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Things to do in Reykjavik

Things to do in  Reykjavik

Welcome to Reykjavik

Iceland's colorful capital mixes Viking and maritime history with a hip arts scene, sleek design, and wild nightlife, while also serving as a jumping-off point for outdoor adventures into the country's rugged landscapes. With modern restaurants serving Icelandic cuisine in medieval buildings, must-see sights such as the waterfront Harpa Concert Hall, and opportunities for puffin and whale watching, it's easy to spend all your time in the city—but you'd be remiss to skip what lies beyond. Head out to the country and you’ll be rewarded with pristine waterfalls, volcanic black-sand beaches, and warm geothermal pools set in lava fields.

Top 15 attractions in Reykjavik

Blue Lagoon

To understand why Iceland's Blue Lagoon is so popular, just imagine bathing in steaming milky-blue waters, sipping a cocktail at a swim-up bar, and looking out over an otherworldly landscape of jagged peaks and black lava fields. This geothermal pool, the most visited of Iceland's many such oases, boasts mineral-rich waters, a luxurious spa, and a magnificent setting, all just minutes from Reykjavik.More

Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park is a remarkable volcanic landscape of gorges, waterfalls, lakes, and more, and is a favorite stop on Iceland’s Golden Circle Tour. Plus, the park offers endless recreation opportunities, from hiking and camping to snorkeling, diving, and fishing.More

Gullfoss Waterfall (Golden Falls)

Gullfoss (Golden Falls) is a massive waterfall on the river Hvita in western Iceland. The falls are considered one of Iceland's most treasured natural wonders, with a name inspired by the phenomenon when glacial sediment in the water turns the falls golden in the sunlight.More


Stretching 82 feet (25 meters) across the Skógá River, into which its teeming waters plunge 197 feet (60 meters) from a rocky cliff, Skógafoss clocks in as one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls. Its clouds of spray regularly create vivid rainbows—often double rainbows—across the waters. The waterfall is also an important site for local folklore.More

Great Geysir (Great Geyser)

The world's original geyser, the Great Geysir (Great Geyser) is the source of the English word after which all other geysers are named. Geysir literally means "gusher" in Icelandic, and this natural phenomenon in the Haukadalur geothermal region has been active for more than 10,000 years; records of hot springs activity in the region date back to 1294.More


A slim cascade of water slicing through the air and pooling in the Seljalands River below, Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland’s most photogenic waterfalls. Because the falls’ chute of water is so narrow, visitors can also step behind Seljalandsfoss for a unique vantage point.More

Vatnajokull National Park

Established in 2008 by combining Iceland’s former Jokulsargljufur and Skaftafell National Parks, Vatnajokull National Park is one of Europe’s largest national parks. It presents incredibly diverse and dramatic scenery including glacial plateaus, active volcanoes, towering ice caps, black-sand beaches, and terrain that is bubbling with geothermal activity. The park is dominated by the Vatnajokull glacier, Europe’s third-largest glacier, and contains Iceland’s highest mountain (Oraefajokull) and deepest lake (Jokulsarlon).More

Harpa (Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre)

Set on the waterfront, the striking Harpa (Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre), home to both the Icelandic Opera and Iceland Symphony Orchestra, is one of Reykjavik’s most prominent landmarks. Designed by world-renowned Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and Danish firm, Henning Larsen Architects, the building’s glass facade features honeycombed panels that change colors as they reflect the sky and the ocean.More

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Perched on the cusp of Europe’s largest glacier and separated from the Atlantic Ocean by just a narrow isthmus, the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is the largest, deepest, and arguably most magnificent of Iceland’s many glacial lakes. Here, icebergs bob in glittering water framed by jagged peaks, rugged lava fields, and black-sand beaches.More

Golden Circle (Gullni Hringurinn)

There’s a lot to see in Iceland, and the grand Golden Circle (Gullni Hringurinn) is your ticket to easily hitting multiple popular sights, especially if you only have one day to venture outside Reykjavik. Departing from the city, Golden Circle tours showcase a number of Iceland’s main attractions and natural wonders—think geysers, waterfalls, lava fields, volcanic craters, and Icelandic horses. There are few other places in Europe where you can see so much topographical variety on one short trip.More

Hallgrim's Church (Hallgrímskirkja)

Named after Reverend Hallgrimur Petursson, author of Iceland’s most popular hymn book,Passion Hymns (Passiusalmar), Hallgrim's Church (Hallgrímskirkja) is an unmistakable landmark in downtown Reykjavik. Visible throughout the city, the tower of the white concrete Lutheran church offers some of the best views of the Reykjavik skyline and surrounding area.More

Silfra Fissure

The Silfra fissure is a water-filled crack between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, where the two continents drift apart from each other. Water travels from the Langjökull glacier through porous lava rock during a journey that takes between 30 and 100 years before seeping into the fissure.More

Secret Lagoon (Gamla Laugin)

Close to the attractions of Iceland’s Golden Circle but far from the crowds of the famous Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s Secret Lagoon offers natural hot springs and a remote location surrounded by icy wilderness and rugged lava fields.More


