reykjavik city guide
A colorful, dense collection of small-scale buildings located within an hour of isolated, stark natural beauty. Wake up in Reykjavik, and you'll understand the hype.
Why We Love Reykjavik:
The hot geothermal swimming pools, and the ever-changing vistas of mountains and ocean framed by twisting urban streetscapes. Its proximity to the vast countryside makes it the perfect home-base for many adventurous day trips. Plus, how could you not adore a place whose vast majority of residents still believe in elves?
When To Visit:
As one infamous barista proclaimed to us, “Now that you’ve visited Iceland in the winter, you can come back and truly appreciate Iceland in the Summer.” While it may seem foreboding to visit a place that the word ice is an integral part of, there is a majesty to being in this frozen land during its darkest months. Even though you have to battle higher winds and colder temperatures in the winter, around 30° F, you’re chances of seeing the Northern Lights is greater and the geothermal hot baths are that much more enjoyable. Because its located so far north, the summer’s long days allow more hours of outside exploration, and temperatures on average are around 70° F.
Getting to Iceland can be relatively inexpensive during winter months -- we found package deals from Seattle starting around $700 on Travelzoo. Once you’re there, however, be prepared to spend quite a bit more on food and goods as you would in the States. You’ll want to indulge in the amazing restaurants and activities Reykjavik has to offer, so save a little extra money upfront for this trip. Rent an apartment through AirBnb so you can grocery shop and cook a few meals at home to help offset the cost of dining out. Pat yourself on the back for spending some extra time finding a cheap flight, so while you’re there you can live it up.
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- Saegreifinn - The Sea Baron: We will be mad at you if you go all the way to Iceland and skip the lobster soup in this cozy and quirky, wood-paneled restaurant. Yum!
- The Coocoo’s Nest:
- Glo Restaurant
- Bergsson Mathús: Go for a divine breakfast of simple, straight-forward cheeses, meats, friends, and smoothies. Their decor is simplicity at its best.
- Bæjarins eztu Pylsur
- The Laundromat Cafe
- Airbnb: Is there an Icelandic law that requires every citizen renting out their residence to have an excellent sense of design + decor? Check out this list of rentals, or any Airbnb rental ad, and see for yourself. We think it's possible. #cuteoverload
- Hotel Egilsen: **NOTE: This hotel is located outside of the city, a 2-3 hour drive north of Reykjavic.** We took a daytrip to stay here and it turned out to be one of our favorite places to stay ever. Worth the drive
- Hallgrímskirkja: You've seen the Instagram photos of the expansive view from the top of this Lutheran parish in the heart of the city. This is the perfect first activity for your first morning in Reykjavik; after paying a small entry fee, take the elevator to the observation tower and ready your cameras. Get ready to be charmed... the views of the city and surrounding waters from these windows are breathtaking.
- Bláa Lónið (Blue Lagoon): The location of this popular tourist attraction makes it very accessible from the airport; you could easily add 2-3 hours to your airport trip and hit the Lagoon before flying home. Get ready for sticker shock: this experience is a little pricey! For a less expensive, smaller-scale spa experience, we recommend making a trip to the Laugarvatn Fontana, a good conclusion to the popular Golden Circle Tour. You can watch for Northern Lights as you soak outside.
- Gallery Hop
- The Norse House by Alvar Aalto
- Harpa Concert Hall
- The Northern Lights