What to See and Do in Reykjavik
In the past few years, Iceland has erupted like one of its many geysers onto the global tourism scene. This small island country in the North Atlantic has something to offer every type of traveler and has become a bucket list destination for many. Whether you are drawn to a remote camping adventure or a catchall road trip that circumnavigates the entire island, the landscape and people of Iceland are ready to welcome you with open arms.
While many visitors have their eyes set on an adventure across The Land of Fire and Ice, don’t forget to commit a few days of your journey to enjoying Reykjavik. At just shy of 130,000 citizens, Iceland’s capital strikes the perfect balance between both an exciting and bustling city and an easily navigable destination for foreign visitors. Therefore, let's spend a minute discussing the many things to do and see in Reykjavik.
Visit Hallgrimskirkja Church
Those who have traveled through Europe have undoubtedly spent quality time marveling at the iconic cathedrals dotting the continent’s cities and landscape. Not to be outdone, the Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik is definitely worth a visit. Standing at 74.5 meters tall, it is one of the largest structures in the country and boasts a viewing platform offering panoramic views of the city and surrounding mountains.
Don't forget to bring 1,000 Icelandic Krona – about 7 U.S. Dollars – to pay the fee for traveling up the Church's tower for remarkable views of the surrounding city.
Explore the City’s Parks and Natural Areas
It should come as no surprise that a country as naturally beautiful as Iceland would also value green space in its largest city. Exploring Reykjavik by foot or bicycle is a great way to see the city and, when doing so, leaves time to check out some of its beautiful parks. Hallargardurinn and Hljomskalagarour both have stunning public gardens, whereas Grotta – jutting out to the west into the ocean – is home to a classic lighthouse and sweeping views of both sea and mountains. Nautholsvik Beach is a great place to enjoy some time by the sea and test your mettle with a polar plunge, and the Reykjavik Botanic Garden is the perfect place to explore Iceland’s plant life.
Soak up Icelandic Culture
If the majority of your adventure in Iceland will be spent exploring the mountains, coastline, and geothermal features, be sure to learn a little bit about Icelandic culture and history while in Reykjavik. From the more modern Harpa Concert Hall – where you can catch stunning performances – to the Sun Voyager sculpture and burgeoning street art scene there’s plenty to see and experience.
For the more historically inclined, museums like the Saga or Arbaejarsafn that tell tales of generations past are the perfect places to spend an afternoon. Go ahead, plan a little education time, and you'll be fascinated by the history and people that make this country so unique.
Enjoy the Food
You’re on vacation on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; we’d be remiss to not recommend checking out the seafood. The Fiskfelagid restaurant is an excellent destination to sample local Icelandic cuisine, including cod and salmon. If seafood isn’t your speed, consider visiting Bryggjan Brugghús to sample Reykjavik’s craft beer scene – along with a tasty food menu.
For an unforgettable introduction to Icelandic baked goods, there’s no better establishment than Sandholt. This bakery is within easy walking distance to many of the city’s main hotels and serves an incredibly delicious breakfast – which you can enjoy while basking in the aroma of that day’s bread baking.
Sample the Nightlife
Like many other European cities, Reykjavik has a vibrant nightlife complete with live music, comedy, drag shows, cabaret, and much more. However, the local nightlife is just as unique as the rest of the country and certainly worth exploration!
During the week, bars and venues will often stay open past midnight, but on the weekends, all bets are off with many places happy to serve until 5am or 6am. Remember, Iceland experiences the 'midnight sun' during summer, and you may experience daylight well into the AM. We recommend Slippbarinn if you’re in the mood for cocktails, or Curious if you’re ready to dance the night away.
Whether you are fighting jet lag at the beginning of your journey or looking to celebrate an unforgettable Icelandic adventure, the nightlife in Reykjavik is sure to be just what the doctor ordered.
The sheer number of exciting things to do and see in Iceland can be overwhelming, and many of the country’s visitors are so eager to get to the countryside that they miss one of the country’s most obvious gems. Iceland’s capital city truly is an international destination worth more of your time than just the night before or after a visit to the airport. If you’re not too busy rushing off to your Icelandic hut trip or breathtaking glacier and ice cave tour, take some time to enjoy the sights and sounds of Reykjavik – an oft-overlooked treasure. You’ll be glad you did.