25 top things to do on a Reykjavik City Break

Reykjavik the capital city of iceland in winter view from above

If you’re planning a Reykjavik city break, here’s everything you need to know! 

I’ve visited Reykjavik a couple of times now and adore the city. 

While many people skip the capital and head straight to Iceland’s nature, I think it’s well worth a visit.

Here are all the best things to do in Reykjavik on a weekend break! 

25 top things to do in Reykjavik 

The best things to do in Reykjavik include museums, immersive attractions and the scenic walk along the harbour. Here’s what you need to know!

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1. Reykjavik Walking Tour

Reykjavik the capital city of iceland in winter view from above

The first thing I’d recommend doing in Reykjavik is a walking tour

We booked with https://citywalk.is/ and our guide, Asi, fascinated us with stories about Iceland and its culture. 

The walk takes around two hours and covers most parts of the city centre. 

It’s free, but tipping is expected (as I’m sure you can imagine, the cost of living in Iceland is high and it’s the guides’ full-time jobs!

(We actually tipped online via their website). 

2. Enjoy Reykjavik’s Cafe Culture 

Reykjavik has an excellent cafe culture! 

The Nordic culture along with the cold, snowy weather that makes cosy cafes all the more inviting have led to warm, cosy cafe springing up all over the world. 

Icelandic people love oat milk, and I’m always happy to find out milk lattes here, but of coure you can get dairy milk coffees as well. 

My favourite cafe is Braud which serves delicious coffee and crumbly pastries. 

3. Check out Tjornin Lake

Tjornin Lake sits in the middle of Reykjavik (if you do the walking tour, this is where it’ll finish). 

In the winter months, Tjornin Lake (Tjornin just means “lake” in Icelandic!) is frozen over, apart from a section that geese live on due to thermal waters being pumped in. 

Some people walk across the lake when it’s frozen, although I would have been to nervous to do so. But nonetheless, it’s a scenic spot for a stroll!

4. Go to the Reykjavik City Hall for the 3D map

Just by Tjornin is Reykjavik City Hall! Free to enter, the city hall is only a quick stop on your Reykjavik itinerary (although it does have public toilets, which is always good to know!). 

The City Hall is most famous for its topographical 3D map, which shows Iceland’s mountains, valleys and other geological features. Definitely worth popping in to see!

5. Head to a thermal bath

Sky Lagoon and Blue Lagoon are possibly Iceland’s most famous thermal baths, and while I would recommend going to one (Sky Lagoon over Blue Lagoon, for me!), you can save a lot of money by going to Reykjavik’s public thermal baths instead. 

The oldest in the city is Sundhöllin, which is a small thermal pool with hot tubs along the side and a sauna and steam room. 

The largest is Laugardalslaug, which has a 50 metre Olympic swimming pool, along with hot tubs and another, warmer pool for more relaxing! 

Our favourite was Arbaejarlaug, which is a 20 minute bus ride from the city centre in a suburb. It felt a lot more local (people even spoke Icelandic to me there, which is a rarity in Reykjavik!) and the layout of the pools enhanced relaxation. 

6. Walk down the sculpture and shore walk

Sculptures and Shore walk that's covered in snow in the winter months.

Back in Reykjavik centre, the Sculpture and Shore walk runs along Faxaflói Bay. With views of the mountains – that are snow-covered in the winter months – here you can take in Iceland’s epic nature while still being in the city centre. 

I’d recommend doing the walk in the early morning – the skies are stunning when the sun’s coming up! On the way, don’t miss the bright yellow lighthouse and various statues and information boards. 

7. See the Sun Voyager statue

boat statue in iceland

The most famous statue on the Sculptures and Shore Walk is the Sun Voyager.

This statue represents a Viking ship, but it’s actually not related to the Vikings at all but instead is an homage to the sun after a long Icelandic winter. It’s one of the most popular places to see the sunrise on the walk. 

7. Check out the Museum of Icelandic History

Inside of the Museum of Icelandic History in Reykjavik

As the name suggests, the Museum of Icelandic History is an exhibition of everything you need to know about Iceland’s story. 

The Museum of Icelandic History starts back in the country’s prehistory, first detailing the first Viking settlers to Iceland, then discussing how the population grew over the centuries, then moving into how Iceland developed into a tourist hub. 

8. Walk around the city for sunrise

Sunrise on the sculptures and shore walk

If you’re visiting Iceland in the winter months, my biggest tip would be to go for a sunrise walk. The city’s wonderful as it comes alive, gradually lightening as everybody wakes up. 

