Reykjavik is a small city, with a big heart. A place that effortlessly intertwines bustling city life with colourful art and natures restorative energy. Whether you’re planning a weekend break to Reykjavik, or a quick pit-stop before seeing the black sand beaches, volcanoes and thunderous waterfalls on an epic Iceland road trip. I’m here to share with you a list of the very best things to do whilst exploring Reykjavik. From absolute must sees and unusual museums, to Icelandic taste sensations that simply cant be missed in this vibrant Nordic city.
Following our trip to Reykjavik earlier this year. Here’s my list of 18 things to do, along with the best places to visit during your time in Reykjavik. Plus some helpful advice at the end!
Let’s take a look at the best things to do in Reykjavik.
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Visit Hallgrimskirkja church
Not only is the Hallgrimskirkja church a popular tourist attraction, it’s also the tallest church in all of Iceland. Standing proud at 73 meters tall, its the countries second-tallest building overall. This church is easily recognisable with its unusual stepped design, resembling the basalt columns you’ll find across Iceland and offers the best panoramic views over Reykjavik. You can enter Hallgrimskirkja church for free, but keep in the back of your mind this church wasn’t built as a tourist attraction. It’s a place of worship and prayer, so remember to be respectful when visiting. If there is a service or event happening, then understandably you wont be able to wander around downstairs during that time. To reach the lookout tower you’ll need to purchase a ticket from the church gift shop which is just to the left of the foyer.
Once you’ve got a ticket, take the elevator to the top – well almost the top! The lift ends below the clock, so a few stairs take you into the look-out bell tower which rings every 15 minutes.
Adult tickets cost 1300 ISK (£7.70), and children aged between 7-16 cost 200 ISK (£1.20).
It’s not possible to prebook tickets for the tower, and be sure to check opening times before you visit as these do vary.
Walk along the rainbow road
This street is actually named Skólavörðustígur, but its better known for its bright rainbow road. Although this may be a hotspot for the Instagrammer’s, it’s still worth taking a stroll along this vibrant street. As you walk along, you will see Hallgrimskirkja church pop into frame at the end of the road. Athough it looks like this rainbow path leads you all the way to the entrance of the church, It’s actually a bit of an optical illusion as its not actually that close to the church!
This rainbow street art was first painted onto the road in 2019 as part of their annual Pride event. Following the festival, it was decided to remain as a permanent part of the city.
Take an immersive ride at Flyover Iceland
Flyover Iceland is a fairly new tourist attraction, and it’s absolutely fabulous. Do not miss it!
This new state-of-the-art technology makes you feel as though you’re actually flying across Iceland – hence the name! Basically, you’ll be sat in a row with your feet dangling from a suspended seat, completely surrounded by a 20 meter spherical screen which plays FPV drone footage from all over Iceland. The rides gentle swooping motion, mixed with special effects like wind, mist and scents awaken all your senses and make the experience feel even more realistic. You’ll be soaring over volcanoes, diving into canyons, whizzing across black sand beaches and falling down thunderous waterfalls. It’s hard to explain, but I know it will be an experience you’ll never forget.
If you’ve done a road trip around Iceland, then I would save Flyover Iceland for your last day. It’s like watching an epic highlights video of the amazing adventure you’ve just been on. It was so immersive, that it made me feel a tad emotional.
Also included in your entry free are two pre-show experiences. One teaches you all about the nature, history and mythology of Iceland. You will discover where their strong belief in trolls was born, spend time inside a Viking long house, as well as journeying through time.
It took us about 20 minutes to walk from the centre of Reykjavik to Flyover Iceland.
Tickets cost 5,490 ISK (£32.58) per adult, and 3,490 ISK (£20.71) per child
Walk beside life sized whales at Whales of Iceland
Another new immersive attraction which is situated next to Flyover Iceland. The Whales of Iceland museum has 23, life sized species of whales for you to discover. All of which can all be found in the wild, swimming around in the Icelandic waters. The museum pieces are set inside an ambient room full of underwater lighting effects and relaxing whale calls. The whale models are soft to the touch and each one is a true replica of a real whale in the wild, sharing all the same markings and scars. Think of it like the Madame Tussauds version of the whale world.
