Reykjavik / Attractions & Sightseeing

Reykjavik tourist attractions

23x Things to do in Reykjavik Iceland - Highlights & Sightseeing

Things to do in Reykjavik

What to do in Reykjavik and Iceland? Sightseeing Reykjavik Top 10, an overview of tourist attractions, highlights and best activities. What are the things to do in Reykjavik and Iceland?

Reykjavik sightseeing - 23x Places to visit in Reykjavik

The Icelandic capital of Reykjavik has a lot of character and is known for its many colors, museums, buildings, nature and beautiful surroundings, which ensures that you will have no trouble entertaining yourself for several days in Reykjavik. During your visit to the capital of Iceland, it is useful to consult the top 23 of the best Reykjavik sightseeing, activities, highlights, landmarks and tourist attractions below, so that you won't miss any important place of interest. Click on one of these must see attractions for more information about these unique sights and activities. Things to do in Reykjavik and the surrounding area:

1. Hallgrimskirka: the landmark of Reykjavik

What to do in Reykjavik IcelandThe statue of Leiff Eriksson in front of the church in Reykjavik
Sightseeing ReykjavikThe church is the must-see highlight of the Icelandic capital

At the top of the list 'Things to do in Reykjavik' is the Hallgrimskirkja. This Reykjavik Church is the tallest church building in Iceland and was built between 1945 and 1986. This Reykjavik landmark is 74.5 meters high and it is the most famous symbol of Reykjavik due to its visible location from all over the city. The church is open almost every day. Tip: You can also climb the tower for a nice view over Reykjavik center. The Lutheran church is named after the cleric Hallgrímur Pétursson who is considered to be the country's hymn writer because of his Passíusálmar. The architect is Guðjón Samúelsson and was inspired by the basalt parts of the landscape that can be found in Iceland. The unique church was seen as a mix of styles during its construction and is without a doubt one of the most important Reykjavik sights. The interior of the church is very modest, but the eye-catcher is the organ with 5275 pipes.

In front of the church is a statue of Leiff Eriksson, the son of Erik the Red and believed to have been the first European settler to have been in North America over 500 years before Columbus. The statue was donated by the United States in 1930 to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Alþingi (Icelandic Parliament).

2. Perlan, a unique highlight

Reykjavik attractionsPerlan, one of Reykjavik's newest landmarks
Places to visit in ReykjavikIn the Perlan you have a beautiful panorama

Perlan - Wonders of Iceland - is a versatile and unique landmark in Iceland. The first thing you notice is the glass dome of this Reykjavik attraction. This dome stands between six large tanks, in one of which hot water is stored for Reykjavik city by means of geothermal energy. The sixth tank has been turned into a museum. The creation of the beautiful landscape is presented in the museum. The unique flora and fauna comes to the fore here. You can also stand on the platform on top of the tanks and then you have a very nice view over the city of Reykjavik where you can take great pictures.

The Perlan museum also contains a replica of a 100-meter long ice cave and a nature exhibition with stuffed animals and explanations about the origin of the volcanic landscape (including a lava show) and glaciers. A 360 degree restaurant has been created in the glass dome where you can enjoy a meal or a drink. This panorama restaurant is an experience in itself. Inside is also a planetarium where beautiful images of the Northern Lights can be seen. In the summer you can go further down with a zipline from the Perlan. You can also visit this attraction on a rainy day (more info & tickets).

3. Harpa, eye-catcher of Reykjavik

Tourist attractions Reykjavik IcelandHarpa, the concert hall is a unique sight
Reykjavik places to visitVisit special architecture and landmark in Reykjavik

The Harpa should not be missing on the list of Reykjavik sightseeing. Harpa is a very large concert hall and convention center located on the harbor of Reykjavik. The concert hall has 1800 seats and the building was designed by Henning Larsen. This is a Danish architect and this was in collaboration with Olafur Eliasson. Construction started in 2006, but in 2006 and 2007 the credit crisis brought construction to a standstill. Nevertheless, the decision was made to complete this and the opening concert took place on May 4, 2011.

