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Top 15 Things To Do in Reykjavík: A Guide to Iceland's Capital

Welcome to Reykjavík, Iceland's vibrant heart, where every corner tells a story, and adventure awaits at every turn. Are you ready to discover the most captivating things to do in Reykjavík?

As locals who cherish our city's unique charm, we're here to guide you through its enchanting streets, sharing insider tips and personal favorites. From the awe-inspiring Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral to the lively Old Harbor, Reykjavík is a treasure trove of experiences.

But have you ever wondered what secrets this Nordic wonder holds beyond its picturesque landscapes? Join us on a journey to uncover the hidden gems of Reykjavík, where each moment becomes a cherished memory. Are you ready to discover our vibrant city's secrets?

1. Visit Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral

Topping the list of things to do in Reykjavík is visiting the mesmerizing Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral. This iconic edifice is a testament to unique Icelandic architecture.

The cathedral's minimalist yet grand interior architecture, inspired by Iceland's natural landscapes, offers a calming refuge. A must-visit is the church's tower, which provides a 360° panorama of Reykjavík's vibrant cityscape and is accessible via elevator.

The cathedral is open daily, and the tower visit costs about 1,000 ISK (about $7) for adults, a small price for an unforgettable view.

A useful tip: Visit the Einar Jónsson Museum just across the street for an enriching dive into Norse mythology. Its sculpture garden is a tranquil city oasis and is free to visit.

things to do in reykjavik

2. Explore the National Museum of Iceland

Exploring the National Museum of Iceland is a definitive answer to what to do in Reykjavík for those intrigued by history and culture.

This museum is a gateway to Iceland's past, showcasing an extensive array of artifacts that chronicle the nation's journey from the Viking Age to contemporary times. Each exhibit, from ancient relics to folk costumes, offers insights into Iceland's unique cultural heritage. The museum is not only educational but also accessible, with entry fees tailored to different visitors:

Adults pay 2,500 kr (about US$ 17), while entry for children under 18 is free. Students and seniors over 67 enjoy a reduced rate of 1,200 kr (approximately US$ 8). For a comprehensive cultural experience, delve further into our guide on the best museums in Reykjavík, where each visit enriches your understanding of this mesmerizing land.

3. Stroll Along the Old Harbour

Strolling along the Old Harbour is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Reykjavík for those seeking a blend of scenic beauty and lively culture. This bustling area, brimming with character, invites you to wander through its quaint streets lined with charming cafés, unique shops, and an array of boat tours.

The harbor is not just a picturesque spot; it's a gateway to the rich marine life of Iceland. Here, you can embark on an unforgettable whale-watching tour, offering a rare opportunity to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

For sea enthusiasts and nature lovers, this experience is a must. Discover more about this incredible adventure in our guide to whale-watching in Iceland, where the ocean comes alive with the wonders of wildlife.

Reykjavik old harbor

4. Discover Harpa Concert Hall

One of the most captivating attractions in Reykjavík is the Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Center, affectionately known as Harpan. Nestled near the Old Harbor, Harpa is not just a hub for world-class performances but also an architectural wonder.

This award-winning glass structure changes its appearance with the shifting light, offering a mesmerizing visual spectacle. Inside, visitors are treated to stunning views of the bay and city skyline, making it a photographer's paradise.

Harpa's interior is equally impressive, featuring the cozy La Primavera restaurant, perfect for a delightful dinner from Thursday to Saturday. For music enthusiasts, checking the events calendar is a must, as Harpa hosts a variety of concerts and shows.

A tip for visitors: We recommend joining a city walking tour that includes Harpa to fully appreciate its architectural beauty and vibrant atmosphere. Don't miss the nearby Ingólfsgarður Lighthouse, another gem in this picturesque area.

Harpa Concert Hall

5. Wander Through Reykjavík's Art Museums

Among the enriching activities in Reykjavík, wandering through its renowned art museums stands out. The Reykjavík Art Museum and the National Gallery of Iceland are cultural beacons showcasing a spectacular array of artworks.

These institutions house collections that span from classical masterpieces to cutting-edge contemporary art, offering something for every art enthusiast. The Reykjavík Art Museum, spread across three distinct locations, presents a dynamic mix of modern and contemporary art, while the National Gallery is a treasure trove of Icelandic and international art history.

