REYKJAVÍK'S TOP 30 ATTRACTIONS

Wondering what to do in Reykjavík?

Reykjavík has plenty to offer in entertainment for all ages. Its closeness to nature makes it an ideal destination for outdoor activities. Iceland's 1000 years of history and culture can be explored in the city's many museums. The Reykjavík music- and nightlife is buzzing as always. And the local pools might spark an interesting conversation.

You might also be interested in checking out the TOP 10 Free Stuff To Do

 

Whale Watching

Through the years the words “Iceland” and “whales” have been used countless times in the same sentence. Having hunted whales quite notoriously until 2016, whaling has been a sensitive topic in Iceland. With more visitors coming to the island in recent year, Icelanders have learnt that people do in fact come here for meeting whales rather than eating them. Hence, the growing interest in whale watching tours.

Observing a live whale in the ocean is one of those memories you will never forget. Those gentle, gigantic creatures often put on a magnificent show for boats sailing by. For many, this is a once in a lifetime experience. We do recommend you set sail and check out some whale!

YOU CAN FIND SOME GREAT WHALE-WATCHING TOURS AT OUR MARKETPLACE.

Harpa Music Hall & Conference Center - FREE

Formally opened in 2011, Harpa has become one of Reykjavík’s signature landmarks. Its glass dome, designed by the artist Olafur Eliasson, is a breathtaking structure, whether being viewed from the inside or outside. If you can, do catch a show in the impressive “Eldborg”, the largest music hall. Either way, a visit to Harpa is well worth your time.

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Hallgrímskirkja Church - FREE

Designed in 1937, construction finally finished in 1986. Hallgrímskirkja Church is Reykjavík’s main landmark, with its distinct tower which can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. A trip to the top offers great views all over the city and its surroundings.

VISIT HALLGRÍMSKIRKJA AND OTHER NOTABLE REYKJAVÍK LANDMARKS ON ONE OF THESE GUIDED WALKING TOURS.

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Sólfarið Sculpture (Sun Voyager) - FREE

“Sólfar”, the steel sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, is probably one of Iceland’s most famous pieces of art. With amazing mountain-view, this Viking-ship-like sculpture is one of Reykjavík’s most popular photo spots.

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National Museum of Iceland

The National Museum of Iceland is a must for anybody interested in Icelandic history, culture and heritage. Artifacts from the Viking age to the modern day are on display. It’s great for families: The parents will get a sense of Iceland's 1000 years of history and the kids will see “some old, cool stuff”. The café and the gift shop are both excellent.     

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Tales from Iceland

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Tales from Iceland has on display a series of short video documentaries on Iceland, its nature, its culture, and its people. The footage is produced from visitors videos, as well as tv news and other professionals. A typical visit will take between one and one and a half hour.

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The Settlement Exhibition

The Settlement Exhibition draws focus on the oldest relics of human habitation in Reykjavík, with some of the fragments found dating before 871 AD. These artifacts were originally discovered during building constructions in 2001. A longhouse from the 10th century was discovered, with the hall and a wall fragment now both carefully preserved at their original location.  

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Árbær Open Air Museum

This lively museum consists of more than 20 old buildings that have been relocated to form a town square by the old Árbær farm. The museum will give you a sense of the old Icelandic way of life, 19th and early 20th-century architecture, and how the rural Reykjavík slowly transformed into a city. The museum is also very popular with the locals as it truly feels like travelling back in time.    

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City Hall + Tourist Information Center

Reykjavík’s Official Tourist Info is located in City Hall, by the Pond in downtown Reykjavík. There you will find members of team Visit Reykjavík, which will try their best to make your trip as memorable and pleasant as possible. If you drop by, make sure to check out the huge 3D printed map of Iceland on the ground floor. The building itself is also quite interesting, bringing us to the next attraction …

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Tjörnin - FREE

Tjörnin, or “The Pond”, by City Hall, has since long become an integral part of the Reykjavík city life. It’s home to many of Reykjavík’s best-known houses, as well as up to 50 species of birds that can be seen the year around. A part of this area is “Hljómskálagarðurinn”, a large green space with walking paths and play rides for kids. People are kindly asked not to feed the ducks since it attracts birds of prey and thus making it a dangerous environment for little ducklings.

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Laugavegur - FREE

The main shopping street, Laugavegur, is also the place to go for Reykjavík’s nightlife. Formerly, shops and bars were mainly to be found on this particular street, but these days they have spread over the area around as well. Skólavörðustígur, leading up to Hallgrímskirkja Church and Austurstræti, near The Icelandic Parliament, are honourable mentions.

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Perlan (The Pearl)

The Pearl, along with Hallgrímskirkja Church, is probably Reykjavík’s most recognizable landmark. Sitting on top of Öskjuhlíð, a big green public space, the building resembles something alien. Inside, you will find the interesting Perlan Museum, featuring a lit-up ice-cave. On the top floor, an excellent restaurant and coffeehouse can be found. The most popular part of The Pearl, however, is without a doubt its observation deck, offering a 360° view of Reykjavík.

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Aurora Reykjavík

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Aurora Reykjavík is an educational and recreational Northern Lights Center. Visitors coming in summer won’t have the opportunity to see the aurora borealis, so this is the next best thing. Here people can learn about and enjoy the beauty of this marvel of nature.

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Volcano House

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Another exhibition dedicated to Earth’s wonders, Volcano House focuses on the power within. Hourly documentaries are on display telling tales of Iceland’s biggest volcanos, along with a hands-on exhibition of semi-precious stones, minerals, ash and pumice.

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Grótta Lighthouse - FREE

This beautiful lighthouse stands a 15-minute bus ride from the centre of Reykjavík, in Seltjarnarnes. The lighthouse is located on a small island which is only accessible during low tide. The surroundings, buzzing with birdlife, sure are beautiful with an amazing view of the mountains and over the gulf. Nearby is Iceland’s oldest stone house, Nesstofa. In winter, Grotta is a popular destination for aurora-gazing.

