Things to Do in Reykjavik: The Cosmopolitan Capital
Reykjavik isn’t your average city. Besides being the capital of Iceland, it is the country’s largest city, with a population of 123,000.
It’s also the oldest, having been settled in AD 874, though the urban center didn’t emerge until the nineteenth century, when Reykjavik became a well-known trading town. Apart from many tourist attractions, it’s also one of the world’s cleanest, greenest, and safest cities. Here’s a Reykjavik travel guide with five handy tips for you.
- The city has some awesome museums.
Fancy adding some huge animals to your list of things to see in Reykjavik? Check out the Whales of Iceland exhibition — which includes 23 life-size whale models hanging from the ceiling. Take a guided audio tour to learn about humpback whales, blue whales, and more. At the National Museum next to University of Iceland, you can explore an impressive collection of tools, artifacts, and archaeological remains. Established in 1863, it provides a great introduction to the city’s history. If you want something more unusual, head to the Icelandic Phallological Museum. More than 200 penises (and parts thereof) were taken from nearly all the mammals in Iceland and preserved for exhibition.
- The restaurants are out of this world.
When it comes to unique cuisine, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Reykjavik. Signature Icelandic dishes include boiled sheep’s and cod’s heads cooked in chicken stock. For a ultimate culinary experience, check out Nora Magasin and indulge in lobster and local beer. At Bergsson Mathús, you can start your day with soft-boiled eggs and bacon or some homemade rhubarb jam. For coffee and cakes, stop by Stofan Kaffihús, or try the tapas at Forréttabarinn.
- Hallgrímskirkja is a spectacular church.
Looming high over Reykjavik is the majestic white church of Hallgrímskirkja, one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. Named after seventeenth-century minister and poet Hallgrímur Pétursson, the Evangelical-Lutheran church hosts thousands of visitors every day. Climb to the top for a view that may just be the city’s best.
- Summer and autumn are ideal seasons for visiting.
Compared to other parts of Iceland, Reykjavik’s climate is relatively mild. From June to October, average temperatures stay above freezing, making summer and autumn perfect for holidays. The coastal location means you can stay cool all summer long, too.
- Reykjavik is an excellent spot to watch the northern lights.
Go down to the seaside on the city's outskirts to enjoy the splendor of the northern lights. When solar winds are attracted to the magnetic fields around the earth’s poles, they mix with atmospheric gases to create a mesmerizing natural light show. The best time to see it is between September and mid-April.
Home to many nationalities, Reykjavik is more diverse than your average Icelandic town and filled with ample opportunities to meet other visitors. However you spend your time in Iceland’s capital, take some inspiration from this Reykjavik travel guide, and you’re sure to have an unforgettable time!