There is a seemingly endless list of exciting and unusual things to do and see in Iceland. Since most tourists only stay here for a limited amount of time, we have gathered the top ten attractions in and around Reykjavík. For more great ideas, browse our website.
1. The Golden Circle - Thingvellir, Geysir, Gullfoss
The Golden Circle tour is a day tour, probably the most popular one among tourists in Iceland. The three primary stops that you'll be exploring are national park Thingvellir, where the oldest operating parliament was founded in 930, the waterfall Gullfoss ("golden waterfall"), and the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur where you can see Geysir and Strokkur. Other exciting stops on the way include Kerid volcano crater, Hveragerdi greenhouse village, Skalholt church and the Nesjavellir geothermal power plant. There are plenty of excursion and activity companies that offer The Golden Circle tour every day.
2. The Blue Lagoon
Located in a lava field between Keflavik international airport and Reykjavik is the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. It's one of the most visited attractions in Iceland, you can't possibly let the opportunity to go there pass you by! The warm waters are rich in minerals such as silica and sulphur, and bathing in the Lagoon is reputed to help people who suffer from skin diseases such as psoriasis. There are two steam baths and one sauna, a waterfall that provides an energizing shoulder- and neck massage, a relaxing area, the lagoon bar, treatments and massage area and finally buckets of silica mud are provided free of charge to all guests. You can buy Blue Lagoon Skin Care products at the Skin Care Shop, and dine at LAVA Restaurant, or in the cafeteria. A trip to the Blue Lagoon is the perfect way to spend a day during your stay in Iceland.
3. Perlan (The Pearl)
Perlan is a landmark building in Reykjavik, situated on the hill Oskjuhlid, where there had been hot water storage tanks for decades. The tanks were updated in 1991 and a hemispherical structure was placed on top. Perlan has 10,000 cubic meters of exhibition space on the ground floor, and a great viewing deck on the fourth floor where you can view the city through panoramic telescopes with recorded descriptions in five languages. There are a few shopw, a cafeteria and a restaurant in Perlan as well. On the top glass domed part of Perlan, there is a revolving restaurant and a cocktail bar. The revolving floor does a complete turn in two hours, offering great food as well as fantastic view over the city. One of the water tanks holds the Saga Museum, a wax museum that shows you how Icelanders used to live and how they live now, at the same time providing an audio tour. On the bottom floor is a simulation of the geyser Strokkur that spurts water into the air every few minutes.
Go to Perlan website
4. Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center
This building is a recently completed icon of the Reykjavík cityscape, with its distinctive window-mesh and nocturnal light shows. Stop by to admire the architecture and see what concerts are coming up, or book it for your own conference! It houses Iceland's biggest concert hall and numerous smaller conference halls and rooms and supports the cultural life of Reykjavík.
5. Go shopping
Shopping in Reykjavik can be a great way to pass the time and spend money on souvenirs, clothes, antiques and whatever else you may desire. There are three main shopping areas in Reykjavik and the greater area, Laugavegur shopping street downtown, Kringlan mall close to the city center and Smaralind mall in Kopavogur, not too far from Reykjavik. The malls carry many international brands and labels, where you can probably get anything you need. Walking down Laugavegur is a wonderful way to shop, there are many unique boutiques and design shops. You shouldn't leave Iceland without your very own "lopapeysa", the traditional Icelandic knitted wool sweater. Shop 'til you drop.
More Reykjavik shopping
6. Whale watching
There are numerous adventure- and excursion companies in Iceland that offer whale watching tours, most of them located at the Reykjavik harbour. There are daily departures from spring to fall, and the companies that offer the tours are all extremely experienced and professional. A close up encounter with these gentle giants of the ocean is a once in a lifetime experience that's hard to match.
7. Experience the nightlife
Reykjavik is famous for many things, one of which is the wild weekend nightlife. The downtown area is filled with clubs and bars of all sorts, which are usually open until the break of dawn. Because drinking at bars in Reykjavik is kind of expensive, most Icelanders are dedicated to "pregaming" before venturing out on the town. That is why the streets aren't really crowded until around 1am. After that, there's no telling what could happen. Don't be discouraged by long lines, you'll get in before you know it. The legal drinking age in Iceland is 20 so most clubs base their age limit on that number, although a few demand that you are at least 22 to enter. Bars open early, and close late. All places close at 4:30 the latest.
8. Hallgrímskirkja church
Hallgrimskirkja church is visible from almost anywhere in the city. The tower of the church is among the city’s highest buildings and offers a great view of the city. The tower is open to guests daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission is 700ISK for adults and 100ISK for children 7-14 years old. Hallgrimskirkja is the largest church- and the sixth tallest architectural structure in Iceland. It's named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrimur Petursson, author of the Passion Hymns. The architect who designed it, Gudjon Samuelsson is said to have designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland's landscape. The construction work began in 1945, and took 38 years to be completed. The observation tower provides a view over the whole city and the surrounding mountains. There is a statue of explorer Leif Eiriksson in front of the church.
9. Museums / Exhibitions
In Reykjavik and all over Iceland you'll find many interesting museums to visit, whether you want to see art, history, photography, archaelogical heritage, marine memorabilia, or ... penises. Actually you'd have to travel to Husavik for the penis museum but we assure you, it's totally worth it. There are quite a few museums within walking distance from the Reykjavik center, for example the Settlement Exhibition, the Reykjavik Art museum in Hafnarhus and Kjarvalsstadir, the National Gallery of Iceland and the national museum of Iceland. Other noteworthy museums in the greater Reykjavik area include Living Art Museum in Reykjavik, Arbaer Museum and the Einar Jonsson museum. Plenty of independent galleries and expositions can be found all over town as well.
10. Geothermal pools
Geothermal pools are the pride and joy of Iceland, and the best ones are to be found in Reykjavik. Waterslides, swimming pools, paddling pools, hot tubs, toys, steam baths and saunas are common facilities at the pools. Icelanders like to visit the pools in the morning and discuss current events in the tubs with strangers, freshen up after a long night of drinking by soaking in the warm water, play with their families on a sunday afternoon, excercise by swimming in the lanes or just hang out with friends. It's an affordable pastime that leaves you feeling practically reborn. There are several pools to be found in Reykjavik.