Langjökull is the second largest glacier in Iceland; it covers 361 square miles (934 square kilometers) and conceals at least two active volcanic systems. The glacier feeds Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir hot springs, and Thingvellir National Park, and offers opportunities for hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, and exploring ice caves.More

The Pearl (Perlan)

The mirrored glass dome of Perlan shines from its position on Öskjuhlíð hill, just outside Reykjavik. Comprising a glass hemisphere sitting atop six massive hot water tanks, the building houses a restaurant, viewing deck, and the Perlan Museum, which focuses on Iceland’s natural wonders.More
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Trip ideas

Top activities in Reykjavik

Golden Circle, Volcano Crater & Blue Lagoon Small Group Tour
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Snorkeling Between Continents in Silfra with Photos Included
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Golden Circle, Kerid Volcanic Crater, and Blue Lagoon Day Trip from Reykjavik
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South Coast and Glacier Lagoon: Jökulsárlón with Boat Tour from Reykjavik
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All about Reykjavik

When to visit

The best time to visit Reykjavík is in the summer. June, July, and August promise the warmest temperatures (though not necessarily hot weather), as well as long daylight hours that let you pack more activities into each day. If you visit in June or July, you can also take a boat tour to spot whales and puffins. Note that summer is, however, also the busiest season, so consider visiting in May or September if you want to avoid the biggest crowds.

Getting around

Pint-sized Reykjavík is easy to explore on foot as most top attractions are within a short distance of one another. If you’re short on time, a hop-on hop-off bus tour can take you to all of the city’s most important landmarks—and spend as much time as you like at each one. Straetó, Iceland’s public bus system, is handy for traveling to nearby towns, but if you’re planning to travel much farther afield, you’ll save time and effort by joining a tour or renting a car.

Traveler tips

The Blue Lagoon in Grindavík is the country’s best-known geothermal spa, but if you want a truly local experience, visit one of Reykjavík’s 17 geothermal swimming pools. These pools usually combine the functions of sports centers, water parks, and spas, and many Icelanders visit to enjoy the water’s health benefits or go with friends as a fun outing. Laugardalslaug, which is located east of the city center, is Reykjavík’s largest and most popular spot, boasting two swimming pools, seven hot tubs, a steam bath, and large water slide.

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A local’s pocket guide to Reykjavik

Friðjón Júlíusson

Friðjón was brought up in downtown Reykjavik and has lived in and around there ever since. You might run into him in a hot tub at one of the city’s many outdoor swimming pools.

The first thing you should do in Reykjavik is...

unwind after a long flight at the local swimming pool. Every neighborhood has their own but you can’t go wrong with Laugardalslaug.

A perfect Saturday in Reykjavik...

starts with delicious cinnamon buns from Brauð & Co for breakfast, a walk down Laugavegur street, and a visit to the pond outside Reykjavik City Hall to feed the ducks.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

Perlan, a glass dome built on top of old hot water tanks. Visit the museum, grab a coffee, and enjoy the 360-degree view of the city.

To discover the "real" Reykjavik...

explore the Old West Side of downtown Reykjavik and don’t miss the old Hólavallakirkjugarður graveyard.

For the best view of the city...

go to the Hallgrímskirkja church. You can also use it as a landmark to find your way if you get lost in Reykjavik.

One thing people get wrong...

is trusting the weather. Conditions change fast in Iceland, so don’t be fooled even if the weather looks beautiful when you’re heading out.

People Also Ask

What is Reykjavik best known for?

Reykjavik is known as the world’s northernmost capital city. Iceland’s pint-sized capital is also known for its colorful streets, innovative design, creative people, and wild nightlife scene. Most visitors to Iceland spend at least a day or two in Reykjavik as it is the gateway to the rest of the country.

What is there to do in Reykjavik?

Reykjavik makes a great base for exploring Iceland’s otherworldly landscapes, but there’s plenty to do in town. Visit Hallgrim's Church (Hallgrímskirkjao) for a birds-eye view, stroll the Harpa concert hall, and learn Icelandic history at the National Museum of History. At night, try local cuisine and check out the nightlife.

Can you see the northern lights in Reykjavik?

Yes. It is possible to see the northern lights in Reykjavik, but don’t count on it. The northern lights are elusive and there's no guarantee you'll see them. In Reykjavik, you’ll have a better chance if you leave the city and its light pollution—many aurora-focused tours depart Reykjavik.

Do they speak English in Iceland?

Yes. English is widely spoken in Iceland. Generally, you should have no problems speaking only English and not knowing any Icelandic. However, if you are traveling to more remote parts of the country, you may find that people (especially older Icelanders) are not quite as comfortable speaking English.

What kind of activities can you do in Iceland?

First-time visitors to Iceland usually drive or take a tour around the Golden Circle route along the south coast, which takes you to Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. Then there’s glacier walks, Icelandic horseback riding, geothermal hot springs, volcanoes, lava tubes, and northern lights spotting.

Is Reykjavik expensive?

Yes. Reykjavik is expensive. The biggest hit to your wallet comes from hotels and eating and drinking. Iceland’s greatest attraction is nature and that doesn’t cost anything. Save money getting around by booking combination tours that combine activities. In Reykjavik, buy a pass that includes admission to multiple attractions.


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