Do you want to find the best swimming pools in Reykjavík and discover the best places to soak in hot tubs? Read more to learn about Iceland's unique swimming culture and the best public pools in the greater Reykjavík area.
Going to an Icelandic swimming pool is a unique experience. Most of them are outdoor swimming pools and open all year round, so in the dead of winter, you’ll have to tiptoe barefoot and dripping wet across icy or snowy patches to move between hot tubs. Yes, visiting swimming pools is not an activity reserved for the Icelandic summer. For some, the best time to go swimming in Iceland is during a rainstorm or a blizzard.
Filled with geothermal water, the pools usually have one or two lap pools, at about 28°C and hot tubs at temperatures ranging from 38°C up to around 45°C. Most pools also have a steam room, and some have a dry Finnish sauna.
Make sure you shower naked with soap before you put on your swimsuit and enter the pool. The amount of chlorine in Icelandic swimming pools is low and in order to keep the water clean, people need to wash thoroughly. You shouldn’t feel body conscious, everybody there will also be naked, and there is an unspoken rule of no unnecessary looking.
Photo by Serena Repice Lentini
Frequenting swimming pools is an essential aspect of Icelandic culture. The pools are ideal places to exercise, but it is in the hot tubs you can relax and relieve stress or aching muscles.
The hot tubs are also one of Iceland's most important social venues. In the warm water, everybody is dressed in swimwear so judging people by their appearance is hard. Be they teachers, artists or politician, in the hot tub, everyone is equal and this is the place where people meet to openly discuss everything from the weather to politics.
The greater Reykjavík area has 18 swimming pools so you should be able to find one in every neighbourhood. They vary in size and age; some are over 50 years old, others were built in this century, but all of them have the essential hot tub where you can find out what is going on in Icelandic society. Additionally, there is a beach area in Reykjavík called Nauthólsvík, and a small foot bath by Grótta, perfect for relaxing whilst enjoying a view out to sea.
Below is our list of the best swimming pools in Reykjavík and the city's surrounding towns and villages.
The oldest pool in Reykjavík, Sundhöllin was opened in 1937. The building was designed by noted architect Guðjón Samúelsson, who also designed buildings such as The University of Iceland, The National Theatre of Iceland, The Church of Akureyri and the famous Hallgrímskirkja church, which can be seen from the sundeck.
Sundhöllin is unique amongst Reykjavík's swimming pools as it boasts an ample indoor pool (most are primarily outside) as well as two diving boards; one is only about 1-metre above the water, the other is almost 3-metres. The diving boards are closed during the week but open on weekends.
This Reykjavík favourite has enjoyed recent renovations including a 25-metre outdoor lap pool as well as an adjacent hot tub which is nearly just as long and fitted with jacuzzi jets. There is also an outdoor sauna as well as shallow hot tubs well suited for children or those wishing to catch some elusive Icelandic sunshine on good days.
- Address: Barónsstígur 45a, 101 Reykjavík
- Opening hours: Weekdays from 6:30am - 10:00pm Weekends from 8:00am to 10:00pm
Not far from Reykjavík's city centre is the quiet little town of Seltjarnarnes. Like the town, the local pool, named Seltjarnarneslaug, is quiet and cosy (although the gym beside it can get quite busy!).
The pool itself is 25-metres long and at its end is a children's area, which is a little warmer than the larger one. There are four hot tubs there, a cold bath, a steam room and a water slide.
What sets this pool apart from others is the water itself which comes from the town's reservoir and is filled with minerals that are supposed to be good for your skin.
- Address: Suðurströnd, 170 Seltjarnarnesi
- Opening hours: Weekdays from 6:30am - 10:00pm Weekends from 08:00am - 07:30pm
Amongst Iceland's most family-friendly pools is Lágafellslaug in the town of Mosfellsbær. It's a bit far from the city centre but if you don't have a car, you can take a bus (which can be a fun little adventure).