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Saga Museum

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The Saga Museum recreates key moments in Icelandic history in a way that is both educational and enjoyable. To achieve authenticity, clothing, weapons and everyday objects were constructed using traditional methods passed down through the ages. In the same building is the very Icelandic Matur & drykkur restaurant.

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Viðey Island

Viðey is a small island just off the coast of Reykjavík. Apart from the ancient ruins and rich historical background, visitors can enjoy the outdoor art of Yoko Ono and Richard Serra. In the summertime, there are daily ferry-rides to and from the island. On the island, there are many marked trails for either walking or biking. A very memorable day-trip.    

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Swimming pools

The Brits go to the pub after work, the Icelandic take a dip in the hot tub. Therefore, your best bet for finding the soul of the Icelandic nation is at the local pool. In Reykjavík, there are 17 public pools in total, with every location having its own charm and character. Whether you’re looking for a kid-friendly pool, the largest one, the closest one or one off the beaten path, you’ll find the right one here on our site.    

FIND YOUR LOCAL POOL.

Reykjavík Maritime Museum

It should not come as a surprise that Iceland has a museum dedicated to fishing. The Maritime Museum shows the development of the Icelandic fishing industry and coast culture through the years in regards to history and culture. The museum is home to the coast guard ship Óðinn, which served an important role in the bitter “Cod War” with Britain.    

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Whales of Iceland

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Whales of Iceland features life-size replicas of all whale species living around Iceland. The models paired with the ambience and sounds of the whales truly gives you a strong feeling for these huge mammals swimming around the island. Even more ideal if paired with a whale-watching trip.

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Icelandic Phallological Museum

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There’s really no polite way to say this: if you’re interested in seeing some penis, this is the place to go. The museum contains a collection of more than 200 specimens from 46 different animals. In 2011 the museum got its first homo sapien penis, given by a 95-year-old honorary member. In the gift shop, some themed souvenirs can be purchased. The Phallological Museum often finds its way to lists over the worlds strangest museums.

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Höfði - FREE

The Höfði house is best known for being used as the location of Gorbachov's and Reagan’s meeting in 1986, an event that marked the end of the Cold War. The house is owned by the City of Reykjavík and used for official receptions. Among other renowned guests were the Queen of England, Winston Churchill and Marlene Dietrich. The house is unfortunately not open to the public but visitors are welcome to explore it from the outside.

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Nauthólsvík - FREE

Nauthólsvík is the mecca for sea-swimmers in Reykjavík. Locker-rooms stand right by the shore, as well as a steam bath and a hot tub to warm up after a dip in the cold Atlantic Ocean. However, on summer days the place is transformed into Reykjavík’s go-to sunbathing spot. The small lagoon is geothermally heated, making it ideal for paddling and cooling off.

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Hólavallagarður Cemetery - FREE

It came as a surprise to many Reykjavikings when visitors started flocking to the cemetery by Suðurgata. It might be its location near the Pond and The National Museum. But it might also be that peaceful but kind-of spooky feeling the place has. Taking a stroll in the cemetery is actually quite nice. Many notable Icelanders are buried here, including Jón Sigurðsson, Iceland’s national hero, and Jóhannes Kjarval, Iceland’s best-loved painter.

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Einar Jónsson Museum

Einar Jónsson was Iceland’s foremost sculptor. Many of Reykjavík best-known statues are Einar’s work, including settler Ingólfur Arnarson on Arnarhóll, and Jón Sigurðsson, by the parliament. In the early 19th century, Einar gave all his work to the Icelandic people, and the museum next to Hallgrímskirkja Church was then built around these sculptures. The building served as his studio, gallery and home, and is now open to the public.

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Culture House

The Culture House gives visitors an insight into Icelandic culture and history in its broadest sense. The exhibition has items on display from 6 different cultural institutions, ranging from Viking age artifacts to modern art. This is a unique journey through Iceland's visual legacy that offers a great insight into Iceland’s heritage.     

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Icelandic Punk Museum

Formally opened by Johnny Rotten in 2016, The Punk Museum is a small museum with a big attitude. The Icelandic punk scene fathered many of Iceland’s most famous musicians and artists, including Björk and The Sugarcubes, and mayor/comedian Jón Gnarr. Located in a former public toilet in downtown Reykjavík, it allows visitors to step into the punk period in Iceland.

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Reykjavik Art Museum

The Reykjavík Art Museum consists of three buildings, each dedicated to one master of the art. Hafnarhúsið focuses on contemporary art, by Icelandic as well as international artist, alongside the works of Icelandic pop-artist Erró.    

Kjarvalsstaðir has 2 temporary exhibitions on display at all times, one focusing on Iceland’s best-loved painter Kjarval. Finally, there’s Ásmundarsafn, the former home and workshop of sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson. The museum serves to preserve his work, next to other temporary exhibitions. This is the gateway to Iceland's art scene.

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Reykjavik Museum of Photography

The Museum of Photography focuses on contemporary as well as historical photography. In its collection are over 6 million photographs, the first one being taken in 1860. The museum has been known for very interesting and lively temporary exhibitions put together from its own collection and original works.    

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Þúfa - FREE

Þúfa (pronounced: th-oo-pha) is an outdoor art installation in the Grandi area by Ólöf Nordal. Not only does this little hill (that’s what “Þúfa” means) offer peace within the city and reference to simpler times, but it also boasts of a great view towards Harpa Music Hall and Reykjavík's surrounding mountains.

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(This list is based on TripAdvisor ratings, with Visit Reykjavíks editor-in-chief’s criteria.)

 

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