27 Amazing Things To Do in Reykjavik

With glaciers and volcanoes, stunning cascades and endless lush hills, Iceland has become an extremely popular destination for travelers looking to be immersed in nature.

Though many may be attracted to all there is to see beyond Reykjavik, the abundance of activities to be found in the country’s capital is not something to be overlooked.

Whether you’re looking for just a few things to pass the time or staying for a few nights in this peaceful and intriguing city, you’re sure to find a few things that will make your trip unforgettable.

From the must-see attractions of Reykjavik to the hidden gems, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Iceland’s capital.

1. Rent Scooters to Explore the Town

A well-known mode of transportation for city-lovers, you can find several scooters lining the roads of Iceland that are easy to rent and ride. A personal favorite of mine, scootering around the town makes your sightseeing efficient and adds an element of fun to your typical city exploration!

Look for the orange scooters lying around Reykjavik (or Selfoss!), or download the ZOLO BIKE app on your phone to track them throughout the city! Rates will typically start at 30 ISK/min (~$0.25/min) and do not charge by distance travelled.

2. Hallgrimskirkja Church and Rainbow Road

A great landmark of Reykjavik, the Hallgrimskirkja church reigns high over Iceland’s capital, and lies just before the infamous Rainbow Road. With nearby statues and plaques with interesting facts about the city, it’s one of the most prominent historical landmarks in Iceland.

You can also visit the top of the tower for the best panoramic view of Reykjavik, without having to worry about an astounding amount of stairs like most other church towers in Europe. There is an elevator that will take you straight to the top, and tickets can be purchased at the church shop. A visit to the church is sure to give you more insight on the history of Reykjavik and is a must-see when visiting the capital.

The city of Reykjavik seen from the top of Hallgrimskirkja church
View from Hallgrimskirkja Church of Reykjavik

A well-known photo spot lodged in the heart of Reykjavik, the Rainbow Road is the perfect destination for a stroll in the town, for taking some photos, or even for sniffing out your next meal. This road is located between Bergstaðastræti and Laugavegur, and is centered perfectly to showcase a phenomenal view of the Hallgrimskirkja church behind it. 

There are also several restaurants that line the road and those that surround it where you can find authentic Icelandic dining. Cafe Babalú is a personal favorite, with eccentric interior design, outdoor balcony seating, and a Star Wars themed bathroom to top it off!

3. Horseback Riding

Icelandic horses may be just what you need to spice up your day in Reykjavik. While they’re notorious for being small, yet extremely strong, the horses of Iceland can bring you across gorgeous hills to jaw-dropping sites.

There is an abundance of tours to be found from Reykjavik for you to set out on an adventure with the horses, and one of the best rated tours can be booked here.

View the Magical Northern Lights

A spectacular experience that is difficult to even put into words, viewing the Northern Lights in Iceland is one of a kind. If you’re visiting outside of the Midnight Sun season, this is something that can’t be missed. For a unique tour that will truly astound you, check out one of Iceland’s infamous Northern Lights Tours.

The best time to see the northern lights in Iceland is September-April, where the nights are long and dark. Remember to bundle up if you decide to take one of these illuminating tours- once you get out to take pictures, you won’t want to leave!

The northern lights fills up the night sky in Iceland
An awe-inspiring event, don’t forget to bring your camera to see the northern lights

5. Harpa Concert Hall

A central point of culture and community in the heart of Reykjavik, you can’t miss the Harpa Concert Hall when touring the town. There’s a multitude of things to do here, including:

  • CIRCULEIGHT is an immersive installation of artwork inspired by the unique nature of Iceland, with shows every 30 minutes that last about 20 minutes
  • Saga VR allows you to experience Iceland from above; with several experiences encompassing Southern Iceland to volcanic eruptions and more.
  • Feel the beat at a Múlinn Jazz Club concert! The band is considered the pinnacle of Icelandic jazz, and you can find an upcoming concert schedule here.
  • Grab a bite to eat at one of the two restaurants located in the concert hall, and you can even find a shop on the ground floor showcasing products by Icelandic craftspeople and designers.
  • Interested in the history or architecture of Harpa? Take one of their guided tours and learn more about the infamous Reykjavik building.

