The 10 Best Things to do in Reykjavik
For many, a couple of nights in Reykjavik before or after your campervan trip is the ideal way to wind down after road trips in Iceland. Although it’s just a town when compared to other European capitals, Reykjavik packs a serious punch when it comes to fun things to see, do, and eat.
From it’s eye-catching Nordic design to modern-day Icelandic cuisine, here are the 10 best things to do in Reykjavik.
1. Visit Hallgrímskirkja Church
The first stop on any walking tour around Reykjavik should be the iconic church, Hallgrímskirkja. Perched atop one of the highest points in the city centre, this imposing church overlooks the entirety of Reykjavik. It’s an absolute must-see for anybody exploring Iceland’s capital.
After your campervan trip around Iceland, you might recognise the church’s design reflecting Icelandic nature. Basalt columns rise towards the sky like those found on Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach or Svartifoss Waterfall. It also resembles the erupting geysir in Iceland’s Golden Circle.
Inside is free to enter, and visitors can also pay a small fee to take the elevator to the top of the church tower. From here, a beautiful panoramic view of the entire city is available, offering a wonderful photo opportunity.
2. Sample Icelandic Cuisine
Chances are that you’ve spent your campervan trip in Iceland relying on trusty tinned food, pasta, and gas station hot dogs. Once you’re back in Reykjavik, it might be high time to sample some of Iceland’s famous cuisine.
Over the past decade, Iceland has turned into a serious foodie destination. Firmly hitched to the New Nordic food revolution, today you can experience a wealth of flavours in Reykjavik’s restaurants, from creative tapas-style dishes to some of the world’s juiciest burgers.
Of course, the fish and lamb staples are a must-try. But there’s also countless other flavours to explore as well – whatever you do, don’t leave town without trying a hot dog from Reykjavik’s famous hot dog stand downtown, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.
3. Enjoy Reykjavik’s Nightlife
Speaking of downtown, it’s here where Reykjavik has earned itself a raucous reputation for its nightlife. In a regular year, the Icelandic capital boasts a party scene that rivals some of the bigger cities in Europe.
It all takes place in the small area of downtown Reykjavik, making it a breeze to wander from one bar to another. Whether you’re after a hip craft beer bar, chilled cocktail lounge, or glitzy dance floor, Reykjavik has something for everyone.
Thanks to the prices of drinks in bars, a night out in the capital starts very late. On weekends, Icelanders might not leave their homes for the downtown bars until after 11 pm, sometimes even later. So, if you’re heading for a night out, remember to pace yourself – the partying here stretches into the early morning.
4. Visit a Swimming Pool in Reykjavik
Iceland has a serious addiction to swimming. With an unrivalled number of public pools across the country making use of the geothermal water, it’s a fantastic way to escape the often-chilly weather and biting wind.
Scattered across the capital are plenty of neighbourhood pools for you to choose from. However, if you’re staying downtown, chances are you won’t want to make the trek out to Kópavogur just for a dip. Here are the best pools in downtown Reykjavik:
- Sundhöllin is a great spot for a swim, located in a quiet street behind Hallgrímskirkja.
- Laugardalslaug is the city’s most popular swimming pool, located inside Reykjavik’s main sports complex next to the campsite.
- Vesturbæjarlaug is a neighbourhood pool in the 107 area, a short walk from downtown.
Looking for some Icelandic hot springs? We’ve rounded up the 10 best in the country.
5. Laugh at Some Live Comedy in English
With a growing population of foreigners in the city, Reykjavik is turning into a great place to catch some live comedy. Regular gigs in English every week showcase a wealth of talent, both from abroad and around Iceland.
Giggling at an expat’s take on life in Iceland or a local’s reaction to the growing number of tourists in such a small country is a great way to unwind at the end of a campervan trip.
Where to Watch Live Comedy in Iceland?
- The Secret Cellar is a bar in downtown Reykjavik the regularly hosts live comedy nights.
- Gaukurinn is another venue that hosts live gigs.
6. Catch Some Live Icelandic Music
For a country of its size, Iceland is home to a whole lot of fantastic musicians and bands. If you’re in Reykjavik for a night after an Icelandic road trip, it’s a great idea to try and catch some live music.
From troubadours covering the latest and greatest hits at the pub to local bands, DJs, and jazz quartets, there’s a lot on offer. To learn about what’s on in Reykjavik during your stay, check out the gig guide published in the Reykjavik Grapevine, which can be picked up for free in cafés, shops, and the Go Campers office.
Music fan? We’ve also rounded up the Top 10 Music Festivals in Iceland.
7. Study Iceland’s Dramatic Geology
You might have seen it all on your campervan trip but learning about Iceland’s geology is. Perched over the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates as well as a hot spot in the earth’s mantle are behind Iceland’s fascinating, dramatic, and awesome nature.
The Perlan Museum and Observation Deck is immediately recognisable in the city. Perched atop the Öskjuhlíð Hill, this former geothermal water plant is the perfect spot for the exhibition Wonders of Iceland.
Visitors can learn about Iceland’s glaciers, volcanoes, the glacial streams, wildlife, and geothermal energy. It’s a fascinating look into what makes Iceland tick. The top-level is also where you’ll find the observation deck, offering panoramic views over Reykjavik.
8. Wander Through Harpa Concert Hall
The award-winning design of Harpa Concert Hall is a striking addition to the Reykjavik cityscape. Perched at the edge of the city on the water and looking across the bay towards Esja, visiting here is a highlight of spending some time exploring Iceland’s capital.
Entry into Harpa is free, letting you wander around the space. The shimmering glass reflects the everchanging light conditions in Iceland, and from the upper levels you’re afforded stunning views out towards the mountains across the bay.
To enter the actual concert halls, you’ll either need to go on the official tour or attend a show. A favourite amongst visitors to Iceland is ‘How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes’, a funny take on how to assimilate into the island’s culture.
9. Explore the Old Harbour and Grandi
Down by the water is Reykjavik’s Old Harbour, the historic fishing hub of the city. Here, you can wander along the harbour and admire the fishing vessels, soak up the nautical vibes, and get a good feel for old school Reykjavik.
As you continue, you’ll eventually enter the Grandi neighbourhood. This former industrial area has slowly been changing over the years, and old fishing warehouses are now occupied by restaurants, bars, and boutique shops.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, make sure to pay a visit to the Grandi Mathöll. This food hall contains several different options for a meal, from Vietnamese to fried chicken. As you eat, check out the TVs to see the names of ships as they come and go from the harbour outside.
10. Visit the City’s Museums
As the capital of the country, Reykjavik is home to plenty of astonishing museums. Covering everything from the country’s settlement to the northern lights, there’s a lot to discover.
History buffs should head straight to the Settlement Exhibition, where a past hotel renovation uncovered the foundations of a Viking longhouse, dating back to Iceland’s settlement.
Those interested in a more general overview of the country should visit the National Museum of Iceland, while Fly Over Iceland is the second-best way to experience the country’s landscapes behind a classic Icelandic road trip.
We hope you enjoy your time in our lovely little capital city – try one of these best things to do in Reykjavik to make it a memorable trip. If you’re ready to book a camper, check out what’s available for your dates here.