9 Things To Do In Reykjavík That You Can Do In One Day

Don’t let Reykjavík’s size fool you, there’s no shortage of incredible things to do in this small Icelandic city.

The world’s northernmost capital is home to breathtaking nature, welcoming locals, and colorful streets. While there are plenty of worthwhile day trips to other parts of Iceland, this is a guide on how to spend your time in the city itself. Here are nine absolute must-do’s in Reykjavík.

Walk Along Faxaflói Bay.

Faxaflói Bay, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

the view along sæbraut road
The view along Sæbraut road. PHOTO MEGHAN ST. PIERRE
faxaflói bay
downtown reykjavík
Downtown Reykjavík. PHOTO MEGHAN ST. PIERRE

There’s a grassy, rock lined stretch of land next to Sæbraut road you can walk along, offering remarkable views of both Engey and Viðey islands. If you take this path all the way down to the harbor, you’ll pass several notable Reykjavík landmarks while admiring the tranquil waters of Faxaflói Bay. Starting from the east, you’ll pass the Höfði House, a historical building known as the meeting place where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev took steps to ending the Cold War in 1986. Nearby is its little yellow lighthouse, a cheerful contrast to the blues of the water and sky. Next up on your journey is the sun voyager, a steel sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason created as “an ode to the sun” and a symbol of Iceland’s progress and freedom. As you approach the harbor, you’ll see the Harpa Concert Hall, an impressive glass building where the national opera and symphony of Iceland play.

Listen to the Organ at Hallgrimskirkja.

Skolavoroustigur, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

Hallgrimskirkja. PHOTO MEGHAN ST. PIERRE

Standing at 244 feet tall, Hallgrimskirkja is the tallest church in Iceland. The unique and impressive architecture of this Lutheran church was inspired by the glaciers and mountains of the Icelandic landscape. Out front is a statue of Leifur Eriksson, the Viking explorer thought to be the first European to land in America. The church’s concrete structure took over 40 years to build and is now host to many classical music concerts throughout the year. Such concerts often feature the 49-foot-tall pipe organ with over 5,000 pipes located inside. Church members can sometimes be found playing a song, so it’s worth stepping inside and checking out the world class acoustics if you’re passing by.

Shop on Skólavördustigur.

Skólavördustigur, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

Skólavördustigur. PHOTO MEGHAN ST. PIERRE

The longest shopping street in the city, Skólavördustigur is lined with local shops, art galleries, and places to eat from Michelin starred restaurants to establishments selling street food. The road leads up the hill to Hallgrimskirkja and it makes a great place to search for authentic souvenirs. Here, you can find Icelandic brands such as Geysir and Orrifinn among international stores. Don’t forget to pick up some Icelandic chocolate, available in many shops on the street.

colorful buildings on skólavördustigur
Colorful buildings on Skólavördustigur. PHOTO MEGHAN ST. PIERRE

Tour the National Museum of Iceland.

Suðurgata, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

busts in the national museum of iceland
Busts in the National Museum of Iceland. Photo by maggibyron on Instagram

Established in 1863, the National Museum of Iceland has around 2,000 cultural objects on display across 2 floors full of Icelandic history and culture. The permanent collection called “Making of a Nation” showcases over 1,200 years of history from the first settlement of Iceland to today. The Museum houses Iceland’s largest public collection of images, including 6.5 million photos, paintings, and sketches. There are also different exhibitions and events throughout the year, often featuring the work of local artists. Several guided tours are available, as well as free downloadable audio guides for smartphones.

Check out some Street Art on Laugavegur.

Laugavegur, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

raff 2012

Reykjavík graffiti is some of the most popular in the world despite it not appearing until the 1990s. Most of the street art is located around Laugavegur, but make sure to keep an eye out all around the city for Insta worthy murals. Some businesses even commission artists to paint their buildings, adding pops of color all over Reykjavík. Yet another cool and unique facet of the wonderous city, this creative hotspot celebrates an often-overlooked art medium.

Try the Coffee & Cinnamon Buns.

16 Frakkastígur, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

Cinnamon bun from Brauð & Co
Cinnamon bun from Brauð & Co. Photo by bal3ah_ on Instagram

Being a Nordic country, Iceland has its own delicious version of cinnamon buns, or snúður. These are typically quite large and topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon, although you’ll also find some covered in icing or even chocolate. The best cinnamon buns in Reykjavík are from Brauð & Co, a local bakery known for its bread-based treats. Get there early if you want anything, as they’re extremely popular and sell out fast. Coffee culture is also big here, and you should definitely stop by one of the many cafés in the downtown area for the perfect afternoon pick me up.

Look for Bunnies on Oskjuhlid Hill.

43HJ+G5J, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

entrance to oskjuhlid hill
Entrance to Oskjuhlid Hill. PHOTO MEGHAN ST. PIERRE
rabbits are all around
Rabbits are all around. PHOTO MEGHAN ST. PIERRE
a stream in oskjuhlid hill
A stream in Oskjuhlid Hill. PHOTO MEGHAN ST. PIERRE

If you’re looking for an easy view-filled hike, Oskjuhlid Hill Park is the place to go. Just a short walk from the city center, this forest-y area is full of streams and small waterfalls. The highlight of the park, however, is undoubtedly the area where rabbits are known to congregate. Also located in Oskjuhlid is Perlan, or “pearl,” a fine dining restaurant inside a glass dome that sits atop the city’s hot water tanks, serving great views of Reykjavík and an impressive planetarium.

Go on a Whale Watching Boat Tour.

Sculpture & Shore Walk, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

Whale watching boat
Whale watching boat. PHOTO MEGHAN ST. PIERRE

Whale watching boats are quite popular in Reykjavík and an extraordinary way to see some native wildlife or the northern lights (if you’re traveling September through March.) There are several different tour agencies in the city, and you can book tickets online or at the harbor. Tours range from 1 hour to all day, and going around sunset is highly recommended to make the views that much more beautiful. Summer is peak season to see whales, but you’re almost always guaranteed to see puffins or dolphins no matter when you go. Be warned, however, that it’s going to get cold on the boat, even if the weather seems mild on land. Most tours will offer coveralls if you’re going to be sitting on the top deck exposed to the frigid wind, so make sure to bring an extra jacket if that’s not your thing.

reykjavík harbor
Reykjavík harbor. PHOTO MEGHAN ST. PIERRE

Enjoy Nightlife in the City Center.

Ingólfsstræti 3, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

Den Danske Kro
Den Danske Kro. Photo by dendanskekro on Instagram

Reykjavík might be small but its nightlife is spirited, especially in the summer months when daylight lasts well into the late hours. There are no entrance fees to clubs unless there’s a special event, making it exceedingly easy to barhop the night away. The city is also extremely safe so you don’t have to worry about wandering around after dark, which is great because nightlife doesn’t tend to ramp up until around 1 A.M. Reykjavík is known for being inclusive and celebrating pride all year long. Stop by Kiki Queer Bar, known for its disco dance parties, if you want an inside look at the city’s gay club scene. If you’re looking for a more lowkey vibe, check out Den Danske Kro, a local favorite pub with live music, board game nights, and a selection of Icelandic beer.

Meghan St. Pierre

Content Editor Associate

Meghan is a native of South Florida who loves nature and landscape photography. Her favorite travel activities are getting lost in new cities and trying local desserts. She has been to 22 countries, and her favorites have been Sweden and Denmark so far.

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