It’s hard to miss this beautiful work of architecture along the seashore of Reykjavik, and it makes a great stop in your visit.

6. Try some Icelandic Specialties

Enjoy modern Icelandic cuisine at one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik, the Food Cellar. Icelanders are known for their lamb and fish delicacies (I’ve heard the arctic char is like no other!), which you can find at this Grill and Cocktail Bar lodged in the center of Reykjavik in a 160 year old building!

Wandering Words of Wisdom: Stay away from restaurants serving fin whale, puffin, or fermented shark, as these places target tourists who don’t know that these are not traditional Icelandic delicacies, and they contribute to the overfishing of Icelandic waters.

While typically known for their eccentric meat choices, it’s also important to know that there is no shortage of vegetarian/vegan choices in Iceland. It would be hard to find a place without at least one vegan option!

7. Puffin Island

Iceland is home to 60% of the Atlantic puffin population, which is why you’re likely to find tons of puffins plastered on postcards to coffee mugs to keychains when searching for Icelandic souvenirs. There are several islands off the coast of Reykjavik where you can spot them in the summer dubbed “Puffin Island” because of the colonies that inhabit it. 

While there’s no shortage of puffin souvenirs to be found in Reykjavik, many tours from Reykjavik will allow you to view these beautiful birds. 

A group of puffins standing off the shore on Puffin Island
Puffins- always adorable!

8. View the Colorful Streets of the City

Reykjavik was first exposed to graffiti and street art in the 1990s, but has slowly built up a plethora of artwork that’s sure to catch your eye when strolling its streets.

Though you oftentimes don’t have to look far to find a beautiful piece of artwork displayed on the side of a building, there are a few famous spots where you can observe the work of the artists of Reykjavik.

You can find some of the best street art in Iceland in this post!

9. View the Wonders of Iceland at the Perlan

The most interesting museum that I’ve seen in Reykjavik is the Perlan, offering several attractions that will immerse you in the natural beauty to be found all around the country of Iceland.

Be amazed for hours with a real ice cave that you can walk through, northern lights show, lava show, and more fascinating exhibitions for you to become an expert in the glaciers and volcanoes in Iceland!

one of the many bar tours like this one, where many include free drinks in the tour price. 

10. Shop the Kolaportið Flea Market

This flea market located at Reykjavik’s Old Harbour is always buzzing with shops, locals, and tourists looking for great deals at the capital’s largest flea market. Open year round, you can peruse clothes and books, souvenirs, hand-made jewelry, and so many more interesting finds at this popular market.

Aside from all of the various knickknacks to be found here, you can also grab a bite to eat or even do some food shopping. There are cafes as well as stands selling meat, bread, and produce for you to stock up on before continuing your exploration of Reykjavik. 

Make sure to stock up on some cash if you don’t have any when heading to the market; most sellers will not accept card. They also may allow you to haggle prices, so save some money on the expensive gift shops and opt for a traditional homemade trinket instead!

11. Icelandic Nightlife

Looking for a little nighttime action after a day of exploring the beautiful nature of Iceland? Well you can actually find a booming nightlife in Iceland, with some pubs staying open until 5 am!

Popular choices include Pablo Discobar, Hurra, and the English Pub- but I was also able to enjoy the Bastard Brew and Grill on my first trip to Iceland, with intriguing cocktails and a few great vegan options.

You can even take one of the many bar tours like this one, where many include free drinks in the tour price. 

12. Take a Free Walking Tour

Looking to save on your city exploration? A walking tour is the perfect option, not only as a budget alternative to some of the higher end activities that Reykjavik has to offer, but also to get top tips from the locals!

You can find a great source of history and learn more about Iceland’s capital on one of the City Walk tours, a top rated tour on TripAdvisor for their informative and comic tours!

13. Icelandic Phallogical Museum

Yes, you read that right. The first and only of its kind, Iceland’s Penis Museum commemorates a multitude of phallices in a truly once in a lifetime experience.

From tiny figurines to even whale phallus exhibits, this museum has it covered. It’s sure to give you a few laughs, and even educate you on some of the great phalluses on earth. Plus, its souvenir shop is sure to give your family and friends the most unique (and bizarre) gift they’ve ever received!

