A City Guide to Reykjavík, Iceland Skip to content

A City Guide to Reykjavík, Iceland

By Lára Borg Lárusdóttir

Miðborg Reykjavíkur - tekið úr byggingakrana
Photo: Golli. Reykjavík City.

The capital of Iceland, Reykjavík, is a colourful and booming city, filled with culture and vibrant street art and home to just about 140.000 people. Over the past decade, the city has become a popular tourist destination as it hosts a lot of exciting sights and offers a great variety of restaurants and bars. 

To help you get the best out of your trip to Reykjavík, check out our guide below so you can best navigate what to do, see, eat or where to stay in the city.

 

What to See in Reykjavík

 

Iceland’s Tallest Church Hallgrímskirkja

The country’s largest church is located in Reykjavík’s centre and towers over the city. The church’s architecture is inspired by basalt columns found in Iceland’s natural landscape as the architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, was fascinated by the shapes that form from cool lava. The church is now one of Iceland’s landmark symbols and adds a touch of the country’s unique geological features to the city. Admission is free; however, tickets are available in the church shop once you enter to go up the church’s tower. 

Admission: ISK 1,400. Children 7-16: ISK 100, free for children under 7.

Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavík, Iceland
Photo: Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavík, Iceland

 

Reykjavík’ Concert Hall Harpa

Harpa is a cultural and social centre right by the Reykjavík harbour, known for its grand events and concerts. Harpa was opened in 2011 and has since received numerous awards for its architecture and as a concert and conference centre. 

See the upcoming events at Harpa here.

 

Perlan: A panoramic view over Reykjavík 

Perlan is a well-known landmark featuring a panoramic observation deck. However, its main attractions are a nature museum, glacier experience and interactive exhibits. The unique structure of the building sits on top of six water tanks and houses a cafe and a revolving restaurant on its top floor. 

Admission: ISK 5,390. Children 6-17: ISK 3,390, free for children under 6. Family Ticket: ISK 14,990.

 

Reykjavík’s main street Laugavegur

Laugavegur is the main street of Reykjavík, offering a large variety of shops, bars, restaurants, bookstores, art galleries and more. Strolling around the surrounding streets, you can also discover a great variety of all the above, which can make a pleasant day.

 

Reykjavík Rainbow Street: Skólavörðustígur

In 2015, in honour of Reykjavík Pride, the street was painted in vibrant colours and has since then become a popular attraction. The Rainbow Street is located in a street called Skólavörðustígur, directly connected to Laugavegur.

People in the rain on Skólavörðustígur street, Reykjavík.
Photo: Golli. Rainbow Street, Skólavörðustígur, Reykjavík.

 

See the Reykjavík pond – Tjörnin

The Reykjavík pond, Tjörnin, is a central point of Reykjavík where you can discover birdlife with species such as swans, ducks and more. Many cultural hotspots are located all around, such as the Iðnó culture house or Tjarnarbíó theatre.

 

See the Street Art of Reykjavík 

Making the city a more colourful and vibrant one, street artists have added their touch to the sides of buildings throughout Reykjavík. Walk through the city streets and notice the beauty and colours all around.  

 

What to Do in Reykjavík

 

Visit the Reykjavík City Museum

The Reykjavík City Museum takes visitors on a journey through the city’s history and diversity in an interesting and dynamic way. The museum consists of five different exhibitions in and around the city centre. The exhibitions are at Aðalstræti, Viðey Island, the Reykjavík Maritime Museum, Reykjavík Museum of Photography and Árbær Open Air Museum. Each one has a different story to tell about the city’s history and culture.

 

Explore Whales during Reykjavík Whale Watching

Embark on a voyage and explore the world of whales in Iceland with excellent guidance and insight from expert crew and specially trained naturalists. Marine biologists will bring you expert guidance and teach you all about the incredible wildlife of Iceland. 

Read more about available whale-watching tours and purchase tickets here. 

 

Fly Over Iceland

Centrally located near the fishing harbour is Fly Over Iceland, a simulated flight ride that allows you to enjoy Iceland’s most breathtaking scenery and natural wonders in only 20 minutes. During the experience, you will hang suspended with feet dangling before a 20-metre curved screen while the film takes you on a journey over Iceland. 

Admission: ISK 5,690. Children under 12: ISK 3,690.

Read more about Fly Over Iceland and purchase tickets here.

 

Visit the Icelandic Phallological Museum

The Icelandic Phallological Museum is, in fact, the world’s only penis museum and is dedicated to collecting, studying and presenting to guests real phalluses and all things related. The museum hosts phalluses from different species, with donations from all over the globe, even including one from a human! 

Admission: ISK 3,000.

 

Sky Lagoon 

Soak in a luxurious thermal bath and breathe in Sky Lagoon’s fresh Atlantic Ocean air. Located oceanside, only about ten minutes from Reykjavík’s city centre, the lagoon offers a unique spa experience, including a seven-step bathing ritual. The lagoon offers the option of buying a ticket, including shuttle transfer, for an additional fee.

Admission: ISK 6,790.

Read more about available tours to the Sky Lagoon and purchase tickets here.

