Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Reykjavik (Iceland), along with famous landmarks, museums, and other points of interest.
Reykjavik is both the capital and the largest city in Iceland, although it’s relatively small compared to other European capitals. However, what the Icelandic capital lacks in size, it makes up for with a lively city and a cozy atmosphere.
The city is also known for its vibrant nightlife and delightful restaurants serving Icelandic food with a modern twist. Additionally, Reykjavik serves as a great base to explore some of the most iconic places to visit in Iceland.
Hallgrímskirkja is an incredible church that serves as one of the city’s most popular landmarks. The church reaches a height of 75 m which makes it the highest in the country.
Hallgrímskirkja was built in an Expressionist Neo-Gothic style of architecture reflecting Iceland’s incredible landscapes including glaciers and mountains. The viewing platform is accessible by the public and offers the best panorama in all of Reykjavik.
Harpa Concert Hall
Harpa Concert Hall is a stunning glass building that serves as the country’s best music venue. The concert hall was inaugurated in 2011 and features a colored glass facade inspired by the country’s basalt landscape.
Harpa Concert Hall is located right at the water. The best way to explore the site is by joining a guided tour which allows visitors backstage access. The experienced guides are great at telling all the interesting stories that the Harpa Concert Hall has to offer.
National Museum of Iceland
The National Museum of Iceland was opened in 1863 and has since then established itself as one of the country’s best places to learn about the culture and history of this island nation.
Particularly interesting are the collections dedicated to how Iceland as a nation was formed and how the life of the country’s inhabitants changed over time.
There are also some interesting artworks on display here such as the Valþjófsstaður door, a carving in which a knight slays a dragon.
Reykjavík Punk Museum
Iceland, and in particular Reykjavík, have a long history of punk culture and the local Reykjavík Punk Museum does a great job showcasing this interesting phenomenon.
The museum is located in a former underground toilet and offers a great collection of photos as well as musical instruments and stage equipment.
Despite the museum’s small size, it offers a great glimpse into the various eras of punk music and culture in Iceland.
Laugardalslaug is a great place to come for some relaxation during the winter months. This public pool offers hot tubs, a steam bath as well as various pools suitable for relaxation and exercising.
There is even a mini-golf course found here. Kids will love Laugardalslaug’s exciting water slide which offers fun for the whole family.
Sun Voyager is an interesting statue found right at the city’s waterfront. It was created by Icelandic artist Jón Gunnar Árnason, who has said that his work symbolizes “the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress, and freedom”.
The sculpture looks particularly impressive during sunset when the fading sunlight over the Atlantic Ocean gives it an especially impressive appearance.
The waterfront on which the Sun Voyager sits offers great footpaths that are easily reachable in the city, which has made it a popular place to stroll by thanks to its scenic views.
The Saga Museum is dedicated to showcasing how people in Iceland lived in past centuries and how the island’s residents managed to adapt to the often very harsh climate conditions of this part of the world.
The characteristic features of the museum are its many lifelike wax-figures. These figures help to bring history alive and make getting to know history a really engaging experience as each of the figures tells an individual story that is waiting to be discovered.
Due to its breathtaking architecture, Perlan is one of Reykjavík’s most impressive landmarks. This futuristic glass-domed structure offers fine dining and many interesting exhibitions as well as a planetarium in a truly outstanding building, that just has to be seen when visiting Reykjavik.
Perlan was created by converting large water tanks into a public building. The Wonders of Iceland exhibition definitely shouldn’t be missed. It is housed in Perlan and offers a glimpse of what Iceland is most well-known for: glaciers, volcanoes, and geysers.
Einar Jónsson Museum
Einar Jónsson is often considered Iceland’s first sculptor. He got in contact with art during a visit to Denmark and has later developed into one of the country’s most influential artists.
The Einar Jónsson Museum not only offers a great collection of some of the artist’s best works but also explains how he worked including many photographs showcasing the various steps of making statues.
Explore Reykjavík’s nightlife
Reykjkavík offers a surprisingly lively party scene that has been recognized globally for its wealth of bars, restaurants, and clubs.
The city offers something for everyone, it doesn’t matter if you want to meet with friends to have a beer or are looking for wild parties, Reykjavík has got you covered.
One of the hotspots of the city’s nightlife is the shopping street Laugavegur which leads right through the center. Here you can find a great choice of venues within a few minutes of walking. The street is also great during the day if you want to go shopping or have lunch.
Grótta Lighthouse is located on a small islet north-west of the city and offers a fantastic panorama. There is a small landbridge connecting it to the island which makes it accessible on foot, there is no need to take a boat in order to come here.
What makes the lighthouse such a popular spot for tourists are the polar lights which can be viewed here during the winter. That being said, coming here is worth it during any time of the year as the remoteness and scenic beauty are incredible year-round.
Árbær Open Air Museum
Árbær Open Air museum used to be a regular farm during the first half of the 20th century but was then turned into a museum in 1957 to conserve the typical village architecture of Iceland’s past.
Today there are around 20 buildings found here showcasing the life in past centuries. There are also plenty of domestic animals found here during the summer which makes the Árbær open-air museum a very inviting place to visit for families.
Additionally, Arbær Open Air Museum has several special exhibitions taking place here during the year, including historical car shows, Christmas markets, and more.
Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach
Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach offers some basic facilities for swimming (like changing rooms). What makes the beach so interesting, however, is its natural hot tubs filled with water from the earth’s core.
You can alternate between the cold ocean water and the hot tubs and spend the day relaxing and enjoying this unique wellness experience.
Reykjavík Botanical Gardens
Considering Reykjavíks humble size the local botanical gardens are very impressive and offer an extensive oasis of greenery in the eastern Laugardalus neighborhood.
The gardens stretch over 2.5 hectares and serve as a home to around 5,000 plant species. Especially the rose collections are very picturesque and colorful and are worth checking out.
These gardens are open throughout the year but the local coffee house opens its doors only during the summer months.
Icelandic Phallological Museum
If you are looking for one of the most peculiar places to visit in Reykjavik, the Iceland Phallological Museum is just the place for you. Over 200 phalluses are on display here covering almost all the mammals living in the country.
Visiting the museum is an educative experience as the Icelandic Phallological Museum is very scientific and strives for educating about local wildlife. But of course, there is also plenty of light-hearted humor to be found here as well.
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