Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland and its surroundings, is the home of more than half of the country's 320 000 inhabitants. Named after the steam from the geothermal areas the city is now known for its clean air and beautiful surroundings. In Reykjavik you have opportunities for historical sites, natural beauty, museums and galleries, public parks, excellent shopping, a wide range of leisure activities, hotels, restaurants and a remarkably lively artistic scene.
The official tourism website of the Reykjavík Capital Area is: www.visitreykjavik.is
Top 10 things to do in Reykjavik
Stroll around the city centre, admire the colourful old houses and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere by Tjornin Lake
Lake Tjornin is a small lake, a peaceful oasis, in Reykjavik city centre. The lake harbours varied birdlife (many arctic bird species, swans and ducks) which makes it a favourite spot for young families to go feed the ducks, or just take a stroll around the lake.
In the winter when the lake freezes over, people sometimes go skating or play ice-hockey on the lake. An interesting fact is that the lake is heated (with geothermal water) during the winter so a small part of it stays unfrozen when the rest is frozen - there is a certain group of geese who always stay here throughout the winter, who would otherwise travel to southern Europe!
Soak your stress away in one of the city’s relaxing thermal pools
One of the delights of a visit to Reykjavik is bathing in one of the many thermal pools, filled with geothermally heated water, which are found in every district of the city. Abundant resources of geothermal springs mean that the pools are always pleasantly warm, whatever the weather. Most pools are open-air. All have outdoor whirlpools or 'hot-pots' to bask in before or after swimming, and most have waterslides for the young (and young at heart).
Reykjavik’s thermal pools are open from early morning until late in the evening; swimming costumes and towels are available for a small fee. A ten-visit season ticket is valid for all the city pools. There is simply no cheaper or healthier way to experience Reykjavik and to get to know the locals!
Climb up Hallgrimskirkja church tower for a panoramic view of the city
Hallgrimskirkja church is Reykjavik's main landmark and its tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. It is located at the top of shopping street Skolavordustigur.
The concrete building was designed by former state architect Gudjon Samuelson and is meant to resemble volcanic basalt rock formations. The church was built over 40 years and opened in 1986. It is named after Reverend and hymn writer Hallgrimur Petursson.
Hallgrimskirkja is the largest church in Iceland. The 73-metre high church tower provides excellent views all over Reykjavik. In front of the church is a statue of Iceland-born Leifur Eiriksson, aka 'Leif the Lucky', the first European to discover America around 1,000 A.D.
Indulge your interest in Iceland’s fascinating cultural heritage or cutting edge art at one of the city’s many museums and galleries
A fascinating Viking heritage and the latest in visual arts can be explored in the city's many museums and galleries. Learn about the history of the Icelandic nation at the National Museum, view a Viking age longhouse at the new Reykjavik 871 +/-2 Settlement Exhibition and get acquainted with Iceland's unique literary heritage at the Culture House.
Visual art flourishes in the city. The flagship galleries are the National Gallery and the three-fold Reykjavik Art Museum (Kjarvalsstadir, Harbour House and Asmundur Sveinsson sculpture museum). Adding colour to the scene is a rich array of exhibition venues ranging from specialised museums and smaller art galleries to the city streets. Other exhibition venues in the Reykjavik Capital Area include the open-air folk museum Arbaejarsafn, Museum of Photography and Numismatic, Electrical and Telecommunications museums, to name but a few.
Shop for some quirky Icelandic designed art, clothing or jewellery
Whether you are after designer brands, unique Icelandic design or quality souvenirs, you will be spoilt for choice when shopping in Reykjavik. Even better, you can take it home tax-free!
The cozy atmosphere, vibrant street life and the myriad of cafés and restaurants in Reykjavik city centre will make your shopping time an enjoyable one. There are wonderful bookstores, where you can spend hours browsing through international and Icelandic books and buy souvenirs. There is always something new in this area, from cafés and galleries to small shops offering the latest items by young Icelandic designers.
Take a day-tour and view the magnificent landscape surrounding the city
Organised tours afford you the opportunity to enjoy the view and relax, while someone else takes over the planning, driving and guiding.
There is a wide variety of tours available to suit all interests. A sightseeing tour of Reykjavik on arrival will familiarise you with what the city has to offer, while a day tour from Reykjavik may include the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall, the spectacular Geysir geothermal area, a dip in the mineral-rich waters of the Blue Lagoon, a visit to Thingvellir National Park (and World Heritage Site), or a close-up view of a glacier. Longer excursions around the country and into the interior are also available.
Test your stamina with a night on the town “Reykjavik style”
Reykjavik city centre during the day, and after hours at weekends when the party is well under way, are two completely different experiences. Reykjavik is well known for its vibrant nightlife, with trendy bars and clubs open until the early hours of the morning.
Whether you are interested in listening to live music or dancing the night away, you are sure to find something to your liking.
Visit the Pearl – an otherworldly creation with a viewing platform and a revolving restaurant on top of hot water storage tanks
The Pearl (Perlan) is a remarkable building, built in 1988, unique in Iceland and probably in the whole world. On Oskjuhlid hill, atop the huge tanks in which natural hot water is stored for heating the city, a glass dome has been constructed: under the dome is a rotating restaurant serving fine cuisine.
The dome also houses a café, while around the outside is a viewing platform with panoramic 360 degree views of the city and its surroundings. Access to the viewing platform is free of charge.
Give your taste buds a real treat by dining at one of Reykjavik’s many excellent seafood restaurants
Foodies will find plenty to keep them happy when wining and dining in the nation's capital.
Icelandic cuisine, like many things in Iceland, benefits from the open-mindedness of the Icelandic people and the willingness of the culture to adapt foreign tastes to its own. It is characterised by an imaginative use of pure Icelandic ingredients such as fresh fish and seafood, organic lamb and wild game.
Reykjavik also has plenty of restaurants offering cuisines from almost every corner of the world.
Be amazed by the sight of whales and dolphins on a whale-watching tour
For an exciting sea adventure, try one of the many whale-watching tours that are available from Reykjavik.
The ocean around Reykjavík is a natural habitat for many different types of whales. Commonly sighted types on whale-watching tours from Reykjavík are minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, harbour porpoises and humpback whales. Trips also pass by islands with large puffin colonies.
The whale watching season runs from April to October and the puffin season from mid-May to mid-August. Note that although marine mammals are almost always sighted on whale watching trips, no guarantees are offered.