A useful tip: For a unique experience, consider taking a private street art tour to explore Reykjavík's vibrant urban art scene, a perfect complement to the traditional museum visit. This blend of classic and modern art forms provides a comprehensive insight into Iceland's rich artistic heritage.

6. Relax in the Blue Lagoon

A quintessential addition to the list of things to do in Reykjavík is unwinding in the serene waters of the Blue Lagoon. This world-famous geothermal spa, set amidst a stunning lava field, offers a unique and rejuvenating experience.

The mineral-rich waters, maintained at a soothing temperature, are known for their health benefits, particularly for the skin. As you soak in the warm, milky-blue waters, let the natural surroundings and the lagoon's tranquility wash over you, providing a truly therapeutic escape.

For a seamless visit, it's crucial to book in advance, as the Blue Lagoon is a popular destination for both locals and tourists. Also, consider the various packages available, which can include additional amenities like massages or facials, to enhance your spa experience.

what to do in reykjavik

7. Enjoy Reykjavík's Culinary Scene

When considering what to do in Reykjavík, immersing yourself in the city's vibrant culinary scene is essential. Reykjavík's restaurants offer an exquisite taste of local Icelandic cuisine, where traditional flavors meet contemporary culinary techniques.

Dive into the world of authentic Icelandic dishes, such as hákarl – a unique fermented shark delicacy – and the succulent, herb-infused Icelandic lamb, renowned for its tenderness and taste.

A vital tip: For a comprehensive culinary experience, we highly recommend taking a Reykjavík food tour. These tours not only guide you to the best eateries and hidden gems in the city but also provide a deeper understanding of Iceland's food culture and history. A food tour is an excellent option for foodies looking to explore a variety of tastes and learn about the local cuisine in a short amount of time, making every meal an adventure in itself.

Reykjavík's Culinary

8. Shop at Laugavegur Street

For those seeking retail therapy and local culture, shopping at Laugavegur Street is one of the top things to do in Reykjavík. This vibrant thoroughfare buzzes with a lively atmosphere, offering a diverse array of shops that cater to all tastes and preferences.

As you meander along Laugavegur, you'll discover a plethora of stores showcasing local crafts, the latest in Icelandic fashion, and unique products that reflect the country's rich heritage. The street's dynamic vibe, combined with its eclectic mix of boutiques and artisanal shops, makes it a paradise for shoppers.

A useful tip: Enhance your shopping experience by embarking on a Reykjavík Shopping Spree Private Tour. This guided tour takes you beyond Laugavegur Street, exploring various shopping hotspots across the city. It's an excellent way to uncover hidden gems and gain insights into Iceland's vibrant shopping scene, ensuring you return home with truly special finds.

Laugavegur Street

9. Visit the Perlan Observatory

A visit to the Perlan Observatory stands out as one of the best things to do in Reykjavík. Perched atop a hill, this remarkable structure offers panoramic views of the city and beyond, making it a photographer's paradise.

Inside, the Wonders of Iceland exhibition immerses you in Iceland's unique geology and natural phenomena, including a real ice cave. For a truly unique dining experience, the observatory's rotating restaurant provides a constantly changing backdrop as you enjoy local cuisine.

What you should know: Perlan is open daily from 9 am to 10 pm, making it a versatile destination for both early birds and night owls.

Perlan Observatory

10. Explore the Settlement Exhibition

For those fascinated by history and archaeology, the Settlement Exhibition is a standout among the attractions in Reykjavík. This unique museum offers an in-depth look into Reykjavík's Viking past, featuring remarkable archaeological findings that provide a window into the lives of the city's earliest settlers.

The well-preserved ruins and interactive exhibits make it a captivating destination for history enthusiasts and an educational experience for families.

A pro tip: The Settlement Exhibition is open daily from 10:00 to 17:00, making it a convenient option for visitors. Admission is 2,740 ISK (about $19) for adults, while children, students with a student card, and people with disabilities can enjoy free or reduced entry.

