The best day tours &
things to do in Reykjavik
Are you finally travelling to Reykjavik and making your dream come true of having a holiday in Iceland? Have you already planned every detail on what to do in Reykjavik or would you like some insider tips on the best things to do? Here are my best recommendations on day tours & things to do in Reykjavik :)
First, a little about myself & the topic of this blog …
HEY! This is Egill here from Wake Up Reykjavik. I am thrilled that you are on your way to Iceland and I hope from the bottom of my heart that you are counting down the days until your Iceland holiday. I am convinced you will love it here! I get questions every single day from adventurous travellers that are looking for recommendations on the best things to do while in Iceland. Therefore, I decided to write this little post - With my personal best recommendations of tours available from Reykjavik and a few other things that I like to do myself in the city. Some activities are bookable right here, through the Wake Up Reykjavik website but others are bookable elsewhere online (and then I’ll link to those pages). Are you ready?
I believe it’s super important for everyone planning their first Iceland holiday to keep in mind that you need to experience the best of both worlds - The city & the country. While I only host tours in down town Reykjavik, I still believe most travellers should focus the majority of their time out of the city - exploring what truly makes Iceland so unique … and that is our nature. But everyone has to have at the very least one full day in Reykjavik.
My Favourite tours &
Things to do in Reykjavik
Where should I begin?!
THE REYKJAVIK FOOD WALK
Out of every single tour, thing to do & activity possible in the city - I believe the Reykjavik Food Walk to be the best one. And it is without a doubt what I would recommend everyone to do on their first day (or early in the trip) in Reykjavik.
Meet an awesome local that will introduce you to his/hers hometown. It’s simple as that! Walk around down town Reykjavik, get to know the most important landmarks, streets and buildings. Get your directions around the city. Hear fun local stories. Ask all the questions that you have … and most importantly - Let the guide show you 5-6 absolutely magical local restaurants and have more than 10 delicious Icelandic cuisines. Everything from secret family recipe ice creams, the best Icelandic seafood, lamb, skyr, chocolate, hot dogs and more and more!
Runs (almost) every single day of the year and begins around lunch-time.
If you are interested, here is the website with more info: www.thereykjavikfoodwalk.com
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ICELAND
If you are interested in soaking in every bit of information about the history of Iceland, this is your A-Z stop. The National Museum of Iceland does a great job in curating - and explaining how this crazy small island in the north came about, the history of Iceland and what it means to be and Icelander.
The last time I visited the museum, I went alone and spent about 3 hours strolling and reading everything I could find. It’s a really enjoyable experience with a lot of national treasures and graphic content to give you an even deeper understanding.
The national museum is located on Suðurgata 41 and is open from 10am-5pm, every day but closed on Mondays during winter. Admission fee is 2000 ISK for adults.
Here is their website: www.thjodminjasafn.is/english
THE REYKJAVIK BEER TOUR
Are you looking for an evening activity and would you want to experience an absolutely awesome night out in Reykjavik? On weekday evenings, starting at 5 o’clock, the Reykjavik Beer Tour takes place and get’s people from all over the world together for brilliant night out!
A local beer expert will not only tell you about the very interesting Icelandic beer history - But show you first hand. You will go out and explore 4 of the best beer venues in Reykjavik, hear awesome stories, meet fun people and most importantly … try over 10 fantastic and seasonal Icelandic beers!
You can read more & book your spot on the Beer tour HERE.
SUNDHÖLLIN: LOCAL SWIMMING POOL
Since we were just talking about a night out … next on the list should 100% be a way to cure hungover like no other!
One of my personal favourite things to do in Reykjavik is visiting our local swimming pools. Us, Icelanders pride ourselves with the world record of having many swimming pools (per capita), in total over 170 in the country. There is just something so magical about bathing in hot geothermal water, specially if the atmosphere is crispy cold!
Right in down town Reykjavik is Sundhöllin, the oldest swimming pool in the city (built 1937). It was recently renovated and is more fun than ever to visit. I also just moved next doors so I tend to visit this place a few times each week - Or as often as I can :) In Sundhöllin you can find 4 hot tubs, two large swimming pools, an ice bath, two saunas, a spring board and both indoor and outdoor changing rooms. If you didn’t know already, please note that all the swimming pools in Iceland have geothermal heating so they are not cold.
You can read more about Sundhöllin swimming pool in my other blog post here.
PS. You can also visit Laugardalslaug - That’s the largest swimming pool in Iceland that without a doubt boasts itself of the best and largest facilities in the country. It’s highly recommended. It’s located in central Reykjavik, just a few minutes drive from the city centre.
THE REYKJAVIK BAR CRAWL
Fancy an awesome night out in Reykjavik? After all, the stories claim that the Reykjavik nightlife is absolutely legendary and that’s what the Reykjavik Bar Crawl is here to show you!
Only on Friday and Saturday nights, when the Reykjavik nightlife is at it’s peak we at Wake Up Reykjavik host the Reykjavik Bar Crawl to meet new friends and show thirsty, fun & adventurous travellers how a perfect night out in Reykjavik looks like! Beginning at 10PM we meet our guests from all over the world, of all ages & types and we celebrate being alive together.
