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Ein malerischer und beeindruckender Anblick auf Islands Hauptstadt, Bild: KeongDaGreat / shutterstock

Reykjavík – Ideal base for exploring Iceland

Reykjavík, the world’s northernmost capital, is home to only 123,000 inhabitants, but Iceland’s capital has an interesting history, rich culture, wonderful nature and a variety of activities.

In addition to a thriving cultural scene, Reykjavík also offers a hip design scene. Tourists can choose from a wide range of interesting galleries and museums, visit trendy shops, take exciting tours and plunge into the nightlife.

Iceland’s capital is an ideal vantage point from which to explore the island’s breathtaking natural wonders. Visitors are attracted not only by the well-known Blue Lagoon, but also by the Northern Lights and the so-called Golden Circle. If you choose your location in Reykjavík, you can explore not only the northernmost capital in the world, but also nearby waterfalls, geysers and gorges.

Architecture, museums and activities

The center of the capital is manageable and thus tourists can explore Reykjavík on foot.

The Hallgrimskirkja Church is one of Iceland’s most famous landmarks. Inside the church, modern art can be admired in the foyer and those who want to enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the capital can take the elevator to the top of the tower and enjoy the view.

For those interested in art, the Harpa concert hall is a fixed point. The modern steel and glass construction cost $164 million. The design is impressive and loving details turn this sight into an absolute highlight.
The Harpa Concert Hall hosts cultural events throughout the year, and in the summer months, culture enthusiasts can also visit art exhibitions.
In addition to classical concerts, culture enthusiasts can also enjoy local poetry and traditional Icelandic folk songs. Local artists and pianists will provide entertainment as well as stand-up comedians.

Reykjavík, Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja Church, Image: Ghing / shutterstock

Shopping fun is guaranteed in the main shopping streets of Lagavegur and Skólavörðustígur. Strolling through the city, you’ll come across both alternative and cool street art.

Adventure tours, starting in Reykjavík

In Iceland’s capital, it is easy to book a wide variety of tours. There is a suitable tour for every budget.

Nature lovers can go on impressive hikes in stunning scenery, whale watch in the north of the island, visit waterfalls and hot springs, while explorers explore ice caves. Iceland’s famous ice caves are a real highlight and can be reached easily and quickly from Reykjavík. The second largest ice caves in Europe can be found in the Langjökull glacier and not far away the Hraunfossar waterfall can be admired before the tour leads to the hottest spring in Europe.

Water sports enthusiasts have the choice between snorkeling trips and dives.
Sports enthusiasts like to opt for glacier hikes and volcano tours.

Fun is guaranteed on a jeep or snowmobile excursion and a boat tour on a glacier lagoon can also be taken.
If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, you should not miss a snowmobile ride on the Langjökull glacier. The second largest glacier in Europe is located just 1.5 hours from Reykjavík and offers ideal conditions for beginners and experienced skiers.

Reykjavík – Things to do at night

Reykjavík, Northern Lights
Northern Lights over Reykjavík, Image: Javen / shutterstock

Reykjavík offers a wide range of activities that cater to the different needs of adventurers, culture vultures and night owls.
One of the highlights of a stay in Iceland is the Northern Lights exploration tour. The spectacular light show of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, leaves visitors from all over the world speechless. Both in February and March as well as from August to November, the cloud cover is lower, so these months are ideal for marveling at the impressive phenomenon between 9 p.m. and two o’clock in the morning.

Reykjavík’s nightlife has made a name for itself worldwide in recent years. The extraordinary nightlife takes place mostly around Laugavegur, i.e. the main street. Night owls will find one bar after the other here.

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Reykjavík hosts numerous festivals that attract visitors from all over the world. In early November, music fans can attend the Iceland Airwaves Festival. The well-known Winter Lights Festival is just as much a cultural highlight as the international Festival of Children’s Literature. In addition to the Reykjavík International Film Festival and the Reykjavík Fashion Festival, the world’s northernmost capital also hosts the Design March. Another highlight is the Ingólfshátíð Viking Festival, to which Vikings from all over the world travel to celebrate their origins.