11. Take a Day Trip to the Golden Circle

Embarking on a day trip to the Golden Circle is one of the most popular activities in Reykjavík for those eager to experience Iceland's natural wonders. This iconic route encompasses three major stops:

Each site offers a unique glimpse into Iceland's diverse landscapes, from tectonic rift valleys to cascading waterfalls and spouting hot springs.

Renting a car in Reykjavík for this journey is straightforward and offers the flexibility to explore at your own pace. With a car, you can immerse yourself in the stunning scenery and take detours as desired, making the Golden Circle an ideal self-drive adventure.

attractions reykjavik

12. Learn at the Icelandic Phallological Museum

Among the more unconventional things to do in Reykjavík is a visit to the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which stands out. This unique institution boasts a collection of over 290 penises from various animal species, offering an extraordinary glimpse into the natural world.

The museum's exhibits, which range from the surprisingly tiny to the staggeringly large, provide a comprehensive overview of the phallological diversity found in the animal kingdom. This museum is not just about novelty; it's an educational experience that requires an open mind and a sense of humor. It's a destination that promises to be both enlightening and entertaining.

Good to know: The museum is open daily from 10 am to 7 pm, allowing visitors ample opportunity to explore its unique collection. With an admission fee of 2750 ISK (approximately $29), it's an affordable and intriguing addition to any Reykjavík itinerary.

13. Relax at Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach

Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach is a distinctive and delightful attraction in Reykjavík, offering a unique beach experience with its warm geothermal waters. This man-made wonder is a haven for both locals and tourists, providing a rare opportunity to enjoy a dip in the ocean waters that are heated naturally.

The beach features a sandy shore and a lagoon where the sea and geothermal water mix, creating a comfortably warm bathing area. Visitors can relish the experience of swimming in these unusually warm waters or lounge on the sandy beach, soaking up the serene atmosphere.

Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach is not just a place to relax; it's a testament to Iceland's innovative use of its natural geothermal resources, making it a must-visit for anyone seeking both relaxation and a unique Icelandic experience.

activities in reykjavik

14. Join in on the Nightlife Scene

Experiencing the vibrant nightlife is an essential part of the things to do in Reykjavík. The city comes alive at night with an array of bars, clubs, and venues offering live music. Reykjavík's nightlife is known for its unique Icelandic drinking culture, blending traditional and modern elements.

Safety is key, so it's recommended to party responsibly and be aware of local customs. To taste this lively scene, we recommend visiting places like Kaffibarinn, known for its eclectic crowd and music, or Prikið, the oldest nightclub in Reykjavík, offering a mix of hip-hop and dance music. These spots provide an authentic experience of Reykjavík's spirited nightlife.

Reykjavik nightlife

15. Witness the Northern Lights

Witnessing the Northern Lights is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Reykjavík. This spectacular natural phenomenon is best viewed during the darker months, from September to April.

While they can sometimes be seen from the city, venturing to darker areas outside Reykjavík increases your chances of a clear sighting. For photography enthusiasts, a tripod and long exposure settings are essential to capture the lights' ethereal beauty.

Pro tip: Consider taking a Northern Lights tour. These tours are led by experts who know the best viewing locations and times, significantly enhancing your chances of witnessing this breathtaking display. With their guidance, you're more likely to enjoy a successful and memorable Northern Lights experience.

Witness the Northern Lights

Top FAQs About Things To Do In Reykjavík

How many days do I need in Reykjavík?

To fully enjoy the things to do in Reykjavík, plan for at least 3 to 4 days, allowing time to explore city attractions, museums, and nearby natural wonders.

What is Reykjavík best known for?

Reykjavík is best known for its vibrant culture, geothermal pools, and unique architecture, and it is a gateway to Iceland's stunning natural landscapes like the Northern Lights.

Is Reykjavík expensive?

Yes, Reykjavík can be expensive, especially regarding dining, accommodation, and certain activities in Reykjavík.

How much is a meal in Reykjavík?

A meal in Reykjavík varies in cost: a 3-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant is around ISK 15,000 ($105), while a fast food combo is about ISK 2,000 ($14).

Is Reykjavík a walkable city?

Yes, Reykjavík is a walkable city, making it easy to explore many of the best things to do in Reykjavík on foot, including museums, shops, and landmarks. However, renting a car is still recommended for visiting surrounding areas.

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