As the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik is a cosmopolitan and bustling city. It's also a great place to base yourself for your Icelandic adventure.
Reykjavík's old town is small and easy to walk around. The houses have some very distinct features, most notably their brightly colored corrugated metal siding. Plan to spend at least a couple hours just wandering around, taking in the city. And for further feasts of the eyes, there are several museums and art galleries in the city, most of them within easy reach of the downtown area.
There is a vibrant music scene with concerts most evenings in the centre of the city. For theatre enthusiasts the city boasts two main theatres staging around 10 plays a year each, both domestic and foreign, as well as a number of smaller theatre groups specialising in different kinds of modern theatre.
There are a number of opportunities to experience at least a bit of Icelandic nature without leaving the city itself, and outdoors activities in the immediate vicinity of the city are easy to find. And no visit to Reykjavík would be complete without going to at least one of the geothermal pools.
Places to visit
The City Hall Tjarnargata is one of the best examples of late 20th century architecture in Iceland, built into Tjörnin (The Pond). On the ground floor, which is open to the public, there is a large relief map of the whole country as well as a café and an exhibition hall.
Reykjavík Cathedral is right beside the parliament and is the head Lutheran church of the country. Similarly deceptive in size, it has been beautifully renovated both inside and out to reflect its original 18th century architecture.
National Gallery of Iceland with a large collection of works by Icelandic 19th and 20th century artists, as well as some works by foreign artists including Picasso, Munch and others.
National Museum of Iceland located right by the University of Iceland campus, takes the visitor through the history of a nation from settlement to today.
Northern Lights Centre explains the cultural significance of the Aurora Borealis in different cultures, details the scientific mechanism for the Aurora, and allows you to see various simulations, videos, and slideshows of the Aurora borealis.
Although you may not always imagine it but Reykjavik is a great place for families. There are plenty of interesting activities to enjoy whether it's splashing around in a thermal pool, trying on Viking armour or viewing some of the largest mammals on Earth at close range.
The city also has a reputation for being a safe, clean and compact city centre that is simple to navigate on foot and provides easy access to nature. You'll also be pleasantly surprised by how accommodating the locals are towards young families with a high chair in every cafe etc.
Geothermal Swimming Pools
Outdoor geothermal swimming pools are an important part of Icelandic culture and a visit to them is a great way to relax with Icelanders. In fact it is not stretching the truth too far to suggest that because drinking is so expensive the hot-pots at these pools serve the same role that pubs and bars do in the rest of Europe.
Laugardalslaug - The city's largest pool with extensive facilities, situated in Laugardalur Valley east of the city centre. It has two large pools for swimming, several hot-pots, a seawater bath, a steam bath, and water slide.
Getting in touch with nature
Reykjavík is actually one of the very best places to go whale watching in Iceland. Whales frequently come into Faxaflói, the large bay which Reykjavík sits by and on a typical trip of around 3 hours you can almost be guaranteed to see at least some minke whales and possibly even a humpback.
Horse riding is one of the most popular tourist activities in Iceland due to the special nature of the Icelandic Horse.
The immediate vicinity of Reykjavík offers some good hiking opportunities. By far the most popular among these is Esjan, the mountain that dominates the view to the north from much of the capital.
Reykjavik and surrounding area is great for seeing the northern lights. The lights show up in the winter time and are most likely to be seen in Sept-Oct and Feb-March.
This Reykjavik Domestic Animal Zoo, in the middle of Reykjavík, is a place where children can come and get in touch with some of the farming heritage of the country, with most species of domestic animals found in Iceland represented.
Climate in Reykjavik
The weather in Reykjavík is notoriously unpredictable. One minute the sun may be shining on a nice summers day, the next it may change into a windy, rainy autumn. Temperatures in Reykjavík are quite bland.
They don't go very high in the summer, nor do they go much below zero during winter. It follows that the differences between seasons are relatively small compared to what people experience on either side of the Atlantic.