Harpa's glass building is a beautiful design, in which the starting points of the design are light, color and natural phenomena. Harpa is an old Icelandic word and is a month in the old Nordic calendar. Harpa is located in the north of Reykjavik near the old harbor of the city. Within a 10-minute walk you are there from the center and the highlight will immediately stand out because of the shiny colored glasses; the surrounding water gives an even more sparkling effect. A quick look inside the building is already worth visiting this tourist attraction and attending a concert is of course the highlight (official website).

4. Sun Voyager

Highlights ReykjavikSightseeing Reykjavik: 'Sun Voyager' artwork
Reykjavik highlightsA relaxing coastal walk

About 500 meters further from the beautiful Harpa concert hall is a striking piece of art on the coast: the Sun Voyager. This landmark looks like a Viking ship and many people also think this because of the Icelandic Viking history, but this must represent a dream ship. It is made of stainless steel and pays tribute to the sun. The artwork represents hope, freedom and progress. The Sun Voyager is located close to the center on the waterfront promenade and provides beautiful photos due to the reflection during sunset. Between the Sun Voyager and the historic Höfði House you can also take a relaxing coastal walk where you will encounter some works of art.

5. The colorful Laugavegur

ReykjavikThe lively shopping area around Laugavegur
What to do in IcelandReykjavik Places of Interest: Colorful facades in Laugavegurr

Laugavegur is the pleasant part of town to walk around, because here is the popular and eponymous shopping street for shopping and buying souvenirs. Here you will also find atmospheric restaurants and bars. Laugavegur also has many side streets where more shops, restaurants, terraces and art studios can be found. Laugavegur is known for the colored and painted houses that really give the shopping street its own character. There are also many hotels nearby, putting all the shopping and dining options within easy reach.

6. Winter activity: Spotting the Northern Lights

Reykjavik activitiesOn an excursion to admire the Northern Lights
Reykjavik visitThe Northern Lights over Reykjavik Iceland

Firstly, in the city there is Aurora Reykjavik, a museum dedicated to the Northern Lights. There is a Northern Lights theater, background information and you can experience the Northern Lights with VR glasses. You will also learn how to take the best photos to capture the natural phenomenon (more info and tickets).

Of course the highlight is a Northern Lights tour where you will leave the city of Reykjavik (the city has a lot of light pollution). This can be done with a walking tour, but I reommend you make it more comfortable by booking this bus tour or even do this tour by boat. Between October and March you have the best chance of spotting the Northern Lights. This could even be done in September and April. The best chance, however, is in the middle of winter, when the nights are longer and less water vapor is clouding the sky due to the icy cold. It is even said that in Reykjavik you could see the Northern Lights 280 days a year.

Please note: The tours also involve a fair amount of luck and if the prospects are bad, tours will be moved to the next day. Schedule this Northern Lights tour therefore as early as possible during your trip, so that you can also join a possible resit.

7. Walking around Lake Tjörnin & Austurvöllur Square

Things to do in IcelandArt at Lake Tjörnin, Reykjavik Iceland's Lake
old reykjavik icelandPlenty of water birds in front of the town hall

In Reykjavik city you can relax around Lake Tjörnin where many water birds can be spotted. At the lake you can also view the town hall. In this town hall you will find a beautiful 3D model of Iceland and public toilets. In the winter you can even skate on the lake and in the summer it is wonderful to walk along the beautiful works of art that are located around the lake.

From the town hall you walk to the square Austurvöllur, the square where the parliament building (Alþingi) from 1881 is located and is the heart of 'Old Reykjavik'. Next to the parliament building is a modest church, the Dómkirkja. Also in the center of the square is the statue of Jón Sigurdsson, an Icelandic hero as he led the campaign for Icelandic independence. From Austurvöllur Square, you then walk to Reykjavik's oldest street, Aðalstræti. On this street, at number Aðalstræti 10, you will find Reykjavik's oldest building (built in 1762). This building can now be visited as a museum in combination with the adjacent The Settlement Exhibition.

Tip: A fun way to discover this part of Reykjavik downtown is with this Free Walking Tour, where a guide takes you through the old part of the capital.

