Visiting Reykjavik in December
If you’re thinking about visiting Reykjavik in December, think no further!
The city comes to life during one of the darkest months of the season, and you’re going to love it!
December is one of the absolute best months to visit Iceland, so you can expect Reykjavik to have lots going on.
I recommend to plan and book your trip and accommodations in advance since activities and hotels tend to get fully booked in advance!
Once you’ve booked your trip, read on to discover what Reykjavik is like during one of the most beautiful and festive months of the year!
REYKJAVIK WEATHER IN DECEMBER
For me, December is one of the most beautiful months of the year in Reykjavik since it usually consists of a bit of snow along with the entire city LIT UP with christmas lights! How cosy does that sound?!
The temperature in Reykjavik averages around -1 to -3C in December (29-37F), which is far warmer than a lot of people expect when visiting Iceland during peak winter, although we do get some cold winds from time to time.
But, if you simply bring over a warm parka/coat along with some layers, gloves and a hat. You’ll be fully geared up to truly enjoy Reykjavik to it’s fullest.
Here is a blog post we published earlier with more detailed information about What to Wear in Iceland during Winter.
December is also our darkest month of the year which means only approx. 4 hours of daylight. It can seem a bit strange but with the brightness that reflects from the snow and Christmas lights, I promise you that it’s awesome.
BEST TOURS TO DO IN DECEMBER
I look at at like this...
You've made your way all the way to Iceland during one of the most beautiful times of the year. Why not make it truly unforgettable with some incredible activities.
Below, I'll mention my favorite activities that I recommend all travelers to consider doing while exploring Iceland in December.
THE NORTHERN LIGHTS (SMALL GROUP TOUR)
Seeing the Northern Lights is usually at the top of the to-do list for people visiting Iceland during winter! Simply because It’s one of the most beautiful natural occurrences in the northern hemisphere, and it is a truly unforgettable experience!
If it’s on you list as well – then I’m thrilled to tell you that December is one of the very best months to see the magical lights!
There are many ways to hunt the northern lights in Iceland. It’s possible to try your luck by renting a car. Which can be a great way to explore the outside of Reykjavik on your own.
But for the highest changes of seeing the Northern lights…
I recommend booking my favourite Northern lights tour.
Since the northern lights can be really tricky to find, especially on your own. You can save yourself a lot of time looking & wondering around with no guarantee of seeing the lights by instead, hopping on a fun tour where you’ll have a northern lights expert who has been carefully monitoring the weather forecast and northern lights activity to take you the absolute best spots with the highest possible chance of seeing the aurora borealis.
Unlike most other Northern Light tours which operate on large buses packed with travellers – this one has a limited amount of spaces to ensure a warm, small group personal experience.
REYKJAVIK FOOD WALK
Downtown Reykjavik is jam-packed with the very best of Icelandic cuisine, and the Reykjavik Food Walk will give you a unique introduction like no other, into the best local restaurants and dishes!
During the tour, you and a small group will follow a fun local guide through the city to 5-6 different restaurants, and delve into the treasures of Icelandic cuisine. You’re bound to be full by the end!
This is one of the best ways to experience Reykjavik like a local, while meeting new people and learning about Iceland and Icelandic cooking! You will try over 10 Icelandic cuisines at different restaurants, shops and food trucks. The Reykjavik Food Walk currently has a 5 star rating on TripAdvisor with over 3000 reviews, and is rated #1 out of over 370 tours in Iceland!
Find out more about the Reykjavik Food Walk here!
REYKJAVIK BAR CRAWL
The Reykjavik Bar Crawl is your perfect opportunity to party like a local in Reykjavik! You’ll visit three of the best bars and lounges and taste some of the most expertly crafted Icelandic beers and cocktails in the city. From there it’s up to you if you’d like to stick with the group and dance all night!
There’s also always a Christmas Reykjavik Bar Crawl on December 23rd with an ugly Christmas sweater theme!
You’ll get an extremely fun introduction into the Reykjavik nightlife, unlike anywhere else, and have a blast with good company, so why not check it out? The Reykjavik Bar Crawl is rated #1 on TripAdvisor under Nightlife in Reykjavik!
Find out more about the Reykjavik Bar Crawl here!
ATV QUAD MOUNTAIN TOUR
The ATV Quad Mountain Tour is an incredible expedition taking place just 15 minutes outside of downtown Reykjavik! You’ll explore one of Iceland’s best natural playgrounds, and be awed by the gorgeous mountainous views that lay beyond the city. Plus, the tour is practically made for beginners; all you have to do is press and go! Just be aware that you do need a driver’s license to sit behind the wheel. The great thing about ATV riding in Iceland is that the vehicles can really handle the rough terrain and ever-changing weather conditions in the country. This is definitely an adrenaline-pumping adventure to check out while you’re visiting!
