Iceland is a country full of natural wonders and beautiful scenery. The capital Reykjavik hosts a plethora of things to do, from beautiful churches, quirky museums and fantastic restaurants. Rekyjavik acts as a hub for venturing further afield into the landscape to explore the country’s organic terrain.
Read on to find out my top ten things to see and do in the capital and why you have to visit.
10. Happy Hour in Reykjavik
At number 10 we have Reykjavik’s nightlife. Having known that Reykjavik was an expensive city to drink alcohol in, with prices similar if not higher to those found in London, we did not picture ourselves sat at a downtown bar at Happy Hour on the last evening of our stay. With it’s luminescent signage and American Diner theme coaxing us in, the Lebowski Bar tickled our fancy for a drink or two before a spot of dinner. Their daily happy hour runs from 4pm until 7pm, with 2 for 1 on all beer and wine. Only setting you back 1,100 ISK (£5.50) per round, the one drink each can soon turn into a few!
Location: Lebowski Bar, Laugavegur 2a, 101 Reykjavík
Cost: £1,100 ISK (approx) per drink. Same price for 2 if in Happy Hour!
9. Driving The Golden Circle
At number 9 we have the first of Iceland’s many natural wonders; the Golden Circle route. We witnessed large open spaces, devoid of other vehicles for miles at a time, the horizon your only acquaintance in all four directions . Areas became snowy and mountainous, as we battled our way through blizzards and rain, experiencing it all from the comfort of our car. Around bends and over hilltops, we were witness to breathtaking scenery, combining land and sea alike, merging into one natural blur. Each stretch of road is unique, the passenger view an enticing one to say the least, building upon the excitement as to what awaits around the next corner, journeying from one wonder to another.
Location: A Circular National Heritage Route in the South East of Iceland
Cost: Only half a tank of petrol!
8. View From The Hallgrímskirkja Church
Number 8 sees Reykjavik from atop. Venturing to the top of the Hallgrimskrikja Church seems to be a tourist ‘must-do’ when visiting the capital. Standing at 73 metres tall, this unique Lutheran Church was completed in 1983 and was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, a renowned Icelandic Architect. It’s design is said to replicate the lava flow of the Icelandic Landscape, represented in its exterior shape and staggered upwards towards the peak in which the observation tower lies. For 800 Isk, you can venture upwards in the lift to the viewing deck where you can see over rooftops and highways, seascapes and mountain peaks and watch as the city bustles on by. The view was enticing even in the Winter, however in the Summer I believe it would be even more of a delight.
Location: Hallgrimskrikja Church, Skólavörðustígur 101, Reykjavík, Iceland
Cost: 800 ISK each (£4 approx)
7. View From The Perlan
Just South of downtown Reykjavik lies The Perlan, number 7 on our list. The Perlan is a landmark building that embodies disused hot water tanks that were converted into a viewing deck, a selection of small shops and a revolving restaurant. Access to the viewing platform is free and open to the public, offering the choice of stairs or a lift to reach the top. The 360 degree structure offers a distant view of the city, with the Hallgrimskrikja Church towering above rooftops, the silhouettes of the mountainous landscape in the distance and the fresh sea air trickling past your nose. Personally, the view was more enjoyable than that seen from the top of the Church, due to being out of the City and covering more of the local landscape.
Location: Öskjuhlíð, 125 Reykjavík
6. The Icelandic Phallological Museum
Number 6 embodies the phallic and rude: Reykjavik’s own Penis Museum. Being the only museum in the world dedicated to penises, we couldn’t really give this one a miss. As far as gimmick tourist attractions go, this one has to be at the top of my list, indeed gaining the number one place for being an appetite suppressant. The museum, or shall I say small room, showcased an extensive array of animal penises; seal, whale, bat, dog, walrus and even going as far as ‘human’ (currently a cast which will be replaced with the real deal when the donor pops his clogs). Amongst the gruesome relics there was a lot of humour; drawings and paintings of phallic themed paraphernalia, toys and figurines and of course a Ram’s head with an disfigured horn in the shape of a penis (oh yes!) If you are looking for a light hearted tourist attraction, then venture here on an empty stomach, you are bound to want to skip lunch!
