Experience the best that Reykjavik has to offer, from attractions to landmarks and cuisine, on your Iceland holiday.
Iceland’s capital is a fascinating place to stay, whether as a city break or the starting point for a journey into the Arctic wilderness on a Northern Lights holiday, too see some of the incredible species that inhabit the Land of Fire and Ice.
There is truly something for everyone, from a buzzing nightlife to beautiful architecture, family-friendly outdoor attractions to cultural art galleries, museums and festivals throughout the year.
The Baltic Travel Company, Arctic and Norway holidays specialists, highlights some of the best things to see, do, and experience during your time in Reykjavik, including day trips and excursions available from the capital city that could see you exploring the inside of a volcano or travelling on a safari through the Golden Circle.
Attractions Every Visitor to Reykjavik Should See
We’ll start with the city itself, with a huge array of luxury hotels, cosy accommodations and places to dine, sampling the local seasonal dishes and immersing yourself in Icelandic life and history.
The church is an iconic landmark in Reykjavik, soaring 74 metres into the skyline and offering some of the best views in the city. Construction of the church, found at Skólavörðuholti, Reykjavik 121, took 40 years as a tribute to Hallgrimur Petursson, an Icelandic poet.
Visitors can explore the chapel and purchase a token from the small shop to take the lift to the peak of the steeple to soak in the wonderful panoramic vista. The tower opens every day apart from Sundays when the church is used for mass services.
Harpa Concert Hall
Another one of the stand-out pieces of architecture in Reykjavik is the Harpa concert hall. This award-winning building glitters and sparkles in the sunlight and takes on a whole different appearance during the evening.
The hall has two authentic Icelandic restaurants, and tourists can watch a show or attend one of the regular art displays, followed by a leisurely stroll along the waterfront nearby. You can find the Harpa Concert Hall at Austurbakki 2, 101 Reykjavik.
Like many capital cities, the downtown area is a perfect place to visit and indulge in retail therapy, with a diverse collection of boutiques and local shops, with eateries and craftspeople offering delicacies to try and souvenirs such as pottery sculpted from volcanic rock.
Your next stop off could include the Old Harbour, with views across the bay to the peak of Mount Esja. The Old Harbour district is characterised by traditional fishing huts, many of which have been restored and now act as shops and cafes.
A walking tour is a great way to make the most of your day, with street art, gardens, and lakeland areas such as Tjornin. Here you can search for the Neighbourhood of the Gods with streets named after Thor, Odin and Freya, all gods and goddesses associated with Norse mythology.
Enjoying the Natural Icelandic Beauty of Reykjavik and the Nearby Area
While the thriving city of Reykjavik blends contemporary entertainment with a love of Icelandic heritage, some of the most astonishing sites are best seen by taking a short trip away from the central city. Iceland is home to remarkable species of wildlife, natural phenomenon and untouched landscapes which appeal to explorers, photographers and nature lovers alike.
The Blue Lagoon
One of the most popular attractions within a short distance of the city, the Blue Lagoon is a day trip never to be missed – a natural thermal pool filled with healing warm waters. If you don’t have time for an excursion, you can also visit one of 17 public thermal pools around the city, providing a relaxing experience and a taste of true Icelandic culture.
Many pools feature saunas, hot tubs and warm outdoor swimming areas with low entry prices. The Laugardalur recreational zone is an excellent option for families, with the large pool within walking distance of the zoo, family park, ice skating rink, sculpture museum and botanical gardens.
Golden Circle Tours
The Golden Circle is a place of magic and majesty. It offers a journey through the spectacular scenery taking in Gullfoss Waterfall, the geothermal waters of Geysir, and Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Rock of Law was the first-ever Viking parliament, and the Lake Kerið volcanic crater and the dramatic power of the glacial River Hvítá are sites no visitor will ever forget.
Reykjavik tours also include Northern Lights overnight trips, often staying in a traditional lodge or glass igloo, trips to the Reykjanes Peninsula for hikes to the nearby volcanoes, and horse-riding hacks through the lava fields.
Wildlife Excursions in Reykjavik
Whale-watching boat tours are an opportunity to see minke whales and humpbacks alongside dolphins and wild seabirds, setting off from the Old Harbour. Summertime visitors can enjoy cool evening trips during the midnight sun season, with tours lasting roughly three hours.
Families can also visit the Whales of Iceland exhibit, a fantastic experience for children with 23 vast models of whale species, including the blue whale – a display of such a scale it needs to be seen to be believed.
Great Places to Eat in Reykjavik
There is a tremendous amount to pack into any Reykjavik holiday, but a visit isn’t complete without talking about the cuisine. Reykjavik merges exquisite fine dining with street foods, with simple fare such as hot dogs and fish and chips absolutely worth trying, alongside more traditional dishes such as fish stew and meat soup.
Try the local beers or book a food tour where you can try varied plates ranging from fermented shark for the more adventurous to lobster soup and lamb-based warming recipes. Another option is the Magic Ice Bar, found underneath the Alafoss shop in the centre, with ponchos, gloves and a signature drink served in a solid ice glass included in the entry ticket.
Our final tip! Pick up a Reykjavik City Card, and you’ll be able to use it to visit all the city museums, local thermal pools and use public transport, providing value throughout your stay.