Find out more about the ATV Quad Mountain Tour here!
CHRISTMAS IN REYKJAVIK
As you may already know, Icelanders take their Christmas season very seriously–Christmas decorations even start to appear towards the end of October! So of course the closer it gets to Christmas, the busier the city becomes. Here’s a little list about what Reykjavik is like during Christmas:
- Concerts & Events: There are lots of concerts and events going on, plus a Christmas market with various pop-up stores where you can get amazing Icelandic-made goods! You can check out the calendar for Reykjavik here to see if there are any events you’d like to check out during your visit!
- The Árbær Open Air Folk Museum has a great exhibition about traditional Icelandic Christmas, if you’re interested in making some candles and tasting Icelandic Christmas treats in person!
- Icelandic holiday food appears on menus at restaurants around the beginning of the season, consisting of things like reindeer, hangikjöt (‘hung meat’), and herring. Plus, the best Christmas Ale (Appelsín and malt) is stocked all over store shelves!
- December 24th. When speaking about Christmas, Icelanders are usually referring to December 24th (aðfangadagur) because it’s the night where presents are gifted and opened! Icelanders often gift books to each other and spend the night reading.
- ALL of Reykjavik is filled with colorful lights to brighten up the dark season, and there are even Yule Lads (Santa Clauses) in special hiding spots around the area–see if you can spot any!
- Finally, you’ll hear Icelandic Christmas music EVERYWHERE, and it will probably get stuck in your head!
NEW YEARS EVEN IN REYKJAVIK
New Years Eve in Reykjavik is a WILD time! Every town in Iceland is lit up with fireworks, LOTS of fireworks, because the ban on fireworks is lifted for more than a week at this time. Everyone spends the month preparing for New Years Eve, buying as many fireworks and firecrackers as they can to ready for the grand finale. For a really great view of the fireworks in Reykjavik on New Years Eve, look out of the Perlan Observation Deck, stand at the top of Öskjuhlíð hill (61m above sea level), or watch from the area outside Hallgrímskirkja church! You’ll also find a bunch of bonfires going on around Reykjavik, so you can stay nice and toasty while the sky lights up, too!
New Years Eve is also a huge party night for Icelanders, and one of the busiest times in Icelandic nightlife. For this reason, we at Wake Up Reykjavik are hosting the Ultimate New Years Eve Party in Reykjavik! You’ll get access to the LARGEST New Years Eve party in Reykjavik, and have great company from your local hosts and people from all around the world. This is a night to remember that gets booked far in advance! Keep an eye out for our 2021/2022 details, so you don’t miss out on it!
THINGS TO DO IN REYKJAVIK IN DECEMBER
Reykjavik has lots of places to visit and things to do while you’re visiting in December! Here are just a few of our suggestions to get the most out of the city:
ICE SKATING AT INGÓLFSTORG SQUARE
On the first of December every year, NOVA, one of the biggest mobile companies in Iceland, opens an ice skating rink right in the heart of Reykjavik! It’s the perfect way for everyone in the capital area to celebrate the most festive month of the year, and stay energized during the darker hours! The square is decorated with a beautiful assortment of lights, Icelandic holiday music fills the air, and the nearby Christmas village sells hot chocolate and biscuits to keep you fueled and wam! It’s a really great activity for families looking to have quality, simple fun. Access to the rink is completely free, but you can rent out skates and helmets for 990kr per hour. If you’ll be in Reykjavik anywhere between the 1st and 24th of December, you can find the skating rink and Christmas village in Ingólfstorg Square, near the Icelandic Design Center on Aðalstræti!
SWIMMING IN SUNDHOLL
Sundhöll is Reykjavik’s longest running public swimming pool, and is one of the nicest places to visit during the winter! All of the pools in Reykjavik are filled with geothermal water, so it’s way warmer than you’d ever expect (around 30C). Splash around in the indoor thermal pool, relax in the hot tubs, or get toasty in the sauna–whatever you do, you’ll feel the icy weather leave you immediately! You can read more details about Sundhöll here. We definitely recommend you check it out if you have time–for a generally cold country, Iceland sure does swimming pools right!
