Top 8 Things to Do in Selfoss

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Selfoss has a population of roughly 7,000.As the largest town in South Iceland, Selfoss acts as a gateway to many attractions. Whether you're interested in grabbing a bite or exploring cultural curiosities, Selfoss has plenty to offer.

Selfoss is a town in southern Iceland, situated on the banks of the Olfusa River, the country's largest river in terms of volume. It is the largest residential and commercial hub in South Iceland, with a population of around 7,000 people.

The Ring Road that encircles runs through Selfoss, making it one of the first towns travelers on the south coast pass through when visiting from the capital of Reykjavik. Selfoss is also close to the Golden Circle, Iceland's most popular sightseeing route.  Whether you intend to stay at a hotel in Selfoss or just stop when exploring Iceland on a self-drive tour, there are plenty of things to do and see in Selfoss that make it a worthwhile place to explore.

Founded in 1891, when a bridge was built across Olfusa River, Selfoss has become a focal point for regional agriculture, services, and trade. The town has recently undergone a renovation, manifesting in an exciting new town center full of restaurants and establishments to explore.

In this article, we'll go over the best things to do in Selfoss, from the best places to grab a bite to the most intriguing cultural curiosities. To quote the Icelandic pop sensation Love Guru from his 2015 summer hit: "1, 2, Selfoss!"

Wait, Isn't Selfoss a Waterfall?

The Selfoss waterfall is located in the north of Iceland.

There is, in fact, a waterfall called Selfoss. This makes sense, as the name Selfoss translates to "seal waterfall." The waterfall is located quite far away from the town Selfoss, though. It can be found in North Iceland, close to the famous Dettifoss - Europe's second most powerful waterfall.

If you're planning on using GPS to navigate when exploring Iceland in a rental car, make sure you've got the right location input if you're planning to visit either the town or the waterfall. Going to the wrong Selfoss will prove to be a very time-consuming detour! 

Top 8 Things to Do When Visiting Selfoss

Let's move on to some of our favorite things to do when visiting Selfoss. Don't forget to read until the end to see our picks for the best bites and places to stay in town!

1. Visit the Skyrland Exhibition

The Skyrland Exhibition is interactive and fun.

Skyr, Iceland's most famous superfood, is the centerpiece of the Skyrland Exhibition. This traditional Icelandic dairy product dates back to Iceland's settlement over a thousand years ago and has gained international acclaim. High in protein and calcium but low in fat - it's no wonder the Icelandic Vikings were so sturdy!

The Skyrland Exhibition is fittingly located in the Old Dairy in the new town center of Selfoss. After getting your admission to Skyrland, you will meet up with your guide, who will give you an overview of the museum before you start exploring.

Visitors can try various skyr dishes at the Isey Skyr Bar.The exhibition features interactive panels showing the vast timeline of Icelandic history, from the first settlers to the modern day. The connecting thread between the eras is skyr, and you will be able to learn all about the process of making skyr and how it affected Icelandic culture. 

With multiple fun stops to make along the way, guests are, of course, welcome to try different skyr products at the Isey Skyr Bar. Visiting the Skyrland exhibition is a great way to connect with Iceland's culinary heritage and get a sample of a true Viking superfood.

2. Explore the Town CenterThe Old Dairy is the heart of the new town center.

Selfoss recently underwent a bit of a facelift with the opening of a new town center. Over thirty buildings that had been damaged or fallen into disrepair were reconstructed to create a new cultural hub for the town.

The town center sports multiple shops, galleries, and restaurants housed in buildings that showcase the charming classic style of Icelandic architecture. The renovation is an ongoing project, so the town center will expand further in the coming years. 

The new town center has an inviting atmosphere.

The heart of the town center is by the Old Dairy. This building once served as the center of dairy production in South Iceland but is now home to a bustling food hall. There is a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, as well as a craft bar and a wine bar for thirsty guests.

The town center of Selfoss is the best way to experience the town's modern culture while connecting with its historical roots. We recommend taking some time just to relax outside of the Old Dairy with a coffee or beer and people-watch - as long as the weather is nice!

3. Take a Drive to Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri

Eyrarbakki is a quaint and colorful village.Selfoss is part of Arborg, a municipality that also encompasses the nearby villages of Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri. These villages, which are significantly smaller than Selfoss with populations of less than a thousand each, offer a quaint and historic charm. Each village is located roughly 10 minutes' driving distance from Selfoss - perfect if you have hired a car to explore Iceland.

Eyrarbakki was once one of the largest trading ports in Iceland and has many well-preserved historical buildings, including Husid, one of Iceland's oldest houses, which is now a heritage museum. The village has a quiet charm and one of the best black sand beaches in Iceland to visit.

Husid is one of Iceland's oldest buildings.

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Martin Sauter. No edits made.

