Great Things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland

Great Things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik will most likely be your starting point as you enter the stunning country of Iceland.  Iceland’s best adventures are further afield, however Europe’s northernmost capital city deserves some time to see its sights before you venture off.  Take a walking tour to get your bearings, visit the largest church in the country, create your own little pub crawl, and explore the museums and indoor sites in town.  Reykjavik is a small, compact city and is very safe and walkable.  We really enjoyed exploring here!

About Reykjavik

Reykjavik began in the 9th century as a humble fishing village.  It actually remained so until the 20th century!  Iceland was under the rule of Denmark until 1944 when it declared its independence.  Since then, Reykjavik has been Iceland’s capital.

Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital

Today, you’ll find vibrant Scandinavian architecture, a foggy harbor, and several sites to see in town.  We really enjoyed our time here before venturing further into the country.

When we visited

We visited Iceland in June 2022.  We had sunny days and blue skies with temperatures in the 50s.  One exception was at the end of our trip when we had a rainy day.  Iceland experiences a maritime climate with rainy days to be expected, less so in the summer.  Summers tend to be in the 50s with a mix of sun and clouds.  Winter is colder with snow in some areas.  

Where we stayed

The Black Pearl | Reykjavik, Iceland

We loved our stay at the Black Pearl as it was very centrally located to explore Reykjavik.  Our family had the entire fourth floor as there were two apartments located across the hall from one another on each floor.  The kids had one room while we had the other.  Both rooms had kitchens, balconies, and a full bathroom.  We loved the space and amenities!

Great Things to do in Reykjavik

Hallgrimskirkja

This Evangelical-Lutheran Church sits on a hill overlooking the city and has become a recognizable symbol for Reykjavik.  Designed to mimic the basalt columns found in various places in Iceland, its the perfect blend of modernisms that Iceland stands for while paying homage to its incredible landscapes.

Hallgrimskirkja | Reykjavik

With a very simple nave, the massive organ is a showstopper, being the largest musical instrument in Iceland.

The interior of Hallgrimskirkja

We especially loved taking in the views from the top of the church.  Tickets for the elevator can be purchased inside the gift shop.  The elevator is located just around the corner from the gift shop, by the entrance doors.  Once up, we checked out the massive bells overhead before continuing up to the very top to check out the city views from the windows.

Views looking out on Reykjavik from the top of Hallgrimskirkja

COST:  Free to enter the church; 1000 ISK adults | 1000 isk children 7-16 to visit the tower

WEBSITE:  Hallgrimskirkja.is

Harpa Concert Hall

This modern building sticks out against Reykjavik’s foggy harbor and background of bright Scandinavian buildings.  Construction on the concert hall began in 2007 however the economic crash of 2008 halted its progress.  Disagreements as to whether or not to proceed construction continued for some time.  Some felt it was unwise to fund this expensive project while others felt it was a stark reminder of the country’s poor economic state at the time to have a half-constructed building front and center.  Finally, the government decided to proceed with finishing its construction – a wise decision!  It now hosts numerous concerts and draws tourists in by the droves to visit this architectural beauty.

Modern Harpa | Reykjavik

We had a rainy day in Reykjavik the day we visited, so exploring its interiors was especially inviting.  The cafe, which also served wine and cocktails, was a great place to relax for a bit.  If you can catch a concert or event here, go for it!


Stunning windows let in so much natural light

COST:  FREE

WEBSITE:  Harpa.is

Pub Crawl

On our last night in Reykjavik, the kids were tired from all of our exploring but Mike and I still wanted to get out and enjoy the city – I came up with the idea of a pub crawl, which we had a great time doing!

We began our pub crawl at Skuli.  Here, I got a Skuli pale ale while Mike got a Randy Raspberry & Marshmallow.  We saw a mix of locals and foreigners.  The place was small and cozy.

Skuli | Reykjavik

Next up on our list was Sessions.  We liked the location of this bar because we could look over Laugevegur, Reykjavik’s premier shopping district, which allowed us to people watch as we sipped our drinks.  There were also several board games to choose from and we had fun playing a mean game of Scrabble!  The space and was bright and fairly large, I imagine it would get crowded at peak happy hour.  While here, I enjoyed a beer flight and Mike had a sour.  

Sessions | Reykjavik

From Sessions we went to our last stop, Baka Baka, which ended up being our favorite of the night.  When we initially passed it, the building caught my eye as it is a pretty Scandinavian style building. 

