The Icelandic capital of Reykjavik is a fantastic base for exploring some of the natural marvels in the southern parts of the Land of Fire and Ice.
Close to active volcanoes, geothermal marvels, stunning waterfalls, and lunar-like landscapes, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d been transported to a different planet when you land!
But with so many options, how do you know what the best things to do in Reykjavik are?
Don’t be disheartened! This is exactly why we wrote this insider guide to the 15 best things to do in Reykjavik.
Take a look at our expert list of the best things to do in Reykjavik to help you plan your amazing trip and keep costs reasonable. And, with things that nobody else talks about, you can combine headline must-sees with authentic local encounters and off-the-beaten-track hidden gems. Win win!
Let’s discover the best things to do in Reykjavik …
Nobody goes on holiday to be miserable! With interesting architecture, out-of-the-ordinary experiences, and some of the most sublime natural sights you’ll ever clap your eyes on, Reykjavik is anything but normal. Escape your normal day-to-day routines and have a blast in Reykjavik with these fun ideas.
The Golden Circle is one of Iceland’s iconic routes, with many splendid natural attractions to grab your attention. It truly is a wilderness!
See the yawning rift in Thingvellir National Park, a dramatic chasm caused by the American and Eurasian continental plates ripping apart. You can also visit the site where the longest-operating parliament in the world was born.
Wait for the giant Strokkur geyser to erupt and marvel at the bubbling and smoking terrain at Geysir Hot Springs before moving on to admire the majesty and power of the crashing Gullfoss Waterfall.
Drive across the moon-like central highlands before taking on the ice fields and snow-covered landscapes of Langjökull Glacier in a snowmobile.
Travel to the stunning Snæfellsnes Peninsula and be wowed by the gorgeous scenery of the Snæfellsjökull National Park. You’ll hike along craggy and picturesque terrain to reach Hellnar, visit the charming village of Arnarstapi, see glacial landscapes, and have lunch by the coast.
The real highlight, however, is descending some 35 metres into the earth’s belly to explore the ancient Vatnshellir Cave. There are awesome lava formations and striking colours inside the cave. All necessary safety equipment is provided.
If you’ve ever wanted to go inside a volcano, here’s your chance!
Go to the spectacular peninsulas of Reykjanes and Snæfellsnes and hike across awesome lunar-like lava landscapes before going inside the Thrihnukagigur Volcano. Don’t worry—it’s dormant now!
You’ll go 120 metres down into the beast, seeing a volcano’s inside up close. You’ll be in small groups with a guide and everyone will have a helmet and harness. Full safety briefings are conducted before you go over the edge of the crater.
Afterwards, reward yourself with a piping hot bowl of traditional Icelandic soup before heading back to the city.
Water lovers can still get plenty of kicks in Iceland. An added caving adventure ensures your day will be full of adrenaline.
Go below a lava field to see the beauties that lie beneath and be awed by the natural formations created by Mother Nature. Wander through a lava tube cave and be dazzled.
Then, be blown away by the striking blue hues of the Silfra fissure before donning your snorkel and mask to discover life underwater between two tectonic plates in Thingvellir National Park.
Don’t forget your action camera!
For a bird’s eye view of incredible landscapes and a rush you won’t quickly forget, whizz through the skies on a zipline.
Drive to the Southern Iceland’s gorgeous coast and zipline over the Grafargil Canyon and soak up the vistas. Once back on terra firma you’ll also have the chance to hike through a picture-perfect river canyon to immerse yourself right in the dramatic terrain.
The other-worldly landscapes of Iceland cannot help but inspire romantic thoughts. Discovering enchanting sights is all the more special when you’re standing alongside your partner. Get the romantic vibes gushing!
You’ve heard of the popular Blue Lagoon, itself a terrific activity for couples, but how about soaking in the Secret Lagoon for something a bit different to the masses?
The natural lagoon is filled with deliciously warm geothermally heated waters and provides stunning views of the countryside as you bathe. To add to the wonder, a nearby geyser spurts jets of water into the air every few minutes.
