What to Do in Reykjavik? These Are the Highlights

Reykjavik is a modern city with a charming center where you can enjoy delicious food, great nightlife, and excellent shopping. The city center is not very large, making it easy to walk almost everywhere. Reykjavik is the northernmost capital city in the world and is home to around 200,000 people. Once a small fishing village, in 1900, it had only 6,300 residents. The city is located by the sea and is surrounded by rugged nature. There are plenty of interesting sights and activities to explore in and around Reykjavik. We’ve gathered our best tips for you to enjoy Reykjavik to the fullest!

Recommended: Save Money and Book Your Airport Transfer in Advance

From the airport, it’s approximately 31 miles (50 km) to Reykjavik. If you don’t have a rental car or plan to pick one up after visiting the city, it’s a good idea to book a bus transfer in advance from the airport to Reykjavik and vice versa for the return journey. Taking a taxi can cost around $105, so booking the bus transfer in advance is a more cost-effective option, unless you are traveling with a group.

What to Do in Reykjavik?

The following sights and activities are a must-see in Reykjavik according to our recommendations.

Visit the Famous Hallgrímskirkja Church

Let’s start with one of Reykjavik’s most famous tourist attractions. This remarkable church is truly worth a visit. It stands an impressive 74 meters (243 feet) tall, and with its stunning architecture, it might be the most beautiful building in Iceland. You can take an elevator all the way to the top, from where you’ll have an amazing view of Reykjavik’s colorful rooftops.

Whale Watching From Reykjavik

Throughout the year, there are excursions offered from Reykjavik for whale watching. Iceland is even considered the best destination in Europe for whale watching! In the summer, you have a 90% chance of spotting whales, and in the winter, it’s still 65%. Besides whales, you may also encounter minke whales, blue whales, white-beaked dolphins, and if you’re very lucky, even orcas. We joined a 2-hour Whale Watching tour and received lots of interesting information about the marine life around Iceland.

Harpa and How to become Icelandic in 60 minutes

The concert hall Harpa is the most expensive building ever constructed in Iceland, with total costs around $140 million. Harpa is indeed a unique architectural masterpiece and received a European Union Award for contemporary architecture in 2013. You can admire the building from the outside, but it’s also worth taking a look inside. If you’re interested in attending a performance in Reykjavik, the cabaret show ‘How to become Icelandic in 60 minutes’ is highly recommended. As the name suggests, it delves into Icelandic culture. While traveling through Iceland, you’ll see plenty of nature, but you might not get much exposure to the culture. Yet, Iceland has a fascinating culture. During the show, you’ll also learn about the island’s history. Tickets cost $41 per person, and the performance is in English. The show takes place several times a week, and usually, you can buy tickets at Harpa the day before or on the day of the show.

Settle Down in the Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon must definitely not be missing from this list. It is the most famous hot spring in all of Iceland, and you’ve probably seen photos of it on Instagram or Facebook. The Blue Lagoon is located about a 15-minute drive from Reykjavik’s international airport and around a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik city center. It might be a bit pricey (starting from $58), but it’s an experience you shouldn’t miss when you’re in Iceland.

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is a 300 km (approximately 186 miles) long route with Reykjavik as the starting and ending point. On this route, you’ll come across many diverse things, allowing you to experience the diversity of Iceland in just one day. The Golden Circle includes stops at Geysir, Thingvellir, and Gullfoss, but we recommend also visiting Kerið and Reykjadalur. If you’re on a city trip to Reykjavik, you can book the Golden Circle tour. If you’re on a round trip through Iceland, you’ll most likely visit the Golden Circle attractions later. For more information about all these sights and the Golden Circle, you can read our travel itinerary for Iceland.

Shop in the Nicest Street of Reykjavik

Laugavegur is the main street in the center of Reykjavik and is a delightful place to spend an afternoon strolling around. There are dozens of charming shops, coffee shops, and bars. You can find exclusive clothing stores as well as vintage shops, and of course, stores with unique items for your home decor.

Fly over Iceland With this 4D Flightsimulator

The rugged landscapes of Iceland are fantastic to explore on foot, but they are even more breathtaking from the air. With this 4D flight simulation, you can experience a flight over the most remote parts of Iceland that you wouldn’t be able to reach on your own. You can watch the video below to get an impression of the experience, but the actual flight is much more impressive. You’ll be suspended in front of a 20-meter (66-feet) spherical screen and can expect various special effects like wind, mist, scents, and motion. The actual flight lasts only about 10 minutes, but the entire activity takes about 30 minutes. It’s a fantastic experience to try in Reykjavik, suitable for both young and old! You can book the experience here.

Visit the Most Famous Piece of Art of Iceland

On the boulevard of Reykjavik stands the magnificent artwork called Sun Voyager. Many people think it resembles a Viking boat, but as the artist himself calls it, it’s a “dream boat as an ode to the sun.” With the sea and mountains in the background, it becomes a perfect photo spot during the sunset!

Enjoy the Nightlife in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is renowned for its fantastic nightlife. It’s filled with numerous clubs, cafes, and bars. What makes going out in Reykjavik so enjoyable is that everything is located on or around the main street, Laugavegur. So, if you’re done with one place, you can easily walk to the next. Recommended spots for a fun evening are Kaffibarinn, Austur, and Húrra.

Best Restaurants in Reykjavik

The choice for good restaurants in Reykjavik is abundant. Somehow, Icelanders are excellent cooks, and it’s well worth your money to enjoy a delicious meal in Reykjavik. For a quick, affordable, and above all tasty bite, head to 101 Reykjavik Street Food. The options may be limited, but the food is incredibly delicious. You can choose from fish & chips, a fish stew, and various soups. Lamb Street Food is also one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik. They serve mouthwatering wraps with lamb or falafel. If you’re looking for more vegetarian options, Cafe Gardurinn is the place to go. They cook with a variety of vegetables, and their menu changes weekly. At Gló, you’ll find a lot of vitamins in the form of delicious and healthy bowls. If you prefer a good piece of meat for dinner, Grillmarkadurinn is definitely the right place. And lastly, for a delightful cup of coffee, you should visit Reykjavik Roasters.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Reykjavik

Hotels in Reykjavik, and actually in the whole of Iceland, are anything but cheap. For a simple double room, you’ll quickly spend around $140. It’s wise to book your hotel as early as possible because the best hotels in the “cheaper” price ranges are often fully booked early. This applies to all of Iceland, by the way.

A Townhouse Hotel is a stylish hotel in Reykjavik. All rooms have a fully equipped kitchen. Upon arrival, you can easily check-in yourself, but there is always someone available to assist you. Having a rental car is convenient as this hotel is located a bit outside the city center. If you don’t have a car, the bus stop around the corner often has buses departing to the city center. If you prefer to stay closer to the city center, Guesthouse Galtafell is a great choice. This beautiful building was built in 1916, and its authentic elements have been well preserved. You can choose from rooms or studios in different price ranges. Kex Hostel is perfect when you’re traveling on a smaller budget. It’s located right in the center of Reykjavik and has a cozy atmosphere.