Lágafellslaug is ideal for children. The tiles around the pool are made from a soft, rubbery material, which is great in an environment which is overrun by little, wet feet. There is also a shallow pool with a small slide for the youngest children.
For the older children (and parents) there are three big slides ranging from 12 metres long to 43 metres. There is also an indoor pool there as well as numerous hot tubs, a cold bath and a Finnish sauna.
- Address: Lækjarhlíð 1a, 270 Mosfellsbær
- Opening hours: Everyday from 6:30am - 9:30pm
The pool overlooks the Elliðarárdalur valley, a gorgeous green area, in the middle of Reykjavík, which is popular with hikers and cyclist alike. The Elliðará river, runs through the valley with many little waterfalls and is ideal for salmon fishing. After hiking the valley, a dip in Árbæjarlaug pool is a great way to relax.
An indoor pool is located in a beautiful solarium, where you can swim through a little opening to the larger outdoor pool. The outdoor area also has a children pool, a big slide, a water fountain, a water bridge and a great hot tub area, making this one of the most impressive pools in Iceland.
- Address: Fylkisvegur 9, 110 Reykjavík
- Opening Hours: Weekdays from 6:30am - 10:00pm Weekends from 9:00am - 10:00pm
Another great pool for families is Sundlaug Kópavogs. The town of Kópavogur lies immediately south of Reykjavík. Its name translates to 'baby seal bay' and in this pool, you can swim like a seal (yes, I said it).
Kópavogur's swimming pool has been one of the most popular swimming pools in Iceland in the last few years. It consists of three swimming pools, ranging from 50 to 10-metres in length.
There are also seven hot tubs. One of them is a jacuzzi hot tub and another is specially designed for children. There are three big water slides for children of all ages (and adults of all ages), a small slide for the youngest children, a cold bath and a very popular steam room.
- Address: Borgarholtsbraut 17, 200 Kópavogur
- Open: Weekdays from 6:30am - 10:00pm | Winter weekends from 8:00am - 06:00pm | Summer weekends from 8:00am - 8:00pm
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Emstrur
The local's favourite pool, Vesturbæjarlaug is one of the cosiest and most charming pools in Reykjavík. It is located close to the University of Iceland, so it is usually filled with both locals and international university students (and teachers).
The pool is in Reykjavík's west side, and a walk from the city centre is ideal on a beautiful day. You can walk along the Ægisíða seaside path where you can see all the way to Bessastaðir (where the president lives) on the Álftanes peninsula.
Vesturbæjarlaug pool is a local hub of activity. Most (if not all) of Reykjavík's citizens have fond memories of coming to the pool when they were younger, and many still make their way west just for a soak in the tub. This is where Icelandic people meet to discuss politics, culture, the weather and life in one of the pool's four hot tubs. It also has a fantastic outdoor pool, a cold tub to cool you down and a gorgeous round steam room.
- Address: Hofsvallagata, 107 Reykjavík
- Opening hours: Weekdays from 6:30am - 10:00pm Weekends from 09:00am - 10:00pm
The Queen of Icelandic swimming pools has to be Laugardalslaug. It is the most popular swimming pool in Reykjavík as its size and location is ideal for those who are in Reykjavík for a short time.
The pool is located near the only camp site in Reykjavík, in the Laugardalur valley. It's just a short walking distance from Reykjavík's centre (or an even shorter bus ride). There are numerous cafés and restaurants in the area, as well as a small amusement park, a zoo with Icelandic farm animals and a botanical garden.
The Laugardalslaug pool, has two outdoor pools and one indoor, seven hot tubs (one filled with saltwater), sauna, water slides and a beach volleyball court. It's the perfect place to go on a sunny or snowy day.
- Address: Sundlaugarvegur, 104 Reykjavík
- Opening hours: Weekdays from 06:30am to 10:00pm Weekends from 08:00am to 10:00pm
Have you been to these swimming pools? What are some of your favourite swimming pools? How was your experience, did you talk to the locals in the hot tubs?