The Essential Reykjavik Guide For 2023: What To Do, See & Eat

Discover the ultimate Reykjavik guide for 2023! From must-see attractions to delicious eats, this comprehensive guide has everything you need to plan your trip to Iceland’s vibrant capital city.
Old city street with residential buildings and church
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Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, is a unique destination that offers a wide range of experiences for travelers. From its breathtaking natural wonders to the vibrant culture and cuisine, Reykjavik is a must-visit destination in 2023. This comprehensive guide will help you plan your perfect trip to the land of fire and ice.

Exploring Reykjavik: Top Attractions and Activities

Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, is a vibrant and exciting destination that offers a variety of activities and attractions that can cater to any traveler’s interests. From visiting iconic landmarks to exploring the outdoors, there’s something for everyone.

Reykjavik is a city that is steeped in history and culture, and it offers a unique blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication. With its stunning natural beauty, vibrant arts and music scene, and friendly locals, Reykjavik is a city that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

Must-Visit Landmarks in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is home to some of the most famous landmarks in Iceland. The Hallgrimskirkja church, with its towering spire, is a must-visit attraction. This iconic church is one of the tallest structures in Iceland, and it offers stunning views of the city from its observation deck. Another must-visit landmark is the Harpa Concert Hall, a modern building with a unique glass facade. This stunning building is home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera, and it hosts a variety of concerts and events throughout the year. The Pearl, a dome-shaped observation platform, is also a popular attraction that offers panoramic views of Reykjavik. This unique building is located on top of six hot water storage tanks and is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.

Outdoor Activities and Adventures

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, Reykjavik offers plenty of opportunities to explore Iceland’s rugged landscape. Go hiking on Mount Esja, a popular hiking destination that offers stunning views of Reykjavik and the surrounding area. Take a dip in the famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa that is known for its healing properties and stunning blue waters. Or go whale watching in Faxafloi Bay, where you can see a variety of marine life, including humpback whales, minke whales, and dolphins. You can also explore the famous Golden Circle route, which includes a visit to the Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir hot spring area. This popular tourist route offers a glimpse into Iceland’s natural beauty and geological wonders.

Cultural Experiences and Museums

Reykjavik is rich in culture and history, and there are plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in Icelandic history and culture. Visit the National Museum of Iceland, which houses a collection of artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of Iceland’s history and culture. The Saga Museum is another must-visit attraction, where you can learn about Iceland’s Viking history and see life-sized figures depicting scenes from the sagas. The Reykjavik Art Museum is also worth a visit, with its collection of contemporary and modern art from Iceland and around the world. You can also attend a concert at the Harpa Concert Hall or catch a play at the Reykjavik City Theatre, which offers a variety of performances throughout the year.

Shopping and Souvenirs in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is a great place to find unique souvenirs and gifts. One of the best places to shop is Laugavegur street, which is lined with boutiques, specialty stores, and souvenir shops. Here, you can find everything from handmade Icelandic sweaters to locally made jewelry and art. You can also visit the famous Kolaportid Flea Market, where you can find everything from vintage clothing to local food products. This bustling market is a great place to experience the local culture and pick up some unique souvenirs to take home with you.

Whether you’re interested in exploring Iceland’s natural beauty, immersing yourself in its rich history and culture, or simply enjoying the vibrant and friendly atmosphere of Reykjavik, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful city.

Reykjavik’s Culinary Scene: Where to Eat and Drink

Icelandic cuisine has gained popularity in recent years, and Reykjavik has become a hub for great food and drinks. From traditional Icelandic dishes to modern gastronomy, there’s plenty to explore in Reykjavik’s culinary scene. The city’s food culture is heavily influenced by its geography, with fresh seafood and locally sourced ingredients being a staple of the cuisine.

Traditional Icelandic Cuisine

One of the must-try dishes in Iceland is the famous Icelandic lamb. The lamb is raised on the country’s vast, open pastures and fed on wild herbs, giving it a unique flavor. You can try it at restaurants like Fiskfelagid or Matur og Drykkur, where it’s often served with root vegetables and a rich gravy. Another traditional Icelandic dish worth trying is hakarl, a fermented shark meat that’s been preserved in the ground for several months. It’s an acquired taste, but it’s a cultural experience that’s not to be missed.

If you’re not feeling adventurous, you can still try other traditional Icelandic dishes like smoked salmon, fish and chips, or skyr, a type of Icelandic yogurt. Skyr has been a staple of Icelandic cuisine for centuries and is known for its thick, creamy texture and tangy flavor. You can find it at most grocery stores and cafes in Reykjavik.

