Iceland is one of the most awe-inspiring places on the map, and its quirky capital city of Reykjavík is the convenient (and wonderful) base from which to experience and explore the magical country. With its colorful street art, stunning vistas, thriving culinary scene and proximity to stunning landscapes like glaciers, waterfalls and geothermic pools, this Nordic city is the trip of a lifetime. Here are 50 of our favorite things to do in Reykjavík.
1. Stop for a soak in the Blue Lagoon
On your way from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavík, you’ll pass the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa located in a lava field. It’s the perfect way to unwind after a flight—grab an ice-cold Gull Beer and a silica mud mask and relax.
2. Fuel up on caffeine at Reykjavík Roasters
Retro decor and old vinyl records make for a relaxing and cozy ambiance at this popular downtown coffee shop. Grab a flat white to go as you explore town or get comfortable and people watch.
3. And grab a pastry to go at Braud & Co
Before you head out to explore greater Reykjavík, grab a pastry (or two) from Braud & Co. You can’t miss the psychedelic painted exterior, and the sticky cinnamon rolls are out of this world.
4. Marvel at Hallgrímskirkja
First stop in Reykjavík: One of the country’s most recognizable landmarks. You can spot this white concrete, sloped Lutheran Church from just about anywhere in the city.
5. Get a birds’ eye view of Reykjavík's skyline
Take the elevator to the top of Hallgrímskirkja for a stunning view of Reykjavík's colorful rooftops and snow-capped mountains.
6. Opt for a free walking tour of the city
CityWalk is one reputable company that offers free walking tours around downtown Reykjavík. It’s the perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself with the city streets.
7. Visit Harpa concert hall
One of Reykjavík's most beautiful landmarks, Harpa sits on the border between the Atlantic Ocean and downtown Reykjavík, and its thousands of glass windows reflect light and gleam in the night sky.
8. Eat the world’s greatest hot dog
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a tiny stand near Reykjavík harbor, serves what is arguably the most delicious hot dog in the world. Order yours with everything, topped with raw white onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard, fried onions, and a creamy mayo and caper aioli.
9. Get tuned into the history of punk rock music
The Icelandic Punk Museum is housed in an old, underground public restroom (yep), and it explores the evolution of the genre throughout the ’80s. Cue: Bjork.
10. Or check out a totally one-of-a-kind museum experience.
It doesn’t get much weirder than the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which displays the, er…phallic parts of mammals from all around the country.
11. Then learn about Iceland’s past at Árbæjarsafn
Step back in time at this open-air museum and working farm, which is made up of 20 preserved houses that tell the story of how people lived in Iceland.
12. Take a dip with the locals
Even in the middle of frigid winter you’ll find locals swimming at Árbæjarlaug, a large pool facility right in the city. Don’t worry, there’s a hot tub, too.
13. Warm up with a bowl of LANGOUSTINE soup
It’s no surprise that even during summer, this arctic city can get chilly. The cure: A piping bowl of langoustine soup at The Sea Baron.
14. Walk along the waterfront
Reykjavík's picturesque waterfront is the ideal place for a morning walk before the crowds wake up. You’ll find cute cafés, shops and the famous Sun Voyager, a sculpture of a Viking boat designed to commemorate Iceland’s 200th birthday.
15. Check out local Icelandic art at Gallerí Fold
For a small city, Reykjavík boasts an eclectic art scene. Gallerí Fold is an upscale gallery and auction house that contains the work of 60 or so Icelandic artists.
16. Or just follow the street art
Quirky, funky and progressive, Reykjavík has a thriving graffiti scene, which you’ll quickly recognize as you explore downtown. Walk from Hlemmur Square to Grandi harbour and you’ll see dozens of eye-catching, intricate murals painted on buildings.
17. Try modern Icelandic cuisine at Matur og Drykkur
One of the buzziest tables in town, Matur og Drykkur takes classic Icelandic recipes and serves them with a modern twist. Think: Roasted Icelandic lamb, salted cod croquettes and skyr with strawberries and orange sorbet.
18. Stroll around Lake Tjornin
This tranquil pond sits in the center of downtown Reykjavík surrounded by sculptures and benches. It’s a peaceful place to walk around and take in the views.
19. Ride the ferry to Videy Island
A 20-minute ferry from Reykjavík brings you to this secluded island known for its art and natural beauty.
20. Take a whale watching tour
Just below the Atlantic circle, Iceland is the whale watching capital of Europe. Special Tours offers three-hour trips from Reykjavík harbor where you can spot minke, white-beaked dolphins, harbour porpoises and humpback whales.
21. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Stofan Cafe
This all-day café serves many functions: It’s perfect for your morning cup of coffee, afternoon glass of wine or post-dinner slice of decadent carrot cake.
22. Window shop on Laugavegur
As you walk down Reykjavík's main shopping street, you’ll find everything from eclectic concept shops and jewelry boutiques to artisan candy shops and art galleries.
23. Check out vintage records
A must-visit for music lovers, 12 Tonar is known around the world for its selection of CDs and vinyl records. The vibe is relaxed and welcoming, and the owner will even offer you free coffee as you shop around.
24. And browse for wool clothing and accessories
If there’s one thing to buy in Iceland, it’s wool (just wait until you seen all the roaming sheep). Stop by the Hand Knitting Association of Iceland for handmade wool sweaters, hats, mittens and more.
25. Buy stationery at Reykjavík Letter Press
This graphic design studio is known for its colorful designs and patterned stationery. Stock up on some greeting cards before you leave town.
