Reykjavik Destination Guide

Last updated 3/5/2024

Reykjavik, the vibrant capital of Iceland, captivates visitors with its unique blend of natural wonders, modern amenities, and rich cultural heritage. Nestled between the dramatic landscapes of volcanic mountains and the glistening waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, Reykjavik boasts a picturesque setting like no other. Wander through its colorful streets lined with quaint boutiques, trendy cafes, and historic landmarks, such as the towering Hallgrimskirkja church and the iconic Harpa Concert Hall. Immerse yourself in the city’s thriving arts scene, vibrant nightlife, and delicious culinary offerings, showcasing the best of Icelandic cuisine. With its welcoming atmosphere and breathtaking surroundings, Reykjavik invites travelers to explore its dynamic energy and uncover the secrets of this enchanting Nordic capital.

Where to Stay in Reykjavik

In Reykjavik, you’ll find a range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. If you’re looking for a central location with easy access to attractions and nightlife, downtown Reykjavik offers numerous hotels, guesthouses, and hostels. Areas like Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur are popular for their bustling atmosphere and proximity to restaurants and shops. For those seeking a quieter stay, neighborhoods like Vesturbær or Þingholt provide a more relaxed setting while still being within walking distance of downtown. Additionally, there are luxury hotels and boutique guesthouses offering upscale amenities and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Whether you prefer a cozy guesthouse, a chic boutique hotel, or a budget-friendly hostel, Reykjavik has accommodations to suit every traveler’s needs.

 

Below are our favorite places to stay in Reykjavik:

What to Do in Reykjavik

Explore Hallgrimskirkja

Visit Reykjavik’s iconic church, Hallgrimskirkja, and take an elevator ride to the top for panoramic views of the city.

Stroll Down Laugavegur

Wander along Laugavegur, Reykjavik’s main shopping street, lined with unique boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.

Visit Harpa Concert Hall

Marvel at the stunning architecture of Harpa Concert Hall and catch a performance or exhibition inside.

Relax in a Hot Spring

Experience the local tradition of soaking in a geothermal hot spring at places like Laugardalslaug or Nauthólsvík Beach.

Discover Icelandic Culture

Explore museums like the National Museum of Iceland or the Reykjavik Art Museum to learn about Icelandic history and art.

Try Icelandic Cuisine

Sample traditional Icelandic dishes like fermented shark, lamb stew, or skyr at local restaurants and cafes.

Take a Whale Watching Tour

Embark on a whale-watching excursion from Reykjavik’s Old Harbor and spot minke whales, humpbacks, and dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean.

Relax in a Cafe

Enjoy a cup of Icelandic coffee and pastries at one of Reykjavik’s cozy cafes, perfect for people-watching, relaxing, and even doing laundry!

Visit Perlan

Explore Perlan, a landmark building with a viewing deck offering panoramic views of Reykjavik and interactive exhibitions about Iceland’s natural wonders.

Experience Reykjavik’s Nightlife

Explore Reykjavik’s vibrant nightlife scene, with trendy bars, live music venues, and clubs catering to all tastes and styles.

Below are some curated experiences in Reykjavik:

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Where to Eat in Reykjavik

In recent years, and with increased tourism, Reykjavik has seen a huge increase in high-quality restaurants with chefs flocking here to take advantage of its local seafood, meat, and game. It’s no wonder this city is becoming a haven for food lovers. Reykjavik is a prime destination for those wishing to sample New Nordic cuisine. But, being an island that relies heavily on imported goods and raw materials, Iceland is a relatively expensive place to visit.

 

We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite restaurants in Reykjavik that balance out the best and the most affordable. Whether you’re on a budget or looking to try some of the best the city has to offer, there is something for everyone; that is, of course, unless your favorite dining establishment happens to be McDonald’s (which is nowhere to be found in Iceland). When planning for dinner, be sure to make a reservation in advance or you most likely won’t get in.

 

Fiskmarkadurinn – The Fish Market

Aðalstræti 12, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 578-8877
Budget: $$$$
Opening Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Friday & Saturday: 5:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Sunday: 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm
http://www.fiskmarkadurinn.is/ 

 

A trip to Reykjavik wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of Iceland’s world-class seafood. This is one of two restaurants we love specifically for this type of cuisine. We recommend the tasting menu that head chef Hrefna Rosa Saetran and her team have created from the best the restaurant has to offer. Rather than serving individual starters and main courses, the tasting menu is a combination of dishes that are designed for sharing and are brought to the table steadily and continuously throughout the meal. The meal consists of a variety of sushi dishes, cooked fish and other meats and a buffet of desserts. All of the food is beautifully presented and each serving is a generous portion. This won’t be a cheap meal, but it will be delicious! The staff is also friendly, efficient and helpful. Word of caution: Be sure to check the drink prices before ordering. A carafe of hot sake will set you back about $78!

