The Reykjavik city center is small and cozy with wooden buildings, cafes and boutiques side by side. The surrounding Atlantic Ocean and rugged mountains in the horizon give an exotic contrast to the charming city.
Reykjavik is a good base camp between different day trips. Just imagine a day out in the nature, then a relaxing evening in the spas and restaurants of Reykjavik. Or spend a couple of days in Reykjavik, and then head out to explore the wonders of Iceland in other parts of the country.
It doesn't take very long to explore the small center of Reykjavik, and almost all of it is conveniently within walking distance.
Where to stay
The heart of Reykjavik is the main street Laugavegur. It continues for about two kilometers eastwards, but not all of it is considered as part of the city center.
Parking spaces (at least the free ones) are hard to find in downtown Reykjavik, so taking a bus is a good option if you’re accommodating farther away from the center.
Things to do in Reykjavik
- There's a geothermal pool and a perched beach in Nauthólsvík, on the south side of Reykjavik; Hot water in the pools, warm water in the lagoon and cold water in the sea. An admission fee is charged in the winter (opening times are very limited) but in the summer, the entrance is free of charge. More information: nautholsvik.is
- Reykjavik has several other geothermal pools as well, the biggest one being Laugardalslaug. The newest addition is Sky Lagoon, that is located a little outside Reykjavik.
- The concert hall Harpa is impressive also on the inside. It's located next to the city center.
- Hallgrímskirkja is a popular attraction and a landmark in Reykjavik. The entrance is free, but you need to buy a ticket to visit the tower.
- Tales from Iceland. Short informative videos of Iceland and Icelanders. Website: talesfromiceland.is
- Aurora Reykjavik, Northern Lights Center. Website: aurorareykjavik.is
Day trips from Reykjavik
- Whale Watching & Puffin Tours (also Sea angling). Departures take place usually from the Old Harbor. Seeing whales is not guaranteed and depends on luck.
- Blue Lagoon is a very relaxing experience, especially with the steam rising from the water and the vast lava fields around the pools. It is not as crowded as one might think, since the number of people at any certain time is limited. So it's best to book the visit well in advance, especially if you are going on a weekend afternoon.
It's located much closer to the airport than Reykjavik, so it's a good idea to visit there just before or after the flight.
More information: bluelagoon.com
- Golden Circle is probably the most recommended day trip from Reykjavik. There are organized bus tours available.
- Snaefellsnes Peninsula is worth a visit but takes up the whole day (at least).
- For black beaches and waterfalls drive to the south coast.
The best area for shopping in Reykjavik is, again, where most of the pictures were taken, especially along the main street Laugavegur. There is also a large shopping mall, Kringlan, with over 180 shops located a few kilometers outside of the city center.
A popular item to take back home from Iceland is a wool sweater, Lopapeysa, and Icelandic design for souvenirs.
Prices in Reykjavik
Iceland is one the most expensive countries in the world by almost any standards. You can save a lot by avoiding the popular summer months. Not just in room prices, but in car rentals as well.
Below, there are some examples of restaurant and hotel prices in Reykjavik. The costs of hotel rooms refer to median prices at Booking.com.
Pizza in restaurant
33 cl beer in restaurant
Hotel room, 3-4* (April)
Hotel room, 3-4* (July)
From Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik
Keflavik airport is located about 50 kilometers southwest from Reykjavik. There are no railroads in Iceland, so buses are the only option besides private transport.
Flybus leaves 35-40 minutes after every flight and takes you close to downtown Reykjavik to the BSI bus terminal. You can buy a seat for a connecting minibus from the bus terminal to your hotel or the nearest bus stop. That same minibus option is also available from the hotel to the bus terminal on the way back.
Travel time is 45 minutes.
Airport Direct has a timetable that is not affected by flight schedules. The stop in Reykjavik is at Skógarhlíð 10, situating southeast of the BSI terminal. They also have an option for a minibus connection to the hotel or the nearest bus stop, as well as private transfer options for different sizes of groups right from the airport.
Travel time is 45 minutes.
Bus 55 operates between Keflavik Airport and Reykjavik a few times a day. It's a little cheaper but slower than the previously mentioned buses.
Route Planner: straeto.is (type KEF Airport and your address in Reykjavik)
Weather in Reykjavik
The weather in Iceland can change quickly back and forth. It's often windy and the clouds move fast, so it can get sunny or rainy several times a day - and usually not one or the other for many days in a row.
During most days, there will be at least some rain. And because of the wind, it's always a good idea to have a waterproof coat with a hood nearby, especially if you are going outside of Reykjavik.
The best place to check the local weather report is vedur.is.
Text and images: Jussi Ryynänen