With a population of less than 400,000 people, surreal landscapes, dramatic glaciers and untouched nature, Iceland has been at the top of everyone’s travel list this year.
For my first assignment as Travel Editor of Culture Trip, I had the pleasure of flying to Iceland for a whirlwind tour of east Iceland – one of the least visited parts of the country. While most of my time was spent far off the beaten path in east Iceland, my journey both began and finished in Reykjavik, the country’s capital. Here’s how to spend 24 hours in Reykjavik.
1. Get THE view at Hallgrímskirkja
Iceland’s tallest church, Hallgrímskirkja, dates back to the 17th century and is the ultimate spot for a bird’s eye view of the city. For less than $10 USD, you can take the elevator lift to the top of the church for a stellar view.
2. Relax at the Famous Blue Lagoon
Chances are you’ve heard of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon or at least seen a myriad of photos on social media of friends visiting it. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa about 45 mins away from Reykjavik. If you only have one day in Iceland’s capital, you MUST visit the Blue Lagoon, it’s amazing. You’ll soak in the outdoor lagoon, use a silica mud mask and algae mud mask while sipping on your choice of fresh juice or sparkling wine in the most surreal of settings.
Tip: The Blue Lagoon sells waterproof pouches for smartphone use in the water, but this will set you back about $30 USD. Instead, buy one in advance and bring it with you!
3. Go Shopping on Laugavegur
Iceland’s main avenue is dotted with shops, cafes and gift stores. It’s a must see for visitors to Reykjavik looking to wander the city, buy some classic Icelandic wool sweaters and sip on hot chocolate. Be fair warned though, Reykjavik is expensive!
Tip: While I was there, a local recommended I snag some hot chocolate at Kaffitar, and the recommendation did not disappoint! Kaffitar is on Bankastraeti, the beginning of the main shopping street.
4. Roam Around Reykjavik’s Old Harbor
Considered the city’s up & coming neighborhood, Reykjavik’s Old Harbor is just a 15 minute walk from the Laugavegur main avenue. If you have time to go whale watching (about a 3-4 hour trip) then this is where you’ll want to go. Otherwise, the Old Harbor is great for soaking in the view, visiting the nearby museums or even staying at the wonderful Marina Hotel.
5. Have a Classic Icelandic Hotdog
Try the Icelandic hot dog! It’s delicious and can be found along the main avenue either from outdoor stands or side-of-the-street vendor windows. The hotdog is made from Icelandic lamb, has crispy fried onions, raw onions, sweet brown mustard and much more. Grab a hot dog and then head over to the Old Harbor to enjoy your local treat.
If there is extra time…
If you have only 24 hours in Reykjavik then you’ll quickly realize that is hardly enough time to see all that Iceland’s capital has to offer, let along the rest of the country. If you have some extra time, try and catch the Northern Lights. There are a variety of tours that operate out of Reykjavik and will take you hunting for Northern Lights in the area. Make sure to check the Northern Lights forecast to check if there’s a good chance of seeing the lights during your visit!
Have you been to Iceland? Share your favorite Reykjavik travel tips below!