Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

January 31, 2024

One of the best things about my time in Reykjavik was that Iceland marked my 13th country as I was visiting for my 30th birthday! 

Reykjavik is Iceland’s capital city and can easily be explored in a quick trip to the country. The city center offers all of Iceland’s main attractions – From geothermal pools to sightseeing and day trips. It is an easily walkable city and most of the city centre’s popular tourist attractions can be seen even if you are only visiting Reykjavik for 1 day. 

Here are some of the Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland – Including Dining, Sightseeing & Hot Springs:

Sky Lagoon Geothermal Pool | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

Best time to visit Reykjavik

The best time to visit Reykjavik depends on your individual preferences – The country has something unique to offer year-round! 

If you are looking to explore more of Iceland’s natural wonders and maybe even take a day trip away from the city center, the summer months may be best as they offer the most amount of daylight. From the months of June to August, Iceland experiences almost 24 hours of daylight!

Or – If you are hoping to catch the Northern Lights, then the winter months are the best time of year to visit Reykjavik as the days are shorter and the nights are darker. (We visited in January and had only 5 hours of daylight!)

Here are some of the unique attractions that Reykjavik offers throughout the seasons:

Summer in Reykjavik brings the Midnight Sun, allowing visitors to enjoy endless daylight and outdoor activities such as hiking, whale watching, and exploring the city’s vibrant culture. The downside is that it can be crowded and more expensive due to peak tourist season.

Spring brings milder weather and the chance to witness the city’s flora and fauna come to life. The advantage is that it’s less crowded, but some outdoor activities may still be limited due to lingering winter conditions.

During the Fall, Reykjavik experiences breathtaking foliage and the opportunity to catch the Northern Lights. However, some attractions and tours may have limited availability as the season transitions into winter.

Winter in Reykjavik offers the chance to experience magical winter landscapes, go snowmobiling, and relax in geothermal pools. The downside is the limited daylight and the potential for extreme weather conditions.

Reykjavik City Centre in Iceland | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

How to get around in Reykjavik

If you are looking to stay around Reykjavik, then your best transportation options include walking, organized day trips, and public transportation.

However, if you are staying in Iceland longer and want to explore more away from the city center, then renting a car and driving yourself around the island is your best option. If we had more time in Iceland, I would have loved to rent a car and go on a self-guided road trip around the entire island. 

Reykjavik is an easily walkable city, and there is an abundance of taxis to get you to all the major sightseeing spots around downtown. Organized day trips are available if you are looking to explore attractions farther outside of the city. Reykjavik also has a reliable public transportation system, including buses and a ferry service, if you want to explore the nearby islands.

Airport transportation to Reykjavik

For transportation to Reykjavik from the airport, the easiest and cheapest option is to take a Flybus. Flybus tickets can be purchased online ahead of time, or at the Flybus counter in the arrival hall at Keflavik International Airport (KEF). The buses depart regularly from the airport and drop off at the BSI Bus Terminal in Reykjavik, with stops at major hotels along the way. The transfer from the airport takes around 45 minutes to get to Reykjavik.

From the BSI Bus terminal, you can easily transfer to other forms of transportation or walk to your hotel, depending on where you are staying. The Flybus service operates in connection with all arriving flights, making it a convenient option for airport transfers in Reykjavik.

Here are some of the best things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland:

Rainbow Street, Reykjavik | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

Sightseeing in Reykjavík

Whether you are planning to visit Reykjavík for 1 day or 1 week, make sure to set aside plenty of time for sightseeing. From the city’s colorful streets and iconic landmarks to its natural wonders and nearby attractions, Reykjavík has something to offer every type of traveler.

Here are some of the top sights and experiences to consider adding to your Reykjavík itinerary:

Rainbow Street in Reykjavik | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

Take a stroll down Rainbow Street

Skólavörðustígur, also known as Rainbow Street, is Reykjavik’s vibrant display of Iceland’s LGBTQ-friendly culture, symbolizing the country’s inclusive and accepting atmosphere.

As you wander down Rainbow Street, you will find a variety of attractions and activities – From photo galleries showcasing the work of local artists and boutiques offering handmade goods, to cozy cafes serving up delicious Icelandic treats.

Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

Visit the Hallgrimskirkja Church

The Hallgrimskirkja Church is the city center’s most iconic landmark and is the perfect starting point for Reykjavik sightseeing.

The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrimur Petursson, and features a stunning design inspired by the unique ice caves found in Iceland. The Leif Ericson statue, located in front of the church, pays tribute to the Norse explorer and offers a great photo opportunity.

Inside the church, visitors can marvel at the impressive organ, which is one of the largest in Iceland and hosts regular concerts. But the real highlight is the viewing platform at the top of the church tower. Don’t miss the opportunity to climb the tower for a breathtaking 360-degree view of Reykjavik and its surrounding landscapes.

Shop along Laugavegur Street

Laugavegur Street is the main shopping street in Reykjavik – lined with a variety of shops, boutiques and restaurants. 

Perlan Museum Wonders of Iceland | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

Visit the Perlan Museum, Wonders of Iceland

The Perlan is a museum in Reykjavik also known as The Wonders of Iceland. It is home to the Aurora Show and Lava Show exhibits, and even a real ice cave that you can walk through. Don’t miss the Observation Deck, which provides a stunning 360-degree view of Reykjavik and its surroundings.

