Top 20 Things To Do In Reykjavik in 2019
Are you traveling to Iceland and looking for the best things to do in Reykjavik?
Lucky for you, here is your ultimate guide for best things to do in Reykjavik in 2019.
From nature to culture, from an explosive nightlife to world-class museums, Reykjavik has it all. It can be time-consuming and confusing to research all the best things to do in Reykjavik, though, especially if you don't know a lot about the city.
That's where I come in! I like to think that by now I am a Certified Local™! I have explored all of Reykjavik's nooks and crannies, and I am here to help you discover them, too!
From the best-rated tours to completely free activities, this guide has it all!
So, let's see what are all the best things to do in Reykjavik in 2019!
First, here is what you'll find in this blog about things to do in Reykjavik:
- The best things to do in Reykjavik in 2019
- Cheap or Free things to do in Reykjavik in 2019
- Best tours in Reykjavik in 2019
- Things to do in Reykjavik for Summer vs. Winter
- Where to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik?
don't miss out!
Tours in Iceland sell out fast. Weeks or even months in advance! Secure your spot in our best hand-picked tours from Reykjavik.
best things to do in reykjavik
1. Visit Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavik
A local symbol, Hallgrímskirkja is one of the most famous buildings in Reykjavik. Its instantly recognizable facade is the work of renowned architect Guðjón Samúelsson, and it is inspired by the basalt rock formations that can be found all around Iceland.
It took a whopping 41 years to build the church. However, ever since it was completed, it has inspired awe to generations of locals and visitors alike.
You can see the church from anywhere in the city, but it's truly magnificent up close. Don't forget to take the elevator to the top! There is a small entrance fee of 1000 ISK (8 USD), but the views are worth it!
This makes Hallgrímskirkja one of the best cheap things to do in Reykjavik!
2. Join The Reykjavik Food Walk
If there is one tour in Reykjavik that I would recommend to everyone, that is the Reykjavik Food Walk. Why? Well, first of all, because everyone likes food! Also, because it is one of the most fun and unique tours in ,dare I say, the world!
You will spend three hours with a local who will teach you everything you need to know about the city, its history and its culture. You will also visit the best hidden gems and the best restaurants in Reykjavik!
The Reykjavik Food Walk is designed so that you can enjoy all the best food that Iceland has to offer. From the humble yet delicious pylsa (commonly known as hot dog) to home made ice creams, fresh fish and lots more. There is something for everyone!
Here are the latest Food Walk reviews when this post is written:
At 13.900 ISK (approx. 116 USD), the Reykjavik Food Walk is a real bargain! In most Icelandic restaurants, you would end up paying as much for one meal. However, with the food walk not only can you skip lunch and dinner, but you also learn about Reykjavik and hang out with a real viking!
This tour tends to sell out very fast, so make sure you book ahead! You can secure your Reykjavik Food Walk spot here!
3. Visit Harpa
Another - although much more recent - symbol for Reykjavik is Harpa. This stunning building is a concert hall, and Olafur Eliasson designed its exterior.
Harpa is covered in windows. Eliasson's inspiration was also the basalt rock formations of Iceland, although it is a much different take than Hallgrímskirkja.
The interior is just as gorgeous as the exterior. Feel free to roam around inside (if there is no private event) and admire the innovative architecture of its walls. You might feel some vertigo if you look up at the mirror-covered ceiling, but I think it's part of the fun!
At night, Harpa is beautifully lit. Throughout the year, its lights also change colors according to events. During Pride, for example, it is lit with the colours of the Rainbow flag.
Entry to the building is free! So, that makes it one of the best things to do in Reykjavik for zero cost!
4. Join The Reykjavik Bar Crawl
A trip to Reykjavik would be incomplete without exploring its bustling nightlife. Icelandic people love to party, and you will find all of them downtown every weekend.
One of the most special and fun tours you can do in Reykjavik is the Bar Crawl tour! It's a great way to enjoy all of Reykjavik's finest bars and the tastiest cocktails! It's also an opportunity to make some new friends!
A local guide will take you to three amazing bars and cocktail lounges, and you will taste anything from the best Icelandic cocktails to fermented shark!