Stokkseyri also has a number of charming houses and a stunning coastline. The village is also home to one of the more interesting museums in the area -  the Ghost Museum, where guests can learn about hauntings and other spooky folklore in Iceland.

Visiting Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri provides a glimpse into Iceland's past and the slower-paced lifestyle that can be found in rural Iceland. On top of the cultural aspect, walking by the coastline is worth an afternoon on its own.

4. Visit the Bobby Fischer Center

The Bobby Fischer Center is located by the main road.

Photo from Árborg.

As its name suggests, the Bobby Fischer Center in Selfoss honors the life of the American chess prodigy. Fischer became the World Chess Champion in 1972 after defeating Soviet Grandmaster Boris Spassky in a match held in Reykjavík, Iceland, during the Cold War. This event, widely publicized as a symbolic confrontation between the two superpowers, catapulted Fischer to international fame.

Fischer's relationship with Iceland extended beyond this career-defining match. In 2005, after living in exile for several years due to a conflict with the United States government over his 1992 rematch against Spassky in Yugoslavia, which was under international sanctions at the time, Iceland offered Fischer sanctuary. 

Fischer faces off against the Soviet Union's Michael Tal in Leipzig, 1960.

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Ulrich Kohls.

Fischer lived in Iceland until his death in 2008. He remained a controversial figure due to his outspoken and often incendiary comments and his abrupt withdrawal from public life and professional chess after his world championship victory.

The Bobby Fischer Center features accessible information about the life and work of Fischer, as well as a few items relevant to his career, such as Spassky's and Fischer's scoresheets and a replica of the chess board used during the match in Reykjavik. Visiting this museum is a must for any chess player or history enthusiast. 

5. Take a Walk by Olfusa River

Olfusa Bridge in winter.

Olfusa, which runs through Selfoss, is a beautiful and powerful river. It is particularly noted for its volume, the greatest of any river in the country. It is formed by the confluence of two other rivers, Hvita and Sogid, which are fed by the meltwaters of the glaciers Hofsjokull and Langjokull.

The river and the Olfusa bridge that crosses it play a vital role in the history of Selfoss. Before the bridge was built, the area where Selfoss now stands was primarily farmland, but the bridge facilitated transportation between the capital and South Iceland. With time, this crossing point grew to be the town of Selfoss.

Top 8 Things to Do in Selfoss

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Olga Ernst.

Today, the river plays a role in Iceland's renewable energy landscape, as its flow has been harnessed for hydroelectric power, as can be seen in another entry further down on this list. Fishing is also a popular activity in Olfusa, with salmon being the most prized catch.

A walking path runs alongside Olfusa, which makes for a great place to go for an afternoon walk. Make sure to bring a camera, as the might of the river coursing through the surrounding landscape can make for a great photo opportunity regardless of the season.

6. See the Icelandic Turf House

Turf houses are a vital part of Iceland's heritage.An interesting heritage site in Selfoss is the Icelandic Turf House, a small museum village of traditional houses and an exhibition where visitors can glimpse the rural lifestyle of Icelanders in the past. 

Turf houses played a vital role in Icelandic lives thanks to the insulation and warmth they provide. These abodes are easily identified by their grassy roofs, ranging from semi-underground huts to larger halls. While Icelandic people no longer live in turf houses, some are still well-maintained to preserve this important part of the country's heritage.

Visitors can glimpse the living conditions of Icelanders in ages past.The turf houses are a good example of the resourcefulness of the Icelandic nation, which had to make do with what materials they had available to make their homes. Today, turf houses are hailed as a great example of green architecture.

Visitors to the Icelandic Turf House in Selfoss can explore the old farmstead, a collection of houses built from turf. There is a collection of photographs, models, and infographics that help visitors understand the structure of such houses and how they work to provide insulation.

 7. Visit Ljosafoss Power Station

Ljosafoss Power Station has an exhibition open to guests.The Ljosafoss Power Station, located near Selfoss, is one of Iceland's oldest hydroelectric power plants. Established in 1937, it plays a significant role in the country's move towards renewable energy sources.

The facility is not only functional but also educational, as it features an interactive exhibition that is open to the public. Here, visitors can learn about the history of electricity in Iceland, the science behind hydroelectric power, and the importance of sustainable energy practices. The exhibition is very exciting for the younger generation.

The exhibition is designed to be accessible and engaging, with hands-on displays encouraging visitors to think about the energy that powers their lives. Visitors can also see the machinery that powers the plant up close, getting a better understanding of the powers that harness electricity from the river.

Unfortunately, the exhibition is closed at the time of writing but will open again in summer 2024. It is a lesser-known attraction and a true hidden gem for anyone interested in Iceland's innovative methods of energy and the interactive nature of the exhibit will appeal to the younger generations. 

8. Grab a Hot Dog at Pylsuvagninn

Who can say no to a winking hot dog?