8. Reykjavik City Museum: The Settlement Exhibition

reykjavik icelandThe Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik
reykjavik centerAðalstræti 10, the old building in Reykjavik center

The Settlement Exhibition is a Reykjavik tourist attraction that deals with the origins of Iceland and the first people to settle here. This location is part of the Reykjavik City Museum which is partly underground. If you only want to visit a single museum in Reykjavik, this museum and the Perlan are my recommendations. In the modern museum you can see remains of a farm from the 10th century and constructions from the Viking era. Using good multimedia you will find out what life was like then and there is a lot on display so that you can almost get a sense of what it was like in Iceland at the time. A visit to the Settlement Exhibition is included in the Reykjavik City Card otherwise you pay 2500 ISK (about 18 dollar/euro). The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 Ppm.

9. National Museum of Iceland

reykjavik sightsVisiting Iceland's National Museum
what to do in reykjavik winterThjodminjasafn museum in Reykjavik

The National Museum of Iceland is also known as Thjodminjasafn. Here you can learn more about the history of Icelandic culture. What is on display here are 2000 archaeological finds and thousands of photos. This will take you through all the periods using topics such as lifestyle, traditions and the history of Iceland. Many objects come from the Viking era and you get a clear picture of the history of Iceland. Admission to the three-storey museum is 2,500 ISK (about 18 dollar/euro, book your tickets online), but is also included in the discounted Reykjavik City Card:

Tip: Reykjavik City Card

When you go on a city trip to Reykjavik, the Reykjavik City Card is very interesting and affordable. The Reykjavik City Card offers you the choice of a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass and includes the following Reykjavik attractions and activities:

  • Access to public city buses in downtown Reykjavik
  • Ferry to Viðey Island
  • Access to Reykjavík City Thermal Baths and Reykjavík Zoo and Family Park
  • Free entrance to many museums such as the various branches of the Reykjavik City Museum (including the Settlement Exhibition and maritime museum), 3 branches of the Reykjavik Art Museum, Culture House, National Gallery of Island, the popular National Museum of Iceland and the Árbær Open Air Museum
  • Discounts at many other Reykjavik attractions such as the Saga Museum, Aurora Reykjavik and Whales of Iceland
  • More info Reykjavik City Card

10. Things to Do in Reykjavik: Whale Watching

To do in IcelandWhale watching from the capital
Reykjavik must seeReykjavik Things to Do: The Whale Watching Tour

Firstly, near the harbor there is an exhibition about whales in Iceland called 'Whales of Iceland'. There are 23 life-size scale models on display here and an interesting film that will help you learn more about these whales (info and tickets).

In addition, it's really interesting to do a boat trip where you go whale watching (book your tour here). This is possible all year round, but is most recommended between May and October. You will encounter minke whales, porpoises and dolphins here. An experienced guide will accompany you and you will usually be given warm overalls. Whale watching in Iceland's waters is an activity that the true nature lover won't want to miss.

Another fun activity for animal lovers is a boat excursion (more info about tours) to spot puffins at the seaside cliffs, this is possible only in the breeding season from May to August.

11. Special activities: FlyOver Iceland

reykjavik cityFlyOver Iceland near the Old Port
what to see in Reykjavik IcelandWhat to do in Reykjavik: A unique experience in Iceland

FlyOver Iceland is one of the newest attractions in Reykjavik and an absolute must do to end your holiday or even more highly recommended when you visit Reykjavik with children. With a small group you take a seat in a moving chair and you fly over the amazing landscapes of Iceland with all kinds of special effects such as wind, fog and scent. The total experience of FlyOver Iceland divided into three rooms takes half an hour and as a highlight you take the unforgettable eight-minute flight where you get to know Iceland from its most beautiful side. Maybe not the cheapest attraction, but definitely worth the money (Tip: Due to limited capacity, it is recommended to book your timeslot in advance).

12. To do: Excursions in Iceland

Reykjavik is the perfect base for day trips to discover other parts of Iceland. Consider, for example, excursions to the popular Golden Circle, an excursion to the southern part, peninsula Snaefellsnes and the Blue Lagoon. This Blue Lagoon is located in the southwest and was created from geothermal heated water. The color of the water is a beautiful blue and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Iceland. A day trip to the Golden Circle is a real must-see with highlights such as waterfalls, geysers and volcanic craters. Snaefellsnes Peninsula is also well worth a visit, as you will find rugged and uninhabited landscapes here. Actually, your Reykjavik city trip is not complete without planning at least three days for day trips in the area. This article provides tips for the 12 best excursions from Reykjavik.