Maybe not what you’d expect so close to Reykjavik, Nauthólsvík is a white sand beach, also called the Bay of Nauthólsvík, with a man-made area of geothermally heated seawater, and hot tubs. Swimming in Nauthólsvík actually remains quite popular throughout the months, even when the temperature drops! You can look at the website if you’re unsure about the sea temperature; they always have that listed along with air temperature and wind speed. However, generally speaking, the geothermal pool is only a few degrees warmer than sea temperature–cold-water swimming has been a long time activity for Icelanders! We definitely recommend at least checking this out, and maybe dipping into the hot tub depending on the weather. The beach is open all through December, so if you’re looking to keep warm while still admiring the Icelandic nature around you, this is a great choice!
Nautholsvik geothermal beach at a beautiful summer day
GO SHOPPING ON LAUGAVEGUR
Laugavegur is the most popular shopping street in Reykjavik, where stores usually remain open until 22:00 during December for late-night Christmas shopping! Of course the street is full of lovely festive lights to guide you as it gets darker. Pick up a nice hot cup of coffee/hot chocolate to sip while you stroll through all of the cute Icelandic stores–or to window shop at your heart’s desire!
HAPPY HOUR AT LOCAL BARS AND CAFES
This activity is a no brainer–there are plenty of great places to relax and stay warm around Reykjavik! Happy hour is pretty much available at every restaurant, bar, and cafe around Reykjavik, and is a great opportunity to taste some delicious Icelandic beer and cocktails for a good price! Check out the special Icelandic holiday drinks, too! If you’re a real beer lover, you’ll love our Reykjavik Beer Tour where you’ll taste a bunch of Icelandic craft beer and learn all there is about Icelandic beer culture from a fabulous local guide!
December is the perfect time to visit some of Reykjavik’s best museums! Not only is it an excuse to stay warm, but it’s a great way to learn about Icelandic culture during our favorite time of the year! The National Museum of Iceland has some captivating exhibitions about Iceland’s past, and over 2,000 artifacts from various parts of the country. Possibly one of the most iconic artifacts is Valthjófsstadur door, which depicts scenes from the famous 12th century knight’s tale known as Le Chevalier au Lion. Other favorites are the Reykjavik Art Museum, the Phallological Museum, the Saga Museum, and the Settlement Exhibition of Reykjavik (to really immerse yourself in Iceland’s viking history). These are just some of the most interesting museums where you can discover Iceland’s rich timeline in Reykjavik!
From the Whale Museum.
It’s hard to miss a structure like Hallgrímskirkja church, as it stands (73 meters high) as the tallest building in all of down twon Reykjavik! The church was designed by a very well-known Icelandic architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, who took inspiration from Icelandic nature in order to fulfill his creative vision for the church. As an iconic landmark of Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja is a popular meeting point for many tourists, as it is easy to spot at a distance and is in the heart of the city. Also right outside of Hallgrímskirkja is a famous statue of Leifur Erikson, a Norse explorer who discovered America in the year 1000 A.D. The statue itself was a gift from the United States in 1930, and has since become a staple part of the photographs taken in the front of Hallgrímskirkja.
To get an amazing view of Reykjavik, you can visit the Hallgrímskirkja towers, accessible by lift with an admission fee of 1000kr between 9:00-14:30 in December (excluding Sundays). It’s a beautiful way to experience the city, and get an inside look at Reykjavik’s most popular tourist destination!
Perlan is quite the beauty sitting on top of Öskjuhlíð hill in Reykjavik, and is one of the most aesthetically interesting buildings in the area. It has a large glass dome that sits atop six geothermal hot-water tanks, which was an architectural idea that evolved in the 1930s from one of Iceland’s most esteemed artists, Johannes Kjarval. Sixty years later it was finally brought to fruition! Inside of Perlan, you’ll find multiple exhibitions, such as the Wonders of Iceland, a realyice cave with ice from the glaciers, a planetarium, and even an observation deck where you can look out at the Icelandic horizon and get a 360 degree view of Reykjavik city! There are also various stores and restaurants available for your convenience, so you can spend as much time as you need discovering the area. There’s even a new exhibition opening in December called Water in Icelandic Nature where you can learn the true importance of Icelandic water! Stop by Perlan, and see it all up close!
In short, Reykjavik in December is full of fun and good vibes! Check out our other article about Iceland in December for more information about the country during this time of year!
To sum it up!
If you are crazy enough to be thinking about visiting Iceland – and doing that during the darkest month of the year. Absolutely go for it! You are going to love it. It’s a beautiful season unlike any other. And you probably won’t find any travel destination more epic than this. Snow, Blizzards, Northern Lights and the city will be more alive than ever. We are looking forward to seeing you!
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