Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland, is also the biggest city on the island, and is located on a 45-minute drive from Keflavík International Airport. Home to about 120,000 people, Reykjavík has a number of interesting and exhilarating things to offer a curious visitor.
Besides hosting a number of fascinating museums, colorful homes, and attractive restaurants, this city is now World famous for being the life of the party. That’s right. The nightlife in Reykjavík is buzzing, regardless whether it’s the cheery, sunlit 24-hour days of Summer, or the bleak, dark, and snowy Winter months that are outside.
In addition to the incredible landmarks, there’s also a domestic airport located right in the heart of this capital. In case you ever feel that you have seen and experienced everything in Reykjavík, you can hop on in one of the small planes, and fly as far away as the West or the North of the island, or even off to the exotic Greenland, in the warmer months.
If you’re wondering how much time you will need to see all of the main sights – a day or two should be enough to cover them all. You won’t need a car to explore Reykjavík, since this is a very compact city and all of its main sights are located in a walking distance.
Finally, whatever they say about how expensive Iceland is – it’s true, so if you plan to visit Iceland on a budget, you have to come prepared.
1. Hallgrimskirkja Church.
The number one attraction in Reykjavík is without doubt the gorgeous Hallgrimskirkja Church, offering the most famous, panoramic views of the city. Standing 73 meters tall, this is the largest church in Iceland, officially completed in 1974. You will have to buy a ticket to get to the top observation deck, but you don’t have to take the stairs – as there’s a working elevator on the left side of the main entrance.
Located just outside the main downtown area, on top of a small hill, there’s an awesome rotating restaurant, offering incredible 360-degree views over the city. The top, open deck is free to visitors and can be accessed by taking an elevator up to the cafeteria level, which also happens to offer nice, buffet-style food selections at a reasonable price, by Icelandic standards anyway.
You will have an amazing opportunity to view the city from the outside, as well as observe the landings and take-offs in the nearby Reykjavík Domestic Airport (Reykjavíkurflugvöllur).
3. National Museum of Iceland (Þjóðminjasafn Íslands).
Probably the richest museum of Iceland in terms of its vast cultural artifacts and collections, the National Museum of Iceland is not to be missed. Stepping inside this building, you will learn more about Iceland – from its ancient times to the recent history. Visit the official website for the ticket prices and the opening hours.
4. The Sun Voyager (Sólfarið).
Created by Jon Gunnar Arnason in 1990, this artistic landmark can be many things to different people: some say that it resembles a Viking ship, some think that it looks like a spacecraft, but in truth this monument represents a ‘dream boat’, and an ‘ode to the sun’. Come here during a quiet evening stroll and enjoy a beautiful sunset over the mount Esja.
5. Tjörnin Lake.
This small, gorgeous lake is located right in the heart of the downtown area – next to another top sight, the Reykjavík’s City Hall. Come here to feed the ducks, read a book, or just enjoy the picturesque views around the area. It is especially pretty during the late Spring or the Summer seasons, when everything is in bloom.
This beautifully designed concert hall, officially inaugurated in 2011, is also an enormous cultural center, offering everything from classical music, to photo exhibitions, conferences, and comedy shows. If this is your first day in Reykjavík, you can also find a ton of tourist brochures on the first floor of the building. Visit the official site for more information on the current shows.
7. Old Harbour.
Is this Old Harbour really as old as the name suggests? Well, it’s been more than a hundred years since it was opened, so yeah – it’s pretty old, and therefore very colorful and charming. Majority of the whale or the puffin watching tours are located in here, so if you’ve made it to this place, you might as well hop on the boat and enjoy an hour or two of the unspoiled, rough seas. There are also a number of cool eateries and bars with happy hours deals that you might enjoy.
8. Austurvöllur (Main Square).
This small central square has been the main gathering place of the locals since 1930s. In the middle you will find the statue of Jón Sigurðsson, who is considered to be the leader of Iceland’s independence movement. Surrounding the square are numerous restaurants and bars, where you can get a pint of beer and a table outside (weather conditions permitting).
9. City Hall (Ráðhús Reykjavíkur).
This impressive governmental building is located only a block away from Austurvöllur. Pay a visit inside to examine a large 3-D map of Iceland and put your Icelandic experiences in a broader perspective. There’s also a cafe with a nice view, a temporary exhibition hall, and a free wi-fi.
10. Reykjavík 871 +/-2 Settlement Museum.
This small museum is a true gem of Iceland – it’s hosting inside an original, ancient Viking’s longhouse, which was discovered on this specific site. It is believed that the longhouse dates back to 871 AD (hence the name of the museum). In addition, you will find a number of interesting artifacts extracted from the house providing a clearer picture of what life must have been like for its residents, many hundreds of years ago.
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