1am on Fridays where you can hear both the Top 40 hits as well as some of Iceland’s top electronic dance music. It was a blast that we highly recommend!
10. Walk around the harbor
The final item on the list of things to do in Reykjavik is to walk around the harbor. The harbor has so much to offer from visiting the famous Harpa Concert Hall which lights up at night, to visiting the Solfar Sun Voyager sculpture of a Viking ship, to simply having a coffee or beer right near the marina where all of the boats are docked. If you want to take it a few steps further, you can also check out some of the tours they offer that take off from the marina which can include puffin watching, northern lights cruises, and more!
If you’re able to plan some time in Reykjavik, we hope this helps you plan how to spend it! These are just a few of the many things you can do in the city that we hope make you enjoy it as much as we did!
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