If you want to explore the charming capital city of Iceland, you’ll want to have our list of the best Reykjavik excursions on hand. Reykjavik is a modern city with Mt. Esjan and the Snæfellsjökull glacier on its horizon. The city is rich in Scandinavian culture and is fun to explore at your own pace. Reykjavik is the world’s most northern capital and its name means ‘smoky bay’ in Icelandic, which is a reference to the geysers that surround it. But with less than 200,000 inhabitants, Reykjavik is not really a city – it’s more like a friendly town, with plenty to see and do.
Soaking Up the City
Reykjavik is a great place to wander around and soak up the atmosphere with streets filled with attractive candy-colored houses. Choose one of our favorite hotels and set out to explore the city. Austurvöllur is the main square and is a great place to sit and relax in one of the coffee shops. It is a popular place for friends to meet and soak up the sun together.
If you enjoy shopping, you will not be disappointed – there are some great shops for cold-weather clothing and the traditional knitted Icelandic jumpers (lopapeysa). The main streets in Reykjavik are Laugavegur, Bankastæti, Austurstræti and Læjargata. If walking around the city doesn’t appeal, you can take a ride on one of the Hop-on Hop-off buses. Interested in a deeper look at the city’s highlights? Check out our Insider City Tour.
Hallgrimskirkja Church can be clearly seen from most parts of the city as its tower stands 74.5 meters tall. It is the largest church in Iceland and has been built in concrete in a contemporary design that was inspired by the Svartifoss waterfalls. At the very top, there is a viewing platform that offers fantastic 360º views of the city. In complete contrast, the Dómkirkjen, which is situated close to Austurvöllur, is the oldest church in the city.
Museums and galleries in Reykjavik
The most impressive museum is Perlan Wonders of Iceland, situated in the iconic Perlan glass dome on the highest hill in Reykjavik. The museum features multi-media exhibits and the first man-made ice cave in the world. In complete contrast, the Saga Museum features waxworks depicting the first settlers in Iceland. Or, venture out to the harbor area for two one-of-a-kind Icelandic museums: Whales of Iceland and Aurora Reykjavik.
Culture buffs will find plenty of art in the city, including the Reykjavik Art Gallery, Kjarval Museum, and the National Gallery of Iceland. If you’re as fond of sculpture as the Icelanders, you’ll enjoy the Einar Jónsson Museum and the Ásmunder Museum. Looking to soak up more Icelandic culture in the capital? Try this quirky tour, which focuses on the local magical folklore.
The harbor area is the ideal place to go for learning about marine life or heading out on a whale-watching trip. On weekends the harbor is bustling with the kolaportiŏ (flea market), where you’ll find all sorts of bargains. Street food stalls offer some great seafood and other local delicacies. The market is on Saturdays and Sundays from 11.00-17.00.
A short walk from the harbor, you will find the ‘Grandi’ area. The industrial buildings in this former fish packing district now house upmarket shops, restaurants, and even a brewery – Bryggian, which produces a rather good beer! For those who want to level up their beer expertise, we’ve crafted an excellent beer-tasting tour just for you!
Sample the local cuisine
There are restaurants in the city serving classic Icelandic dishes and others featuring many of the world cuisines. Icelandic cuisine is currently gaining an international reputation and there are several fine dining restaurants to enjoy.
Icelandic dishes include plenty of seafood, fish, and lamb. Give matur og drykken (cod cooked in chicken stock) or hangikjöt (smoked lamb) a try. A popular local dish is lamb chops with lava salt butter. If you enjoy good fish and chips, you’ll love the Icelandic version with the local Skyr dipping sauce. Fermented shark is a unique Icelandic specialty that many find to be more of an acquired taste. Dive into Reykjavik’s culinary scene and hit all the city’s essential foodie highlights in a fun walking tour. If you want to taste some of the more exotic local specialties, explore the countryside on our inclusive package tours.
Nightlife in Reykjavik
There is something for everyone to enjoy in Reykjavik, including bars and cafés with live music. Jazz fans will love the jazz bar at the top of the glass-fronted Harpa Concert Hall by the harbor. There is theatre and cabaret in the National Theatre Basement and stand-up comedy in English at the Gaukurinn. Most places are open until 1 a.m. during the week, and until 5 a.m. over the weekend! Find the best hotel in the thick of it with our handy hotel list.
Once you have explored Reykjavik, you can check out even more amazing things beyond the capital. ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ boasts some amazing must-see natural wonders including glaciers, icebergs, volcanoes, and geysers. Our day trips from Reykjavik make it easy and fun to head beyond the capital into the great unknown. We recommend the beautiful and fascinating Snæfellsnes Peninsula to the west of the city and the famous Jókulsárlon Glacier. There is the popular Golden Circle tour which includes Thingvellir, the Geysir Geothermal Park, and Gulfoss Waterfall.
For those who enjoy a rush of adrenalin, there are buggy adventures, or you can hop on a snowmobile and speed through the snowy banks. If a Jeep is more your style, check out this thrilling tour through the Valley of Thor. If you’re like to take in natural wonders at a different pace, head out of Reykjavik to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). But if you want to hit all the highlights of Iceland while based in Reykjavic, try a 5 Day Tour Package.
To sum up, whatever you decide to do in Reykjavik or beyond, it’s sure to be interesting, enjoyable, and unique. It’s no wonder that many find that one visit to Iceland is never enough.