WHAT ARE THE BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN REYKJAVÍK?
The capital of Iceland, the small town of Reykjavík is not lacking in attractions and is generally used as a base for exploring the west of the country. There are several museums, interesting monuments, nice cafés, and for partygoers the night life is very lively. The atmosphere is very relaxed and it is a pleasant city to explore on foot, in a day or two.
This list of the 10 best things to do and see in Reykjavík can help you plan your first trip there.
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Here are 10 must-see things to do and see in Reykjavík:
1. SEE THE VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE HALLGRIMUR CHURCH (HALLGRIMSKIRKJA)
Built in honour of Pastor Hallgrimur Petersson, who lived in the 17th century, this Lutheran church was built from 1945 to 1986. It affects the shape of the basalt organs so common in the Icelandic landscape. The 73-metre high monument makes it the highest church in the country and one of the six highest monuments. From the top of the church, the panoramic view of Reykjavik is incomparable and gives an overview of the city. If admission to the church is free, it’s not free to go up the tower.
2. THE HARPA CONCERT HALL
Inaugurated in 2001, and located in the old port of Reykjavik, the huge building that houses the concert hall is built entirely of glass. Seen from afar, this vast futuristic vessel seems to play with light. The large concert hall can accommodate up to 1800 people. It hosts high quality performances, with a strong emphasis on symphonic music and national opera. Congresses and seminars can also be organised there. On the top floor, a restaurant offers a superb view. Admission is free for visitors.
3. THE SCULPTURE OF THE SUN TRAVELLER
It’s undoubtedly the most famous sculpture in the country. Built in 1990, this metal work is located in the old port of Reykjavik. The sculpture stands facing the sea. If it has been given this name, it’s because this square is an ideal place to admire a magnificent sunset. At first glance, the sculpture evokes a stylized drakkar. This Viking ship is Iceland’s emblem and symbol of the most glorious pages of its past. For its author, however, the sculpture was first and foremost a kind of homage to light and sun.
The National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik traces the history of the country from the first Viking settlements in the 9th century. The visit is free for children. For its part, the open-air museum at Arbaer Farm, opened in 1957 and located on the outskirts of the capital, recreates the traditional habitat and lifestyles of Icelanders. Attached to the museum, Reykjavík 871±2 presents Viking objects as part of a permanent exhibition. Still in Reyjkavik, the Sagas Museum reconstructs, based on these great epic stories, a part of the country’s history. Finally, the Perlan Museum is also worth a visit for its very special architecture (you can visit a fake glacier).
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5. WALKING AROUND TJÖRNIN LAKE
This small lake is located in the heart of the capital. It connects the city centre and the university district. Beautiful houses are reflected there and the inhabitants like to stroll along its banks. Sitting on the benches surrounding the lake, they can contemplate the changing colours of the water and the flight of ducks and wild swans. On the north shore of the lake, stands the new Town Hall, built in 1992. Inside, you can consult a huge relief map of Iceland, which gives the traveller very useful landmarks.
6. THE GEOTHERMAL POOL OF LAUGARDALSLAUG
Icelanders use swimming pools a lot, which are really part of their daily lives. Located a few minutes from the centre of Reykjavik, the Laugardalslaug swimming pool is the largest and most popular. It includes two large outdoor pools and an indoor pool. Whirlpools are also available to visitors, including one filled with seawater. Icelanders also enjoy the relaxation of the sauna. As for young people, they can slide on the slides or play beach volleyball. Admission prices are moderate.
7. GO SWIMMING IN THE BLUE LAGOON
Located in the Reykjanes Peninsula, about 30 minutes from Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon is an artificial lake created in 1976. Located in a volcanic area, the place, in the middle of nature, allows you to enjoy warm waters, at a temperature of 39 degrees. Surrounded by a magnificent landscape, this spa allows you to relax in a unique setting and enjoy the benefits of silica-rich water for the skin. It’s preferable to book your place before coming. The prices are reasonable and admission is free for children aged 2 to 13.
8. TAKE A TRIP TO SEE WHALES AND BIRDS
The whale plays a central role in Iceland’s folklore and legends. Summer is the most favourable time to observe them. Visitors, leaving from the old port of Reykjavik, will be able to see whales of different species, such as the Minke whale or, more rarely, the humpback whale. Other cetaceans, such as sperm whales or porpoises, can be seen. It will also be possible to observe many puffins. Rates will depend on the type of boat chosen and the duration of the excursion.
9. EXPLORE THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
It’s the name of an excursion that allows you to admire Iceland’s most emblematic sites in a single day. First, the Geysir geothermal field, about 100 km from Reykjavik, is home to the world’s largest geyser and has given its name to the phenomenon. 50 km from the capital, Thingvellir National Park is home to the remains of the Althing, the country’s first parliament. Visitors will also be able to admire the Guilfoss waterfalls, with a total height of 32 metres. The excursion can be done in a 4WD rental vehicle, or even on horseback. Prices depend on the mode of transport chosen and the services offered.
10. SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Located on the Arctic Circle, Iceland is the ideal country to observe this magnificent natural phenomenon. During the summer, the sun does not set over Iceland, so it’s not possible to observe these auroras, which are only visible at night. This is why the best time to observe them is between October and March. Northern lights can be seen from Reykjavik, but it’s preferable to move away from any light source to better observe them.
MORE THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN REYKJAVIK
If you have some time, here are some other things to do and places to visit in and around Reykjavik:
- Shopping in laugavegur
- The city of Borgarnes
- Take an excursion to the Seltun geothermal zone
- Have your portrait photot of yourself, disguised as a Viking, at the Mink Viking Portrait Studio
- If you visit the north of Reykjavik, take the Kaldidalur trail (very nice landscapes to see!)