14. Eat the Best Hot Dog in Europe!

Named to serve the best hot dog in Europe by the Guardian, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur is an old-fashioned hot dog stand located in the heart of Iceland’s capital. However, despite the popular understanding that eating out in Iceland can be extremely pricey, this shop is one of the most affordable places to eat in Iceland.

What gives this stand a true Icelandic element, though, is the ingredients of their dogs. Each of their hot dogs is lamb-based with a mix of pork and beef added in. They have several different topping options, with a plain dog with mustard dubbed the Clinton after Bill Clinton ordered one in 2004. A family owned business, it’s now owned by the founder’s granddaughter and remains one of the top restaurants in Reykjavik.

15. Whale Watching

Though it may not be known for its luxurious beaches and warm weather, you can still find awe-inspiring sights off the coast of Reykjavik when whale-watching. There are several groups that put out tours every day out of the Port of Reykjavik.

With an abundance of whales including blue whales, fin whales, sperm whales, minke and humpback whales, Iceland is the perfect spot to set off along the coast and see some amazing marine animals including dolphins and seabirds as well!

A whale's tail emerges from Icelandic waters on a whale watching tour!
Tail wave!

You can find the best whale watching tours in Iceland here from GetYourGuide!

16. Sip Coffee at World Famous Mokka Kaffi

Opened in 1958, Mokka Kaffi is one of Reykjavik’s oldest coffee shops, and another hidden gem that boasts an art gallery inside the shop. With revolving exhibitions that change each month, you’re likely to find a unique experience each time you visit Iceland. 

Along with cappuccinos, espressos, and lattes, Mokka Kaffi also serves hot chocolate and waffles, making it perfect for a chill hangout or an exploration of art. This is a great spot for a digital nomad in Iceland.

17. Explore the Golden Circle

With just a car and an eagerness to explore, you can set off on an awe-inspiring journey through a route so close to the country’s capital- the Golden Circle.

By far one of the most popular tours to be found from Reykjavik, the Golden Circle is a must-see route when visiting Iceland. Complete with cascading waterfalls, land fissures, and even a vegetative crater, the Golden Circle is the perfect day trip from the capital.

The powerful Gulfoss waterfall
Gulfoss- a popular attraction on the Golden Circle

Though there are many Golden Circle tours you can find from Reykjavik, you can also set off on this journey without a guide. For more on exploring this diverse conglomerate of landscapes, read up on my Icelandic Road Trip Itinerary.

18. Snorkeling?

Though it may not be what you typically think of when visiting a place known for its cold weather, there is snorkeling available not far from Reykjavik at the Thingvellir National Park along the Golden Circle Route. 

Touch Europe and North America at the same time while snorkeling through the fissures created by the shifting tectonic plates. Drysuits are provided, but it’s good to mentally prepare for having to immerse your face and hands in the frigid water. But despite the cold, it makes for a great story to tell back home coupled with a picture of you between continents!

You can find these snorkeling tours on GetYourGuide here!

Laynie touching either end of the Silfra fissure
Touching North America and Europe at the same time!

19. Experience a Transportation Pasttime: Dogsledding!

Yet another excursion that’s typically overlooked when visiting Reykjavik are the dog sledding tours. With pickup from the city center, you can have the opportunity to ride in a dogsled and watch the majestic dogs do their work!

With raving 5-star reviews, Dogsledding Iceland has been operating since 1997, and is the only dog sledding company that is open year-round. They offer pickup from Reykjavik for a fee, but it is also just a 30 minute drive from the capital. All in all, the experience lasts about 90 minutes and will get you out of the city on a more authentic Iceland tour.

20. Midnight Sun

If you choose to visit Iceland during the summer months of May-August, you may be surprised to find that the sun rarely sets during this time. This is due to a natural phenomenon caused by Iceland’s proximity to the Arctic circle, where the earth’s axis tilts toward the sun for nearly half of the year. 

This makes adventuring in Iceland during this time especially unique because of the long stretches of daylight that can be used to your advantage. It allows you to explore on your own time, and with a rental car, you may be able to explore Icelandic attractions at an hour when no tourists are out!

There are also several events and celebrations during Midnight Sun time in Iceland that only occur over the Summer Solstice (typically around June 21), and this phenomenon is the best thing to do in Reykjavik in June.

