Welcome to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland and the most walkable city I’ve ever visited!
While I’m sure you could spend much more than 24 hours in Reykjavik, the top tourist sites only take about a day and are all within walking distance of each other.
I’d recommend staying somewhere in downtown Reykjavik, within about a 1–1.5 km radius of the famous cathedral, Hallgrimskirkja. I stayed at the Downtown Reykjavik Apartments, but there are also many guesthouses in the area as well.
I ate a quick breakfast at the apartment with food I picked up at a Bonus (Icelandic grocery store). If you are exploring more of Iceland and want to keep your food costs low, stock up on groceries at a Bónus or Krónan while in Reykjavik to use for future meals.
However, if you want to eat out, check out this list of breakfast locations by a local.
After breakfast, head over to the impossible to miss Hallgrimskirkja. Entrance to the church itself is free but it currently costs 1000 ISK to go up the tower to get a great view of the city (as shown in the top photo).
Walk on down towards Lake Tjörnin and the National Museum of Iceland. I wish I had gone to the Museum as it sounds like a great place to learn a lot about the history of Iceland.
After you’ve had your fill of history, start walking towards the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center. On your way there, stop at The Hot Dog Shake and Pylsa Stand for an authentic Icelandic hot dog.
A recent review on TripAdvisor says they cost only 470 ISK, which is a great price for Icelandic food. Icelandic hot dogs are unique because they are made mostly from Icelandic lamb, with some pork and beef.
I can’t say I prefer them to their American counterparts, but the couple I had on my trip were pretty good. In fact, as a Rochestarian, I think I am legally required to prefer Zweigle’s to all other hot dogs.
Have you ever wanted to see over 200 animal penises in one place? If so, stop by the Icelandic Phallological Museum on your way to Harpa for a fun time. Current admission price is 2200 ISK.
If you’re visiting on the weekend, check out Kolaportið, Iceland’s only flea market. It’s close by to the Phallological Museum and on your way to Harpa.
Continue walking north towards the harbor until you reach another architectural marvel of Iceland: Harpa Concert Hall. It’s the home of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera and hosts many different concerts and events.
A large portion of the Harpa facades are made of a unique “quasi brick” of glass panels that have a color filter and can appear to change color under different lighting conditions.
Admire the unique architecture from both outside and within the main hall before walking along the harbor towards the Sun Voyager statue. Icelandic sculptor Jón Gunnar built the statue which resembles a ship and is situated close to the water facing the mountains in the distance.
Head back into the city to reach the main shopping street of Laugavegur. It’s one of the oldest streets in Reykjavik and is packed with shops, restaurants, and bars.
Fun Fact: Reykjavik Pride takes place the second weekend in August. If you visit during that weekend there’s a parade down Laugavegur and part of the street Skólavörðurstígur is painted in the rainbow colors of the Gay Flag.
After you’ve had your fill of window shopping, browsing, people watching, and quite possibly actual shopping pick a spot for dinner. I ate at the Noodle Station which lets you build your own noodle bowl for an affordable price.
I also ate a delicious Nutella covered waffle from a food cart near Hallgrimskirkja on the way back to the apartment so keep an eye out for one of those.
If you aren’t tired out from all the walking and jet lag, there are plenty of bars and clubs on and around Laugavegur to keep you busy all night, along with the midnight sun if you visit during the summer.
Finally, if you have a little more time and/or money consider these additional places to visit in Reykjavik:
- Perlan: Another unique architectural landmark which contains exhibitions, a large gift shop, fine dining, and an observation deck with a nice view of the city.
- The Elf School: According to The Elf School, 54% of Icelanders believe in elves and what they call “hidden people.” Spend an afternoon here listening to elf stories and Icelandic folklore.
- Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach: This golden sand beach (aka a regular one in the most of the world?) has a heated lagoon, hot tubs, and a snack bar.
- Þúfa: Walk along the spiral pathway up this small hill to view an art installation by Ólöf Norda and get a new view of the city.
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