Partying in Reykjavik can get very expensive. Locals usually meet up and drink before they even go downtown! In order to enjoy everything that our tour offers you would have to spend at least 30000 ISK (250 USD).
Therefore, our tour is a bargain at 14900 ISK (125 USD)! Just make sure you are over 20 years old, as that is the legal drinking age in Iceland.
5. Golden Circle & Hot spring tour
Experience the best of Iceland through our incredible natural wonders. While technically not a thing to do in Reykjavik, it is one of the very best tours available from Reykjavik.
If you should do only one tour while in Iceland, let it be this one!
The Golden Circle is the #1 nature, adventure and sight-seeing tour from Reykjavik. The highlights are natural wonders such as the powerful Gullfoss (the Golden Waterfall), Geysir erupting geothermal area and beautiful Thingvellir National Park.
What makes this particular tour so unique is that it also includes a stop in the amazing Secret Lagoon Natural Hot Spring in South Iceland.
Does it sound to good to be true to explore the best of Icelandic nature & visit my favourite hot spring in one day? Then definitely read more about it here.
Pssst! See more highly recommended and incredible nature tours here:
6. Enjoy Reykjavik's Diverse Shows
From drag shows and cabarets to poetry brothels, Reykjavik has it all. There is something for everyone to enjoy, no matter what kind of shows you like.
Reykjavik has an active theater scene, but you might want to avoid that, as the plays will most likely be in Icelandic.
However, there are also many shows in English. Stand up comedy is very popular in Reykjavik, but so are drag shows and poetry slams!
7. Visit A Hot Spring in Reykjavik
You can find hot springs all over Iceland, and even in Reykjavik! It's a great way to relax during your trip, and most of them are either completely free or charge a small fee!
The hot spring pictured above is Kvika, and you can find it in the area of Grótta (pro tip: there is also a stunning lighthouse there!)
Kvika is technically a footbath, it is very small but totally awesome! In order to find bigger hot springs, you will have to go outside of Reykjavik, but there are so many magical places that are worth a visit!
Do you want more hot spring inspiration? Check out this amazing guide that will show you all the best hot springs to visit in Iceland!
8. Find Reykjavik's Awesome Street Art
As far as free things to do in Reykjavik go, discovering all the beautiful graffiti, wall and street art is one of the best!
Reykjavik has colossal graffiti on many walls throughout its streets. The art really showcases the immense talent of Icelandic artists, as well as their creativity.
It's also very fun to walk around the city hunting for the best graffiti! You will get to explore the city on foot and enjoy the lingering sunlight (if you visit in the summer) or the snow-capped houses (if you visit in the winter).
You will see lots of street art projects in the Reykjavik Food Walk tour.
Make sure to check every corner, every nook and cranny, as you never know where the next graffiti will be hidden!
9. See the Northern Lights in Reykjavik
If there is one thing that Iceland is known for, that is the Northern Lights! This otherworldly natural phenomenon might just be the highlight of your trip if you are visiting during winter!
The Northern Lights season in Reykjavik and around Iceland is from September to April. This phenomenon is quite unpredictable, as you need clear skies and darkness to see it. Unfortunately, Iceland doesn't really have stable weather.
The best way to see the Northern Lights is to go outside of the city. We offer one of the best tours to see the Northern Lights, with a small group of people, lots of hunting off the beaten track, and even a short photography lesson on how to capture them on camera!
If you can't leave Reykjavik, don't worry! If you are lucky, you can also see them in the capital! You just need to find a spot where light pollution is minimal.
Try going to Grótta, Mosfellsheiði or Elliðavatn, and check out this map of all the places you can visit to maximize your chances of seeing the aurora!
Pro tip 2: if you want to photograph the Northern Lights, you need a DSLR, a lens with large aperture, and a tripod. For a full lesson, join our awesome Northern Lights tour!
10. Visit the Swimming Pools in Reykjavik
Despite Iceland's cold temperatures and unpredictable weather, we Icelanders love our swimming pools. It's one of our favourite things to do on a day off, and it's a fun activity for individuals, friends and the whole family!