Here you will be able to appreciate the sheer scale of a whale, without stepping foot on a boat or struggling your way into a tight wetsuit. A real life unicorn (AKA a narwhale) is on display, along with the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale – the whale which heartbreakingly gained it’s name from being the ‘right whale’ to hunt.
Its a perfect place to bring the family and experience a fun underwater adventure without the need of getting soggy and cold.
Tickets cost 3900 ISK (£23) per adult, 1950 ISK (£12) for children aged 7-15, and entry is free for under 6’s. They also have a family ticket (2 adults + 2 children) for 7800 ISK (£46.30)
Visit the one of a kind Penis museum
I have to say, this is one of the most random, amusing and slightly disturbing museums we’ve ever stepped foot in. Iceland’s Phallological Museum is home to many, many penises; from tiny hamsters to gigantic sperm whales. There is even a troll penis on display… you can imagine what that looked like! Along with lots of other penis shaped trinkets, décor and art work. You have the chance to buy some themed memorabilia from the gift shop, or enjoy something to eat inside the penis themed bistro. Fancy a penis shaped waffle, or a funny named beer? This is the place for you!
Its an unusual place to spend an hour, and I will say the price is a little steep for what it is. But it was something very different to do and it did make us laugh, plus it’s probably the only one of its kind in the world! The museum is surprisingly informative, and the vast array of manhood on display, from human castings and donations, to animals large and small is quite an impressive collection.
If you’re not worried about visiting the museum itself, you can still go to the gift shop and bistro without a museum ticket.
Tickets cost 2750 ISK each (£16.32).
See the impressive Harpa building
The Harpa building first opened in 2011 and has already won multiple awards for its striking architecture. Hardly surprising, as this impressive glass building reminds me of looking through a kaleidoscope! The Harpa building sits right beside the edge of the Atlantic ocean, and is used as a conference building and a concert hall. With many different shows and events happening throughout the year, head over to their website to see what’s due on when you visit.
Sadly we couldn’t get near the Harpa building when we visited Reykjavik, it was all fenced off due to the European council visiting. I look forward to taking a closer look when we return to Iceland one day, as even from afar it was a treat to my eyes.
You can see it in the background of this photo.
Grab some delicious pastries
You’re not short on cafe options here, with many quirky cafes dotted all across Reykjavik. But we suggest you grab a delicious pastry from BAKA BAKA Bakery. This black and white tin clad building is super cute and iconic to Icelandic’s architectural style.
Escape Iceland’s erratic weather for just a little and head Inside this busy cafe, where you’ll find old wooden floors and rustic furniture. Grab yourself a table and tuck into a mouth-watering, flaky pain-au-chocolate or croissant.
If there are no tables left, you also have the option to turn your order into a takeaway instead.
Baka Baka is located on Bankastræti street. Not too far from Hallgrimskirkja church.
Enjoy a decadent Icelandic hot chocolate
Hot chocolates in Iceland really hit the spot, they are thick, silky and uber decadent. Polar opposites from the horrible powdery ones which we sometimes get in the UK. If you’re a hot chocolate lover, then you must grab yourself one whilst in Reykjavik.
We got our super indulgent hot chocolate from Loo.koo.mas and enjoyed sipping it whilst site seeing and wandering around the city. They also looked a great place to get some loaded mini donut balls!
Walk along the sea front & harbour
Reykjavik sits right beside the waters edge, so you should definitely take a walk along the waterfront and check out the boats that are moored in the harbour. Here you can soak in the stunning views across Faxa Bay to the snow capped mountains behind. You’ll also find a selection of restaurants and cafe’s on the trendy-industrial styled new harbour.
See the Sun Voyager Sculpture
A beautiful piece of artwork which can be found along the waterfront of Reykjavik, and only a couple minutes walk from the city centre. Although The Sun Voyager takes on a familiar form of a Viking longboat, that wasn’t its original objective. The Sun Voyager, or ‘Solfarid’ is actually a dream boat, an ode to our sun. It symbolises light, hope, freedom and undiscovered territory.
