11 Best Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland for First Time Visitors

Looking for some places to visit and the best things to do in Reykjavik? Visiting Reykjavik, Iceland for a much-needed vacation?

Prepare to be enthralled by the unusual beauty of this vibrant city. It’s laidback yet modern at the same time, something you do not quite see in many other tourist destinations. If there’s a cooler word than ‘eccentric’ – that would best describe it. The places to see in Reykjavik vary from being socially weird (penis in a museum?) to being infinitely relaxing (think thermal pools!) – and they all are worth a visit. 

Your jaws will drop, you’ll stand in awe, you’ll shake your head – all these feelings and more, only at Reykjavik, Iceland!

Read More: Highlights of the Best Golden Circle Tour in Iceland

Here’s what makes Reykjavik laidback:

The unassuming waterfront is filled with colourful roofs amidst the towering mountains and the blue ocean. In the same marina, you’ll find the home of contemporary art. Savour the best hotdog in town and buy a glass of good Icelandic beer. Sightseeing in Reykjavik is relaxed and enjoyable because many of its attractions are a walk away from each other.

Here’s what makes Reykjavik modern:

Feel out-of-this-world with the city’s towering Hallgrimskirkja church featuring architecture we can’t quite describe with words. Visit the nearby Laugavegur for some interesting finds. Find all the hipster places and street arts scattered in the city.

The nightlife, too, is worth checking out! This fusion makes Reykjavik attractions attractive, to overuse the word. Iceland’s capital has seen a surge in tourist arrivals over the years ultimately because of the recommendation of travellers speaking highly of the top things to do in Reykjavik. Adding to that are the additional flights that carriers bring to the table to accommodate the growing demand. 3 days in Reykjavik is enough to have a taste of this quirky city. To maximize your stay,

Here is a list of the best things to do in Reykjavik:

1. Harpa

Address: Austurbakki 2, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Opening Hours: Weekdays: 10:00 – 18:00 | Weekends: 10:00 – 18:00

Harpa is an iconic event concert hall in the heart of Reykjavik.  The building has a modern and eclectic architecture design. It is a favourite venue for various concerts, conference, exhibits and events since 2011.

Harpa Hall in Reykjavik
Photo Credit: Harpa.is

You can book your Harpa guided tour to see the beauty of the building and learn more of its history, artistic design and cultural value to the Icelandic community. Harpa’s residents are Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, The Icelandic Opera, Maximus Musicus, The Reykjavic Big Band. 

2. Perlan

Address: Öskjuhlíð, 105 Reykjavík, Iceland
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 22:00

Perlan is one of the best things to do in Iceland for families. It is an experiential museum that showcases the best of Icelandic nature in a fun and interactive ways.  The museum is filled with interesting display and even 100m long glacier cave. You can book your Skip-the-Line Perlan museum tickets here.

Perlan museum in Iceland

The Perlan is one of the iconic buildings in Reykjavik, known for its greyish-silver dome that resembles as the pearl of the Icelandic capital.  You can enjoy the 360° Observation deck on the top of the museum. One of the best views of Reykjavik.   

3. Sun Voyager

Address: Sæbraut, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

A visit to the iconic sculpture of “Sun Voyager”  is one of the best things to do in Reykjavik. The sculpture is a sun ship that symbolises the promise of new undiscovered territories.

Sun Voyager in Reykjavik Iceland

The historical and cultural interpretation of the Icelandic heritage can be traced back and believed to be coming from Mongolia and the Vikings. In line with this spirit, Jón Gunnar Árnason created this beautiful sculpture that has been one of the points of interest in the city. 

You can visit the Sun Voyager sculpture for free, or alternatively you can get this City Sightseeing Reykjavik Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour to see some other places to visit in the city.

4. Icelandic Phallological Museum

Address: Laugavegur 116, 105 Reykjavík, Iceland
Opening time: 10:00 – 18:00

Probably one fo the weird yet the best things to do in Reykjavik is a visit to the Iceland Phallological Museum. A comprehensive museum that houses different phallic specimens from various types of mammals around the world.  

Phallological Musuem in Iceland
Photo credit: Icelandic Phallological Museum

The idea of collecting various mammals phalluses started in in 1974 when Sigurður Hjartarson (the founder of the museum) received a pizzle or Bull’s genitalia. From then on, the collection grew as the people start donating different specimen to include in the comprehensive collections of phalluses.   

5.  Laugavegur

Laugavegur is one of the oldest and main street of Reykjavik.  The Laugavegur translates as the “wash road” as it was the road where the women walk towards the hot pool to do their laundry. 

Laugavegur street in Reykjavik Iceland

Laugavegur is now the main high street of Reykjavik. The street is filled with various shops for tourists and locals. Laugavegur also have different restaurants and bars that are worth visiting. So if you want to experience the nightlife and go shopping in Reykjavik, go and visit Laugavegur.