Absolutely recommended! If you only have time for one excursion from Reykjavik, this tour to the Golden Circle is our absolute must see, no matter what season you visit Iceland. You will visit beautiful waterfalls, geysers and volcanic craters. This tour even combines the Golden Circle with the Blue Lagoon.

More day trips from Reykjavik

13. Icelandic Phallus Museum

Tips ReykjavikThe Phallus Museum, a unique attraction

You don't come across this museum every day, because here you see penises of all kinds of animal species. In fact, the Phallological Museum is the only penis museum in the world. It has a collection of over 280 penises (partly in spirits and partly penis bones) consisting of the land and sea creatures of Iceland (including giant whale penises) and various well-known animal species outside of Iceland. There is a lot of information provided which will certainly make it educational. The entrance is 2500 ISK (about 18 dollar/euro) and the museum is open daily from 10 am to 7 pm (website).

14. Þúfa and the Old Port of Reykjavik

Attractions in ReykjavikÞúfa, the special viewpoint at the harbor
Harbour ReykjavikVisiting the Port of Iceland's Capital

Be sure to take a walk through the old harbor of Reykjavik which is located in the area behind the Harpa concert hall. It is a lively area with, among other things, many colorful fishing boats and the place from which whale tours depart. Around the harbor you will find several shops and restaurants in old renovated fishermen's huts to have a drink with a view of the old harbour, but also some interesting museums such as the maritime museum and the Saga museum.

Completely on the other side side of the harbor you will find a striking green hill, Þúfa. This is a work of art from 2013 which consists of 4500 tons of gravel. On top of the hill is a traditional hut in which fish used to be dried. From the top you have a magnificent view of the old harbour. On the way back you can stop in the harbor at 'OmNom Chocolate', this chocolate factory and ice cream shop is renowned for its excellent and creatively presented ice creams.

15. Saga Museum

Saga Museum ReykjavikThe Saga Museum, the wax museum

In the Saga museum, history is brought to life in a fun way with wax statues. Here you will receive an audio guide that leads you through the well set up museum. Hear stories (sagas) about Iceland's origin and colonization. The lifelike wax figures provide more empathy. Nice bonus is that in the museum you can dress up as Viking and take funny pictures. Admission to the museum is 3000 ISK (approximately 21 dollar/euro), open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (official website).

16. Hot Springs: Sky Lagoon or Blue Lagoon

Blue LagoonBlue Lagoon, a top attraction in Iceland
Tours Blue LagoonCome relax in the hot springs of Blue Lagoon

One of Iceland's most popular attractions is the Blue Lagoon. Located 39 kilometers from Reykjavik, these beautiful geothermal baths are easily accessible on a day trip. On the one hand, this is too commercial an attraction, on the other hand, a must-do on the bucket list for many tourists.

Note: The Blue Lagoon is extremely popular, so you will have to book well in advance, especially during the high season. Via this website you can easily book your entrance to the Blue Lagoon and if you also need transport from Reykjavik you can book this excursion.

A cheaper alternative is the Sky Lagoon, these pools are just a few miles from Reykjavik and have only been open a few years. Here you have great sea views while relaxing in a geothermal bath. The advantage of the Sky lagoon is that it is cheaper and faster to reach from the capital (you can book tickets here including a transfer). During your visit to the Sky Lagoon you can also follow a 7-step cleansing ritual (more info and bookings Sky Lagoon).

17. Reykjavik City Museum: Maritime Museum

This is a museum about the Icelandic shipping and it is located in a former fish factory in the old harbor of Reykjavik. It was established in 2005 and is one of the locations of the Reykjavik City Museum. It focuses on 150 years of fishing history in Iceland; besides tourism, the main driver of the Icelandic economy. The museum follows the entire route from fishing at sea to processing on land. Another part of the maritime museum is about the Coast Guard.

