Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is an increasingly popular destination full of history, culture, nature, shopping, dining, and nightlife.
A convenient stopover to or from locations in Europe and Scandinavia, Reykjavik, Iceland attracts multitudes of tourists, both adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.
About Reykjavik: Location, Daylight, and Population
Direct flights via Icelandair can be made from several cities along the eastern coast of Canada and the United States and take approximately five hours. Flights from London, England to Reykjavik are a short three hours.
As the world’s northernmost capital city, Reykjavik enjoys 24 hours of daylight in the summer months and near darkness in the heart of December. Despite popular belief, Iceland does not plunge into total darkness in the winter months, but instead has minimal hours of daylight, similar to what can be experienced in northern Canada and Scandinavia.
In order to fully explore Reykjavik, one does not require much time. Although it is Iceland’s largest metropolis, Reykjavik has a small town feel and a population of just over 200,000 people out of the country’s population of 313,000.
Reykjavik Must-See Attractions
Nearly all major sites in Reykjavik can be reached on foot. Most streets have an incline so less-mobile travelers may have difficulties.
Perched atop one of the city’s highest points, Hallgrímskirkja is a tall beacon that can be seen from virtually anywhere in the neighboring area. A towering statue of 10th century explorer Leif Ericsson is located outside the church. Mass is held Sundays at 11:00 am; while the church tower is open to visitors from 9:00 – 20:00, daily.
Also known as Reykjavik Pond, Tjörnin sits off the city’s main gathering place, Austurvöllur Square. A haven for geese, ducks, and other birds, the pond is also home to Reykjavik’s city hall which sits directly on the water. Although the surface freezes in the winter, an area of warm geothermal water is pumped into the pond to keep a section of water open for the birds.
Solfar Sun Voyager Sculpture
This sculpture is one of the city’s most popular works of art due to its prime location on the shores of Reykjavik Bay. With breathtaking views over the harbour towards the mountains that surround the city and nearby Videy Island, the Solfar gleams in the sun providing an ideal picture spot.
The National Museum of Iceland
Established in 1863, The National Museum of Iceland is a must-see stop for history buffs. The museum’s permanent exhibition is called the Making of a Nation – Heritage and History in Iceland and details the formation and history of the country from the early days of settlement in the 9th century up to present day.
Guided tours are included in the admission fee (800 kr per adults; children under 18 are free). Admission to the museum is free on Wednesday.
Kolaportið Flea Market
Open Saturday and Sundays only, the Kolaportið flea market is a Reykjavik institution. Skip the usual second hand junk and head straight to the food areas. Icelandic delicacies such as fresh and dried fish can be purchased, as well as Icelandic herbal tea, and potatoes. For the more daring Hákarl, which can be directly translated to “fermented shark” can be purchased in small quantities. Admission is free.
Laugavegur Shopping Street
The main shopping street which cuts directly through Reykjavik is Laugavegur. The majority of shops are located along this stretch of road, as well as the most popular eateries, bars, and clubs. Look for unique Icelandic boutiques selling the latest in street style, designer clothing shops, and several souvenir outlets selling everything from magnets and mugs to Icelandic hand-knit wool sweaters.
Bæjarins Bestu- Reykjavik’s Best Hot Dogs
Bæjarins Bestu literally mean’s “Town’s Best” and the name is definitely deserved. So famous are the hot dogs here that even former U.S. president stopped in for a bite on a trip to Iceland. Icelanders love their hot dogs and no trip is complete without sampling this delicacy. 250 kr is the price for the highly recommended “one with everything.”
For the younger generation, Reykjavik has an up and coming nightlife. Many of the pubs and clubs stay open and serve alcohol past 4am. Despite the popular drinking culture, the city has a friendly, relaxed feel that is missing from many European cities.
Locals and tourists happily mix together, moving between bars as revellers partake in the traditional runtur (pub crawl).