Reykjavik is Iceland’s enigmatic capital and one of Europe’s liveliest cultural hubs. Innovative restaurants, unique museums, art galleries, marvelous music venues, boutique shops and riveting nightlife will keep you busy all hours of the day. Roughly two-thirds of the country lives within the Reykjavik area, but the city prevails as one of the world’s safest and cleanest destinations.
Iceland’s dramatic landscapes sit on the doorstep of the capital and provide respite for nature lovers. Cascading waterfalls, snow-capped volcanoes, black-sand beaches and enormous glaciers are among the natural wonders you’ll discover.
Top Things to Do in Reykjavik
There is never a dull moment in Reykjavik and this eclectic capital features Iceland’s most prestigious cultural attractions. The top things to do in Reykjavik resonate with both creative minds and artistic souls. Here are a few suggestions for your trip to Reykjavik.
Explore Reykjavik Old Harbour
Get a glimpse of Icelandic culture by strolling the quaint walkways of the Reykjavik Old Harbour. Museums, cafés, restaurants and other new businesses decorate the vibrant quarter whose history spans over 100 years. Visit open-air markets, the Reykjavik Art Museum and witness the transformation of bait sheds into fashionable boutiques.
The harbour is also bustling with maritime activity and is the gateway to puffin and whale watching tours. Sailing the seas just offshore provide sensational views of docked boats and the snowy peaks across the bay.
Walk Down Laugavegur
Laugavegur is the hippest place to hang out in Reykjavik. This energetic street is the retail heartbeat of the city and your best option to find all sorts of unique Icelandic souvenirs. Boutiques, speciality shops, restaurants, nightclubs and bars line the street and there is a hub of activity all hours of the day.
Climb to the Top of Hallgrímskirkja
Standing 74.5-meters high, Hallgrímskirkja is the largest church in Iceland and one its architectural icons. The parish church is the centerpiece of Reykjavik’s skyline and an exquisite example of expressionist architecture influenced by Iceland’s natural landscapes. A statue of the legendary explorer Leif Erikson guards the front of the basalt-shaped church.
Inside, the primary highlights include the massive 25-ton pipe organ and the observation tower. A fee is required to enter the tower, but this spot provides the best panorama of Reykjavik and its surrounding snow-capped mountains.
Watch the Opera at the Harpa
The Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre is among Reykjavik’s newer creations and a world-class host of opera and symphony performances. It has grown into a premier landmark to experience the city’s culture. The venue hosts concerts and music festivals of all genres, international conferences and a plethora of cultural events.
Its award-winning design features a shimmering glass façade that cleverly uses geometric panels to shine a multitude of colors. While you can take a guided tour of the Harpa, watching a performance is a mesmerizing way to appreciate its splendor.
Admire Colorful Street Art
Reykjavik is an artist’s playground and every street corner is teeming with inspirational murals. Entire facades dazzle with elaborate designs and the city has embraced talented artists.
The lively street art brightens the city during its dark winters and are now among the Reykjavik’s greatest spectacles.
Best Day Trips from Reykjavik
After enjoying Reykjavik’s artistic scene, it’s time to explore Iceland’s otherworldly landscapes. Some of the country’s most remarkable scenery lies on Reykjavik’s doorstep and is reachable within a couple hours.
By far the most accessible day trip from Reykjavik, the Golden Circle features three of Iceland’s most awe-inspiring sights. The circular route spans approximately 230 km and transports you to gushing waterfalls, spouting geysers and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Typically, Thingvellir National Park is the first stop and this location is treasured for its geologic wonders and the fact that it was the original site of Iceland’s Parliament. Geothermal magic is on full display when you witness the bubbling mud pits and eruptive power of Strokkur, Iceland’s most active geyser. The grand finale is the raging Gullfoss waterfall, one of the world’s most powerful and beloved waterfalls.
The diversity of the South Coast of Iceland is simply off the charts! Hop on Route 1 and just keep driving for a spectacular adventure filled with volcanoes, glaciers, black-sand beaches, waterfalls and more. You could spend weeks exploring the immaculate natural wonders on the south coast, but the delightful town of Vik is a popular stopping point.
Gaze at the imposing Eyjafjallajökull volcano, hike the Sólheimajökull glacier or admire the basalt sea stacks of Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. Feel the mist of Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, two of Iceland’s postcard-worthy waterfalls. Venture a little further to find the floating icebergs of the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon or the jagged walls of the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon.
Enter a geologic wonderland when driving around the Snaefellsness Peninsula. The peninsula is roughly two-hours driving from Reykjavik and features several of Iceland’s most dramatic vistas. Many have dubbed Snaefellsness “Mini-Iceland” since this miraculous stretch of terrain encompasses much of the landscapes the country offers.
Rocky gorges, enchanting lava fields, majestic mountains, dreamy beaches and tumbling waterfalls highlight the region. Snæfellsjökull, an intimidating glacier-capped stratovolcano, is the main attraction that hosts one of Iceland’s most daring trekking adventures.
Visit the Gerðuberg basalt columns, Bjarnarfoss waterfall, Mount Kirkjufell, Djúpalónssandur and Dritvík black-sand beaches and Lóndrangar Basalt Cliffs for mind-blowing vistas.
Places to Stay in Reykjavik
Hotel Borg (Luxury)
This opulent establishment is situated within walking distance of Reykjavik’s top landmarks and offers a rejuvenating spa, authentic Icelandic cuisine and sophisticated Art Deco décor.
Alda Hotel (Mid-Range)
The cozy, boutique hotel provides guests a homely atmosphere while being minutes from the restaurants, bars, and shops of Laugavegur.
Kex Hostel (Budget)
This former biscuit factory has been transformed into a welcoming hostel with its own gastropub whose offerings are crafted from local ingredients.
Places to Eat in Reykjavik
The first Icelandic restaurant to receive a Michelin-star, Dill offers a Nordic-style tasting menu and wine pairings from fresh ingredients inspired by Iceland’s natural landscapes.
Iceland’s oldest restaurant presents a charming atmosphere, authentic Scandinavian courses and picturesque views of the Reykjavik Harbour.
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (Budget)
This iconic hot dog stand has grown into a cultural icon for proclaiming to serve the tastiest hot dogs in town.
Five Interesting Facts About Reykjavik
- Reykjavik is the northernmost capital of the world.
- There is no McDonald’s or Starbucks in Reykjavik.
- Reykjavik is one of the few cities in the world to be named a UNESCO City of Literature.
- Reykjavik is the puffin capital of the world and its colony includes thousands of the nesting birds.
- The Imagine Peace Tower was unveiled in 2007 to celebrate the life of Beatles legend John Lennon and is illuminated at various times throughout the winter.