Most trips to Iceland will involve at least a small amount of time in the nation’s capital city: Reykjavik.
And while much of Iceland’s appeal lies outside the city limits, such as the Blue Lagoon, driving the Golden Circle, or visiting Iceland’s incredible black sand beaches, be sure to make the most of your time in the city.
Our flight arrived at the Keflavik airport (about 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik) at around 6:30am, and after a failed attempt to visit the Blue Lagoon, the jet lag-induced teary meltdown that followed said failure, and a quick, sorely-need power-nap at our hotel, we had nearly a full day to explore the world’s northernmost capital city.
Here is our list of what to do in Reykjavik, Iceland:
Hallgrimskirkja is a large Lutheran church in central Reykjavik, and one of the most iconic structures in the city. The church’s unique exterior was designed to resemble the basalt columns found throughout the country (most famously at Vik beach).
Not only is Hallgrimskirkja a beautiful church to visit, the view from the top is the best in the city. The best news: There is an elevator! (A rare commodity in beautiful European churches we have discovered, much to the devastation of our quads…)
Tickets to to the top cost 900 ISK for adults and 100 ISK for children (7-14).
The Harpa is a magnificent glass concert hall located near the waterfront. It is the performance venue for the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and other events, but we enjoyed simply touring the building.
Entry is free when there is no concert.
Not far from the Harpa concert hall you will find the Sun Voyager, a sculpture by the Icelandic artist Jón Gunnar Árnason. He created the sculpture, which resembles an ancient ship, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the city of Reykjavik. It is also a great spot for a photo op.
For a beautiful look at day-to-day Icelandic life, head to Tjörnin Pond. Even in winter swans brave the water for a dip (a portion of the pond remains thawed due to geothermal water).
We enjoyed watching families with little children gathering to feed the birds, and couples passing on an evening stroll.
If you’re in Rekyjavik over a weekend, check out Kolaportið, an indoor flea market located near the harbor. Vendors sell everything from sweaters knit with Icelandic sheep’s wool to vintage records and books.
Shop on Laugavegur
Iceland is a notoriously expensive country, so it shouldn’t be surprising that we experienced sticker shock while shopping in Reykjavik. But even though we couldn’t afford anything more expensive than a pretentious coaster, we enjoyed strolling down Laugavegur, Reykjavik’s most popular shopping street.
The National Museum of Iceland
If you’re interested in learning more about Icelandic history (or are just looking for an excuse to go inside long enough to regain feeling in your toes), check out The National Museum of Iceland.
Exhibits trace Iceland’s history from its early settlers to the present day, and give visitors a good understanding of Icelandic culture.
Admission costs 1500 ISK for adults, 750 ISK for students, and children under 18 can enter for free.
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