Sadly the artist, Mr Jon Gunnar was ill with leukaemia at the time of The Sun Voyagers construction. He passed in 1989 and never got to see the statue where it stands today.
Unwind at Sky lagoon
Just outside of Reykjavik’s city centre, you’ll find the fairly new Sky Lagoon. Here you can relish in Sky Lagoon’s 7-step wellness ritual, and experience warmth and wonder as you completely immerse and rejuvenate your senses from head to toe. The Sky Lagoon has a welcoming geothermal infinity lagoon which looks out across the ocean, offering a place to unwind and breathe in the fresh salty sea air. If you chose a ritual package you’ll get to experience the warm lagoon, cold ‘glacier’ plunge pool, sauna, cold mist, body scrub, steam room, and finish off the experience with a comforting warm shower.
Sky Lagoon is located just 13 minutes away from Reykjavik’s city centre, open 10am-11pm every day. For prices and spa packages check here.
The ritual’s not cheap, but it would be worth the splurge if you can afford to do so!
Experience the milky blue water at Blue Lagoon
I know that the Blue Lagoon isn’t technically in Reykjavik, but hear me out. It’s so close by, that it would be a real pity passing up the opportunity to visit.
The Blue Lagoon’s toasty geothermal waters are so dreamy, but it’s the silica mud which makes this place extra special. It’s what turns the water into this unique milky blue colour, and it’s something you wont see anywhere else in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon is incredibly popular, and that’s for good reason as this place is super special.
I have an in depth article on the Blue Lagoon, which covers 26 things you need to know if you’re interested in going.
Walk Laugavegur street
On Laugavegur street you’ll find an eclectic selection of restaurants and bars, along with being the main hub for shopping Reykjavik’s cute boutique stores. This pedestrian friendly street is colourful and feels authentic to Iceland with its rustic, brightly painted buildings.
Laugavegur, was named after the nearby hot spring called Laugardalur (hot spring valley) and roughly translates to ‘wash road’. This is because, right up until the 1930’s women used to lug their laundry up and down this street to wash it in the hot pools. In 1885 a road was built to help make this journey a little easier for all the hard working women of Reykjavik.
Don’t forget to look up when you’re wandering around Laugavegur, there is art work and murals everywhere!
Explore the Perlan – a nature and wildlife museum
The Perlan is probably the most popular and interactive museum in Reykjavik and focuses on nature and wildlife. Inside this cool dome shaped building, you’ll be able to walk through man-made ice caves, and see the wonderful phenomenon that is the northern lights with an 8k visual experience.
There’s loads more to see and do in here, it would be a great option on a rainy day and keep you occupied for hours!
Adult tickets cost 4,990 ISK (£29.50), children ages 6-17 cost 2,990 ISK (£17.70), or a family ticket will cost you 12,990 ISK (£76.88)
Hire electric scooters to whizz around the city
Even though Reykjavik is fairly small, and easy to explore on foot. It can still be fun to hire some electric scooters and site see that way, especially if you’re really short on time!
You’ll see hire scooters dotted all around Reykjavik, and they are really simple to use. Simply pick one up, download the app and hop on. When you’ve finished, open up the app again to let them know you’ve finished your ride.
Go on a Golden Circle tour
If you want to see a bit more of what Iceland is really known for, then head out on a Golden Circle tour. The coach will drop you off at some of the iconic landmarks along the Golden Circle, where you’ll get to see the geysers erupt, visit thingvellir national park and see some impressive waterfalls.
Golden Circle tours are easy to get from the city, there are different providers so see which one you want to use and check where they stop. We did a self drive, so I can’t comment on which is better.
Enjoy eating pylsur – an Icelandic hotdog
Here’s another suggestion for the foodies to get onboard with. Icelanders love their warm tasty hot dogs so much, that its sort of become the unofficial National Food Of Iceland. Pylsur is something that’s consumed by Icelanders on a daily basis, unlike their official national food – Hákarl (fermented shark)… No thank you!
