What to do in Reykjavik 

Today a friend asked for suggestions for her sister who is going to Reykjavik for a wedding for a couple of days in winter. What can or should she do?

I did a post called 48 Hours in Reykjavik but it’s probably a bit more ambitious than what Sally’s looking for, and mostly features getting out of Reykjavik. So here’s a list, from which you can pick and mix. This is, of course, but a taster of what’s available in Reykjavik but it should be enough for a couple of days and you’ll be able to explore for yourself.

I’ve made a colour-coded map showing all this and a little more – transportation, exhibition prices, pools. Please do take a look.

Sightseeing

  • Visit Tjörnin, the Pond, and feed the waterfowl, who all congregate in one unfrozen corner in winter.
  • Go down to the seafront and take in Harpa, the glass concert hall, Sólfarið, the Sun Voyager sculpture and the views across the bay to Esja, the mountain range opposite.
  • Go up to either Hallgrímskirkja or Perlan and take in the views from the top (small elevator charge for Hallgrímskirkja).
  • Take the ferry over to peaceful Viðey island.

Museums

  • The Saga Museum at the north end of the harbour, for scenes of Viking life on their new explosive island home.
  • The Volcano House, home to a volcanic rock collection & a cinema showing 20 minute films about the 1973 Eldfell eruption and the 2010 Eyjafjalljökull one.
  • The Culture House, where as well as assorted art exhibits, you can see original saga manuscripts and tales of the Norse myths.
  • The Phallological Museum. A hen party must. Maybe don’t take your granny.

To do

  • Swimming. The Blue Lagoon is an easy half day or evening trip but 1) it’s pretty expensive 2) it’s very touristy 3) you can’t get in unless you’ve booked in advance. Another option is the public pool at Laugardalslaug – 50m indoor and heated outdoor pools, five hot pots, sauna, steam room, warm beach pool, games area and all for under £5 a person. Just be aware of the Obligatory Naked Shower. Bus 12 or 14 from Hlemmur.
  • Whale watching trip, available on all kinds of boats for an assortment of prices down at the Old Harbour.
  • Hundreds of day or half day trips, depending on budget & fancy, from horseriding to visiting geysers to sightseeing remote peninsulas to helicopter flights over new, still steaming volcanoes. Your best options are probably Gray Line and Reykjavik Excursions, the two biggest and most ubiquitous companies in the country.
  • If you’re there in winter you absolutely have to go out looking for the Northern Lights. This can be combined with just about any activity. Again, look at Gray Line and Reykjavik Excursions.

Shopping

  • There’s no shortage of tourist shops. Invest in a good Icelandic hat or pair of gloves and some lava bead jewellery & a mug with an unpronouncable Icelandic word on it. I’m particularly fond of Puffin and the Viking and there are two or three of each around Reykjavik as well as countless others. Some sell English-language versions of Icelandic sagas and classics.
  • There are a couple of decent wool-product shops to invest in non-tourist sweaters and the like. Nordic Store is a tourist shop but it’s a bit more upmarket than the likes of Puffin.
  • Find a record shop on Laugavegur & discover Icelandic music beyond Sigur Rós.
  • Buy some serious mountain gear in 66° North or CintamaniCintamani.
  • Take the free shuttle bus from the city centre to the Kringlan shopping mall, the biggest and most prestigious mall in the country.

Eating & drinking

Because I don’t eat and drink, I don’t really know how to answer this. However, everyone in Iceland will have a favourite they can recommend. Ask your hotel receptionist, ask the bus driver, ask the nice lady you’re buying a puffin mug from. Also bear in mind that new places are opening and older ones closing all the time.

  • If you prefer to eat like the locals do, there are a couple of smallish supermarkets downtown and a couple of larger ones up Laugarvegur (10-11, Bonus, Kvosin) – I recommend the star-shaped crisps, especially in sour cream flavour.

Do you have a recommendation? A cafe or restaurant you like? A shop you should pop into? Something to see or do? Please let me know in the comments.


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