Cuisine

If you don’t just want to visit Reykjavík, but also experience it, you should try traditional Icelandic food. Fermented shark is an absolute speciality and seafood and fish dishes are also typical of Iceland.
An absolute must is the traditional fish market. Visitors can choose from a variety of different dishes and enjoy a fine drop of wine.

The climate in Reykjavik

Reykjavík is known for its ever-changing weather at any time of the year. It is therefore advisable to obtain up-to-date information regarding the weather conditions before various activities.
The climate is warm and temperate. Reykjavík experiences large amounts of rainfall throughout the year. The average annual temperature is 4.7 degrees Celsius and about 869 mm of precipitation falls per year. The warmest month is July with an average of 11.0 degrees Celsius, while January is the coldest month of the year with -0.2 degrees Celsius.



Result:
Reykjavík proves once again that the size of the city does not have to be decisive for its popularity and attractiveness. Iceland’s capital is one of the most interesting cities in Europe, as it combines architectural highlights, a picturesque city centre, fascinating natural spectacles and rugged nature.

The most beautiful sights of Reykjavik

1. Hallgrimskirkja – Hallgrim Church

Hallgrímskirkja,
Hallgrímskirkja Church, Image: Ghing / shutterstock

Hardly any other building has caused as much discussion in Reykjavik as the construction of this special church, which began in 1940. Hallgrimskirkja is a masterpiece of modern architecture and characterises the cityscape as perhaps the most important landmark in the entire country. It is a mixture of modern architecture with the traditional architecture of the churches in the north and is available to visitors all year round. If you want to enjoy a unique view over the capital, you should invest around 5 euros for a ticket up to the observation tower. The elevator takes you to a 70-meter-high gallery, which allows a view over the entire coastal city. From here, the special architecture of the capital of Iceland becomes clear once again.

2. Reykjavik Harbor with Harpa Concert Hall

Rejkjavik, Harpa
The Harpa Concert Hall, Image: SahatchaiS / shutterstock

You have to get used to the fact that Reykjavik is mainly defined by modern architecture. For a long time, the Icelandic island was in a self-imposed isolation. Apart from fishing, there was little reason for the inhabitants to make contact with other countries in Europe. This only changed in the late 20th century, when service providers also came to the island. The wonderful harbour is still the highlight of a visit today. In combination with the modern Harpa concert hall, there are plenty of opportunities for a great day out and an excursion on the island.

3. The Laugavegur

Reykjavik, Laugavegur
The Laugavegur district, Image: Nella / shutterstock

Even though Reykjavik doesn’t really have an old town to offer, the capital knows how to convince with other special districts. Laugavegur is something like the heart of the city. This is where most of the shops and restaurants can be found, and tourists and locals can be found in the shops and cafes all year round. In addition, the shopping street offers a great view of the church tower, which can always be seen on the horizon. When darkness comes – and it sometimes does very early in Iceland – the shops pack up and instead an active and popular nightlife develops in the capital. This is probably the best way to get in touch with the locals. By the way, many of them speak excellent English – so there should be no language barrier for experienced tourists.

4. The Blue Lagoon

Iceland, Bláa Lónið, The Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik
Bláa Lónið, The Blue Lagoon, Image: Puripat Lertpunyaroj / shutterstcok

In a neighboring town of Reykjavik you will find what the island has been famous for many tourists for many years: a completely natural thermal bath. The hot springs are something like the trademark of the island. Powered by the volcanic energy that can be found everywhere, the hot springs are a very popular place for locals and tourists alike to relax and meet new people. Most of these baths have very strict guidelines and especially for newcomers to sauna culture, some of the traditions could cause a bit of confusion. However, the local lifeguards are happy to explain the procedure and point out how to behave or what to consider during a visit so that it becomes a relaxation for everyone involved.

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5. The Art Museums of Reykjavik

Reykjavík
A picturesque and impressive sight of Iceland’s capital, Image: KeongDaGreat / shutterstock

For the small capital of a small island, Reykjavik has a variety of interesting museums to offer. It seems that the focus here was mainly on modern art. In the different parts of the city, you will not only find interesting offers for every art movement, but also current exhibitions by artists from all over the world. If you are interested in the world of museums, you will also find an opportunity to learn a little more about the life of Icelanders in earlier times in the local history museums along the harbor. The modern buildings are not only visually splendourful, they also offer great entertainment and are a popular destination for tourists who come to the island.