26. Or shop for local crafts at Kirsuberjatred
Head to this design shop for jewelry, ceramics, mugs, colorful bowls made from dried radishes, and other unique souvenirs that are all handmade by female, Icelandic artists.
27. Seek out home goods at Hrím
Reykjavík is home to plenty of minimalist, Nordic-style design stores like Hrím. Here you’ll find everything from Scandinavian flatware and candlesticks to leather tote bags and skin-care products.
28. Enjoy the best brunch in town at Snaps
This French-meets-Scandinavian bistro is open all day, but it’s best for weekend brunch when you can wash down your croque madame or eggs Benedict with the city’s best Bloody Mary.
29. Or sample Iceland’s street food
Remarkably fresh fish and chips are one of the most delicious meals you can eat in in Iceland. We love the light-as-air and flaky tempura-battered cod at Icelandic Fish and Chips.
30. Ride Icelandic horses
They may look like small ponies, but Icelandic horses are their very own breed. Several companies offer horseback riding tours around greater Reykjavík.
31. Tour a microbrewery
Bryggjan Brewery is one of many craft breweries popping up in Reykjavík and greater Iceland. Book a 30-minute tour or just grab a table to taste some brews.
32. Indulge in a seafood feast at Fiskfélagið
Reykjavík is a total heaven for seafood lovers, and Fiskfélagið (aka Fish Company) is one of the best spots around to sample the local catch.
33. Or splurge on a Michelin-star meal at Dill
Reykjavík is no stranger to fine dining, and Dill was the first restaurant in the country to be awarded a coveted Michelin star. You’ll feast on New Nordic dishes made from local ingredients and paired with natural wines.
34. Indulge in some ice cream
Don’t let the cold keep you away from ice cream. In downtown Reykjavík, Valdis serves rich and creamy gelato in freshly baked waffle cones. But should you find yourself on a day trip to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, don’t miss a stop at the family-run dairy farm Erpsstaðir creamery.
35. Catch a northern lights show
If you’re visiting from September through March, you might be able to catch the neon aurora borealis dance through the sky. Pro tip: Hire a guide or drive outside Reykjavík to where the lights can be seen better.
36. Or take advantage of endless daylight
During the summer months, Reykjavík sees nearly 24 hours of daylight. Especially in June or July, you can watch the sun hit the horizon before immediately rising again.
37. Go bar hopping
Especially during the summer, Reykjavík is home to a bustling nightlife. After all, it’s hard to sleep when the sun is shining well into the night. Be sure to check out Mikkeller & Friends for craft beer and Den Danske Kro, a Danish-inspired pub with live music.
38. Fill your belly with breakfast at Sandholt Bakery
The moment you walk into this bakery on Laugavegur you’ll be overcome by the sight of Instagram-worthy pastries and smell of freshly baked bread wafting from the kitchen.
39. Snorkle in a tectonic rift…if you dare
For those seeking adventure, embark on a snorkeling excursion in a fissure between North American and European tectonic plates. The snorkeling base is located in Thingvellir National Park, a stop along the Golden Circle just an hour from Reykjavík.
40. Chase some waterfalls
Gullfoss is another must-see stop along the Golden Circle. If you visit at the right time of day you might catch a rainbow in front of the falls.
41. And then some more waterfalls
Iceland is home to hundreds of waterfalls, so don’t stop at just one. Hraunfossar and Barnafoss are two stunning falls in West Iceland that are easily accessible from Reykjavík and far less touristed than Gullfoss.
42. Hike to a secluded hot spring valley
A 40-minute drive from Reykjavík brings you to Reykjadalur. An hour-long hike will bring you to a picturesque hot spring valley where you can soak in peaceful nature.
43. Eat lunch in a greenhouse farm
Friðheimar is a huge greenhouse where tomatoes grow all year long, even throughout Iceland’s harsh winters. Pop in for a bowl of homemade, creamy tomato soup and freshly baked bread.
44. Relax in a secret geothermal lagoon
Just minutes from lunch you’ll find Gamla Laugin, or “Secret Lagoon,” a relaxing, geothermal pool where you’ll be among mostly locals only.
45. Walk on a black sand beach
Located on the south coast of Iceland just beyond the village of Vik, Reynisfjara is a dramatic black sand beach surrounded by basalt sea stacks that’s well worth a half-day trip.
46. Then warm up over lunch at Sudur Vik
Located in Vik, the southernmost village in all of Iceland, Sudur Vik is a stone’s throw from Reynisfjara. It’s a cozy and charming spot perfect for a casual burger or pizza on your way back from the beach.
47. Or hit the beach at Nauthólsvík
During the summer months, locals flock to this geothermal beach with golden sand right on the edge of the city.
48. Hike the fairytale-like Gjáin Valley
Just beyond the Golden Circle, this magical valley is one of the most beautiful hiking spots. In the summer months, it’s lush and dotted with cascading waterfalls. If you believe in elves and Icelandic folklore, you’ll be sure to find them here.
49. Try minke whale sushi at Fishmarket
Minke whale is an Icelandic specialty, and if you’re willing to try it, the upscale, seafood-centric Fishmarket serves minke whale sushi by the piece. Of course, there’s plenty of other stuff on the menu for the fainter of heart (and stomach).
50. Or try puffin sliders at Grillmarket
One of our favorite restaurants in town, Grillmarket is a chic and high-end eatery that happens to offer a trio of puffin, minke whale and langoustine sliders on the menu. When in Iceland…