Reykjavik is full of swimming pools. You will find one in every neighborhood, and you will probably be amazed by how elaborate they are. Most of them have water slides, saunas, hot tubs and cold tubs; and a lot of locals inexplicably sunbathing in -2 °C (28 °F).
Don't worry. You can stick to the hot tubs.
Pro tip: get a City Card! This card will get you free entrance to Reykjavik's swimming pools, as well as free rides with the public transport, and discounts at many restaurants and museums!
Prices for the City Card:
- 3900 ISK (33 USD) adults/1600 ISK (14 USD) children for 24 hours
- 5500 ISK (47 USD) adults/2600 ISK (22 USD) children for 48 hours
- 6700 ISK (57 USD) adults/3500 ISK (30 USD) children for 72 hours
11. Visit Museums And Galleries In Reykjavik
Reykjavik is a city of culture. One of the best cheap things to do in Reykjavik is to explore all its amazing museums and galleries!
This is another activity in Reykjavik that will make use of the City Card. You can get free admission to a lot of museums and discounts in the rest!
No matter what your interests, you are bound to find a museum you like in Reykjavik. There is everything from a museum dedicated to whales to the infamous penis museum, and from traditional art to modern, groundbreaking art spaces.
12. Experience The Secret Solstice music festival
Since Iceland is the land of the midnight sun, it's no wonder there is a festival dedicated to the summer solstice!
Every year, international and local artists put on the coolest show in town. For three days in June, Reykjavik is transformed into a giant party and you are invited!
The 2019 line-up includes many known and underground artists. Black Eyed Peas, Ritta Ora and Patti Smith are only few of the artists you will find there.
As far as local acts are concerned, you can see the -highly controversial, yet always delightful -Hatari, who will be representing Iceland in Eurovision this year, as well as my absolute favorite band, Vök.
You can get a day pass for your favourite artists or you can get a three-day pass for full access to the festival. There are also several add-ons, and you can find them all right here!
- A standard three-day pass will cost you 15990 ISK (133 USD)
- A standard one-day pass will cost you 10990 ISK (92 USD)
13. Go Whale Watching from down town Reykjavik
Not a party person? Not a problem! One of the best things to do in Iceland, after all, is to explore the Icelandic nature!
Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see some whales. The weather conditions and the bays all over the country make it a prime location for the whales to thrive.
For many tourists, whale watching is one of their favorite activities in Reykjavik. That's right! You can get a whale watching tour right from the heart of Reykjavik! Make a booking here and see these adorable and very playful creatures up close!
14. Find some Puffins around Reykjavik
Yet another activity involving adorable animals! Puffins are my personal highlight of Iceland's wildlife, with their adorable faces and charming personality. So cute!
It can be quite hard to see puffins, though! Understandably, they want to protect themselves from predators, so they nest in Iceland's cliffs. They also only stay in Iceland for a short period of time, or from May to August.
The single best ways to see puffins - actually the only way to see puffins in Reykjavik is to join a Puffin tour. There are a few companies running such tours but this right here is the best Puffin tour from Reykjavik.
The tour above departs right from the centre of down town Reykjavik, making it very convenient, and also promises to get you closer to the puffins than any other tour!
15. Go Stargazing
Next on this list, I have a completely free and very fun activity for you to do in Iceland! If you are from a big city like me, you might have never seen the sky like this before! Personally, I saw Orion for the first time in Reykjavik!
Iceland's night sky is adorned with millions of stars. The relatively low pollution and the lack of artificial light make it a perfect spot for some stargazing!
You don't even have to travel far to see the stars. If the sky is clear, you can see a plethora of stars in the city, and if you're craving more, you can head to the outskirts.
Use the Northern Lights map as a reference! You can see a myriad of stars wherever you can see the Northern Lights!
16. Visit Viðey
Hiking trails, historical sights, contemporary art and beautiful views. What else can you ask for?
Viðey is an island located in Reykjavik, technically, and it's a beautiful oasis very close to the city. If you love hiking and biking trails in the middle of gorgeous nature, then you can easily spend a whole day there!
The island is accessible by a ferry that you can get either from the Skarfabakki pier or the Ægisgarður harbor. Both places are very close to down town Reykjavik.
A bonus: the ferry to Viðey is free with the City Card!
17. Hike Up Mt. Esja
Here in Iceland, one of our favorite things to do in Reykjavik is hiking up Mount Esja. You can find this mountain in the outskirts of Reykjavik and hike to the top -if the weather is nice!
For hiking and nature enthusiasts, it's a perfect activity to enjoy a day of good weather and explore the Icelandic nature. This idyllic mountain is so close to Reykjavik that you probably wouldn't believe it! It can be seen from anywhere in Reykjavik and is easily accessible with public transport or approx. 20 minutes drive from the down town area.
Most people hike up to "Steinn", a big rock at an altitude of 597m (almost 2000 ft). However, if you are an experienced climber, feel free to keep going to the top (914 meters). As you go higher, the mountain get's more adventurous and challenging but doable for by far most people. Just make sure to be careful!
On a nice day, you will meet many locals there, as it is one of our favorite free activities in Reykjavik!
18. Visit Perlan in Reykjavik
Perlan, or the Pearl in English, has quite a fitting name. This building used to be a water tank that supplied Reykjavik with hot water. Now, it is used as an exhibition space.
Visiting Perlan has recently become one of the best things to do in Reykjavik. A couple of years ago, they opened their exhibition on glaciers -complete with a man-made ice cave! You can book a ticket to explore the cave and learn more about glaciers here!
For those of you who didn't manage to catch the Northern Lights, Perlan also has a planetarium. Book a ticket here to enjoy a gorgeous and informational show on the Northern Lights here!
Even if you are not interested in either of the exhibitions, you should still visit Perlan for the 360-degree view of Reykjavik! There is a viewing platform on the top, and you can see the entire capital! It's the perfect place for some pictures!
19. Visit The Parks
Another lovely oasis in the middle of Reykjavik, the botanical garden is a great spot if you want to take a stroll and relax a little.
There are several benches around the park where you can sit and admire the nature. There is also a cafe if you'd rather sit there!
Apart from the green grass and the calm ponds, Reykjavik's botanical garden is filled with different plants and flowers, and you can learn a little bit about them if you read the labels that accompany them.
The garden is situated next to the zoo, so why not pay that a visit as well? More on that below!
20. Visit The Reykjavik Zoo
Who doesn't like going to the zoo? Animals can charm kids and adults alike, so the zoo is one of our favorite things to do in Reykjavik, especially with family!
Their slogan? "Not the biggest but definitely the cutest park in town"! You will only find domestic animals there, but there are some very exciting species!
Among the Icelandic horses and the sheep, you will find animals such as seals and my personal favourite, arctic foxes!
While the zoo isn't the biggest, it has a good amount of different species. Besides, you can spend a long time watching their adorable seals!
The zoo is also very affordable, so it's a great activity for an afternoon.
- 900 ISK (7.50 USD) for people over 13
- 680 ISK (6 USD) for children ages 5-12
- free for children under 4
BONUS: 21. See The Lupines!
So, you made it to the end of our list of things to do in Reykjavik this year! The last spot goes to something very special!
Did you know that every year in June, Iceland turns purple? That's right! Lupines grow everywhere there is space in Iceland in June. That means they also grow all over Reykjavik!
Seeing the lupines is one of the easiest things to do in Reykjavik if you visit in June. Just look to your left or your right!
For a sea of purple, find any valley in Reykjavik. You can try Elliðaárdalur or Urriðavatn in Garðabær, both excellent places to see the lupines.
Hurray! You made it to the end of our list about the best things to do in Reykjavik in 2019. It was a long read, but I hope my recommendations have inspired you or will help you make your Reykjavik visit more enjoyable.
Are there any activities that I missed and you think should be on this list? Let me know in the comments below!
And, as always, don't hesitate to ask any questions! Make sure to share with other fellow travelers, so they too can find out about the top things to do in Reykjavik!
Are you traveling to Iceland in 2019? Here you will find all the best things to do in Reykjavik from top-rated tours to completely free activities, this guide has it all!