Holidays in Reykjavík: The most important information

Journey

  • Airport: Keflavík International Airport (KEF), about 50 km southwest of Reykjavík. Regular bus services (Flybus, Airport Express) and taxis take travelers to the city center.
  • Rail: Reykjavík doesn’t have a train station, but well-maintained roads connect the city with the rest of Iceland.

Important telephone numbers

  • Emergency: 112
  • Police: +354 444 1000
  • Fire Brigade: +354 112
  • Ambulance: +354 112
  • Reykjavík Tourist Information: +354 590 1550

Supermarkets

  • Bónus: Cheap supermarket chain with several branches in the city.
  • Krónan: Another low-cost supermarket chain with different locations.
  • Hagkaup: Larger supermarket with longer opening hours and a large selection.
  • Netto: More stores in Reykjavík for everyday shopping.

Doctors and hospitals

  • Landspítali – University Hospital: Hringbraut, +354 543 1000
  • Reykjavík Health Clinic: Suðurlandsbraut 34, +354 585 1300
  • Laeknavaktin (Emergency Clinic): Smáratorg 1, +354 1770

Important words with translation

  • Hello – Halló
  • Thank you – Takk
  • Please – Vinsamlegast
  • Yes – Já
  • No – Nei
  • Sorry – Afsakið
  • Where is…? – Hvar he…?
  • How much does it cost…? – Hvað kostar…?
  • Emergency – Neyðartilvik
  • Doctor – Læknir
  • Hospital – Sjúkrahús

Holidays

  • New Year’s Day: January 1
  • Epiphany: January 6
  • Good Friday: variable (March/April)
  • Easter Monday: variable (March/April)
  • First day of summer: First Thursday after April 18
  • Labour Day: 1 May
  • National holiday: June 17
  • Bank Holiday: First Monday in August
  • Christmas: December 25
  • Boxing Day: December 26

Opening hours

  • Shops: Usually Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 18:00, Saturday from 10:00 to 16:00.
  • Supermarkets: Usually daily from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Restaurants: Lunch from 11:30 to 14:00, dinner from 18:00 to 22:00.
  • Banks: Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Things to see and do

  • Hallgrímskirkja: Reykjavík’s landmark with a breathtaking view from the top of the church tower.
  • Harpa Concert Hall: Architectural masterpiece and cultural centre on the harbour.
  • Perlan: Museum and viewpoint, known for its glass dome and ice exhibition.
  • National Museum of Iceland: Insights into Icelandic history and culture.
  • Sólfar: Famous sculpture on the water, a symbol of hope and freedom.
  • Golden Circle Tour: Day trip to the nearby natural wonders of Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir.

NUDISM

  • Not common: There are no official nudist beaches or facilities in Reykjavík. Nudism is not practiced and could be considered offensive.

Post / Stamps

  • Reykjavík Post Office: Pósthússtræti 5, 101 Reykjavík. Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Stamps: Available at the post office and in many kiosks and supermarkets.
  • Costs for letters and postcards to Germany: Standard letter up to 50g: approx. 385 ISK; Postcard: approx. 385 ISK

Safety

  • Crime: Reykjavík is very safe. Observe the usual precautions as in any city.
  • Emergency number: 112

Current

  • Voltage: 230 volts
  • Sockets: Type C and F (as in Germany)

Tip

  • Restaurants: Tipping is usually included in the price, additional tips are not necessary, but are welcome with good service.
  • Taxis: Round up the amount
  • Hotels: No tip required, but 100-200 ISK per day for cleaning staff is estimated.

Customs

  • Allowances within the EU: Iceland is not part of the EU, so special customs regulations apply.
  • Alcohol: Maximum 1 liter of spirits or 2 liters of wine, plus 6 liters of beer.
  • Tobacco: 200 cigarettes or 250g of other tobacco products.
  • Other items: Value up to 88,000 ISK duty-free.