6 of the best in Reykjavik, Iceland
If you have limited time in Iceland, my suggestion is that you explore beyond Reykjavik and see the incredible natural landscapes this country has to offer. Chances are, at some point, you’ll find yourself in the capital. If your time is as limited as we are, here are some key things first-time visitors will want to see.
The Sun Voyager has been a regular feature on Reykjavik’s waterfront since 1990 and is said to be a symbol of Icelanders’ dreams of hope, progress and freedom. This sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason is a famous landmark that reflects the spirit of the city. Many visitors think of it as a Viking longship – however, that wasn’t the original intent, it’s actually a dream ship, an ode to the sun and a commitment to uncharted territory. A gentle stroll along the waterfront at sunset while taking in the views of the bay and Mount Esiah in the distance is the perfect way to appreciate it.
Reykjavik’s impressive Hallgrímskirkja Church is one of Iceland’s most famous buildings. Built between 1945 and 1986 and designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, this Lutheran church (Icelandic church) has a tower that resembles the basalt columnar structure typical of some parts of the country. In addition to the tower, the other end of the church has a traditional nave and a cylindrical sanctuary that is said to resemble a Viking war helmet. For a small fee, visitors can take the elevator up to the tower—one of the tallest buildings in Iceland at nearly 75 meters—and into the observation deck for views of the city.
Harpa Concert Hall
Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik is a beautiful and modern concert hall and conference centre designed by Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects in collaboration with Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Its steel frame clad in geometric glass panels makes it one of the city’s most striking landmarks, as well as a center of cultural and social life, and a tourist attraction in its own right. It will be part of a redevelopment project in the Austurhöfn area, including a 400-room hotel, luxury apartments, retail units, restaurants and parking; however, this had to be scaled back when Iceland’s financial crisis hit in 2008. The Icelandic government funded the rest of the construction of the concert hall, which today houses the offices of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera House.
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Just south of downtown Reykjavik, Sky Lagoon is a geothermal spa opening in 2021. It features a 70-meter infinity geothermal pool with a poolside bar, stunning views of the North Atlantic Ocean, and its unique seven-step ritual experience. Away from the city centre, this luxurious thermal spa is your gateway to calm, rejuvenation and stress-free experience in a magical man-made lagoon.
swimming pool in Reykjavik
Swimming pools are a popular way for locals to spend their time in Iceland, but tourists can (and should!) experience it too. Reykjavik has at least seven public baths to choose from; we visited Sundhöllin, the city’s oldest swimming pool, which shares the same designer as Hallgrímskirkja Church (Guðjón Samúelsson). Sundhöllin was renovated in 2017 and now has an indoor and outdoor pool, a lap pool, a children’s pool, three hot tubs, a cold tub and two saunas. Try visiting a traditional Icelandic swimming experience, but be careful to abide by bathing rules and etiquette.
Reykjavik’s swimming pools offer a fun way to relax during your holiday. Visit one of the pools and experience a refreshing swim, or take advantage of the pool’s facilities.
fly over iceland
FlyOver Iceland is an immersive experience where you soar over Iceland’s vast landscape. Witness incredible panoramas on this dramatic ‘flight’ over some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country. Explore Iceland with a virtual reality tour and get a bird’s-eye view of Iceland’s natural wonders. This simulation has to be experienced to be believed!
Don’t think you have enough time to see all this stuff? We only stayed 2 nights in Reykjavik and we managed to visit all the sights mentioned above in addition to the whale watching tour from Reykjavik’s old harbour and the experience of dining with Icelanders. How is it, you ask? We used Hopp electric scooters scattered all over the city. Not only are they super fun and easy to use, but they’re a great way to get around Reykjavik efficiently! (Admittedly, we used this car for Sky Lagoon because that was further out…)
Planning your own trip to Iceland? You can watch the video of our trip to Iceland here:
Disclosure: Our Iceland trip was also made by Hayley Hansen.