In the Bar Crawl you will be led by a local nightlife expert, get to know 4 of our most favourite bars & clubs and have both absolute must try Icelandic drinks … and some unique off-menu treats! Prepare for the funnest bar in Reykjavik, a local beer pub, craft cocktail lounge and the largest nightclub in town. Drinks vary from beer, unique cocktails & the dangerous locals favourite … the black death.
You can find more info & secure your spot for a night out HERE.
THE PENIS MUSEUM IN REYKJAVIK
Well … that sounds strange!
Yup, Reykjavik also boasts itself of having a penis museum! I don’t really know if it’s the only penis museum in the world (I guess? I hope?) but I know for a fact that it is the only penis museum in the world … with an actual HUMAN PENIS!
I always tell me guests that I don’t think a visit to the penis museum will make or break their trip but it is without any doubt a really, really unique, random and fun thing to do for 20-30 minutes if you are spending your day in Reykjavik either way! I promise that it is very interesting and that you will have a few good laughs.
You will find verything from hamster, human and whale penises … and a few hundred more there in between!
Find their website with more information HERE.
HLEMMUR MATHÖLL: PARADISE FOR FOODIES!
While every foodie should begin the trip with the Reykjavik Food Walk, then this local gem is something that I haven’t added to our foodie tour yet but I highly recommend hungry travellers to experience during their stay in Reykjavik!
Hlemmur used to be a dirty, old bus station in the heart of Reykjavik, at the end of Laugavegur the main shopping street. But after being closed for nearly a year and undergoing dramatic renovations - It has now opened up as an absolute to-die-for food court with 9 amazing restaurants. So good that I even bought a house next doors recently … and that decision was highly influenced by the quality food & tempting smell coming from Hlemmur Mathöll every day.
Hlemmur is located here.
The restaurants are everything from traditional Icelandic to traditional Mexican food! In my personal opinion, none of the restaurants in Hlemmur are expensive so it’s a really fun, authentic, affordable experience.
My two favourite restaurants are:
- SKÁL! Hands down one of the funnest & best restaurants in the city. A tiny menu offering nothing but traditional Icelandic food prepared with a modern twist. Plus, a nicely curated selection of local craft beers.
- Brauð & co. The bakery that has taken Iceland by storm for the past 2 years has a small outlet in Hlemmur Mathöll. Brauð & co is a sour dough / hipster bakery with good breads and cinnamon buns that some might kill for!
MOUNTAIN SAFARI ON ATV QUAD BIKES
How does it sound to explore the best of Icelandic nature (mountains, lakes, rivers, ice, plants and more) while also have adrenaline rush through your veins as you race on a powerful ATV quad bike?
This maybe doesn’t sound like a city activity but I thought it would fit right in as the base for the Safari Quads is right in Reykjavik, only 15 minutes drive from the city centre! That’s really, really unique as most nature or adrenaline activities are based at least 2 hours away from Reykjavik. A little added bonus is that after racing across rivers and on top of the nearby mountain peaks, you will be rewarded with panoramic views of Reykjavik.
ATV biking is super fun and you will get in touch with the Icelandic nature in a way that you probably never imagined!
You can find more info or secure your spot on a ATV tour here.
Of course, the most known landmark in all of Reykjavik. Maybe all of Iceland!
Hallgrímskirkja church is for many the symbol of Reykjavik and can be seen from almost every single neighbourhood in the city. I’m not going to go into any details but all I wanted to say here is that I highly, highly recommend a quick visit to the church. It’s easy to hop inside and quickly navigate the first floor which is beautiful but my main suggestions is for you to hop onboard in the elevator and visit the bell-tower.
The bell tower in Hallgrímskirkja is one of the highest human structors in Iceland, offering the best possible views over Reykjavik. I know you would enjoy the views and it will definitely help you get your directions around the city. It’s also a fun bonus that the scenery of the mountains and the colourful rooftops in Reykjavik are really photogenic :)
HAPRA MUSIC & CONFERENCE HALL
Another, more recent landmark of Reykjavik is the beautiful (actually, absolutely stunning!) Harpa music & conference hall.
Built in the middle of our dramatic financial crisis just a few years ago, Harpa has become the centre of local music, plays, events and culture in general. If you plan to do our Reykjavik Food Walk or Beer tour you are guaranteed to see it as this is the meeting locations for most our tours. I would then recommend you to arrive well in advance so you will have time to walk around, enjoy the views and maybe book a ticket for concerts or a show.
However, if you’re not joining those tours - I still recommend you to swing by to experience the architecture.
PS. Many Icelanders will use the beautiful backgrounds in Harpa to take their Facebook profile pictures because of how beautiful the light is there. Are you in need for an update?
Another breathtaking activity available right from the city centre is Whale Watching.
Only 5 minutes walk from Harpa or down town Reykjavik is the Old Harbour in Reykjavik to be found. A tiny and beautiful fishing village feel will welcome you as you will see a bunch of fantastic seafood restaurants and boats of all sizes by the dock.