Pylsur looks just like a regular hotdog, but the sausage is made with a mixture of meats including lamb, beef and pork. It’s then served up in a warm bun with sweet brown mustard, crispy fried onions and a herby mayonnaise called remolaði,.
You’ll find the most famous hotdogs in Reykjavick at the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur stand. Make sure you give one a try!
Go searching for street art!
Reykjavik has a lot to offer with its bold artistic scene, and tons of street art all over the place. It’s what makes this city so colourful and fun!
You could spend ages wandering around downtown Reykjavik, where you’ll find impressive murals on almost every turn. Reykjavik has some incredibly talented graffiti artists, not like the mess we have in the UK!
What’s special about Reykjavik?
Reykjavik is pretty special as it’s actually the worlds most northerly capital, with a population just shy of 140,000 people. Reykjavik is full of energy, with a colourful artistic scene and a stunning mountainous backdrop. This vibrant rainbow coloured city, is full of small tin clad buildings complete with colourful roofs, interesting architecture and bright murals.
Is Reykjavik expensive?
As Iceland is a small island, most of their supplies have to be shipped in across the ocean. This bumps up the prices of most things and causing it to be a pretty expensive country.
We found fuel to be roughly the same rate as it currently is in England. Eating out was pricey and alcohol was incredibly expensive, so I was glad that we don’t drink much booze! Eating and drinking in Iceland is going to cost you a pretty penny, so make sure you allow a good chunk of spending money to accommodate for those bills. To make our spending money stretch a little further during our 7 day road trip. We had breakfast included in our hotel stay, grabbed snacks from petrol stations or supermarkets for lunch and only ate out once a day. On average it cost us roughly £70 for one main and one drink each.
Is Reykjavik safe and friendly?
Iceland has won safest country in the world for 14 years in a row, with a crime rate in Reykjavik that’s next to none. You see Icelandic mothers going into cafe’s with friends, whilst leaving their babies bundled up warm in their prams outside. Something you would never dream of doing in England! Maybe its this safe environment that makes Icelandic people so happy and friendly. Or perhaps its because they live in a country that’s bursting at its seems with natural beauty. Every person we met on our Iceland ring road trip was super kind, polite and helpful. Icelandic people are great, and will welcome you with a friendly smile.
Can you see the northern lights in Reykjavik?
The northern lights are never a promised occurrence, gaining sight of it will vasty depend on time time of year and clear skies. If the skies are clear and you’re visiting in the winter, there is a chance you could see the northern lights from Reykjavik. However, you’d be better off heading somewhere with less light pollution to see the Aurora borealis at its finest.
Is it easy to walk around Reykjavik?
Reykjavik isn’t comparable to the busyness of London or New York. It’s not jam packed with people and high-rise buildings, making this tiny city adopt more of a town persona. Yet that means exploring Iceland’s capital is a breeze to do on foot. You can easily walk around the entire city within an afternoon. If you’re extra rushed for time, hire one of the scooters to get around even quicker!
How much time do you need in Reykjavik?
Wondering how long you need to spend in this city? Check out my blog post Is Reykjavik worth visiting. Which will help you figure out how long you should allocate to Reykjavik.
How do you get to Reykjavik from the airport?
Reykjavik is about 45 minutes away from Keflavik airport, where you can get a bus transfer or taxi. We hired a car from Blue Car Rental as we did a 7 day road trip around Iceland.
Whats the best Iceland ring road itinerary?
If you’re planning on incorporating Reykjavik as part of an Iceland ring road trip. Save yourself some planning and head over to my 7-day ring road itinerary. It covers time travelled each day, where to stay and what to do.
Best place to stay in Reykjavik
Reykjavik has so many hotel options, with varying rates to suit every pocket. We stayed at Hotel Fron, and although the location was perfect, the same couldn’t be said for the hotel (or at least our room) which was in serious need of a renovation. So I’d swerve that hotel and check out some of these options instead!
So there you have it, 18 great things to do whilst you’re in Reykjavik; the worlds most northerly capital. Good luck planning your Iceland adventure, I hope this helped!
Other Iceland posts you may be interested in: