Welcome to Reykjavik
Reykjavik is one Europe’s most exciting holiday destinations; our handy Reykjavik travel guide is here to help you plan your short break in the Icelandic capital and make the most of your time in this unique place. Benefitting from a wealth of striking natural beauty, Reykjavik is certain to bring out the sightseer, the adventurer, the foodie and party animal in you.
During the daytime, Reykjavik and its surrounding area invite endless exploration. Whether it’s whale-watching, horseback-riding or simply visiting the gorgeous Gullfoss waterfall and the incredible nearby geyser district, it’s an exceedingly exciting place to be. Don’t forget to spend some time in the city itself too – the picturesque buildings of Reykjavik are all wonderfully colourful. Between the superb museums and the boutique shopping on Laugavegur you can really enjoy the benefits of being in a big, vibrant city. Be sure to visit the beautiful Hallgrímskirkja church, take a dip in a geothermal pool, and catch an awe-inspiring show at the visually striking Harpa concert hall too.
When the evening rolls around you’ll want to take a trip out of the city to get a good view of the stunning Northern Lights; Reykjavik is perhaps the best place to base yourself for tours of this kind, with local guides who are experts on finding the best place to see the breath-taking natural phenomenon. On nights when you’re not marvelling skywards, enjoy some of the world’s finest seafood in Iceland’s fabulous restaurants or discover Reykjavik’s famously-good nightlife for an altogether different, but equally memorable, once in a lifetime experience.
Must do's by day
Explore Iceland’s breath-taking Geyser district and find the Gullfoss Waterfall
Be hot to trot on a horseback ride through the Icelandic countryside
Get on the water and go Whale-watching off the coast of Reykjavik
Must do's by night
Get out of town and witness the extraordinarily pretty Northern Lights
See a show at the impressive Reykjavik Opera House
Discover the city’s fine dining scene and try Reykjavik’s delicious seafood
Travelling to Reykjavik
Realistically, flying is the only quick way to get to Reykjavik; with regular flights from many London airports, getting to Iceland and the thrills of its capital city can be incredibly cheap at the right time of year.
Flying is the easy option – for a more scenic route, why not take a ferry from Northern Denmark and make the journey part of a bigger trip? You could even take your own car for off-roading in Iceland!
The flight from London takes about 3 hours, with around 50 flights a week. Other major UK airports with direct flights to the Icelandic capital include Manchester, Edinburgh & Bristol.
Getting Around in Reykjavik
Reykjavik may be the world’s most northern capital, but it certainly isn’t anywhere near the biggest! Incredibly easy to explore on foot or on a bike, buses and taxis are also cheap, efficient and reliable ways to get around the city if you’re on a longer journey.
Buses in the Icelandic capital are clean and reliable. If you’ll be using them a lot, or are staying just outside Reykjavik, buy a Reykjavík Welcome Card, which also gives you free entry to many museums.
Bike rental is popular in Reykjavik and is available from several companies around the city – cycling is legal on both the paths and the roads, so brave the headwinds and the hills and enjoy seeing the city on two wheels.
Reykjavik is a lovely city to explore on foot – most of the main attractions of the city are within easy walking distance of the city centre’s main hotels.
Getting There Introduction
More or less the only way to get to Reykjavik, flights from the UK are becoming increasingly common as it begins to establish itself as a popular short break destination. It takes around 3 hours to reach the world’s Northern-most capital city from London. More and more people are also choosing to visit Reykjavik as a stop-off point on a transatlantic journey, spending a weekend in the city whilst on the way to America or Canada.
By AirThere are daily flights from London and fairly regular flights from other UK cities including Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh and Belfast. Keflavík International Airport lies around 30 miles from the city and regular transfers run throughout the day, with an approximate journey time of 45 minutes.
Getting Around Introduction
Whilst Reykjavik is a sprawling collection of suburbs, the city centre is very compact. Between the colourful buildings of the old town, the vibrant marina and the hotel district, most of the town’s key sights are within walking distance of each other – there’s not much need for public transport unless you’re staying outside the city. With fine dining, world-renowned nightlife, terrific shopping and departures for outdoor excursions right on your doorstep, getting around to seeing everything couldn’t be easier.
