Reykjavik is not only the world’s most northerly capital. It’s also the first spot you see when visiting Iceland with its crystal-clear air and rough landscape. Reykjavik is a vibrant city full of colourful houses, creative people, minimalistic design, tasty restaurants and a wild nightlife. It also serves as the main hop-of point for day-trips to the South Coast of Iceland and its Golden Circle. Whether you’re visiting for a short stop-over or a three-week road trip around the country, make sure to spend at least 48 hours in Reykjavik. Read along to discover what do during these fantastic two days.
Architectural bliss at Harpa// The first building we noticed while driving into town was the Harpa Concert Hall and not only because it was the place where we needed to drop-of the car :). This piece of modern architecture is a true landmark of Reykjavik. The sleek, geometric design is a true gem for the eye. Explore the building inside and outside to capture the true beauty of it all.
View the city from above at Hallgrímskirkja// This church is one of the most well known symbols of Iceland. The building structure represents flowing lava. The inside of the Hallgrímskirkja is rather minimalistic with an enormous organ. Head over to the top of the tower to get the famous bird’s eye shot of Reykjavik.
Go graffiti spotting// From the moment you start walking around Reykjavik, you notice the abundance of graffiti all over town. The visuals are a true form of art, free to experience. You can wander across town and go on a graffiti hunt. If you want to be a bit more prepared, you can do some research online to make sure you hit all the beauties on your graffiti walk.
Shop along the pedestrian streets// Dive into the hustle and bustle of Reykjavik’s shopping streets. The small, colourful houses certainly give it a cozy vibe. The shops are filled with authentic wool sweaters, minimalistic designer backpacks and the occasional souvenir shop. Most shops are situated along Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur.
Live music at Húrra// The one and only Húrra (translation “Hooray”) is a spacious two-story bar. It hosts many of Reykjavik’s most interesting concerts and is famous for its dance-till-dawn vibe. The walls are painted dark and filled with interesting artwork. Make sure not to miss their Monday night jazz or as they call it “Monjazz”.
Swim at Vesturbæjarlaug// If you don’t fancy spending $$$ on the Blue Lagoon, you can enjoy plenty of local swimming pools right in the center of Reykjavik. Vesturbæjarlaug is a great all-round pool, with traditional hotspots, a nice steam batch and a new hot pot.
Evening walk along the Tjörnin Pond// During the evening, the setting sun casts perfectly on the biggest pond of Reykjavik. Enjoy the classic Icelandic homes lining the pond or bring some bread to feed the ducks.
Back in time at The Settlement Exhibition// Our host warmly recommended this exhibition but to be fair it left us somewhat unfulfilled. I guess that might be because we expected a slightly bigger museum. The Settlement Exhibition offers a look into the beginning of Iceland’s history. Its main feature are the remains of a turf house from the 870s. This exhibition gives you a good look into the lives of the very first Icelanders.
Discover the sculptures inside Einar Jónsson’s garden// You can find the Einar Jónsson Museum right next to the Hallgrímskirkja. The sculpture garden is free for the public and filled with 26 bronze casts. Stroll along and admire his particular sense for detail.
Hike around Reykjavik// If you don’t have time to explore the nature across the entire island, you can find some great hikes around Reykjavik as well. Esja is probably the most famous and super convenient to reach by bus as well. Other great hikes are Móskarðshnjúkar (good choice if you want to get away from the crowds) and Heigafell (lava field!).
AirBnB// AirBnB is widely used in Iceland and Reykjavik sure is the biggest hotspot. We stayed with a kind movie director right in the center of Reykjavik. Unfortunately he doesn’t offer his room anymore. His location was spot on because it was so close to everything in town!
KEX Hostel// If we wouldn’t have used AirBnB, we would definitely have stayed at the KEX Hostel. The outside isn’t that remarkable but the rooms, bar and restaurant are nicely curated. The prices are also very acceptable considering Icelandic standards.
Reykjavík Campsite// The furthest away from the city center but definitely the best budget option is camping. Reykjavík Campsite offers a big terrain and covers all the basic needs. It can sure get busy over here during summer.
Fresh fish at Snaps// No trip would be complete without sampling some Icelandic specialties and what’s more typical than fresh fish? Head over for lunch to hotspot Snaps and order the catch of the day. It’s like heaven on a plate. No kidding. Thinking about it makes my mouth water. Best of Reykjavik gave it the title “Best goddamn restaurant” so if you can only eat at one place in Reykjavik, make it Snaps. You can thank us later :).
Unexpected pizza at Hverfisgata 12// Hverfisgata 12 is not only the best pizza, but has topping combinations that will make you scratch your head at first, but rubbing your belly later. Conveniently, the name of this pizzeria is also the address. Note that they only do lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Not on Monday aka when we were trying to get in. We went to what was supposed to be the 2nd best pizzeria in town, Gamla Smiðjan. The pizza options were standard and the prices were way higher than Hverfisgata 12. So don’t make the same mistake as we did and go straight to option 1.
Spicy food at Ban Thai// A household name in Reykjavik, Ban Thai is able to create dishes with the fresh, piquant flavor of Asia. The great food also comes at a more than reasonable price tag. You can enjoy a great dinner for under €20 which is a true bargain in Reykjavik. Brad Pitt and Russel Crowe have dined here. If they approve, who are we to say otherwise?
Budget-friendly at Noodle station// Let’s be honest, visiting Iceland is pricey but Reykjavik is where you really break the bank. That’s why Noodle Station came in pretty handy at the end of our trip. The veggie option even comes in under 1000 ISK. Take a seat behind the window to do some people watching while sipping on your noodle bowl.
Aperitif at KEX Hostel// The beautiful designed interior and original menu is what first drove us to the gastropub of KEX Hostel. They have a wide selection of Icelandic beer on the tap. This place is ideal to order your beer and simply enjoy the cozy atmosphere after a busy day in Reykjavik.