The cool capital of Iceland, there are plenty of things to do in Reykjavik in winter and summer. As for things to do in Reykjavik in December, see Árbæjarsafn’s Christmas displays and go on a Northern Lights adventure. Chasing the Northern Lights is also one of the best things to do in Reykjavik in January. If you miss out, the next best thing is visiting Aurora Reykjavik.
If you’re looking for things to do in Reykjavik for cheap, explore the secondhand stalls at Kolaportið or visit Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach. It’s not cheap, but one of the best things to do in Reykjavik in April is a whale-watching cruise. Finally, for things to do in Reykjavik at night, head directly to Laugavegur; home to the city’s best bars and restaurants. Here are many more things to do in Reykjavik this weekend.
One of the city’s most iconic symbols, Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran parish church. The country’s largest church at 245 feet tall, construction began in 1945 but it wasn’t officially completed until 1986. It’s named in honor of 17th-century Icelandic poet Hallgrímur Pétursson, who penned the Passion Hymns. Hallgrímskirkja is well-known for its imposing organ, which weighs 25 tons and features over 5000 pipes. People are also welcome to visit the church’s tower for sweeping views of the city and Snaefellsjokull Glacier on clear days.
Sitting on top of Öskjuhlíð Hill, Perlan is another one of the city’s most prominent landmarks. Inside its acclaimed large glass dome, you’ll find a revolving fine-dining restaurant that serves Iceland cuisine made from only the freshest seasonal ingredients. Perlan is also home to a planetarium and a world-class museum with state-of-the-art exhibits like Forces of Nature, where visitors can feel the power of volcanoes and earthquakes. Other interactive and family-friendly exhibits include a cinematic underwater journey and a real ice cave.
3. Sun Voyager
Sitting on the waterfront with Mount Esja in the background, the Sun Voyager is a stainless steel sculpture designed by Icelandic sculptor Jón Gunnar Árnason. It was created to commemorate the city’s 200th anniversary. Although the Sun Voyager resembles a Viking longship, Árnason describes it as a dreamboat and an ode to the Sun. He wanted to convey the promise of undiscovered territory. So while visiting Reykjavik, go for a seaside stroll to see the gleaming Sun Voyager.
4. National Museum of Iceland
Established in 1863, the National Museum of Iceland is a great place to visit to stay warm in winter and to learn more about the country’s interesting history year-round. Featuring a rotating array of temporary exhibitions, the museum also has one permanent exhibition, entitled Making of a Nation – Heritage and History in Iceland. It definitely takes you on a journey back in time, as there are over 2000 objects on display, dating from the Settlement Age to the present day.
A modern masterpiece, Harpa is both a concert hall and conference center. Opening in 2011, the distinguishable landmark is known for its unique colored glass facade inspired by the country’s basalt landscape. With sweeping mountain and ocean views, the award-winning venue is home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the Icelandic Opera, and the Reykjavik Big Band. Hence Harpa hosts an assortment of events every year, including comedic and family-friendly performances, orchestra and opera concerts, and music and art festivals.
A part of Reykjavik City Museum, Árbæjarsafn was an established farm that’s since been transformed into an open-air living museum. It’s home to more than 20 buildings that constitute a town square, village, and farm. With many of the historic structures relocating from the city center, Árbæjarsafn hopes to give visitors an insight into the local life of Old Reykjavik. Árbæjarsafn also hosts different exhibitions and events throughout the year, which include craft days and Christmas festivities.
7. Viðey Island
Located off the city’s coast, Viðey is the largest island in Kollafjörður Bay. A popular destination, boats depart from Skarfabakki Pier at Sundahöfn Harbor year-round. Viðey is known for its natural beauty, as well as its art and culture landmarks. This includes Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower, which is lit at certain times of the year and is a tribute to both John Lennon and The Beatles. Viðey is also home to Videyjarstofa, a historic home displaying artwork from renowned Icelandic artists, and the Milestones sculpture by Richard Sierra.
Tjörnin is a small but prominent lake located in the city center. Nestled on its shoreline are notable landmarks like City Hall and the National Gallery of Iceland, as well as a line of colorful buildings on its western shore. Naturally freezing over in winter, locals take to its frozen surface to ice skate and play ice hockey. One of the best things to do in Reykjavik on a sunny day is to go for a stroll along Tjörnin’s stone walkway and see its 50 different waterbird species.
9. Aurora Reykjavik
Aurora Reykjavik is your one-stop Northern Lights destination. A dream project for four locals, it’s an information center, a museum, and a tour booking service. Its museum exhibits include Mythology and Science, which gives you an interactive look at the history and secrets behind the aurora. Then there’s the Northern Lights Theater, Northern Lights Photography for hands-on photography tips (bring your camera), and the fun Aurora Photo Booth. An educational and recreational space, this is one of the city’s most family-friendly attractions.
10. Golden Circle
Starting in the capital, the Golden Circle is a classic driving route that takes you to three of the country’s most famous sights: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss. Þingvellir National Park is primarily known for being home to Silfra, where you can snorkel between the North American and European tectonic plates. Next is Geysir, a geothermal field where Strokkur the geyser is the main attraction, and Gullfoss, one of the country’s most spectacular waterfalls. Along with thermal baths, the Golden Circle is a must-visit for any visitor to Iceland.