While the number of great restaurants in Selfoss has grown rapidly in recent years, one of the staples remains one of the town's most popular establishments. Good old Pylsuvagninn (which translates to "The Hot Dog Wagon") is rarely seen without a long row of cars queuing up for its drive-through.

Icelandic hot dogs are made from a blend of lamb, pork, and beef, which gives them a distinct taste. They are typically topped with raw white onions and crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet mustard, and remoulade, a sauce made from mayonnaise with herbs and capers. Hot dogs are a very popular dish in Iceland, and while Baejarins Beztu is Iceland's most famous hot dog stand, Pylsuvagninn is probably the most famous outside of the capital area.

Eating hot dogs is part of the cultural experience in Iceland.

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Caitlin.

Pylsuvagninn breaks the traditional mold of Icelandic hot dogs by offering specialty menu items beyond the traditional five condiments, with potato salad, garlic sauce, and even Doritos showing up on the menu. Those not interested in a hot dog can also go with sandwiches or burgers, which have become staples in the Selfoss locale. 

If you're looking for a quick and easy bite in Selfoss that will allow you to experience authentic Icelandic street food, you can't go wrong with Pylsuvagninn. 

Best Restaurants in Selfoss

Apart from the quick and easy bites available at the food hall in the Old Dairy and the hot dogs at Pylsuvagninn, there are many great restaurants in Selfoss that offer a wide variety of options.


Tryggvaskali is the oldest building in Selfoss.

Tryggvaskáli is a trendy yet traditional restaurant housed in the oldest building in Selfoss. Built in 1890 to house workers working on the construction of the bridge crossing Olfusa, Tryggvaskáli was actually the first house in the area that later was to become the town of Selfoss

The menu offers a nice mix of traditional Icelandic dishes and exotic international options. The restaurant's interior is charming, with a classic Scandinavian look harkening back to ages past. In addition, the restaurant often hosts events for a vibrant atmosphere.
Delicious food, historical roots, and a modern atmosphere make Tryggvaskáli a great option for dinner in Selfoss. Book a table in Tryggvaskáli now!

Fröken Selfoss

Fröken Selfoss is chic and fun.

Fröken Selfoss is a popular restaurant in the town center of Selfoss that offers outstanding cuisine and a strong cocktail menu. The focus here is on small plates, where visitors can explore different kinds of delicious dishes in a single evening. 

The best word to describe Fröken Selfoss is simply 'fun.' Having fried wagyu steak and tiger prawns, along with more traditional Icelandic recipes with a modern twist, is a recipe for a great night, and washing it all down with an unbelievably fresh pineapple cocktail doesn't hurt, either.

The best way to end a dinner at Fröken Selfoss is by swinging by Groovís Ice Cream & Donuts, operated by the same owner. Book a table in Froken Selfoss now!

Lilly and Julia's Bistro

Lilly and Julia's Bistro has a delicious seasonal menu.

Lilly & Julia's Bistro is a great family-owned and run restaurant located by the main road that passes through Selfoss. Here, you will find excellent dishes made with fresh local ingredients in a homey atmosphere.

The menu at Lilly & Julia's is seasonal, with new and delicious courses cropping up every now and then. A great feature of this restaurant is its association with one of the best local bakeries, ensuring the bread is world-class.

Stopping by Lilly & Julia's Bistro for dinner will not disappoint. Book a table at Lilly & Julia's Bistro now!

Staying in Selfoss

Hotel Selfoss has a good view of Olfusa River.

Photo from Hotel Selfoss.

If you're looking to stay in Selfoss, there are a number of great options available depending on what you're looking for. 

Hotel Selfoss is a 4-star hotel with a geothermal spa located in the heart of town on the banks of Olfusa. With comfortable amenities and a prime location, this is an excellent option for accommodation in Selfoss.

Hotel South Coast is another good option for a 4-star hotel in central Selfoss. With spacious, comfortable rooms and a luxurious spa, this hotel makes for a fantastic base for those exploring Iceland's magnificent southern attractions

360 Hotel is located about a 15-minute drive from Selfoss and offers a luxurious stay in more rustic surroundings. As its name implies, 360 Hotel offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside along with comfortable lodgings. 

Have you ever stayed the night in a tower before?

Photo from Klettar Tower Guesthouse.

Klettar Tower Guesthouse is an exciting option for visitors looking for offbeat but luxurious accommodation. Sleeping in a tower is an adventurous way of staying in Iceland and will make a memorable trip even more memorable.

Selfoss Hostel is a good choice if you're looking for a budget option. The hostel offers rooms in different sizes with well-maintained communal areas, including a hot tub in the backyard - a perfect place to relax after a long day of traveling.

If glamping is your thing, the Golden Circle Domes are an exciting option. These domes are designed for comfort and convenience to give guests memorable glamping experiences.

That concludes our list of the best things to do in Selfoss! Did we miss any of your favorite spots or activities? What was your experience with Selfoss? Let us know in the comments!

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