By BusA Reykjavík Welcome Card will permit you unlimited use of the excellent city buses – as well as access to many museums and attractions – and is the perfect choice if you’re staying a little outside the city centre. Otherwise, be sure to carry the exact fare – bus drivers in Reykjavik don’t carry any change!
By TaxiTaxis are fairly expensive in Reykjavik, typically you wouldn’t take a taxi except after a late night out on the town. All taxis are clean and comfortable however, and metered to ensure you pay a fair price. There are many taxi ranks in the centre, notably by Hallgrímskirkja and one by Lækjargata.
By FootIt’s fairly easy to get around Reykjavik on foot; most sights and attractions are all within walking distance of the most popular hotels and excursions outside of the city often include a hotel pick-up and drop-off. Given how clean, safe and pretty the city is too, taking a walk around is highly recommended.
For a small city, Reykjavik has some really wonderful shopping. For a one-stop shopping experience head to the excellent Kringlan Shopping Centre or to the main shopping street Laugavegur – perfect for boutique purchases. The Kolaportið flea market is also a great option on weekends for bargain buys and a taste of the local cuisine and produce. The classic souvenir to take away is perhaps a distinctive Lopapeysa – an Icelandic knitted jumper – which can be found in most clothes shops and gift stores in Reykjavik. Do remember however that sales tax is particularly high in Iceland, so anything you could buy at home is probably a lot more expensive here.
Hansina Jens, Laugavegur 42, 101 Reykjavík
In creating her unique jewellery, Jens uses several different metals and Icelandic stones to sculpt Rings, Earrings, Necklaces and Bracelets that are well worth seeking out.
Top 5 Shopping Destinations in Reykjavik
66° North, Kringlan Shopping Centre, 103 Reykjavík
Originally making all-weather clothes for Iceland’s fisherman, this brand has become one of the country’s most iconic for fashionable outerwear.
Eggert, Skólavörðustígur 38, 101 Reykjavík
For warm and incredibly chic coats, this fabulous furrier is about as Icelandic as it gets and the store recently opened a London branch.
Kogga, Vesturgata 5, 101 Reykjavík
For high-end home ware, nothing beats the quirky and unique design of these ceramics – find the gallery in the heart of the old town.
Icewear, Þingholtsstræti 2-4, 101 Reykjavik
For knitwear with a distinctly Nordic feel about it, Icewear is a good place to start – the store has fine, high quality Icelandic wool products.
Gull & Silfur, Laugavegi 52, 101 Reykjavík
A very sweet, family-run jewellery store, Gull & Silfur specialise in gift items and the finest diamond pieces.
Eating Out Introduction
Reykjavik has some delightful fine dining restaurants perfect for making the most of your short break in the city – dining out can be expensive, but when night time rolls around you’ll want to treat yourself to the distinctive local cuisine. Thorramatur – usually eaten in February/March time – is an infamous selection that only the brave tourists will attempt to eat; the smoked lamb and the dried fish usually go down pretty quickly, but the Hákarl (putrefied shark) and the pickled sheep testicles usually prove a bit more of a struggle.
Mulakaffi, Hallarmúli, 108 Reykjavík
With a sparse menu, Mulakaffi is one of the best places to try traditional Icelandic cuisine – including haddock, and lamb steak – and, in its season, the infamous Thorramatur.
Top 5 Restaurants in Reykjavik
Fridrik V, Laugavegur 60, 101 Reykjavik
Gourmet cuisine perfect for a special occasion – or simply an extra-special treat – Icelandic fine dining doesn’t get finer than here.
Dill Restaurant, Norræna húsið, 101 Reykjavik
Offering trendy, imaginative dishes perfect for a foodie, reservations are recommended for this new Nordic inspired restaurant.
Fish Company, Vesturgata 2a, Grófartorg, 101 Reykjavík
Set in a beautiful timber building, Fish Company has an excellent Fusion menu inspired by cuisines all over the world.
Kopar Restaurant, Geirsgötu 3, 101 Reykjavík
Enjoy a wonderful view of the harbour at this charming restaurant – the brasserie-style dishes and tasting menus are great for trying out local cuisine.
