Glaciers, volcanoes, icebergs, and the northernmost capital city in the world – does Iceland need any further marketing? Whether you are landing in the country for the nature or the fermented shark, a day or two in Reykjavik is a must. Iceland’s cool capital will keep you busy during the day but it is at night that the city comes into its element with cafes transforming into bars and clubs before your very eyes.
When to Go?
With peak tourist season from mid-June through to August, when to go to Reykjavik all depends on the type of experience you wish to have. From May to June you should experience the least amount of rain but that is never a guarantee. The winters can be brutal but if you want to see the Aurora Borealis this is your best opportunity.
Virtually all international arrivals come through Keflavík International Airport (KEF), located about 50 kilometres from Reykjavík. A taxi or the Flybus will get you to and from the city centre. Alternatively, rent a car from the airport and you will be able to start your Icelandic adventure straight away.
Perhaps the best way to get around the island, having your own car allows you to explore at your own pace. Driving in Iceland is relatively easy and parking tends to be ample. Make sure you rent a car appropriate for the locations you wish to visit. F-roads and certain unpaved roads are off limits to non-4x4s.
Parking in Reykjavik itself is a little more tricky so you would be better to leave the car at your accommodation and conquer the city on foot.
Religious or not, a trip to Reykjavik without seeing the Hallgrimskirkja is a trip not complete. The immense concrete church can be seen from 20 kilometres away. Its exterior is where the picture taking moment is as the interior of the church is relatively plain and simple. An elevator ride to the top of the tower provides impressive views.
Reykjavik’s concert hall and cultural centre – Harpa – is the place you go when you need to stretch your neck because the impressive and interesting architecture will keep you looking up. Even if you don’t stop by for a performance, the shops on the ground floor offer up some cute souvenirs.
If you have ever wanted to see a 10th-century Viking house – and who doesn’t, really – then head to Reykjavik 871 + / -2. Despite the unusual name, this small museum combines technology and archaeology and then displays it in and around the remains of a Viking house. Don’t miss the small water source on one side of the house which is thought to possibly be the cause of the inhabitants leaving. The gift shop is another stop for some quick shopping.
The Old Harbour is a hub of activity. From departing whale and puffin sightseeing boats to shops and restaurants, you’ll find plenty here to keep you busy for at least a few hours.
Also departing from the Old Harbour are the Reykjavik Segway Tours. A great way to see more of the city faster than if you were walking, these tours have the added benefit of being a lot of fun as well. You’ll get training (or a refresher course) before you head out onto the streets and since the city is usually not too busy you can focus on the sites and your Segway, rather than just one or the other.
Eat and Drink
A visit to the Hamborgarafabrikkan (Hamburger Factory) should be on your list of places to eat. Located a short walk outside of the main city centre, this quirky little restaurant serves gourmet hamburgers on square buns and cheers whenever a baby is born in Iceland.
If you have dreams of enjoying a steaming bowl full of lobster soup then head to the Sea Baron (Sægreifinn) located in a cheerful, turquoise-green building on Reykjavik’s old harbour. The recipe is a guarded secret but you can be certain that it will always be just right.
The Laundromat Cafe opened in August 2004 in Copenhagen. By 2011 it had jumped countries and opened in Iceland as well. The original idea was to open a cafe combined with a laundromat: the perfect place to eat, drink, and do your laundry. Whether you need to wash your clothes or not you can still enjoy the kitschy décor and homemade food.
Reykjavik can be an expensive city so one of your best options is to look for an apartment or house to rent for the duration of your stay. Airbnb has a good selection and with a kitchen at your disposal, you can try out a few Icelandic recipes.
Located across from Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, Hotel Borg overlooks the Austurvöllur square in the heart of the city. The hotel has become one of Reykjavik’s landmarks, and is located within walking distance of variety of restaurants and attractions.
Hotel Odinsve, a boutique hotel in downtown Reykjavik, is another popular option for accommodation. The hotel has a total of 43 rooms which includes 4 deluxe suites and 4 junior suites. And if you have had enough of Icelandic cuisine, you can pop into the SNAPS restaurant, which specialises in Scandinavian cuisine.
Here are additional options for where to stay in Reykjavik.