6. Hallgrímskirkja

Address: Hallgrímstorg 101, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Opening time: 9:00 – 17:00

Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik

Overtowering the Reykjavik landscape is the Hallgrímskirkja. The main Evangelical – Lutheran church in Iceland. Named after the reverend poet Hallgrímur Pétursson that composed the Hymns of the Passion. A collection of more than fifty hymns and verses that depicts the love and praises to the Lord. 

Concert Organ inside Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik

It is free to visit inside the church and admire the beautiful stained glass windows and the largest concert organ in Iceland. With a nominal donation of ISK1000 (Adults) – ISK100 (Child 7-16 years old), you can climb the church tower to see the beautiful Icelandic landscape. This is one of the best things to do in Reykjavik!  

7. Try Icelandic food

When visiting Iceland, it is a must to try and Icelandic food. You should not miss one of the popular food in Reykjavik, the hotdog (Plysa in Icelandic)! 

Icelandic Hotdog in Reykjavik

It might not sound so exciting but Icelandic hotdogs are made from organic lamb, pork and beef.  As recommended by most Icelanders, a visit to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (translates to Best Hot dog in town) hot dog stand is one of the best things to do in Reykjavik for food lovers. During our visit to Reykjavik, we also tried the Reindeer Burger.  It’s rich and tasty! You can join this Reykjavik food walk to know and enjoy the food scene in the city.

Reindeer Burger in Reykjavik Iceland

If you are a more adventurous food lover,  then you can try the traditional Icelandic food called Þorramatur (thorramatur). It is composed of various fermented and cured meat and fish products served with dark rye bread.  You can join this Traditional Icelandic food tour so you experience it first hand.

Thorramatur Icelandic food
Photo credit: The blanz

8. Icelandic woollen clothing

Known and sourced from the excellent breed of Icelandic sheep, comes the Icelandic woollen clothing. The Icelandic wool is a sturdy type of wool that can withstand the cold and wet Icelandic weather.  

With its distinctive Icelandic patterns and designs, it surely captivates all the fashionistas and even the people who dress up for function over fashion around the world. The Icelandic woollen jumper has a top mark quality due to the Icelandic wool, they are also handmade that makes it more extra special and comes with a hefty price tag. 

9. Höfði House

Address: Borgartún 105, Reykjavík, Iceland

Hofdi House in Reykjavik Iceland

A visit to the historical Höfði House is one of the best things to do in Reykjavik.  The house was build in 1909 by shores of Reykjavik known as the base French Consul Jean-Paul Brillouin and home of the Icelandic poet Einar Benediktsson.  From 1938 until post World War II, became the home of the British consul of Iceland wherein the late Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Actress Marlene Dietrich was among the notable guests.

It has been a building of historical value when it hosted the very important summit between the United States of America President Ronald Reagan and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic leader Mikhail Gorbatsjov marking the end of the Cold War in 1986. The house is closed to the public, however, you can always drop by in front of it when you join any of Reykjavik sightseeing tours.

10. Parliament House (Alþingishúsið)

Address: Kirkjutorg, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

Parliament House in Reykjavik Iceland

The Alþingishúsið is the home of the Alþingi, Icelandic Parliament since 1981. It is the political hub of the country. The Alþingi used to be located in Thingvellir for thousands of years.  The Alþingishúsið also has the oldest public garden in Iceland. 

11. Hot Springs and Swimming Pools

Icelanders found a way to relax and enjoy the hot water of their country by bathing in their hot springs and swimming pools.  There are around 17 hot springs and swimming pools in Reykjavik, so you can always ask a local where is the nearest one to your hotel.  

Hot Springs and Swimming pools in Reykjavik Iceland

Experience and relaxing in one of these pools would be one of the best things to do in Reykjavik. The swimming culture in Reykjavik and the whole country is most loved by the locals, so you must have to follow certain rules like showering naked and wearing correct swimming costumes. 

I hope that inspires you to visit and explore Reykjavik, Iceland. It was truly a great and unique experience to visit this city in Scandinavia. 

Have you been to Reykjavik?
Do you have other suggestions on the best things to do in Reykjavik?
Leave it in the comment box below.

best things to do in Reykjavik Iceland


Ryazan Tristram EverythingZany Author Bio

Ryazan Tristram

Travel Writer & Photographer

Ryazan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism and Hotel Management. She also has more than 10 years of work experience gained from working in the hotel and travel sectors in Asia and Europe. Her work has been featured and published on Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Discovery Channel, World Travel Guide, MSN, CNBC, GMA, Lonely Planet and many more. She is currently living in the UK as a dual citizen (British – Filipina). Join her on travelling around the globe with a mission to share the best of the world.

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