Sky Lagoon Iceland
Photo: Signe – Sky Lagoon

 

Take a Ferry to Viðey Island

Located just off the coast of Reykjavík is the historical island Viðey. The island is only about 1.7 km² [0.65 mi²] but is a popular destination due to its combination of art, history and nature. One of Reykjavík’s City Museum exhibitions is located on Viðey, as well as the Imagine Peace Tower, an outdoor work of art by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon. The ferry sails from the Old Harbour over the summer months but from the Skarfabakki pier over the winter months. 

You can see the full ferry schedule here

Ferry admission: ISK 2,100. Children 7-17: ISK 1,050, free for children under 7.

A view of Viðey Island with Esja mountain in background
Photo: Golli – Viðey Island

 

Visit Reykjavík’s Flea Market Kolaportið 

Kolaportið is Iceland’s largest flea market and is located indoors in the city’s centre. The flea market is open every Saturday and Sunday and offers various second-hand clothing, jewellery, food and more. 

 

Explore the Nightlife in Reykjavík 

The nightlife scene in Reykjavík is quite vibrant, attracting travellers from around the world. Many of the city’s bars and clubs are located in Laugavegur and its surrounding streets, making bar hopping and nightlife exploring relatively easy. Some of Reykjavík’s popular bars include Tipsý Cocktail Bar, Jungle, English Bar, and Kiki.

 

Relax in the Geothermal Pools 

Experience authentic Icelandic bathing culture in one of the many geothermal pools in Reykjavík. Sundhöll Reykjavíkur is the oldest public pool in Iceland and is, furthermore, the only public pool located in downtown Reykjavík. The pool consists of hot tubs, a large swimming pool, a cold tub and a sauna, making it a relaxing experience in the busy city centre.

Sundhöll swimming pool Reykjavík
Photo: Golli – Sundhöll Reykjavíkur/Swimming Pool of Reykjavík

 

Where to stay in Reykjavík

When staying in Reykjavík, the city centre, Miðborg Reykjavíkur, offers the most extensive variety of hotels, hostels and Airbnb’s. When staying in the city centre, most of the main attractions of Reykjavík are easily accessible by foot, in addition to the city’s restaurants, bars and cultural centres being located all around, making it a convenient option to stay. Below are a few popular hotels located in Miðborg Reykjavíkur.

 

Canopy by Hilton

The concept behind the Canopy Hotel is about living like a local through design, food and beverage, art and knowledge. The hotel is located at Smiðjustígur, by the main street of Laugavegur.

 

Center Hotels Laugavegur

A modern, urban, and cosy hotel located very centrally at Reykjavík’s main street, Laugavegur.  Highly recommended for travellers who want to be right in the middle of things!

 

Reykjavík Marina

The Reykjavík Marina Hotel is situated next to a historical dry-dock called Slippur in a renovated four-story building that has become a landmark in Iceland.

 

What are the Best Places to Eat in Reykjavík

Reykjavík offers a wide variety of cafes and restaurants where anyone can find something to their liking, whether it be fish, vegetarian food, Italian food, or the ever-rising New Nordic style cuisine.

 

The food halls of Reykjavík 

The popularity of food halls has been increasing vastly in recent years, with Hlemmur Food Hall becoming the first one to open in Reykjavík in 2017. Amongst other food halls in Reykjavík’s city centre are Grandi Food Hall, Pósthús Food Hall and Hafnartorg Gallery. Each of them offers a good variety of different cuisines and a sizeable sharing-style table setting. 

Read more about the food halls of Reykjavík here.

 

Dill

A fine dining experience offering unique dishes and cooking methods inspired by the Icelandic landscape. The restaurant was awarded Iceland’s first Michelin star in 2017 and has since continued to bring eccentric and delicious dishes to its guests.

 

The Fish Market: Fiskmarkaðurinn 

Founded in 2007, The Fish Market serves New Style Seafood Cuisine and is located in the heart of Reykjavík. The restaurant’s unique atmosphere and tasty seafood dishes have made it one of the most popular dining destinations in Reykjavík.

 

Rok 

Rok Restaurant, located on Frakkarstígur, offers a wide selection of small dishes in a fine-casual style. The restaurant offers a fun food experience in a relaxed environment.

 

Ítalía restaurant

Ítalía Restaurant, or Restaurant Italy, is one of the longest-standing restaurants in Reykjavík, founded in 1991. As the name implies, the restaurant offers classic Italian dishes for a fair price.

 

Bæjarins Bestu Hot Dogs 

Bæjarins Bestu, or the town’s best, are Iceland’s famous hot dogs and is one of the oldest operating companies in Iceland. As the name states, the hot dogs are claimed to be the town’s best and have had many well-known visitors, such as Bill Clinton and Kim Kardashian. 

Bæjarins Bestu hot dog stand in Reykjavík.
Photo: Bæjarins Bestu hot dog stand in Reykjavík.

 

How do I get around in Reykjavík?

Getting around in Reykjavík is a topic many wonder about. When staying in central Reykjavík, you might realise how small and compact the city centre is, making it easy to get around on foot. However, other options are available, for instance, during the cold winter months or when going longer distances, where you can choose from buses, taxis or Hopp scooters. 

Read more about how to get around in Reykjavík here.

 

How much time do I need in Reykjavík?

As seen further up in the article, Reykjavík offers multiple exciting sights and experiences. Depending on the total length of your stay and the traveller’s preferences, about three days would be enough to explore the city’s main sights without rushing. However, many travellers prefer to stay in Reykjavík, keeping that as their base and taking day tours from there, which is a viable option. 

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