Hop aboard a specially equipped whale watching boats to witness the largest animals on planet earth up close and personal. For anyone that has never seen a whale, this is a must. Even though you will never know what types of animals you might see, the most common to see are Minke whales, Humpback whales, Fin whales, dolphins and sometimes the notorious puffins!
You can find more information and book your Whale watching Tour HERE.
Please note that the best times to see Whales in Iceland is from April-September. Although they can be seen in the winter too.
KOLAPORTIÐ: LOCAL FLEE MARKET
If you are in Reykjavik during a weekend, then visiting Kolaportið might be a great idea!
Kolaportið is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am - 5pm. There you can find a wide selection of Iceland’s best … and like always with these markets, a bunch of flee market junk! hah!
I recommend my friends & guests to visit Kolaportið if they are looking for an authentic Icelandic wool sweater, Icelandic jewellery (a lot of beautiful lava jewellers) and more! Preferably, I go there for home baked goods or fresh Icelandic chocolate and liquorice!
Kolaportið is located on Tryggvagata 19, see location on Google Maps here.
My Favourite Adventure tours departing from Reykjavik
SNOWMOBILING ON GLACIERS
I don’t think there is any feeling similar to racing on one of the largest glaciers in Europe on a snowmobile. This is one hell of a way to explore the glaciers!
Climb up to the glacier on a Super jeep truck, switch to your own snowmobile and explore the ice heaven with a little bit of an adrenaline rush!
If you are interested, you can find more information about Snowmobiling in Iceland here.
GLACIER HIKING & CLIMBING!
For the very adventurous, hike on the untouched ice formations of Sólheimajökull glacier in the South of Iceland … and for those who dare, you can also test your natural ice climbing skills!
I think this is one of the more unique glacier tours available in Iceland. A lot of locals have experienced the glaciers on foot but having the chance to climb … that is a rare opportunity as you will need a good guide/instructor and safe equipment that is provided in this tour. Please know that it’s definitely not mandatory for anyone to climb - the glacier hike is a big adventure on it’s own. But this tour is a great way to get to know the Icelandic glaciers.
Find more information & book your tour HERE.
GOLDEN CIRCLE: SMALL GROUP TOUR
Out of every single tour in the country, the Golden Circle is the most popular of them all. And for a great reason!
For travellers that are visiting Reykjavik and would like to see the ‘the best of Iceland’ from the city, then this is the absolute best ‘see it all, do it all’ highlight tour of Icelandic nature. in just a few hours you will discover some of the most unique gems of Iceland.
Although your tour will stop at a few more places, the main highlights of the Golden Circle tour are Gullfoss waterfall, the incredible Geysir geothermal area and Þingvellir national park.
There are probably 100 different companies offer tours around this area but if you plan to do one yourself, I personally handpicked THIS tour for my guests, as I think it the best and a lot more affordable than most of their competitors!
THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH COAST OF ICELAND
Similar to the Golden Circle, the South Coast of Iceland has it all. And out of all of Iceland, the South Coast is in my opinion the one area that is the most packed with absolutely incredible natural phenomenas to see & experience.
The great thing about the South Coast and the Golden Circle is that you can explore both areas in only one day - in a day trip from Reykjavik.
Among the highlights on the South Coasts are the most incredible waterfalls you will see - Seljalandsfoss that you can walk behind and Skógafoss, Reynisfjara the black sand beach, views of Svínafellsjökull glacier and a stop in the small coastal town of Vík.
You can find more info & book your South Coast tour HERE.
SNOERKING IN SILFRA
Many say that Silfra fissure in the Icelandic national park, Þingvellir is one of the best dive spots in the world! Not only will you be snorkling between the tectonic plates of N-America and Europe, but the water is so incredibly crystal clear that you can see up to 100 meters ahead of you AND drink the water you’re swimming in!
Explore Þingvellir national park from under water - swimming in a professional dry suite through ice cold glacier water that has travelled from the glaciers and filtered through lava for thousands of years.
You can find more info about Snorkling in Silfra HERE.
GO FOR A NORTHERN LIGHTS HUNT!
Last but definitely not least. For anyone visiting Iceland during winter, the Northern Lights simply must be on your to-do list!
The Northern Lights are an incredible natural phenomena where bright green and purple coloured lights dance & light up the sky. When they are showing they can sometimes been seen from Reykjavik or any other place in Iceland.
To maximize your chances of seeing the lights you can do a Northern Lights tour. Out of the tours we have found, THIS tour is the best one. Step aboard a huge Super truck and head out in the wilderness with a Northern Lights expert that will do everything that he/she can find the lights for you.
You can find more information about the Northern Lights tour here.
Alright … wow! That was a long post!
I wanted to share with you all my personal favourite things to do in and around Reykjavik. I know it’s a long list but there are endless possibilities for things to do in Iceland. I hope this has been helpful and I’m sure that you would love to do at least some of the things on the list.
You can find most of the information + book your tours through the list but if you need anything else, feel free to comment below or shoot us an email through our contact form. I will get back to you as soon as I can :)
I hope to see you soon in Iceland!
Your friend, Egill