See fun things to do in Reykjavík. Make sure not to miss these experiences in the world's northernmost capital city.
See also top things to do in Iceland.
1. Go on an adventure
Reykjavík is an adventure city. You can try discovering its hidden treasures on your own, or you can team up with some locals to show you around. Reykjavík is the starting destination for most tours around the exciting countryside, such as the popular Golden Circle tour, but there are also a number of exciting tours within the city.
You might for example want to explore Reykjavík by food, tasting some of the cities' delicacies or go on a scenic helicopter ride over the city where you make a sightseeing stop at a nearby mountain! You can also choose to simply go on a walking tour to explore this colourful and quirky city, such as on this free City Walk Reykjavik 2 hour tour.
Find all tours in and from Reykjavík here.
2. Go swimming in Reykjavik
Go swimming in a public pool, get naked with the locals in the shower and enjoy a soak in an outdoor hot tub even if its -5° outside. And for only 600 ISK, it's probably the cheapest spa treatment you can buy! Check out this map to find the nearest pool to you and read this article to learn about the best swimming pools in Reykjavik.
3. Grab a hot dog
The hot dog stand Baejarins bestu (lit. "The Town's Best'), near Reykjavik harbour, has a reputation of selling the best hot dogs in Iceland. There is usually a long line there, particularly in the afternoon and on weekends. Many foreign visitors claim the hot dogs to be some of the best in the world. Just ask Bill Clinton and James Hetfield, who are among its most well known guests.
A classic is to get "eina med ollu" i.e. one with the whole bunch, remoulade (a mayonese-based sauce), mustard, ketchup, crunchy onions and raw onions. Whatever your preferences, if you like a good hot dog, this is the place to go.
Here's a list of other cheap eats in Reykjavík.
If fine dining is more your thing, don't despair, there are many wonderful restaurants to choose from. Here is a list of some of the best restaurants in Reykjavik!
4. Visit Hallgrimskirkja church
Take the elevator to the top of Hallgrimskirkja on Skolavorduhaed hill and check out the panoramic view of downtown Reykjavik. Along with the view from Perlan on Öskjuhlid hill, this is probably the best view you will get of the city, save for from air.
The church, the largest in Iceland, is named after pastor and poet Hallgrimur Petursson, author of the Passiusalmar (The Passion Hymns), and its architecture is actually inspired by the beautiful columnar basalt of the Svartifoss waterfall in South Iceland. In front of the church is a statue of Leif Ericsson, who discovered North America in the year 1000, more than 500 years before Columbus.
5. Check out the Reykjavik nightlife
Depending on who you ask, the Reykjavik nightlife is either famous or infamous. People party into the early hours and after closing, the streets will still be full of drunk party people, either trying to find their way home or an after party. For more on the Reykjavik nightlife, check the articles Nightlife in Reykjavik and Nightlife and mating.
6. Check out the local cuisine
Reykjavík has some truly outstanding local and international cuisine. You can find restaurants that specialise in seafood or grilled meats and besides Icelandic restaurants there are also great Thai, Italian, Indian, Mexican, Japanese or even Ethiopian restaurants to be found within the city.
However, if you feel like trying out something different, then you can try whale meat, sheep heads or cod heads.
If you are not vegetarian or by principle averse to whale hunting or tasting, you can try out some whale meat. There are many restaurants that serve whale meat, particularly down by the Reykjavik harbour. One of these and excellent choice is the Saegreifinn seafood restaurant, where they even serve whale kebabs.
One of the most popular dishes at Matur og Drykkur is the cod's head cooked in chicken stock. Try it, you won't regret it.
And if you're into trying a different type of food then you are used to, then why not check out some of the Icelandic traditional food. At the BSÍ bus terminal in the drive-through shop Fljótt og gott, you can also purchase the traditional sheep head for a very moderate fee.
One person's disgusting food may be the other's delicacy. The most notorious food in Iceland is probably the fermented shark. The shark is usually washed down with a shot of Brennivin, Iceland's own black death schnapps. This is often seen as a sort of a rite of passage or proof of strength, and particularly popular dare for Icelanders in regard to foreign visitors. Find some fermented shark in the fleamarket Kolaportið that's open every weekend.
7. Go whale and bird watching
Get up close and personal with the whales (living ones, this time) on a whale watching tour from the Reykjavik harbour. The most commonly sighted ones are minke whales, humpbacks, porpoises and dolphins.
On some tours you may also be able to visit the islands off the Reykjavik shore, the most famous of which is Videy, home to the Lennon/Ono peace-tower. Various seabirds also frequent the shore and the islands, such as gannets, gulls, cormorants, the arctic tern and of course the puffins, seen above.
8. Shop in Reykjavik
The main streets of Laugavegur, Austurstraeti, Laekjargata and Skolavordustigur, all located in the central area of Reykjavik, are the best picks to do good shopping. In particular, I recommend the many outdoor clothing companies for extreme wear and outdoor gear. 66° North, Cintamani, Zo-On and Ice Wear can all be found in this area. Icelandic design is also very fashionable and can be found all around downtown, in shops such as Kraum, Spaks manns spjarir and Jör.
9. Visit the Reykjavik flea market
If you're in Reykjavik over a weekend, go to Reykjavik's very own flea market Kolaportid to buy a hand knitted wool sweater (lopapeysa) – a must have for everyone! The flea market is located down by the Reykjavik harbour and has a lot of interesting stuff for sale, including many local delicacies. The shellfish is particularly recommended. The atmosphere is lively and good bargains can be made.
Once you've done all this, you will certainly feel closer to the Icelandic spirit and feel like you've had a fulfilling holiday in Reykjavik.
10. See the Northern Lights
Iceland is one of the best places in the world to experience the northern lights. You may even be able to spot them from downtown Reykjavik, but the best place to see them within the city area is probably by the seaside at Seltjarnarnes.
There you will be away from the street lights and be able to take in the full experience. The area of Grotta is particularly nice, many birds nest there and there is also a charming old lighthouse.
For further advice on getting the most out of your stay for a minimum amount of money, check out the article cheap things to do in Reykjavík. Or vote for in the comments what you think is the best thing to do in Reykjavík!