From the famed Northern Lights to a hip and vibrant nightlife Reykjavik packs a punch of fun, culture, and adventure. Located on a harbor and boasting cute, traditionally built wooden houses, the city is a mix of homey and edgy. Add in the relaxing warmth of the Blue Lagoon geothermal pool, and Iceland's capital delivers every experience a traveler could hope for. Any city that requires hiking boots, a bathing suit and an anything-goes attitude surely promises a remarkable trip.
Get a City Card which allows free entry into the popular museums and attractions. This also gives you unlimited use of the public bus. The card can be purchased in increments of 24, 48 or 72 consecutive hours with different pricing options. Iceland is also a walking-friendly city. While seeing the sights, it's helpful to know that it's safe to drink Iceland's tap water.
Get over to the Hallgrimskirkja, the landmark Lutheran church that is one of the tallest buildings in Iceland. The modernistic design was made to resemble the mountains and ice of the country. The Perlan, aka the Pearl, is another architectural gem with many uses. Visitors enjoy the top floor viewing deck as well as the exhibition hall and concert venue.
When choosing comfy try the Hotel Klettur, featuring single and double rooms and even family rooms. For convenience, there is the City Center Hotel, located on Austurstræti in the center of Reykjavík. Popular bars and restaurants are an easy walk away. High-end hotels are also available, like the Hotel Borg, one of Reykjavik's landmarks. This hotel has a delightful Art Deco vibe throughout but includes all of the expected modern amenities.
Icelandic cuisine, while questionable to those who are not local, is always guaranteed to be prepared with fresh ingredients. Seafood, of course, is a mainstay in a city surrounded by water. Delicacies include sheep's head, minke whale, putrefied shark, and pickled ram's testicles. The more basic comfort foods that are the most popular are skyr (yogurt), pylsur (hot dogs), fish, slensk kjötsúpa (a traditional lamb soup), tomatoes, orange soda and hangikjöt (smoked lamb).
Kaffivagninn is a diner that was established in 1935 and is consistently rated one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik. Here you'll find the popular fish and chips. A visit to Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, or Best Hot Dog in Town, is a MUST. These are not the traditional American hot dogs but a tasty mixture of pork, lamb, and beef. The price at about $3/dog ranks it as number one for cheap places to eat in the city. A more fancy, Michelin rated option is Dill Reykjavik. Dill Reykjavik embraces traditional Nordic food with a modern twist.
Culture Night, known as 'Menningarnótt' is a one-day festival that takes place on a Saturday in late August. Expect design, dance, concerts, art, music, games, pop-up shops and all sorts of interactive activities happening around town. Other festivals of note are the Reykjavik Film Festival, Reykjavik Arts Festival, focusing on the creative intersection of the arts, and the December in Reykjavik Festival. The December festival is one of the city's main attractions, under the display of the enchanting Northern Lights.
The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland's most famous spots. This geothermal pool is located just 35 miles from Reykjavik and sits on a black lava field. The best time to visit is in the evening to get the full effect of the midnight sun in summer or the Northern Lights in winter. The warm seawater is rich with minerals such as silica and sulfur, which are lovely for the skin! Whale watching is another popular delight made readily accessible via boat trips that depart regularly from the harbor. There's a high probability of seeing Sperm whales, Minke whales, Humpback whales, Blue whales, and Orca whales during a tour. Visible from Reykjavik are the Northern Lights. This awe-inspiring natural light display in the sky is best seen between September and April and on a clear night.
With its easy accessibility and trails, Espa ranks at the top for a day hike. The highest point Hábunga is roughly a 6.5 mile-long hike, but there are other easier trails to explore. Steinn, marked by a big rock at the top, is an easy hike most visitors choose. Any path is worth the trek as climbers are rewarded with a view of Reykjavik once at the top. Here's an insider tip, also check out the walking trail right in the middle of Reykjavik, called Elliðaárdalur.
There are excellent museums to visit in the city, including the Reykjavík Art Gallery, Kjarval Museum and the National Gallery of Iceland. If history is more your thing, explore the Saga Museum, the National Museum of Iceland or the open air Árbær Museum. The Saga Museum features key moments in Icelandic history, including the many hardships Icelanders had to overcome.
Peak tourist season is in the summer months when the average temperature is about fifty degrees. Peak months are June through August. The best rates are in the months before and after peak season, but when the weather is still good. Also, take into consideration the twenty-four hours of daylight during Reykjavik's summer months.