After taking in the sights, head to the top floor of Perlan, where you’ll find a restaurant, cafe, and bar. Here, you can relax and enjoy a meal or a drink while taking in the panoramic views of the city from the museum’s glass dome ceiling.

Hunt the Northern Lights

Seeing the Northern Lights is a bucketlist item for many (myself included), and Iceland is one of the best places to try and see them for yourself!

There are plenty of guided tours available that depart from Reykjavik – And these would be your best chance at seeing the Northern Lights. In order to see them, you will need to be away from the lights of the city center and a knowledgeable guide who knows all the best spots will give you the best chance at seeing them.

The Northern Lights are never guaranteed – Seeing them depends on many factors such as current conditions, solar activity, and the time of year you are visiting. And the weather around Reykjavik can change rapidly and often without warning. 

The best time to see the Northern Lights will be during the winter months of October through March, when the days are shorter and the nights are darker.

We visited Reykjavik in the beginning of this month in January and had a tour guide booked to see the Northern Lights for ourselves – But unfortunately it was cancelled on the same day due to how cloudy it was! We wouldn’t have been able to see anything had we gone out, even though we were visiting at the right time of year to see them. 

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

Natural Hot Springs in Reykjavik: Iceland’s Geothermal Lagoons

What better way to unwind after a day of sightseeing in Reykjavik than to visit one of Iceland’s natural hot springs?

The country’s unique geological features have resulted in an abundance of naturally heated pools and lagoons. There are many hot springs around Reykjavik – Both natural and more commercial, and both of which are stunning. 

Blue Lagoon | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most iconic hot spring and is world-renowned for its stunning milky blue waters surrounded by lava stones.

Located only 45 minutes away from Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon is not only a popular tourist attraction but also plays a significant role in Icelandic bathing culture. The mineral-rich waters are believed to have healing properties and are known to benefit the skin, making it an important part of the local wellness and self-care routines.

The lagoon also features an in-water bar where you can enjoy a refreshing drink without leaving the water, as well as in-water massages and spa treatments for ultimate relaxation. 

Sky Lagoon Cave Bar | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

Sky Lagoon

Sky Lagoon is one of Iceland’s newest hot springs and is located right in the city center in Reykjavik. This geothermal lagoon is unique as it sits right on the coast and overlooks the Atlantic ocean.

Like the Blue Lagoon, Sky Lagoon also offers a swim-up bar as well as spa treatments and dining.

Eating in Reykjavik

Reykjavik has such a wide variety of cuisine options – I was surprised at how diverse the food scene was around downtown!

Trying some traditional Icelandic food is a must while visiting Reykjavik. We spent our last day in the city going on a self-guided food tasting tour and trying a variety of different foods. 

Best Hot Dog in Reykjavik | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs
Baejarins Beztu Pylsur - Best Hot Dog Stand in Reykjavik | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

The Best Hot Dog in Reykjavik

The best hot dog in Reykjavik can be found at the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur stand. This iconic hot dog stand has been serving up delicious Icelandic hot dogs since 1937 and has become a must-visit for locals and tourists alike.

What makes their hot dogs unique? They are made with a combination of lamb, pork, and beef, and are topped with both raw and fried onions, ketchup, sweet mustard, and remoulade.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur stands can be found in multiple locations around Reykjavik, including the downtown area and near the harbor, making it a convenient stop for those sightseeing in the city. The stand has gained a reputation for serving the best hot dogs in Europe, and has even been visited by celebrities and politicians.

Eating in Reykjavik: Fermented Shark, Hakarl | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

Try Some Fermented Shark

Fermented shark, known as “hákarl,” is an Icelandic delicacy that was actually hard to find in Reykjavik. 

The meat of Greenland shark is buried underground and fermented for several months to make it edible, as the raw meat is toxic to humans. This process gives the fish a strong ammonia smell, which gives it… an acquired taste.

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try this infamous delicacy, there are 2 popular locations in Reykjavik where you can give it a taste:

  • Islenski Barinn, a cozy bar in the city center, offers a variety of traditional Icelandic dishes, including fermented shark.
  • Café Loki, located near the iconic Hallgrimskirkja church, also serves hákarl.

Bread and Butter in Iceland | Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland: Eating, Sightseeing & Hot Springs

Iceland’s Bread and Butter

I could have honestly lived off of the bread and butter in Iceland alone and would have been perfectly content. Genuinely.

Icelandic bread and butter play a significant role in the country’s cuisine. Rye bread, in particular, is a staple in many meals and is often enjoyed with butter as a side dish or as a base or various open-faced sandwiches, known as smørrebrød.

When eating in Reykjavik or anywhere in Iceland, it’s common to find bread and butter served alongside dishes such as smoked or pickled fish, dried or smoked meats, and hearty soups. We even had bread and butter that was served with lava salt as a topping.

The butter in Iceland is also unique – Often including Skyr, a traditional Icelandic dairy product with a thick, creamy texture and a slightly sour flavor. Skyr butter adds a distinct taste to traditional dishes and is often used in baking as well.

The quality of Icelandic bread, and Icelandic food in general, is attributed to the country’s exceptional water supply, which is known for its purity and freshness. This water is sourced from natural springs and glaciers, and contributes to the taste and fluffy texture of the bread.

Have you checked Reykjavik off your bucket list? Share your travel experiences with me in the comments below!

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The Gal Behind the Blog

Hi I’m Rylie – Welcome to my corner of the internet!

I’m a solo traveler & photographer turned full-time corporate travel agent – born and raised in Southern California but now based in Colorado.