Location: Laugavegur 116, 105 Reykjavík, Iceland
Price: 1,250 ISK each
5. Thingvellir National Park
Number 5 captures beauty at it’s finest; Pingvellir National Park. Although we did not extensively explore Pingvellir, our time spent here was enough to make a lasting impact. Surrounded by snow topped mountains and deep orange and green flora, the Pingvellir area is picturesque to say the least. The landscape embodies the rifting of the Earth’s Crust, the faults creating passages between volcanic rock, large enough to explore by foot. Further along the road, campsites could be found along with viewing platforms and large lakes in which scuba divers could navigate between tectonic plates.
Location: Thingvellir National Park, Iceland (The Golden Circle)
4. Witnessing the Powerful Geysers
At number 4 we have the incredible geysers, most visited being Strokkur. Strokkur is a geyser that erupts in 4-8 minute intervals, varying in height, strength and pressure each time around. Minus the eggy smell of sulphur and abundance of tourists, this natural wonder is something not to be missed. Strokkur is situated amongst azure blue hot springs, 100 degree celsius steam pools and all bubbling mud pits. This maze of geothermal activity is another one of Iceland’s natural wonders that is free to tourists and citizens to witness and explore.
Location: Haukadalur Geothermal Area, Southwest Iceland (The Golden Circle)
3. The Blue Lagoon
At number 3 you can experience pure relaxation at the Blue Lagoon. Every holiday that is full of adventure and exploring the big outdoors need a day scheduled in for just stopping and taking a break. And what can beat a spa day?
Named by National Geographic as one of the top 25 Wonder’s of the World, the inlet is situated just 40 minutes from Reykjavik and not far from the country’s main airport. This 38 degree natural bath is home to geothermal sea water that is made up of 3 active ingredients; Algae, Silica and Minerals.
Good for both body and mind, the lagoon offers many packages that can suit everyone. We opted for the basic package, a day pass with access to the Blue Lagoon costing €35 that can be booked in advance online. Towels can be hired once you are there (if you forget to pack them like we did!) and drinks and food are also on sale. There is a bar in the main pool that offers Skyr smoothies, green juices, beer, prosecco and fizzy beverages. The prosecco was pricey yet delicious and equally so the green juice. We tried the Silica Masks which left our skin feeling silky smooth and lasted 4 hours in the water before feeling a little wrinkly and light headed!
Location: Outside of Reykjavik
Price: €35 for basic ticket (pre-book online only)
Drinks: Prosecco – 1,400 ISK, Beer – 1,200 ISK Green juice – 900 ISK
2. Gulfoss Waterfall
At number 2 is the incredible Gulfoss waterfall. The waterfall was spectacular to witness, the water plummeting at a height of 32 metres, crashing below in all of her fierce glory. The unpredictable weather saw rain, hail, gail force winds upon our arrival which soon passed as in no time we were blessed with sunshine and the meteorological phenomenon; a rainbow. It seems as if all of Iceland’s most spectacular sights are those than do not cost a penny, constructed by mother nature herself, standing tall for thousands of years for millions of us to see. The falls were breathtakingly beautiful, in addition to the surrounding cliffs, covered in Icelandic fauna, reeking in rich yellows and oranges. Gulfoss is a must, along with the rest of The Golden Circle, which is a relatively cost-free trip to be made.
Location: Gullfossi, Iceland
1. The Aurora Borealis
At number 1 is what Iceland is known for, the Northern Lights. A vision that peaks at the top of many people’s bucket lists, mine included. A natural wonder that really takes your breath away. Visible even within a highly light polluted neighbourhood, we cannot begin to imagine what they may have looked like in the middle of the wilderness. This completed our trip for us and to this date has been the most spectacular natural wonder that I have witnessed. Mother Nature, you did us proud!
Location: Kopavogur, Iceland
What were your favourite sights to see in Reykjavik?