Top Ten things to do in Reykjavik

While most of the country’s tourists come for the untouched natural beauty of Iceland, there is much to be offered in the often overlooked capital city. A large majority of people who have spoken to me about their trip to Iceland often say the same line, “I didn't spend much time in Reykjavik.” Although I am in agreement to the fact that if you are on a short vacation it is better to spend time out seeing the waterfalls and mossy landscapes, Reykjavik is well worth allotting some time for if your schedule permits. Here is what I believe are the top ten things to do in the capital city.

Sky Lagoon

You don’t have to go all the way to Blue Lagoon to experience the geothermal wonders of Iceland (though you should at least once during your trip). If you are planning a day in Reykjavik and want a bit of relaxation, book tickets to Sky Lagoon. This beautiful, natural wonder allows you to unwind at the edge of the city with pristine views of the Atlantic Ocean. Packages start around $47 per person for basic entry and towel and go up in price for some of the more luxurious experiences. I recommend booking a pass that includes the seven step ritual, which will give you access to the lagoon, a cold pool, a sauna, a cold mist, sky scrub, a steam room, and shower.


Hallgrimskirkja

While this church is an iconic staple to Reykjavik, you might be shocked to learn that it is relatively new. Construction began in 1945 and was officially consecrated in 1986, which also happened to be the year of Reykjavik’s 200th anniversary. At the time, it was the tallest building in the city and is still to this day the second tallest, clocking in at 244 feet. You can visit the church for a mass or ceremony to take a look around during their other hours of operation. For less than $10, you can ascend to the tower via elevator and look out from behind the clocks or continue on up some additional stairs for an even higher view


Rainbow Road

Every once in a while, you have to go somewhere just for the Instagramable moment, and Rainbow Road is sure to put a smile on your face as you brighten your feed. Arriving early in the morning is the only way to have this street to yourself, as it is a busy tourist street for cafes and shops. Fun fact about this road: it was painted by hundreds of people, including the mayor, as part of a celebration of pride and inclusivity. While you enjoy the colors, be sure to keep an eye out for cars! You can follow the road to our next “must see.”


Street Art Tour

The streets of Reykjavik are filled with vibrant murals and architecture that immerse art and culture into everyday life. Take either a guided or a self guided tour of art around the city to get a really good grasp of the beautiful layout that is the central hub. If you have already stopped by the well known Rainbow Road, check out some of these other sites: “Ode To Mother” on Laugavegur street (pictured above), Tupac and Einstein sharing a beer at Bar Kaldi, “Heavy Stones Fear No Weather” on on Ægisgata Street at Nylendugata Street, the Parliament Building, and the Sun Voyager sculpture (pictured above). While you may go out of your way to see some of the most popular sites, any street you walk down in the city center will have colorful houses and murals to enjoy.


Perlan

Perlan is a Natural History museum that gives visitors a chance to experience many of the most astounding features of Iceland in one place. Visit their volcano exhibit or take a walk through the real indoor ice tunnels before getting a 360 view of the city from the observation deck. One of its main highlights, Perlan allows you to ensure that you will see the Northern Lights on your trip via their planetarium. It’s not the same, but hey, sometimes you have to take what you can get! Book your tickets in advance to make sure you have a seat for the show. Tickets to the museum are about $35 per adult.


Harpa Concert Hall

While the architecture of the relatively new Harpa Concert Hall, which opened in 2011, is beautiful during the day, it is even more astounding at night when the glass facade changes between various colors. You can easily see this on an evening walk around the city as it is close to the main tourist area but also gives you an excuse to walk along the water. If you want to view the interior, you can book tickets to a concert or on a guided tour for a small fee.


Magic Ice

Convince yourself to leave the unrelenting Icelandic weather at the door and enter the comfort of… freezing cold ice? Don’t worry, your ticket to this ice bar provides you with gloves and a parka. What doesn’t warm you up on the outside certainly will on the inside with the delicious cocktails you will have whipped up for you. While you might not want to stay for too long if you have already been experiencing the cold all day, the crystal clear ice that is used to form thrones, Viking inspired art, and even the bar itself, will be a memorable addition to your trip.


Grandi District

Since the travel boom in 2010, tourism has surpassed fishing as Iceland’s largest industry sector. The Grandi District, also known as the fishing or harbor district, has transformed into a paradise for tourists, with unique shops, interesting cuisine options, art galleries, and cultural intrigues to fill your time. If you missed the chance to see the northern lights on your trip, Aurora Reykjavik will give you a taste of the miraculous phenomenon. Looking for something sweet? Check out the unique flavors of chocolate at Omnom Chocolate, featured on Down to Earth with Zac Efron. There is something for everyone to enjoy in this corner of the city, so take a leisurely stroll and see what you come across.


Whale Watch

The same fish that are granting you fresh seafood dinners in Reykjavik are also feeding a variety of whales and other marine creatures. A whale watch not only allows you to look back at the beautiful Icelandic coastline, but to have the opportunity to potentially see orcas, humpback whales, minke whales, white-breaked dolphins, puffins, and more. Summer will be your best time to visit as the warmer waters and nice weather give you a more comfortable experience on the deck, less probability of weather canceling your plans, and the greatest variety of sea life. Check out this option from Special Tours starting at $91 per person.


FlyOver Iceland

If you take this virtual tour of all of Iceland, you will get to see the natural beauties that are drawing people from all over the world, from Gullfoss to Diamond Beach to active volcanoes, but at FlyOver Iceland, you get to see it with a birds eye view. For $38 per adult, this multi sensory experience, with full motion seating, a wrap around screen, and wind as well as scent effects, is a great way to see things you might have missed, reminisce about places you saw, or help you solidify where you have to go on the island next. Their pre-ride shows give you background on the earthy and cultural past that created the country you are exploring today.


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