Of course, sunrise time varies hugely depending on the time of year; Iceland never has complete darkness (it’s not northern enough) but on 21st December, the sun rises at 11:23am (and then sets at 3:30pm). 

10. See the Harpa Concert Hall 

The Harpa Concert Hall sits on the edge of the Statues and Shore walk, and it’s worth seeing the modern exterior. 

If you have time, and a concert is on, you might be interested in seeing one! Iceland is famous for Of Monsters and Men and Sigur Rós. 

11. Visit Reykjavik’s Quirkier Museums!

Along with serious museums like the Museum of Icelandic History and Reykjavik’s Art Museum, there are some quirkier museums to check out as well! 

One of these is the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Run by one of the world’s experts in phallology (I didn’t even know there were world experts in phallology!), it’s a collection of phalluses from Icelandic animals, along with some phallus-inspired decorations and memorabilia! 

It’s honestly the whackiest museum I’ve ever been in, and while it is certainly an experience, it’s quite expensive (£17). If you want to save some money, I’d recommend just popping down to the Phallus Cafe (yes, that’s really what it’s called!) and grabbing a coffee or a waffle (in the shape of…) – you can still see some of the exhibits and get a ahem feel for the place, but you’ll save some money and get a drink or snack!

12. Go to the flea market

The flea market is a little-known Icelandic secret. You’ll find it here (Google Maps link – look for the building with the mural on the side by the famous hot dog stand!) and it’s only open at the weekends. 

If you’re wanting to buy some traditional Icelandic souvenirs, this is the place to go! They are much cheaper than the souvenir shops that are catered towards tourists. 

13. Head to Fly Over Iceland

FlyOver Iceland is one of the best immersive exhibitions in Reykjavik. You’ll be strapped into a seat and taken on an immersive flight experience, where you’ll quite literally fly over Iceland’s natural wonders, including its geysers, tectonic plats and the country’s glorious waterfalls. 

It’s never like the real thing, but it’s a glorious immersive experience where you’ll experience seeing parts of Iceland that are inaccessible otherwise. 

You can book your slot using this link.

14. See the Lava Show

Lava show in Iceland, with the volcanologist performing attractions

Another immersive exhibit that’ll help you get a grasp of Iceland’s nature is the Lava Show in Reykjavik. 

At the Lava Show, real lava heated to 1100C is poured into a room full of people, and the lava-master will showcase how it reacts to different substances! 

You’ll also see the cooling process and learn plenty of fun facts about volcanoes. 

It’s the safest way to see lava and learn about volcanoes in Iceland! 

Book your time slot using this link.

15. Walk up Rainbow Street

Rainbow street in Reykjavik with Hallgrimskirkja at the top

Rainbow Street is probably my favourite street in Reykjavik. 

Reykjavik Pride is a huge deal in the city – it’s celebrated each year in vigour, and every year a street is painted rainbow colours. 

When, what is now known as Rainbow Street (its Icelandic name is Regnbogagatan) was painted in multicoloured hues, they decided to leave it there permanently. The street was changing to a pedestrian street anyway, and it represents Iceland’s friendliness to its LGBTQIA+ community and travellers. 

16. Go to the top of Hallgrimskirkja

Hallgrimskirkja in Iceland

At the top of Rainbow Street, you’ll find Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik’s most famous church. 

It only dates back to 1945 (and was completed in 1986), but it’s one of the most iconic Reykjavik landmarks thanks to its striking design. 

It’s thought to represent both Iceland’s nature and Thor’s hammer, with sides sweeping down to the ground.

One of my top Reykjavik recommendations would be to go to the top of Hallgrimskirkja for the best view of the city. It costs around 8 euros to do so, and you’ll see the entire city, along with the coastline. 

17. Explore Perlan

Perlan is a must-visit in Reykjavik. It’s known for its panoramic view of the city from its glass dome. 

Inside, you’ll find exhibitions that delve into Iceland’s natural phenomena, including a real indoor ice cave, a Northern Lights simulation and an exhibition about the country’s animals.

Again, it’s not the same as seeing nature in person, but if the weather is erratic or you don’t have a chance to see the rest of the country, it’s still an experience and you’ll learn lots about the country! 

Book your time slot at Perlan using this link.

18. Whales of Iceland

At Whales of Iceland, the ocean’s gentle giants come to life in full-scale models. 