Best Restaurants for Local Flavors

Reykjavik is home to some of the best restaurants in Iceland, where you can taste the local flavors with a modern twist. Dill restaurant, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Iceland, offers a contemporary take on Icelandic cuisine. The restaurant’s menu changes frequently, depending on the season and availability of ingredients, but you can expect dishes like grilled langoustine with fermented rhubarb or roasted Icelandic lamb with wild herbs.

Another great option is Grillmarkadurinn, which specializes in high-quality grilled meats and seafood. The restaurant’s menu features dishes like grilled Icelandic salmon with pickled cucumber and dill oil or grilled lamb with smoked beetroot and black garlic. The restaurant also has an extensive wine list, featuring both local and international wines.

Cafes and Coffee Shops to Relax In

Reykjavik’s cozy coffee shops and cafes are a great place to relax and soak in the city’s laid-back atmosphere. One of the most popular cafes is Reykjavik Roasters, which serves some of the best coffee in the city. The cafe’s minimalist decor and cozy atmosphere make it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. You can also visit Cafe Babalu, an eclectic cafe that doubles as a record store. The cafe serves a variety of sandwiches and baked goods, as well as a selection of vinyl records that you can browse while sipping your coffee.

If you’re looking for a trendy spot to grab a cup of coffee, Kaffibrennslan is a great option. The cafe has a modern, industrial decor and a great selection of sandwiches and pastries. You can also try their famous cinnamon buns, which are made fresh daily and are the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of coffee.

Reykjavik’s Vibrant Nightlife and Bars

Reykjavik is known for its vibrant nightlife, and there are plenty of bars and pubs to choose from. One of the most famous bars is Kaffibarinn, a stylish bar that has been a favorite of the locals and tourists alike since the 1990s. The bar has a cozy, intimate atmosphere and often hosts live music performances.

If you’re a whiskey lover, Dillon Whiskey Bar is a must-visit. The bar has a vast selection of whiskeys from around the world, as well as a great selection of craft beers. The bar’s cozy, dimly lit interior makes it the perfect spot to unwind after a long day of sightseeing.

For beer lovers, Micro Bar is a small bar with a great selection of Icelandic beers. The bar has a relaxed, casual atmosphere and often hosts beer tastings and events. You can also try their famous beer flight, which allows you to sample a variety of different Icelandic beers.

Whether you’re looking for traditional Icelandic cuisine or modern gastronomy, Reykjavik’s culinary scene has something for everyone. From cozy coffee shops to trendy bars, there’s plenty to explore in this vibrant city.

Accommodation Options in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is a vibrant and exciting city that attracts visitors from all over the world. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, finding the right accommodation is essential to having a great trip. Fortunately, Reykjavik offers a wide range of accommodation options that can suit any budget and preference.

Luxury Hotels and Resorts

If you’re looking for a luxurious stay, Reykjavik has some of the best hotels and resorts in Iceland. One of the most famous hotels is the Ion Adventure Hotel, located in the middle of the Golden Circle route. This hotel is perfect for those who want to experience Iceland’s natural beauty while enjoying the comfort of a five-star hotel. The hotel offers a variety of activities, including hiking, horseback riding, and snowmobiling.

Another great option for luxury travelers is the Blue Lagoon Retreat Hotel, which offers year-round access to the famous Blue Lagoon. This hotel is perfect for those who want to relax and unwind in a beautiful natural setting. The hotel offers a variety of spa treatments, including massages, facials, and body wraps.

Budget-Friendly Hostels and Guesthouses

For budget-conscious travelers, Reykjavik has several hostels and guesthouses that offer affordable accommodation. One of the best options is KEX Hostel, a trendy hostel located in a former biscuit factory. The hostel offers a variety of room types, including dormitory rooms and private rooms, and has a lively bar and restaurant.

Another great option for budget travelers is Loft Hostel, which offers great views of the city and a social atmosphere. The hostel has a rooftop bar and terrace, where guests can enjoy a drink while taking in the stunning views of Reykjavik.

Unique and Boutique Accommodations

If you’re looking for a unique and memorable stay, Reykjavik has some great boutique hotels and accommodations. The Reykjavik Marina Residence, located in a historic building by the harbor, offers spacious and stylish apartments. The apartments are decorated with a mix of vintage and modern furniture, and the building has a unique nautical theme.

