Swimming in Reykjavík
Swimming pools in Iceland are nothing like in most European Cities. If you truly want to follow in the footsteps of the locals, you should visit one of Reykjavík's 17 swimming pools.
You could say our pools are a mix of a sport-center, water-slide park and a spa with hot tubs and steam baths. Run on geothermal water from boreholes, you could say this is where Iceland's hot springs meet the city culture. Read on to find the best pools our city has to offer.
Hot Water in Iceland
Since hot water in plentiful in Iceland, the country's inhabitants have found ways to use it since the settlement. Snorri Sturluson, the 12th-century poet of Edda and other medieval literature, is know to have constructed a pool on his farm with hot water guzzling in. He even heated his house with it. Today the largest portion of Icelandic homes are heated with water from hot springs; 99% percent is heated with green energy. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Icelander's have gotten used to bathing in the warm, smelly water through the age.
Iceland's swimming culture explained
Like mentioned before, swimming pools in Iceland are very different from what EU and US visitors know from their home. Of course, a lot of people come mainly for the fitness part. But the local pools are also a huge cultural thing in Iceland. In the morning you will encounter elderly ladies and gents in the hot tubs, discussing news-related stuff and the weather (PRO TIP: Icelanders love to talk about weather!) Later in the day, families gathe, so that the young ones can spend the rest of that day's energy and the parents can relax in the warm water. And the list goes on: people go on date in the pools, friends meet up and other come solo for the Zen quality of the water and steam.
Where to go swimming in Reykjavík?
Reykjavík's largest swimming pool is also the most popular one; both among locals and visitors. Laugardalslaug features two 50-meters pools, 7 hot tubs ranging in heat, a steam bath, cold tub, a large water slide, and more. It's a short distance from the city's center.
Right in the center is Sundhöllin, Reykjavík's oldest pool (but most recently renovated). It's a popular destination with great facilities.
Then there are many other great pools of the grid. Take Lágafellslaug in Mountain Borough for an example: it features 3 water slides that the kids love, a great kids pool as well as cozy hut tubs. Álftaneslaug on the Presidential Peninsula is another perfect destination for families. There you'll find an excellent kids pool, a large water slide and even a "tidal-pool" which replicates a wavy beach.
Do I have to shower naked?
Yes. Butt naked! But of course, the dressing and shower rooms are divided men-women. But don't let that discourage you. The locals have been bathing naked at the local pool since birth and most definitely have no interest in other people's private parts. A poster can be found in all shower rooms explaining how to wash all these different parts; something that many visitors find both strange, funny and confusing. This rule was set many years ago to keep the quality of the water and minimize the use of chlorine. If breaking the rule, you might receive a friendly reminder from a dedicated swimmer to take off your clothes.
How warm are the swimming pools?
The standard temperature of the hot tubs is 38°-40° celsius, or 100°-104° fahrenheit. However they get as warm as 44° celsius / 111° fahrenheit, and as cold as 36° celsius / 97° fahrenheit.
The pools themselves are somewhere between 27°-30° celsius, or 80°-86° farenheit. They are a bit warmer than the standard pool in Europe, but cool enough for swimming in.
In recent years, sea-swimming has become hugely popular. Many believe it has great health benefits. Because of this, most swimming pools are equipped with a cold tub, some even as cool as 5° celsius, or 41° fahrenheit. This of course is only for the bravest!
... and after the swim?
If you want to have the full Icelandic-swimming-pool-routine, you should head to one of Reykjavík's many hotdog stands and order "one with everything". On weekends, this will be followed by a visit to the ice cream shop; or the famous "ísbíltúr".
Swimming in Reykjavik
Map of pools in Reykjavik
Suðurbæjarlaug in Hafnarfjörður offers both indoor and outdoor pools as well as recreational facilities. In the swimming areas, there's a 25-m (82-foot) outdoor pool, a 12.5-m (41-foot) indoor pool, fountain, hot tubs, a steam bath, and a water slide.
Grafarvogslaug is a pool complex in the Reykjavík suburb of Grafarvogur. It features both outdoor and indoor pools, outdoor children’s pool and paddling pool, two water slides, three hot tubs and a steam bath.
Varmárlaug in Mosfellsbær is an outdoor thermal pool, also with two hot tubs, sauna, childrens’ pool and play area.
Lágafellslaug in Mosfellsbær is a thermal pool complex with outdoor and indoor pools, steam room and play area for children with slides of various sizes and shapes.
Laugardalslaug is the city’s largest pool with extensive facilities, located in Laugardalur Valley. Its facilities include a 50m outdoor pool, outdoor children’s pool and paddling pool, two water-slides, numerous hot tubs, steam bath,and mini golf course.
Breiðholtslaug is a pool complex in the Reykjavík suburb of Breiðholt. It features an outdoor pool, outdoor and indoor children’s pools, outdoor paddling pool, two water slides, three hot tubs, sauna and steam bath.
Vesturbæjarlaug is a small and friendly neighbourhood pool, located within walking distance of the city centre. The pool has an outdoor pool and children’s pool, waterslide, four hot tubs, steam bath, sauna and gym.
The new Álftanes Pool offers its customers a bright, warm and relaxed environment, while at the same time those who are searching for fun find their wishes fulfilled.
Kópavogur thermal pool is one of the largest aquatic centres in Iceland. It has a 50m outdoor pool, two indoor pools, seven hot tubs, a steam bath and three water slides.
Salalaug thermal pool in Kópavogur has both outdoor and indoor pools, including a children´s pool, water slide, steam bath, and three hot tubs, including one with a hydro massage.
Seltjarnesslaug is Reykjavík's only salt-water pool. It features a 25-meter outdoor pool, 2 children's pools, 3 hot-tubs, a water-slide and a steam bath.
The newest and most child-friendly pool in Hafnarfjörður, Ásvallalaug, is also the biggest thermal pool in Iceland at about 6,000 m² (65,000 feet²).