Reykjavik might be a small city, but there are tons of things to do. In fact, even though it’s very easy to fill your time with lots of interesting day tours outside the city, you can absolutely fill 3 days in Reykjavik alone. In fact, I decided to put together an example of how three days might look if you come over for a short stop and decide you don’t want to leave Reykjavik at all.
Mind you, there are a lot of great day tours you might want to do, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t. This is just some of the great stuff you can occupy yourself with in the city.
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Arrive in Keflavik Airport and catch a bus to Reykjavik. I recommend booking a ticket for the bus in advance, as online prices are cheaper. And of course, you can book them right here on our site, which supports this blog as well, nudge nudge wink wink. 😉
Enjoy the mossy lavafield scenery on the way to the City.
Once you arrive in Reykjavik, I recommend you take your luggage to your hotel or wherever you’re staying and then make your way straight to Lækjartorg square for our wonderful (if I do say so myself) Free Walking Tour. It’s the best way to orient yourself in the downtown area, and it’s just a lot of fun. The walking tour is a real labor of love for us, and we would love to see you!
Before or after the walking tour, you will probably want to have some lunch. I recommend Icelandic Street Food. It’s traditional, Icelandic food, very filling and very reasonably priced.
Once you’ve had your lunch and gotten oriented in downtown Reykjavik, you should check out one of the great geothermal pools in Reykjavik. The capital area has 30 swimming pools, all naturally heated, and it’s very cheap to get in. Also a very Icelandic thing to do. Just make sure you observe all the pool rules – they are very, very important.
When it’s time for dinner, I have a few recommendations, and you can read more about them in my posts on the best budget restaurants, and the best restaurants when you want to splurge. My favorites are the Lobster House and the Tapas Bar.
After dinner you should check out the Secret Cellar, my friend’s comedy club. They have live entertainment in English every night, and the entrance is almost always free. It’s well worth a visit, and a great way to end your first day.
If you really want to go all out Icelandic, you should begin your day with a soak in the hot tubs at the nearest swimming pool. That’s the Icelandic way. We love hanging out in the hot tubs and talking about life.
After that, you can have breakfast at one of the many wonderful cafés in town. Te og kaffi (Tea and Coffee) is a personal favorite of mine, but there are so many to choose from. If you prefer to do your own shopping and make your breakfast at your place of lodging, make sure you find a cheap supermarket, like Bónus or Krónan. Stay away from 10-11, unless you’re a billionaire (and even then…).
Your second day would be a great day for museum hopping. I have a few recommendations, and there are even more great options available. Before you go, though, you should visit City Hall, and ask them about their City Card. It gets you into many of the museums, the swimming pools, the busses, and more. If you visit a few of these places, it can probably save you some money.
Here are my favorite museums in Reykjavik:
The National Museum – The most comprehensive overview of Icelandic history. It’s a really wonderful museum, and I’m told the gift shop is excellent.
The Settlement Exhibition – A truly unique experience. The museum was built on top of an excavation discovered as they were digging the foundations for a hotel.
The Aurora Exhibition – If you can’t see the northern lights with your own eyes, this is the next best thing, but even if you do see them, this is a fun experience. In fact, you can combine a northern lights cruise with a visit to the exhibition, if you like.
The Penis Museum – It’s even more fun than it sounds!
The Árbæjarsafn Open Air Museum – Step into Iceland of the past. Árbæjarsafn has preserved historical buildings, and moved them to their site, and you can sort of go back in time and see how people lived in Iceland through the ages. It’s a wonderful museum.
As you can see, you can really cram a lot of museums into your stay. You should be able to get through 2-3 of these in a single afternoon, and with the City Card, it would be pretty affordable.
After all that culture you need a drink. And some entertainment. So the next stop should most definitely be our Old Harbour Brewery Tour. Explore the beautiful Old Harbour area, a hidden gem in Downtown Reykjavik. Then get a tour of one of the finest craft breweries in Iceland, and end the tour with a nice session in the brewery’s tap room! Pay what you want for the tour, like our regular Free Walking Tour, and get great deals at the bar.
After you’ve enjoyed our lovely time together with beer and stories (and had dinner at one of the fine restaurants in Reykjavik, of course), you could take in some live music. There are venues such as Dillon, Gaukurinn, Húrra and Hannesarholt that regularly feature live music. If you want a singalong atmosphere, you can also check out The Drunk Rabbit, which has that sort of thing every night. Or, if you’re in the mood for more comedy, you can just stick around after the beer tasting and hang out at the Secret Cellar again.
Well, all good things must come to an end. Today is your last day in Reykjavik, and I suggest you make the most of it.
So far you’ve seen a lot of cool sights, but you haven’t really explored the city center on foot much, apart from the Free Walking Tour. So I would go for a nice walk. You could explore the old town, which is just beautiful. You should also check out the Sun Voyager, and a little peek inside Harpa, our concert and conference center, is a must.
You definitely mustn’t miss the Old Harbour. It’s the old shipyards, and it’s been renovated very nicely. It’s one of my favorite areas in Reykjavik. It’s got very nice restaurants and cafés, too, so it’s a perfect place to have breakfast or lunch.
Since you’re already by the docks, now would be the perfect time to go sailing! You can go sea angling or whale watching or even puffin watching (depending on the time of year, of course). Each of these activities takes 3-4 hours, so it’s a perfect way to spend your last afternoon, before you need to head to the airport. (Mind you, it might be better to do the whale watching thing earlier, as they offer a guarantee, so you can come back and try again for free if you don’t see any whales.)
If you don’t like sailing, you could also go visit the Omnom chocolate factory, and tour their facilities. They make fantastic chocolate, and their tour is a must for any foodie. There are also plenty of fun museums in the Old Harbour area, if you still haven’t gotten your fill of those, including the Saga Museum, the Whale Museum and more.
Now, sadly, it’s about time to say goodbye to Reykjavik. We certainly hope you’ll be back soon. You’re good company and we really enjoyed having you.
Again, you need transportation to the airport, of course, and we hope you bring back lots of wonderful memories.
See you soon, friend.
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