48 Hours in Reykjavik
One of our favourite places for a city break is Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, with its cutting-edge culture and oodles of natural wonders making for a destination like no other. While it’s often thought of as a classic winter option, we also love it in the spring and summer, when you can take advantage of long summer days, midnight sun and wide-open green spaces.
Here’s our guide to the 48 hours in the world’s most northerly capital.
Reykjavik has a compact centre, with many of the sights easily accessible by foot (although the Reykjavik Welcome Card allows unlimited bus travel). Take a walk up towards Hallgrimskirkja church to get your bearings and, for a couple of pounds, you can climb the tower for views across the city’s colourful rooftops.
If you’re visiting between September and April, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. There are plenty of tours available that use up-to-date weather and solar-activity reports to monitor the conditions and hopefully give you the best chance possible of witnessing this phenomenon. If seeing the Northern Lights is your priority for the trip, we advise dedicating your first night to the cause. If it’s cloudy, then you can always roll the activity over to the next day, which a lot of tours offer to do for free.
Start the day with a walk towards the harbour via the National Museum of Iceland for a glimpse into the country’s 1200-year history, or swing by Reykjavik Art Museum. Deal Expert Kara Aaserud from our Toronto office recommends a stop at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur for lunch — Reykjavik is famous for its hotdogs and this little stall has fans all over the world, including Bill Clinton.
After exploring the Kolaportið Flea Market, take a stroll along the waterfront past Sólfar (The Sun Voyager, an impressive sculpture of a Viking ship), heading towards Laugavegur. This is Reykjavik’s main shopping street and is the best place to snap up handmade clothing and Icelandic artwork.
Don’t be afraid to head out of Reykjavik for the day and see some of Iceland’s top sights. There are plenty of organised excursions (by bus, 4×4 or even horse) with sights like Gullfoss waterfall, the Great Geysir and Thingvellir National Park all doable in a day. Or you can even take to the seas for a spot of whale watching and puffin spotting.b
Iceland is famous for its nightlife, which doesn’t usually kick off until after midnight. Drinking in Reykjavik is pricey, so we recommend a late dinner to see you through until the action starts (or make like a local and knock back a few at the hotel). A local restaurant favourite is the Three Overcoats, or for fresh fish and cocktails, try Fish Market.
Bars stay open all night in Iceland with a decidedly informal dress code (think walking boots and cagoules in the most relaxed places) and a good-natured atmosphere, despite the quantity of booze consumed. Start the night at Boston on Laugavegur and end with a visit to Kaffibarinn, which is a Reykjavik nightlife institution. And don’t forget to fit in a shot of Brennivin or the ”black death” as it’s known locally. Our Deal Experts describe its taste as a mix between toothpaste and dill. You have been warned.
There’s no better way to get over a late night than chilling out at the Blue Lagoon. Plenty of companies have airport transfers that stop there, so make sure you book ahead to make the most of your day. Deal Expert Amy Lindsay recommends spending the extra pennies on an upgrade to the Luxury package. As well as entrance to the Blue Lagoon, it includes a 3-course lunch, a drink, access to the exclusive lounge area and a goody bag.
Have you got any Reykjavik tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.