Laugavegur is the city’s main street. Located downtown, the lengthy thoroughfare is lined with restaurants, bars, and independent boutiques. Some of the best places to visit along Laugavegur include the Blue Lagoon Shop, which sells luxurious skincare products. Meanwhile, Farmers and Friends stocks handcrafted clothing and accessories, and Kiosk is a co-op space for eight emerging local fashion designers. Finally, head to Kaldi Bar for happy hour. A stroll along Laugavegur is another one of the best things to do in Reykjavik.
Laugardalslaug is a public swimming pool and sports complex located in the Laugardalur Valley. Its Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool is the largest pool in the country. Laugardalslaug is also home to an outdoor children’s pool with a paddling pool, two waterslides, several naturally-heated hot tubs, and a steam bath. There’s also a fully-equipped gym onsite, a mini-golf course, and summer volleyball courts. Together with the health and wellbeing treatments available, Laugardalslaug is a must-visit attraction.
13. Reykjavik City Hall
As mentioned, Reykjavik City Hall sits on the lake Tjörnin’s northern shoreline. Opening in 1992, the impressive building seems to sit on top of the water and was designed to attract birdlife to the lake. It currently houses the offices of the city’s mayor and other executive officials, as well as the city’s official tourist information center. Visitors are encouraged to come inside to plan and book tours and see the large 3D map of Iceland in the Exhibition Hall.
Nauthólsvík is a small coastal neighborhood that’s predominantly known for being home to the Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach. A unique oasis featuring imported golden sand, geothermal water is pumped into the small seawater cove multiple times a day, which reaches up to 19 degrees in summer. However, the onsite geothermal hot tubs are much warmer than the ocean and there are also saunas available. So when you’re looking for things to do in Reykjavik in summer, head to Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach.
15. Reykjavík Botanic Garden
Stop and smell the roses (among over colorful seasonal flowers) at Reykjavik Botanic Garden. Founded in 1961, the garden’s aim is to conserve plants for education, research, and delight. It features over 5000 species across nine distinct plant collections, which highlight the surprising diversity of subarctic vegetation. Open year-round, in summer the Botanic Garden hosts events and organizes free English-speaking guided tours on Fridays. Located in the greenhouse, Flóran Café is also open from May to August and serves treats made from ingredients grown onsite. Now that’s fresh!
16. Icelandic Opera
Singing is an important part of Icelandic culture, so it’s no surprise that Icelandic Opera was founded in the 1970s by a group of young singers. Today, they’re one of the main residents at the aforementioned Harpa concert hall. With regular sold-out performances, thousands of people enjoy the company’s annual productions. These compelling performances include everything from Mozart to new works by local composers. Proud to nurture homegrown talent, Icelandic Opera also performs in concerts and alongside local theater and musical groups.
If you want to embrace local life, head directly to Kolaportið – the country’s only flea market. Open exclusively on weekends, the early bird truly gets the worm at Kolaportið, so head there at 11 am with cash in hand. Inside the chaotic warehouse, you’ll find many stalls selling secondhand products like vintage clothing, DVDs, books, decorative knick-knacks, and records. Kolaportið also has a popular food court, where you can purchase Icelandic snacks like licorice and fermented shark.
18. The Settlement Exhibition
Travel back to early Icelandic life as you head below ground and discover The Settlement Exhibition. Operated by Reykjavik City Museum, it features an open excavation from the Viking Age, which was found during building work. Along with historic artefacts, The Settlement Exhibition also has impressive interactive and digital displays, which include multimedia tables and a wraparound panorama. To learn more about this family-friendly attraction, join a guided tour, which is available every weekday in summer.
19. Whale Watching
The city’s original whale-watching operator, Elding is a family-owned company and responsible tourism operator. They have several whale-watching cruises available, including the year-round classic tour. Alternatively, the Premium Whale and Puffin Watching cruise operates from April to October and involves a small boat for a more personal experience. Its winter counterpart is the Winter Whale and Dolphin Watching cruise. Finally, from June to August you can join the memorable Classic Whales in the Midnight Sun cruise.
20. Icelandic Horseback Riding
Icelandic horses are Instagram stars these days, thanks to their full manes and small stature. Have an unforgettable experience and go Icelandic horseback riding with a company like Eldhestar. They offer an overwhelming variety of half-day and full-day horseback riding tours, which can take you to hot springs, meadows, mountains, or through elf country – the choice is yours. Eldhestar also organizes combo tours, so adventurers can conveniently combine horseback riding with a side of whale watching or rafting.
21. Safari Quads
Speaking of adventurers, Safari Quads is a local company offering a range of fun year-round outdoor tours. Get your adrenaline pumping on an ATV tour that can take you up Reykjavik Peak for stunning city views or adventuring to Hellisheidi Geothermal Plant. Alternatively, opt for a buggy instead and travel through the Valley of Thousand Waters. Safari Quads also organize Midnight Sun and combo tours. Enjoy an ATV and Northern Lights tour or combine snowmobiling with an ice cave experience. The Safari Quads options are endless.