This museum is also included in the Reykjavik City Card, otherwise you pay 1950 ISK (about 18 dollar/euro). Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Reykjavik landmarksVisiting Reykjavik's Maritime Museum
ReykjavikHöfði House, a historical place of interest in Iceland

18. Höfði House: Historic Highlight

Höfði House once hosted a historic meeting between US President Reagan and Russian President Gorbachev. This is where the Cold War ended. It is a white wooden villa which you can only see from the outside and at the house you will also see a statue with information and memorial plaques. For foreign tourists, it is also called Reagan-Gorbachev House.

19. To do in Reykjavik: Ferry to Videy Island

Videy IslandTo do in Reykjavik: Ferry to Videy Island
Peace TowerThe Peace Tower on Videy Island

From Reykjavik you can take the ferry to Videy Island. The island consists of two parts that are connected by a spit of land. The island is about 1.7 km² in size and is a remnant of an extinct volcano. You are on the island within 15 minutes by boat. The Imagine Peace Tower can be seen here and this is a memorial to John Lennon from his widow Yoko Ono. The monument consists of a tall tower of light on which is projected “Imagine Peace” in 24 languages. On the island you will also find beautiful walking routes, many bird species and a beautiful view of the city (The Imagine Peace Tower is illuminated annually on: October 9 – December 8, December 21 – 31, February 18 and March 20 – 27).

Visitor info: The ferry runs 8x a day (see schedule) during the summer season and costs 1700 ISK (about 12 euros). The ferry to Videy Island is included in the Reykjavik City Card.

20. Grotta Lighthouse

Reykjavik sightseeingActivities: Take a trip to the Grotta Lighthouse
Reykjavik attractionsWhat to do in Iceland: Spot the Northern Lights

Grotta Lighthouse is the lighthouse of Reykjavik. From the center you can take a nice 5 km walk along the coast and then you will arrive at this lighthouse. The smell of seaweed greets you. In the late evening, this area can also be an ideal place to spot the Northern Lights. The lighthouse is located in the northwest of Reykjavik and is 23 meters high. Tip: It is recommended to go here at low tide, as you can only enter the last bit to the lighthouse at low tide.

21. Traditional Food & Hákarl Challenge

ReykjavikDo you dare? Hákarl with a glass of Brennivín
Top 10 Reykjavik SightsMust do: eat a hotdog at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

Although this is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Iceland, it has excellent traditional cuisine. Eating out isn't cheap in Reykjavik, but the cuisine is based entirely on ingredients the island has to offer. First of all, there are excellent lamb dishes (including the famous lamb soup); because the sheep have been able to graze freely on the island, this lamb is of excellent quality. The other food source is, of course, seafood, with cod, herring and artcic char being common fish caught in the cold Arctic waters. This gives you plenty of choice from excellent fish restaurants. However, due to the Icelandic soil, the supply of vegetables is limited. Furthermore, Reykjavik's oldest hot dog stand, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, has gained cult status; according to the residents of Reykjavik, these are the tastiest hot dogs out there and by default there is a long queue for this hot dog stall.

Fun activity: A really fun way to sample Iceland's traditional food is with this 3 hour food tour. A guide will take you out to taste 8 different dishes, giving you interesting background stories about the food, traditions and Reykjavik (more info about the food tour).

In addition, there are also a number of rarer (and equally controversial) dishes that are still served in a surprising number of restaurants. Think of puffin, minke whale, reindeer and horse meat. Several restaurants offer 7-course tasting menus to taste these kinds of dishes (Sæta Svínið is an attractive restaurant to do this and Tapas Barinn serves Icelandic tapas dishes in its own way). Slightly less appealing, but very traditional, are the following dishes: Svið (boiled sheep's head) and Hákarl (fermented shark). As a preservation method, it was previously discovered that a shark became edible if it was first fermented underground for a few weeks and then dried. The result is a very pungent ammonia smell and taste. In some traditional restaurants such as Café Loki, this Hákarl is still served in combination with a glass of Brennivín, the local strong alcohol to wash away the taste. Will you do this Hákarl Challenge?