The clear waters contain beneficial minerals; relax and rejuvenate as you feel at bliss with your love. Don’t forget your swimming suits!
Visit the soaring Peace Tower, an artistic symbol of peace in beautiful natural surroundings.
Located on Viðey Island, you’ll learn more about how John Lennon and Yoko Ono worked tirelessly towards the goal of achieving harmony across the globe.
You can feast your eyes on sweeping views across Reykjavik and, at certain times of the year, you may even catch a glimpse of the spectacular Northern Lights.
Exploring gorgeous areas is even more special when you’re walking alongside that special someone. There’s a reason why the splendidly scenic Thorsmork is also known as the Valley of the Gods!
A popular spot with locals, your experienced guide will take you to hidden valleys and gorges, showing you places that you would likely miss on your own. Tucked between soaring mountains and glaciers, the pristine landscapes are like something off a postcard.
Climb Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and walk behind the cascading flow and appreciate the ever-changing landscapes of Gígjökull for an exciting day filled with natural splendour.
Although pricey, a helicopter ride over Reykjavik and surrounding areas is sure to be an experience that you can’t forget.
Spend 30-40 minutes soaring through the skies and spot the city’s famous landmarks such as the harbour, Hallgríms Church, and Harpa Concert Hall. After hovering over the city you’ll land atop a majestic mountain for more terrific views down over the city.
Sit next to your sweet and bump across dramatic landscapes in a buggy. Inhale the crisp air and enjoy the most fabulous views, all while having fun together.
You’ll be able to learn more about local life and see the sparkling Hafravatn Lake, with options to include mountain adventures too.
You’ll be given safety instructions and the chance to practice before setting off and the vehicles are safe and well maintained. Feel the need for speed? They can go pretty fast if you want them too!
Get to know a graceful and friendly Icelandic horse and hop in the saddle to discover Reykjavik’s beauty by horseback. Ride alongside your partner as you gaze upon the splendid views of ancient landscapes created by volcanic activity, glaciers, and the weather. There are many contrasting sights to see.
All necessary equipment is provided and a guide will be on hand to help if necessary.
Reykjavik is a wonderland for children and adults alike, with glorious sights that are totally unique. Having a few more ideas up your sleeve never hurts, though; after all, keeping the kids entertained and amused is all part of a successful family vacation.
Wrap up warm (warm overalls are also provided onboard) and take to the seas to look out for majestic whales in their natural habitat. Little ones often cannot help but squeal with glee when they see an awesome sea creature, and the grownups are sure to be captivated too. If by any chance you don’t manage to see any whales you’ll get another free ticket.
The waters around Iceland are home to an abundance of marine life. Whale species include minke, humpback, and orca. You may also see dolphins, porpoises, and various bird species.
There are displays and exhibits on the boat to help you learn more about creatures of the deep.
Stay in the city for a day and explore the local sights aboard a hop-on hop-off bus. An excellent way to get around the sights, little legs won’t tire so quickly and the services are frequent from the well-located stops.
The commentary provides interesting information about Reykjavik and you can see famous landmarks like the unusual Hallsgrimschurch, Perlan, the Town Hall, and Harpa Concert Hall. Stroll around the old harbour and soak in the beautiful Laugardalur Thermal Pools.
You can pick up souvenirs and local goods in Kringlan Shopping Center and uncover more of Reykjavik’s past and present at the National Museum. Kids often love the displays at Whales of Iceland.
Older children and adults can pit their wits against an exciting escape room for a cool Reykjavik experience. The whole family will need to work together to solve clues and complete challenges to break free before the time runs out.
You’ll be locked in a jail cell with just an hour to make it out. With riddles, puzzles, games, and a variety of tasks, it’s going to take skill, innovation, and smart-thinking to free your family!
Iceland is a land rich with folklore and legends, and you can learn more on this informative and enlightening walk. Leading through hidden streets and graveyards and calling at Reykjavik Pond, it’s a great way to get older kids out exploring while learning more about the local culture. Do note, however, that some of the tales can be a little frightening for younger children.