 

Fiskelagid – The Fish Company

Vesturgötu 2a, Grófartorg, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 552-5300
Budget: $$$$
Opening Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm & 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Friday: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm & 5:30 pm – 11:30 pm
Saturday: 5:30 pm – 11:30 pm
Sunday: 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm
http://www.fiskfelagid.is/

 

Our other favorite place for seafood is Fiskelagid, a cozy restaurant located in the basement of the Zimsen building, serving not only Icelandic seafood, but also dishes from around the world.  The historic Zimsen building dates back to 1884 and was originally located a couple of streets away before it was moved to its current location underneath a quaint bridge. While the building was  undergoing renovation, part of Reykjavik’s old harbor was unearthed and transformed into a work of art within the restaurant grounds by local artist, Hjorleifur Stefansson. They have 2 set tasting menus to try or you might relax in one of their comfortable booths while snacking on Icelandic salted cod with smoked potato foam & crisps or the slow-cooked Arctic Charr & fried Langoustines.

 

Grillmarkadurinn – The Grill Market

Lækjargata 2A, Miðborg, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 571-7777
Budget: $$$$
Opening Hours:
Monday – Friday: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm & 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 6:00 pm – 11:30 pm
http://www.grillmarkadurinn.is/

 

Grillmarkadurinn, or The Grill Market, resides in a faithful reconstruction of Reykjavik’s art nouveau Nyja Bio (New Cinema), which stood in the restaurant’s location from 1920 until 1998 when it was destroyed by a fire. There is a comfortable lounge area offering a range of cocktails and wines and top Michelin-rated chefs, Hrefna Rósa Sætran and Guðlaugur P. Frímannsson, serve up a range of meat, fish, and game dishes, all sourced from local farmers. We recommend the tasting menu here also. You can’t go wrong with the chef’s selection of dishes, served family style.

 

Mat Bar at Hverfisgata 26

Hverfisgata 26, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 788-3900
Budget: $$-$$$
Opening Hours:
Everyday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
https://www.matbar.is/ 

 

This tiny little place is located on the corner of Hverfisgata and Bergstaðastræti and is perfect for a quick bite at lunch or afternoon drinks followed by dinner. At Mat Bar, the focus is on small plates (tapas). Depending on how hungry you are, you can order 2-4 plates per person from their menu that includes such dishes as Cured Arctic Char w/ pickled cabbage and caraway seed emulsion, or for the adventurous palate, try the reindeer tartar with estragon mayonnaise and pickled shallots.

 

Lebowski Bar

Laugarvegur 20a, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 552-2300
Budget: $$-$$$
Opening Hours:
Sunday – Thursday: 11:00 am – 1:00 am
Friday & Saturday: 11:00 am – 4:00 am
https://lebowskibar.is/

 

We love this place for its movie theme decor! Yes, it’s themed for the movie, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, and their specialty drink is the White Russian. Their menu includes a variety of different burgers, milkshakes and other foods you might find in an American diner.  They also have happy hour everyday from 4-7 pm, which is a rare find in Iceland.

 

The Laundromat Cafe

Austurstræti 9, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 587-7555
Budget: $$-$$$
Opening Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 8:00 am – 11:00 pm
Friday: 8:00 am – 12:00 am
Saturday: 9:00 am – 12:00 am
Sunday: 9:00 am – 11:00 pm
https://www.thelaundromatcafe.com/

 

This is our favorite place in Reykjavik for breakfast and also a place where you can do your laundry! With its quirky coffeehouse atmosphere, The Laundromat Cafe offers a range of breakfast and brunch items, as well as sandwiches, burgers, delicious desserts, healthy juices and coffees. Guests rave about the restaurant’s homemade pancakes and chocolate cake. The concept for the Laundromat Cafe originated in Copenhagen in 2006 as an informal space where guests could meet and eat while doing their laundry. It also features an extensive library of around 6,000 books, which customers can enjoy in a friendly, laid-back atmosphere.

Have you been to Reykjavik and have a favorite restaurant? We’d love to know about it, please leave a comment below!

Best Time to Visit Reykjavik

The best time to visit Reykjavik depends on your preferences and what you want to experience.

 

Summer (June to August): This is the peak tourist season in Reykjavik, characterized by long days, mild temperatures, and a lively atmosphere. It’s ideal for outdoor activities like hiking, whale watching, and exploring the city’s vibrant culture. Plus, you’ll have the chance to experience the midnight sun, with almost 24 hours of daylight.

 

Winter (December to February): Winter brings shorter days, colder temperatures, and the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. Reykjavik’s festive atmosphere during the holiday season, along with opportunities for winter sports like skiing and snowmobiling, make it a popular time to visit. Just be prepared for fewer daylight hours and more variable weather conditions.

 

Spring (March to May): Spring in Reykjavik offers a transition from winter to summer, with longer days and milder temperatures. It’s a great time to witness the landscape coming to life with blooming flowers and migrating birds. You’ll also have the chance to experience fewer crowds compared to the peak summer season.

 

Fall (September to November): Fall brings cooler temperatures and the start of the Northern Lights season. It’s a beautiful time to visit Reykjavik, with colorful foliage and the chance to see the auroras dancing in the night sky. Plus, you’ll enjoy fewer tourists.

 

Ultimately, the best time to visit Reykjavik depends on your interests and what you hope to experience during your trip. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, cultural exploration, or the chance to see the Northern Lights, Reykjavik offers something unique in every season.

 

Below is a temperature guide for all months of the year:

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