Reykavik, Iceland is unlike any other city I have ever visited. It is an incredibly immersive city, and with its modern metropolitan vibe mixed with traditional Icelandic architecture, it regularly ranks top of traveller’s bucket lists. Reykjavik is a common stop-over destination on the way to North America and in my opinion, it is certainly worth a weekend pit-stop to explore this amazing city.
So if you’re there for a week or a weekend, here are my top 10 things to do in Reykjavik.
See the Panoramic Views from the Top of Hallgrimskirkja Church
If you are ever struggling to find your bearings in Reykjavik, look out for the towering spire of Hallgrimskirkja. At over 74 metres tall, it’s pretty hard to miss and is the tallest building in the city. Fashioned to resemble the famed pillared stones along the black sand coastline, this striking building provides a birdseye view of the smoky bay and the city surrounding it. It’s 1000 ISK for adults to scale this monumental tower and the views from the top are one not to miss!
Get a Snap with the Sun Voyager
Down where the land meets the sea is a striking silver sculpture of a Viking ship named the Sun Voyager. Here you can take some captivating photos, especially as the sun rises or sets over the city, casting dancing shadows and refractions of light across the sculpture. This should definitely be one of the must-have snaps of your Reykavik holiday.
Eat Traditional Icelandic Food at Café Loki
A short walk from the Hallgrimskirkja church is a cosy little café specialising in showcasing traditional Icelandic cuisine. There are lots of delicacies to try including platers of smoked fish and flatbreads, lamb soup, fermented shark, and their famous (and delicious!) rye bread ice cream. It’s a great lunch spot and is pretty reasonably priced too!
Relax at the Blue Lagoon
Now, those of you who have been following me for a while will know that my own Blue Lagoon experience was a little less relaxing than is usually advertised… However, it still remains one of those bucket list destinations when visiting Reykjavik. There is something rather glorious about taking a break from the bustle of the city, donning a facemask, and soaking your troubles away whilst sipping a cold beverage (even if you are subjected to gale force winds and hail whilst doing it!).
Now, I’ll admit, the Blue Lagoon may not be for everyone, but if you’re unsure check out my review of the Blue lagoon here then head over to their website for information on packages and experiences offered.
Admire Reykjavik’s Street Art
During my stay in Reykjavik, I was surprised at the vast amount of street art scrawled throughout the city. From captivating portraits to loud, colourful, creations, these murals are truly something to behold and add a vibrancy and edge to this bustling city. See how many you can spot as you wander through the city streets.
Go on a Whale Watching Excursion
Reykjavik’s bay is teeming with wildlife and one of their most frequent visitors are the whales. Minke, Humpback, and even Blue Whales are regularly spotted in Icelandic waters around Reykjavik, dolphins, and porpoises are also frequent visitors including the occasional orca. If you’re a marine mammal lover or wildlife enthusiast this should go straight to the top of your list on your travels in Iceland. There are many companies offering tours but ensure their practices are ethical before booking. I would suggest trying Elding Whale Watching Tours as they pride themselves on putting the safety and comfort of the animals first and come highly recommended. Unfortunately, Whale watching is weather dependent and during my trip, my trip with Elding was cancelled due to adverse conditions and I didn’t have the time to reschedule (though they do offer free rescheduling for bad weather), but it’s certainly on my list for my next trip! Check out their website here…
Learn to Tolt on an Icelandic Horse
Another one for the animal lovers here. Icelandic horses are adorable, cheeky characters wrapped up in stocky, pintsized packages. They have a special pace unique to Icelandic horses known as a tolt which is a 4-beat pace and is extremely fun to master. During my stay, I went on a trek with Viking Horses, a fantastic company that cater to all abilities whether you were born in the saddle or you’re a riding virgin. Their knowledgeable staff had a brilliant way with the horses and not only do you get a fantastic ride through the stunning Icelandic landscape, you will also be served a traditional Icelandic lunch. It was one of my favourite experiences of my trip, check out my full review here to learn more about Icelandic horse trekking plus some top tips!
Try the Famous Icelandic Hotdogs
Now, I am a big foodie, so when I heard about these it went straight on my hit list! These famous Icelandic hotdogs served at Bæjarins Beztu are full to the brim with all the trimmings (both raw and crispy onions, lashings of ketchup, sweet mustard, and a zingy remoulade) and sold out of a single little mobile hut in the city centre. These hotdogs are unique as they are actually made out of lamb meat, but taste remarkably similar to the pork versions most of us are used to. It’s a cheap and tasty option for lunch and one I’d certainly recommend!
Check out Perlan
This futuristic-looking building sat looking out across the city is a great activity for when the Icelandic weather throws a bit of a curveball. This interactive museum is great for all ages and includes exhibits on the Aurora Borealis, the marine life around Reykjavik and features its own ice caves. It also features a fine dining restaurant and cocktail bar as well as an outdoor zip line for the adrenaline junkies. Check out their website for up-to-date information on exhibits and ticket prices here.
Go To Aurora Basecamp to Learn About the Northern Lights
Something that is without fail on everyone’s winter bucket list is to see the Northern Lights. Well, if you’re in Reykjavik between September and March you have a good chance of ticking it off! The new dark sky observatory, Aurora Basecamp just outside of Reykjavik has turned Northern Lights hunting into an even more immersive experience. Take a trip outside the city where the skies are clear, grab yourselves a bottomless hot chocolate in the cosy, heated igloo and stare out at the night sky. The staff at the Aurora Basecamp are immersive, knowledgeable, and fun leading you through an interactive exhibit before taking you outside to search for the Northern Lights. I had a wonderful time experiencing this fantastic way to discover the Aurora, if you want to know more about this experience check out my full review here or if you’d like a nosey around their website click this link.
So, there you have my quick top 10 things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland’s Smokey bay. I hope you found this post insightful and I’d love to hear about your own top 10 for Iceland’s capital. If you’re thinking of booking an Icelandic adventure, check out my other posts on this beautiful country for more inspiration here.