Reykjavik, the world’s most northern capital, is a colourful collection of quirky European buildings, creative people and a history of Vikings. I’ve spent a total of five days exploring the Icelandic city but its size allows for it to be explored relatively quickly for those on a budget. Here’s my Reykjavik travel guide.
Note: Scroll to the end for more photos!
Reykjavik is a walker’s delight, so small everything is just a stroll away. Of course if you were attempting to walk from one side of the city to the other it would take a little while but that’s my favourite way to experience a city. There are buses throughout the city too and you could always hire a car if you preferred.
Where to stay
On our first trip to Reykjavik we stayed in Hotel Centrum which is a hotel, museum and restaurant in one, located in the heart of downtown Reykjavik and in walking distance from everything in the city. On our second visit we stayed in the Hilton which I would recommend if you’re planning on doing day trips to the golden circle and Thingvellir National Park instead of driving the ring road.
It’s impossible to visit Iceland and see everything, especially a city like Reykjavik which is consistently growing and changing. Here’s how to see the city’s major attractions in a day or two.
Blue Lagoon is probably the most popular attraction in Iceland. It’s not technically in Reykjavik but it’s not far either. I recommend coming here straight from Keflavik airport to relax and unwind after the long flight. Grey Line offer transfers to Blue Lagoon to and from the airport and city centre.
Now that you’re refreshed, it’s time to explore the city. Starting in downtown Reykjavik, walk along Laugavegur and Skolavordustigur streets and do some shopping on your way to Hallgrimskirkja, a beautiful church which towers above the colourful city. Catch the lift to the top for beautiful views of the entire city, the harbour and the mountains beyond.
From here, walk to the Icelandic Phallological Museum. It’s only small and won’t take you long to walk through. *TIP: Stock up on Icelandic treats like chocolate and Skyr at the supermarket across the road.
From here it’s an easy stroll to the city’s concert hall, Harpa. Inspired by Sydney’s very own Opera House, Harpa is free to enter but if you can, grab a ticket to a show and immerse yourself in the local culture.
If you’ve still got the energy, walk to Tjornin Pond, a prominent small lake in the centre of the city. It’s beautiful on a sunny day! Walk around the lake and watch the swans grace the water. Be sure to walk through nearby Reykjavik City Hall where there’s a really cool 3D map of Iceland! It’s located at the edge of the lake and it’s free to enter and a good spot for a toilet break if you need one.
On the opposite side of the lake is the National Museum of Iceland which houses a three-storey collection of artefacts, some of which date back to the Viking ages. You’ll want to spend a little more time walking around here because there’s a lot to learn!
In the evening, walk along Adalstraeti where you’ll find bars and restaurants leading down to the harbour. Plenty of restaurants here serve traditional Icelandic lamb meat soup and seafood.
After dinner, head out to Grotta Island Lighthouse for views of the Aurora Borealis on a clear night.
Do you love Reykjavik as much as I do? Let me know in the comments below!