Reykjavik is the charmingly colorful capital of Iceland, and is the home of delicious hot dogs, roaming cats, elves and amazing street art. This small city is insanely walk-able and easy to navigate, making it a snap to see most of it all in one day. Using Reykjavik as a home base to explore the rest of the beautiful country is a pretty common tourism practice there, but it would be a mistake to miss this beautiful city! While there are plenty of options of restaurants and activities, these are the ones that I would recommend for the perfect day in Reykjavik:
9am: Start your day off right at the hip Laundromat Café for a delightful breakfast. What makes this restaurant so unique, isn’t just the color-coordinated bookshelves or the fantastic food, but you can also do your laundry there whilst you eat. If I may recommend a dish, I would suggest the pancakes with caramelized bananas and blueberry compote, it will change your life.
10am: Head over to the Culture House Museum down the street to take in their Points of View exhibit. This museum is housed in what used to be the National Library, and features an interesting take on Iceland’s history from Icelandic artists. The museum has an entry fee of $10.50.
11am: Window shop along the pedestrian shopping street, Laugavegur. The stores in Reykjavik tend to be pretty expensive, but the products are pretty and worth browsing. I especially like Hrim and Spuutnik Vintage. One street over from Laugavegur, is Skolavordustigur, which is also lined with tons of great shops, like Geysir and Aurum.
12pm: While you’re in the area, now’s a great time to visit Hallgrimskirkja Church. This building is architecturally beautiful both inside and out, and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. The inside of the church is stunning, but the best part about the church is the view of the city from the top. A ticket up in the small elevator to the eighth floor costs about $8, but is worth every penny. It features a complete 360 degree view of the city, the ocean and the mountains beyond that.
1pm: Walk on over to the old harbor, by way of the new harbor so you can marvel at the famous Sun Voyager statue and the Harpa Concert Hall. Stop into the Sea Baron for a bowl of their famous lobster soup (served with a basket of bread, all for you)! They also offer fresh seafood kebobs if soup won’t be enough to handle your hunger.
2pm: Hop on board the Elding Whale Watching boat for a couple of hours cruising the Atlantic Ocean and looking for marine life. I would strongly recommend buying your ticket (starting at $80) ahead of time, but it’s definitely possible to purchase one on the dock if they aren’t sold out. The cruise takes about 2.5-3 hours and takes you out into different harbors and spots known for spotting marine mammals, like minke whales and harbor porpoises.
5pm: After working up an appetite scanning the waves for whales, catch an early dinner at Reykjavik Fish Restaurant. Try their fish & chips for the lightest and tastiest fried cod and fries you ever had. It’s decently priced (especially compared to other restaurants in the area) and tastes fantastic with a nice, cold Viking beer.
6pm: Take advantage of the last hour of Happy Hour at any one of the great bars downtown. I would suggest checking out the Lebowski Bar on Laugavegur for a fun atmosphere, good deals and a whole menu of White Russians, if that’s your thing. It’s pretty expensive to drink in Iceland, so Happy Hour is the best time to do it.
7:30pm: Head over to the central square downtown, and join the Reykjavik Haunted Walk that meets at the corner of Aðalstræti and Vesturgata. It costs about $20 and runs from 8:00pm to 10:00pm. The tour is spooky and fun, and the tour guide is hilarious. You will move through downtown Reykjavik, seeing an elf stone, the parliament building and other highlights, and end in the old cemetery. (Note: this tour only runs between June & September).
10pm: After all that walking, I bet you’re in need of a snack before calling it a night, so stroll over to Baejarins Beztu for one of the famous Icelandic hot dogs. Order one with everything on it and be sure to grab extra napkins! As a Chicagoan, I probably shouldn’t say this, but… this hot dog is absolutely delicious!
That should end your perfect day on a high note. Congratulations on a busy day in this beautiful city; a perfect day in Reykjavik, Iceland!
Have you been to Reykjavik? Share your travel experiences below!