22. Relax in Laugardalur Park

Activities ReykjavikWhat to see in Reykjavik: Family Park and Zoo
Reykjavik places to visitOn the left in the photo the Laugardalslaug thermal pool

Want to do something active in Reykjavik? In the Laugardalur Park you can do a lot of sports and recreation. For example, you can go to the Laugardalslaug, Reykjavik's largest pool with geothermal heated water. Visiting swimming pools is a favorite activity of Icelanders and you can enjoy the pools here among the locals. Also adjacent to this park is the free botanical garden with a large collection of subarctic plants. Also next door is the Family Park and Zoo (included in the Reykjavik City Card, otherwise 980 ISK entrance). This zoo has mostly farm and native animals and some attractions for children.

23. More museums in Reykjavik

Reykjavik visitÁrbaer, visit the open-air museum near Reijkjavik
Museum Reykjavik IcelandThe punk museum in an underground toilet

If you're going to visit Reykjavik, it's hard to miss going to a museum (tip: many museums are included in the Reykjavik City Card). Reykjavik is truly an extensive museum city and in addition to the museums already mentioned there is also the Árbaer Open Air Museum, also part of the Reykjavik City Museum. This museum, which is located in the open air just outside the city, gives visitors an insight into the past times of living and life in Reykjavik. You see houses from that time with many objects in them that give you an image of that time. In Reykjavik this museum is also called Arbaejarsafn.

For the art lover, you also have the National Gallery of Iceland. Here are works of art by well-known artists from Iceland that support the culture. Another art museum is the Reykjavik Art Museum. This museum consists of three locations: main location Hafnarhús, Kjarvalsstaðir and Ásmundarsafn. You will mainly find contemporary art here.

In the old town is also the Punk Museum, the special location is in a former public toilet and is dedicated to punk music in Iceland. The Culture House, on the other hand, is a very varied museum with an art gallery, archives, library and collections brought together from different museums. At the Einar Jónsson Museum you will come across a lot of sculpture, which are largely in the beautiful and free garden that you can walk through if you have just visited the Hallgrímskirkja. Finally, you have the Photography Museum that also belongs to the Reykjavik City Museums.

Tip: Reykjavik City Card

When you go on a city trip to Reykjavik, the Reykjavik City Card is very interesting and affordable. The Reykjavik City Card offers you the choice of a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass and includes the following Reykjavik attractions and activities:

  • Access to public city buses in downtown Reykjavik
  • Ferry to Viðey Island
  • Access to Reykjavík City Thermal Baths and Reykjavík Zoo and Family Park
  • Free entrance to many museums such as the various branches of the Reykjavik City Museum (including the Settlement Exhibition and maritime museum), 3 branches of the Reykjavik Art Museum, Culture House, National Gallery of Island, the popular National Museum of Iceland and the Árbær Open Air Museum
  • Discounts at many other Reykjavik attractions such as the Saga Museum, Aurora Reykjavik and Whales of Iceland
  • More info Reykjavik City Card

Where are the attrations in Reykjavik?

FAQ Sightseeing Reykjavik - Things to do in Iceland

What are the Top 10 places to visit in Reykjavik?

Reykjavik's most famous attraction is the Hallgrimskirkja, the distinctive church near the colorful Laugavegur shopping district. Newer sights include the Harpa Concert Hall at the picturesque Old Port as well as the striking Perlan Building, which includes a museum and stunning views. The most famous work of art is the Sun Voyager on the coast. In this article you can read all about the Top 20 Reykjavik Sightseeing.

What are the best excursions from Reykjavik?

A holiday to Reykjavik is not complete without visiting the beautiful surroundings of the capital. From Reykjavik you can easily take a day trip to the beautiful landscapes of, for example, the Golden Circle, the southern part of the island, the hot springs of the Blue Lagoon or to the Snaefellsnes peninsula. More info about the best Reykjavik excursions.

What museums does the capital have?

The nice thing about the city is that there is a wide range of museums, so you can also enjoy yourself with bad weather. Visit the Perlan, go back in time in the National Museum of Iceland and the Settlement Exhibition is about the origin of Iceland and the first population. You will find everything here, from a phallus museum, a punk museum to an open-air museum. In this article you can read all about the museums in Reykjavik.

Reykjavik things to do
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