You’ll hear about hidden people, trolls, elves, santas, ghosts, criminals, water monsters, and more. Storytelling is popular in Iceland; some tales will amuse you while others may send a shiver up your spine!
Let’s not beat about the bush: Iceland is expensive. You’re going to need to save up before booking your flight if you want to make the most of your trip. That said, you can keep costs down somewhat by including some of these great free activities in your itinerary.
Walking around Reykjavik will reveal a variety of architectural gems and is a great way to immerse yourself in the local city life without needing to spend a dime. Going on a tour, however, does provide insights and fun facts that you perhaps wouldn’t learn on your own.
Admire the colourful buildings in the city centre and see the unique Hallgrímskirkja Church. Fun fact: the angular church featured in the music video for “Today The Sun’s On Us: by Sophie Ellis Bextor.
The open-air museum of Árbæjarsafn is an ideal place for culture lovers and you can pull up a seat to chill with a drink and bite to eat at one of the pleasant cafes at Austurvöllur Square. Feed the ducks at Reykjavik Pond and bathe in the warm waters of Laugardalslaug.
Other highlights include Reykjavik Cathedral, the Town Hall, the harbour, the National Museum of Iceland, and Reykjavík 871±2. For something truly quirky, visit the Icelandic Phallological Museum, home to the biggest collection of penises in the world!
The large indoor Kolaportið Flea Market is held every weekend at the harbour. Even if you don’t intend making any purchases, it’s a great place to browse an eclectic selection of goods and interact with locals.
Stalls are brimming with things like antiques, second-hand books, retro items, vintage clothes and accessories, old DVDs and records, ornaments, and used toys. You’ll also find an assortment of local specialities like fermented shark, liquorice, and baked goods.
A popular summertime hangout spot for locals, Nauthólsvík is a perfect little slice of geothermal beach paradise close to the city centre. Hot waters meet the cooler waters of the sea, providing a pleasant bathing experience. You can also bask on the golden sands and soak up the sun’s rays.
The beach can be enjoyed all throughout the year thanks to the warm water and extra features like hot tubs and steam baths. You can also enjoy sailing on the ocean and admire the views.
Despite the high costs, Reykjavik’s night scene is lively and diverse. Do as the locals do and pre-game in your hotel room with some liquor-store drinks before heading out on the town a little later on. Head out too early and you’ll find that the party hasn’t even started! There are tons of great bars and clubs to keep you out way past bedtime, and you’ll also find some other unique nighttime activities too.
Meet new friends and have a blast as you hop between three of Reykjavik’s hottest bars with a friendly and chatty guide. You’ll have the chance to try a variety of local craft beers and learn more about the local drinking culture.
Group sizes are small, making it more of an intimate experience, and it’s more about the chilled nightlife than going crazy. That said, there’s nothing to stop you and your new pals painting the town red after the tour has finished!
Depending on the time of year, you may be able to join a fantastic trip to spot the glorious Northern Lights dancing in the inky skies and adding blotches of streaky colour to the darkness.
One of the most incredible natural phenomena, you’re sure to be awe-struck when faced with such a splendid sight. The experience is made even more magical by the dramatic Icelandic landscapes.
September to April is the best period for seeing the Northern Lights. Tours won’t run if there’s little chance of seeing the natural illuminations, and if you do go out and fail to spot the lights you can rearrange your trip for free.
Get out into the countryside and marvel at stunning unusual landscapes and natural features like geysers, glaciers, waterfalls, lava fields, caves, and valleys.
Add a thrill to your trip with a range of active adventures like ziplining, buggy riding, caving, and snorkelling. Enjoy brilliant views, sightsee in the city, enjoy the local night scene, and more.
There are so many best things to do in Reykjavik!
What do you think about our epic list? Have me missed any of the coolest things to do in Reykjavik? Let us know below – safe travels!