21. Whales of Iceland Museum

Showcasing the gentle giants that inhabit the sea surrounding Iceland, the Whales of Iceland Museum is a great educational addition to a day in Reykjavik where you can discover the history of whales to be seen in Iceland.

The museum is open year round, and it is the largest whale museum in all of Europe! This museum is a perfect addition to your itinerary for more knowledge on these beloved marine mammals.

22. Take a Dip in the Sky Lagoon

While many people choose to visit the Blue Lagoon on their trip to Iceland, one hidden gym that’s often overlooked is the Sky Lagoon. Just a 10 minute drive from the city center, these geothermal pools will invigorate your senses and provide you with a relaxing stay.

This lagoon also showcases a beautiful panoramic view of the sea, and is immersed in the infamous nature of Iceland’s lava rocks. It is cheaper than the extremely popular Blue Lagoon, with the most basic entry beginning at 6790 ISK (~$52USD), and also a fairly new attraction, only just opening in 2021.

23. Sun Voyager

The Sun Voyager sculpture seen in front of the sea
A marvelous sculpture to be found in Reykjavik

The Sun Voyager is another infamous Reykjavik landmark that you can’t miss while in Iceland’s capital! Facing Mount Esja and overlooking the Reykjavik bay, this sculpture is a great photography spot, and offers more insight into the history of Iceland.

Commonly mistaken for a viking ship, this piece of art is actually an ode to the sun and represents a dream of hope in Iceland. The sculpture is just along the seashore close to the city center, and just a few minutes walking distance from the Harpa Concert Hall. 

24. Viking For a Day

Embrace your inner Game of Thrones in one of the most popular shooting locations for the beloved show! You can actually do a viking photoshoot after reliving some of your favorite scenes at locations such as Thingvellir National Park and Skogafoss. 

Specializing in “turning mere mortals into fierce vikings,” Mink Viking Portrait offers several booking packages for 1-6 people with 10-20 downloads of your shots after! You can also visit the Viking Saga Museum to experience the history of Icelandic Sagas.

25. Discover Greenland

While many people set off to the Golden Circle or other various parts of Iceland on day trips, one that is commonly overlooked is a day trip to Greenland. While typically rarely accessible, you can find flights to Greenland from Reykjavik- which is also one of the only places that does offer them. 

This is not your typical excursion, however visiting Greenland from North America is difficult, expensive, and extremely time-consuming, so adding it on to your Iceland trip is probably the best way to do it! A flight to the small town of Kulusuk is just under 2 hours from Reykjavik, and offers an intriguing historical day trip to a land less traveled.

I mean, how many people can say they’ve been to Greenland? Being one of two places with flights to the icey desert (with the other being Denmark), it might be a more expensive yet worthwhile add-on to your Iceland itinerary.

26. Attend Elf School

Elves and trolls are a prominent part of Icelandic folklore, and Elf School in Reykjavik is the perfect way to immerse yourself in this unique part of Icelandic culture! Students here will learn all about what Icelandic elves look like, where they live, and may even be able to enjoy stories of hundreds of Icelanders who’ve had contact with elves and hidden people in Iceland. 

The school is typically 3-4 hours of fascinating education on the mysterious little beings known to be found all around Iceland. Sessions are priced at $67 USD to open up a world of insight into the creatures featured in Icelandic folklore.

27. FlyOver Iceland

A unique and up and coming attraction for Reykjavik visitors, FlyOver Iceland (you can book here!) is an immersive experience designed to woo passengers by showcasing the immense beauty of Iceland. The ride uses competitive technology to simulate flight throughout an exhilarating journey of Iceland. 

This is an especially good attraction for those who don’t have the opportunity to explore the entirety of all that Iceland has to offer. It’s also a great option for things to do in Reykjavik with kids, as it is entertaining and educational, and can be done in addition to a visit to the Whales of Iceland Museum, which is right next door.
Interested in more experiences? Check out the most popular tour of Iceland’s capital:

All in all, Reykjavik is an interesting town filled with Icelandic culture and offering many amazing experiences. If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, be sure not to skip a day in the capital city as there’s so much to see there!

For more information for your Iceland trip, check out these posts:

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