Gló Restaurant, Laugavegur 20b, 101 Reykjavik
Reykjavik’s best healthy-eating restaurant, enjoy the best organic produce that Iceland can offer and the freshest of ingredients.
Surprising for a city of around 200,000 people, Reykjavik’s nightlife is really quite vibrant. With lots of live music bars, tonnes of events throughout the year and everything from upscale clubs to dingy hipster joints, there’s something for everyone here. Most of the bars and clubs are on the small side, but this lends itself well to an intimate atmosphere that makes Reykjavik’s nightlife internationally-renowned.
Top 5 Reykjavik Nightlife
Café Rosenberg, Klapparstígur 25-27, 101 Reykjavík
The fab atmosphere in this downtown jazz joint is worth experiencing – with live music and events almost every night, it’s a must.
Slipp Bar, Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina, Mýrargata 2, 101 Reykjavík
A lively spot throughout the night, this hotel bar often has great live music or art installations to enjoy, and a great cocktail menu too.
Austur, Austurstræti 7, 101 Reykjavík
One of the hottest clubs in the city, and central to the most popular night time haunts, Austur is slick, modern and great for a dance.
B5, Bankastraeti 5, 101 Reykjavik
This bistro-bar is a trendy hangout – with gorgeous Phillipe Stark lightshades and long leather sofas, it has distinct Scandinavian modernism.
Icelandic Opera, Harpa Concert Hall, Austurbakki 2
For something a bit different, check out what the Icelandic Opera have on; a young company (in Opera terms) their home at the Harpa is worth seeing by night.
With some of the best nightlife in Europe, Reykjavik’s bars are well worth discovering. Though going out can be expensive – particularly when drinking imported beers or spirits – it’s a fun experience; head to Laugarvegur in the city centre, the hub of bars and clubs all within staggering distance of each other. The legal drinking age here is 20, and the best nights for heading out are Fridays and Saturdays – though don’t expect the clubs to be at full capacity until 1am at the earliest!
Top 5 Reykjavik Bars
Dillon Whiskey Bar, Laugavegur 30, 101 Reykjavík
A genuinely cool and relatively cheap bar, this rock joint has a good mix of locals and tourists, and a fab beer garden for the warmer summer months.
Kaffibarinn, Bergstaðarstaeti 1, 101 Reykjavik
Popular with hip locals and tourists alike, this bar is something of a must-visit. Bohemian? Pretentious? We’ll let you decide…
Vinbarinn, Kirkjutorg 4, 101 Reykjavik
With a fabulous selection of wines, this cosy bar is popular with a slightly older, more sophisticated crowd.
Ölstofan, Vegamotastigur 4, 101 Reykjavik
With a strong community feel about it, this bar is perfect for those who love good beer and fine spirits – there’s no dancing, just drinking.
101 Restaurant and Bar, Hverfisgata 10, 101 Reykjavík
A great place to grab a cocktail and meet friends before exploring the city’s nightlife proper, this chic hotel bar is well worth a visit.
With a rugged terrain and breath-taking natural beauty, Iceland is great for outdoor excursions. No trip to Reykjavik is complete without having left the city to discover what lies beyond it; Whale watching, the Gulfoss Waterfall, the geyser district, the Blue Lagoon, Horse-trekking and, of course, trips to see the Northern Lights are all popular choices based out of Reykjavik. With tonnes of museums, the pretty and towering Church of Hallgrímur and the events at the impressive Harpa Concert Hall, there’s plenty to see in the city too.
Top 5 Reykjavik Attractions
Iceland is one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis; head to the Seltjarnarnes seaside or, better yet, out of town on an organised tour.
The ocean just off Reykjavik’s shore is a natural habitat for Whales, Dolphins and Seals – be sure to take a boat trip out to spot them all!
The Blue Lagoon
Take a dip in the ever-pleasant thermal waters of The Blue Lagoon; just outside the city, it’s a must-see, and can be combined with some wonderful horse-trekking.
Gulfoss Waterfall & Geyser District
Iceland is known for its rugged and fiercely beautiful landscape – no trip to Reykjavik is complete without going to see these two natural gems.
Church of Hallgrímur
Probably the city’s most distinctive (and controversial) building, the impressive tower can be seen from miles around.