Reykjavik is Iceland’s capital, and one of the only large cities in the country. We had a lot of fun 23exploring around the city, going shopping, and getting a taste for Icelandic culture. We spent 5 days here, 2 of which we left the city on day trips around the Golden Circle. Overall, I really think you only need two days here maybe three if you have a lot of money. Because the city does tend to get pretty expensive, especially the food which I will go into later.
Things to do:
The city is pretty walkable, but they do have buses that are pretty regular. We mainly walked instead of waiting for a bus, but we would catch them to go to some of the museums that were closer to the outskirts of the city. For day trips, we took our rental car. Driving around is pretty tight downtown, but once you get on the interstate it is smooth sailing, and not much traffic at all. I did not feel scared to drive there, even downtown, and it was my first time driving in a foreign city.
I would highly suggest getting a city card from the Reykjavik visitor’s center. Here is their website: https://visitreykjavik.is/reykjavik-city-card It is fairly afforadable, and will include unlimited bus passes for your stay, and free entrance to most of their museums. Our favorite museums was the Viking museum that gave all the history of vikings and Iceland, and then of course the photography museum!
Shopping in Reykjavik:
They have one main road in downtown Reykjavik that will have a lot of places to eat, bars, and of course shopping. Everything in Iceland is pretty expensive, and we love going vintage clothing shopping so we mainly stuck to those, and honestly we were pretty impressed! We found some pretty great ones. Our favorite was Sputnik, it had a really great vibe and a good selection for both men and women. Another great one was Fatamarkaðurinn Second Hand Market. They don’t have a website, but they are one the same strip and main road as everything else. Close to one of the main Reyjkavik attraction, Hallgrimmskirkja, is a little photography store that we just LOVED, http://www.fotografi.is/ . Traditional Iceland shopping consisted of a lot of wool stores with sweaters and the Nordic brand you’ve probably heard of before, https://www.fjallraven.com/us/en-us .
Something relaxing to do in Reykjavik that is also free to do with the city card is visit one of the city’s bathhouses! This is one of our favorite things to do in the city and something I wish was a popular thing in the US. It is also where a lot of locals hangout. We were lucky to get to talk to a group of locals for bar and nightlife recommendagtions. The bathhouses consist of a few very large hottubs, very cold tubs, saunas, and regular swimming pools. One of the health traditions for Iceland is to get in a sauna or one of the really hot tubs, and then get in one of the freezing tubs. It’s is something about going from really hot to really cold temperatures to get the blood flowing. Our favorite bathhouse was the Sundhöll Reykjavíkur pool . We weren’t allowed to take any photos, but trust us when we say it’s a must when visiting the city!
To really get the feel of the city and see all the sights we honestly just walked around a lot. So much so I had to take a break and sit on the side of the road as you can see in the above slideshow. Reykjavik has a really great walking path next to the water where one view is of mountains off in the distance and the other is the Reykjavik skyline! If you keep following this path it will eventually take you down to the Harpa Opera House. It’s free to walk in and check it out. The architecture is incredible. Two other points of interest are the Hallgrimmskirkja Church and The Sun Voyager sculpture. While walking around you’ll run into a lot of stray cats, an unexpected joy of Iceland.
Honestly, we don’t have a lot to write about the food, other than it is incredibly expensive! Usually when we travel we put a lot of effort in finding all the best places to get the local cusine. Sometimes I would stop while we were walking to just check out some of the prices and everytime I would be blown away by the prices. I saw one place with a caesar salad for $30. We are from a city in Tennessee that has a really low cost of living so maybe others wouldn’t be as shocked as we were at the prices.
One thing I recommend if you are on a budget is to go grocery shopping at Bonus, their equivalent to Aldi’s. We did that most of the time so we could stick to our budget. Our Airbnb did not have a coffee maker though and that is one thing we can’t skip out on so we would stop for coffee. Above are photos from an adorable coffee shop called Emilie and The Cool Kids. They gave us some free samples of a homemade cake with our Cappuccinos.
There was one thing food must try in Iceland that was on budget for us and it was the famous hot dog stand, Baejarins beztu pylsur! Icelandic people definitely came up with an amazing topping combo for hotdogs! I’ve been meaning to try to order some of the sauce and fried crunchy toppings from the internet. Anyways, this hot dog stand is open almost 24/7 so it’s a great place to stop while you’re museum hopping during the day and at the end of bar hopping at night!
Reykjavik is a pretty good night life spot! They had a lot of really chill places to stop and get a beer, and then a few places to really let loose and dance.
We really wanted to try different Icelandic beers so we went straight for Microbar. It was this little underground bar with Icelandic beers on draft. It was pretty crowded when we went and it had a very casual vibe. We got a few beers, played a game of chess, and then headed for the Kaffibarrinn. This place was pretty cool and hip, but very crowded. We stayed for a couple of drinks, and then headed to Kiki, a dancing gay bar. Here we had to wait in line, but it was a fun time and definitely a place to stop by while bar hopping in the capital. Hurra was the last stop where we danced to electronic music. We ended the night by of course stopping by Baejarins beztu pylsur!! One other place that we stopped by on one of our shopping ventures was The Irishman pub. It had a very cool and classy atmosphere. We meant to go back, but never made it back there.
Where we stayed:
So this was our first big trip together and we were definitely on a budget. The cheapest form of accomodation within the city that was walking distance to everything was an airbnb for $70.00/night, but it was pretty basic. It was a little room in the basment of an apartment building with no kitchen, only a microwave and minifridge, and a shared bathroom that was not very clean. I was going to link the airbnb anyways just in case anyone did want to stay here, but it was no longer posted. I would honestly splurge a little more on one with a coffee machine and a kitchen because it will end up saving you a lot of money from going out and getting coffee, and you’ll be able to cook nice meals instead of living off of turkey sandwichs and ramen noodles.
I have recently checked airbnb’s since travelling there and they have A LOT more affordable options that have all of those things. Just try to book in advance so you can get the best locations for the best prices.