Another great boutique hotel is the Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre, located in downtown Reykjavik. The hotel offers Nordic-inspired rooms with great amenities, including a fitness center and a rooftop bar. The hotel also has a great location, with many of Reykjavik’s top attractions within walking distance.

No matter what your budget or preference, Reykjavik has the perfect accommodation for your trip. From luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels, you’re sure to find a place to stay that fits your needs.

Getting Around Reykjavik: Transportation Tips

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a charming and picturesque city with a lot to offer. From its stunning natural beauty to its vibrant cultural scene, Reykjavik is a must-visit destination for travelers from all over the world. Getting around the city is easy, and there are several transportation options available for travelers.

Public Transportation in Reykjavik

Reykjavik has an efficient and reliable bus system that can take you to most of the major attractions and destinations in the city. The buses are clean, comfortable, and equipped with free Wi-Fi, making them a great option for travelers who want to stay connected while on the go. You can buy bus tickets at the station or use a prepaid travel card, which can save you money if you’re planning to use public transportation frequently. The buses run regularly throughout the day and into the night, making it easy to get around no matter what time it is.

Renting a Car or Bike

If you want more flexibility and independence, you can rent a car or bike and explore the city on your own. There are several car rental companies in Reykjavik, and renting a car is a great option if you want to explore the city and its surroundings at your own pace. You can rent a car for a day or longer, depending on your needs. Bikes can also be rented at several locations throughout the city, and cycling is a great way to explore Reykjavik’s many parks and green spaces.

Walking and Cycling Routes

Reykjavik is a small and walkable city, and you can easily explore it on foot or by bike. Walking is a great way to get a feel for the city and its unique charm. You can take a stroll around the city center and explore the colorful houses and street art. You can also take a bike tour and explore the outskirts of the city, where you’ll find stunning natural landscapes and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and sea.

Whether you choose to explore Reykjavik by bus, car, bike, or on foot, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience. With its friendly locals, stunning scenery, and vibrant culture, Reykjavik is a destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

Day Trips and Excursions from Reykjavik

Reykjavik is a great base for exploring the rest of Iceland. There are several day trips and excursions that you can take from Reykjavik.

The Golden Circle Tour

The Golden Circle tour is one of the most popular day trips from Reykjavik. It includes a visit to the Thingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir hot spring area.

South Coast and Waterfalls

The South Coast of Iceland is known for its stunning waterfalls and black sand beaches. You can take a day trip and visit the Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, the Reynisfjara beach, and the Vik village.

Whale Watching and Puffin Tours

Reykjavik is a great place to spot whales and puffins, and there are several tours that can take you out to sea. You can choose from several tour operators and watch these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Exploring Iceland’s Volcanoes and Glaciers

Iceland’s unique geography is what makes it so fascinating, and there are several day trips and excursions that can take you to its volcanoes and glaciers. You can visit the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which famously erupted in 2010, or go glacier hiking on the Skaftafell glacier.

Practical Information and Travel Tips

Before you travel to Reykjavik, there are some practical information and travel tips that you should know.

Best Time to Visit Reykjavik

The best time to visit Reykjavik depends on your priorities and preferences. If you want to experience the midnight sun or the Northern Lights, you should visit in the summer or winter, respectively. If you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy milder weather, you should visit in the shoulder seasons (May-June or September-October).

Currency, Tipping, and Budgeting

The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic krona (ISK), and credit cards are widely accepted. Tipping is not expected in Iceland, but rounding up the bill or leaving a small amount as a gesture of appreciation is common. Reykjavik can be an expensive destination, but there are ways to save money, such as staying in budget-friendly accommodations, cooking your meals, or using public transportation.

Staying Safe and Healthy in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is generally a safe destination, with low crime rates. However, like any destination, it’s important to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings. Reykjavik has clean and safe tap water, so you don’t need to buy bottled water. You should also be prepared for the weather, which can be unpredictable and change quickly.

Essential Icelandic Phrases for Travelers

Learning a few basic Icelandic phrases can go a long way in making your trip more enjoyable and immersive. Some useful phrases include “Takk fyrir” (Thank you), “Góðan daginn” (Good day), and “Já/Nei” (Yes/No).

With this comprehensive guide, you’re ready to experience all that Reykjavik has to offer. Whether you’re interested in exploring its iconic landmarks, its vibrant culinary scene, or its stunning natural wonders, Reykjavik is the perfect destination for your 2023 travel plans.


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