Reykjavik: top five things to do

By Amy Rosoman

Photography by Anna Gorin / Getty Images

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April 2017

The natural wonders of Iceland are plentiful and Reykjavik is a capital to count on. From sightseeing extravaganzas to Icelandic comfort food that’ll warm your heart, cover all your bases as you explore this extraordinary city. Wander through the Old Harbour, stroll along the coastal paths and take in the spectacular scenery. Reap the rewards of this ethereal city, like no other.

Take it all in

Roam around the quaint streets of Reykjavik and immerse yourself in the ‘city with a view’. Gaze up at the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, walk to The Sun Voyager sculpture and admire the scenery, then enjoy a coffee by Lake Tjörnin. Visit the dome-shaped Perlan museum for astounding sights from the observation platform. Stop by the National Museum of Iceland to browse treasured artefacts and go to the largest whale exhibition in Europe, to learn more about these gentle giants. Then jump on board and head out to sea on a whale-watching tour and get up close to these wild creatures.

Where to stay: Radisson Blu SAGA – for enjoying the views from your hotel. Just a 10-minute walk from the best city sights.

The gorgeous natural hot springs take you away from the crowds to a little taste of heaven

Natural wonders

Known for its abundance of natural wonders, Iceland plays host to many magical moments. Go on the hunt for the Northern Lights all-year-around, with the best chance to see them between autumn and spring – watch the sky dance and come alive. Make your way to the west of the capital to the Blue Lagoon and enjoy white silica face masks, illuminous blue waters and a soak in the heat of the shallows. Head out to the east of the coastal city and explore the geothermal baths of Laugarvatn Fontana. The gorgeous natural hot springs take you away from the crowds to a little taste of heaven. With an additional cost, try the rye bread baked in the grounds, served with Icelandic butter and fresh smoked trout, a must-try to fuel your day.

Where to stay: Hilton Reykjavik Nordica – for continuing the spa treatments after your visit to Blue Lagoon. You’ll receive a complimentary bus pass for rides to the city centre.

  • Solfar Sculpture on the waterfront of Reykjavik. Photo credit: Christine Wehrmeier

    The Sun Voyager

    Stroll around the coastal city and make your way to The Sun Voyager sculpture for a spectacular view.

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Culinary delights

The city is a haven for food lovers. Reykjavik now has a Michelin-starred restaurant to boast about, DILL. Serving wonderful Icelandic cuisine from Wednesday to Saturday at 6pm, the dishes are simply gorgeous and the restaurant understated and subtle. Reykjavik may be known for its unusual delicacies, but Iceland’s capital is fast-becoming a culinary hotspot, with an abundance of cafes and restaurants to choose from. Many of the hotel restaurants offer Icelandic meals on the menu and lavish dining experiences. From the tentative service, to the hand-chosen ingredients of the eateries, you will relish every mouthful.

Where to stay: Canopy by Hilton – for delicious smoked cod and Icelandic Blu Ling, served in an old-fashioned soirée style restaurant.

  • The Hallgrims Church, Reykjavik. Photo credit: OSORIOartist

    A towering landmark

    Spot the Hallgrímskirkja church’s tower from the streets of the colourful city.

  • Delights at DILL restaurant. Photo credit: Karl Petersson

    Delicacies at DILL

    Enjoy dining at the first Michelin star restaurant in Reykjavik.

  • Reykjavik Flea Market. Photo credit:  Annapurna Mellor

    The city colourful

    Browse through the many clothes and more at the capital’s flea market.

Bag a goody

From luxurious arctic wear to The Little Christmas shop which is open all year, Reykjavik has a quirky selection of shops to peep in. Make a move to the main shopping area, Laugavegur street, for a retail fix. Peruse the designer stores around Kronkron, where international high fashion brands sit beside popular Scandinavian designers. Venture to the Kolaportid Flea Market over the weekend and take in the bustling atmosphere from the harbour-side industrial building, where you can browse the second-hand clothes and other trinkets. After your spending experience, re-energise and sample traditional delicacies, such as brauðterta ‘sandwich cake’ and hákarl ‘fermented shark’, just because you can.

Where to stay: CenterHotel Thingholt – for the great location. Drop your bags in the hotel room, before a pamper in the spa and rejuvenating choice of dining.

  • Aurora Borealis Iceland. Photo credit: Chan Srithaweeporn

    The Northern Lights

    Watch the natural wonder of the Northern Lights, as they dance in the sky.

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Paint the town red

The main shopping street, Laugavegur, offers a strand of bars to work your way through. Despite there not being a club scene, the nightlife here is vibrant and everything is close together which makes going out stress-free. You’ll find that the capital oozes a cool vibe, as cafes evolve into bustling bars and packed dance venues. Pop into the Slippbarinn for a tantalising choice of cocktails, a bar renowned for their master mixologist and a friendly mix of tourists and locals. Or if cocktails aren’t your thing, pop into the Micro Bar for beers and try out your international favourites, as well as Icelandic flavours. Go to Paloma for the late night start of Reykjavik nightlife, filling up around midnight where you can dance until dawn and mix with locals for a great night out.

Where to stay: Hotel Klettur – for a stay right on the doorstep after enjoying your night on the town.

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