Baka Baka | Reykjavik

Inside, it was cozy and featured beautiful beams set into the brick.  

The cozy interior of Baka Baka

We really liked the service here as well as the food and drink.  Mike had a mini antipasto tray and a Moscow mule.  Initially, I ordered an espresso martini, but was soon approached by the lively bartender that she could not make it due to lack of all the ingredients.  She offered to make me what she called a “naughty cold brew”.  If you know me you know I LOVE iced coffee and not only that – it was made with Kentucky Bourbon!  We shared that we were actually from Kentucky and had toured many a distillery so this drink sounded perfect for me.  And it did not disappoint.   Coupled with an incredible tiramisu, this was a wonderful way to end our evening. 

My tiramisu and “Naughty Cold Brew”

Besides enjoying the food and drink, what made this especially memorable was interacting with the locals.  At a bar or a pub we often struck up conversations with the bartender or wait staff while sitting among locals.  It was a closer peek into local life and culture, one of our favorite things to take away from traveling.

Fly Over Iceland

We love fly over rides, similar to Soarin’ at Disney World, and they seem to be popping up in cities everywhere.  With the simulated flight, we “flew” over many of the places we had just visited on our prior days in the country.  This is great for kids and teens, even though we all enjoyed it, especially on a rainy day.

COST:  4,990 ISK 13+ | 2,495 ISK 12 & under

WEBSITE:  flyovericeland.com

Stroll the Harbor

Reykjavik’s location on the water means a long, meandering path perfect for walking or jogging.  Along the path is the Sun Voyager monument, described by its creator as an ode to the sun.  Behind Harpa you’ll see bright, yellow lighthouses – a great way for Iceland’s fishermen to see Reykjavik through the fog. 

Bright yellow lighthouses behind Harpa

Continuing on is Þúfa (Thu-fa), a spiral walking path going up a grassy hill.  This quirky art installation offers visitors a bit of peacefulness in the city.

Laugavegur

The premier shopping road in Reykjavik is lined with various shops and cafes.  You’ll find all the typical touristy items here such as everything emblazend with the Icelandic flag, thick, wool sweaters, and stuffed puffins.  There are some gems here, however, particularly Eymundsson’s.  We appreciated all the Icelandic books with a small English section as well as a cafe’.

Colorful buildings on and around Laugavegur

Rainbow Road

You can’t miss this brightly painted street!  This road begins as a fork off Laugavegur and continues up a gentle hill, ending across the street from Hallgrimskirkja.  It’s definitely a great spot for grabbing some colorful photos!

Colorful “Rainbow Road” | Reykjavik

Go Museum Hopping

While we didn’t have time to visit any museums during our visit we did have some on our list had we had time.  These are great to keep as a potential option if the weather keeps you indoors.  Below is a listing of top rated museums along with the website:

This tidy capital of Iceland offers some great things to see and do before venturing off into the countryside.  Hopefully this list will help you with planning what to do with a few days in Reykjavik.

Read More!

Beyond Reykjavik are the real gems of Iceland.  From incredible waterfalls, black sand beaches, basalt columns, volcanoes, glaciers, and the softest moss you’ll ever touch, the countryside offers epic sites.  Our post:  Iceland – Five Days in the Land of Fire and Ice shares our itinerary and how we organized our time in this incredible place.

We also have an in-depth article about visiting The Blue Lagoon entitled:  All About Visiting The Blue Lagoon.

Dietary Notes

As always, everyone’s needs are different.  At press time my husband is grain-free and two of our kids are allergic to nuts and eggs.  Although we seem to encompass a large amount of dietary restrictions, we can only offer advice as to what pertains to our own family, as that is where our expertise lies!

We found dining in Iceland to be relatively easy with food allergies.  We ate at and recommend the following restaurants in Reykjavik:

  • Saeta Svínid Gastropub – its name means “sweet pig”, Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Deig Workshop, a bakery located next to La Kock – we had bagels and cold brew coffee here daily, Reykjavik, Iceland 
  • 101 Bistro – excellent fish & chips, Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Kronan – this is a grocery store but I have to include it because we went here everyday!  During our day trip days, we stopped here to stock up on snacks, drinks, and picnic lunch items.  On our last day, we once again shopped here, getting items to make a meal back at our hotel.  There are a few locations around Reykjavik, and they are well stocked with ample selection.

For more on traveling with dietary restrictions, be sure to check out our guide:  On the Go with Allergies.

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