This exhibition delves into the lives of Icelandic whales – you’ll learn a tonne about the enormous mammals! 

Book your time slot using this link.

19. Whale watching tour

One of the best things to do in Reykjavik is definitely to go whale watching.

While sightings are never guaranteed, when you do see the whales, they’re enchanting! 

Tours leave from Reykjavik harbour daily, although sometimes they’re rescheduled due to adverse weather. 

Book tours by clicking here.

20. Day trip to Golden Circle 

geysir erupting from the earth in Iceland

One of the best day trips from Reykjavik is to the Golden Circle. This circle is “Iceland in miniature” – you’ll drive past waterfalls, geysers, craters and even Thingvellir National Park, where you can walk through the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates. It’s also where the first parliament of Iceland was established! 

Many people road trip the Golden Circle, but if you don’t want to drive, there are plenty of tours available every year. 

This is the tour that we did – book it by clicking here.

21. Hiking tour on the Reykjanes Peninsula

Sitting around a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik, the Reykjanes Peninsula has been rather infamous recently due to the volcanic eruptions!

It’s still possible to visit the peninsula, but I would recommend doing so with a guide, to make sure that you stay out of any hazardous areas and follow national instructions. We did a hiking tour to some of the (not active) volcanoes and loved taking in the terrain and epic views. 

It was also a fantastic way to learn more about Iceland’s volcanoes and some of the issues that the country is facing when it comes to its powerful nature. 

We did this hiking tour here – book it by clicking here.

22. Northern Lights boat trip from Reykjavik harbour

northern lights iceland

One of my favourite things to do in Reykjavik is to go out and see the Northern Lights!

You can do bus tours – click here for a recommended one – but I saw them via boat and it was much more comfortable!

On the boat, we had overalls we could try on and could purchase warm drinks from the bar. We could move around to the top deck or head down to the lower decks if we got cold! 

We were very lucky, but our display of the Northern Lights was mesmerising. We saw the green lights in the sky, with tinges of pinks and purple, and they even danced in the sky! 

Of course, like any natural phenomenon, seeing the Northern Lights is never guaranteed. 

This is the tour that we did – you can book it by clicking here.

23. South Iceland Day trip 

One of the places on my list for my next trip to Reykjavik is South Iceland – it’s a region famous for its glorious landscapes, from thundering waterfalls to black sand beaches. 

Stops include Reynisfjara, the most famous black sand beach, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss – two waterfalls that you’ll definitely recognise from Intastgram! 

Here’s a great tour that I’ll do on one of my next trips to Iceland! 

24. Langjökull Glacier trip  

The Langjökull Glacier trip is a must-visit! One of the largest glaciers in the country, it’s a wonderful spot to visit in Iceland. 

Here, you’ll experience ice caves and snowmobile tours; or, if you just want to kick back and watch the scenery go by, head out in a special kitted out bus. 

This tour is on my bucket list! 

25. Snæfellsnes peninsula day trip 

Another day trip from Reykjavik is Snæfellsnes Peninsula,which encapsulates Iceland’s diverse natural beauty in a single, accessible location. 

From the iconic Kirkjufell mountain to the rugged coastline terminating at the bright yellow Svörtuloft Lighthouse, the peninsula is a condensed version of everything that makes Iceland unique. 

I’m planning to do this tour at some point! 

Where to stay in Reykjavik

We stayed at Midgardur by Centre Hotels – this was a lovely, minimalistic hotel with excellent breakfast, a bar a spa and a gym in the basement. Click here to read more about it.

Want more Reykjavik tips? 

rainbow street in Reykjavik

I’ve wrote a four days in Iceland itinerary and full travel guide – with it, all you’ll need to do is click through to book flights, tours, car rental and accommodation that suits you!

In it, I detail everything you need to know for a long weekend in Iceland, from booking your flights to whether to rent a car or take a tour. 

If you’re planning some day trips from Reykjavik, I recommend my top ones INCLUDING best stops, and feature some tours that you can take if you don’t fancy driving. 

My Iceland travel guide is also packed with things to do in Reykjavik, restaurants in Reykjavik, information about seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland and plenty of Iceland travel tips. 

It maps out your entire long weekend in Iceland – all you need to do is click through and make the reservations! 

Check it out here.

Are you ready for Reykjavik?

Reykjavik’s well worth a visit, and hopefully this guide has showed you the best things to do here!

Don’t forget to check out my guide and follow my YouTube and TikTok for more Iceland and general travel tips.