Iceland has become one of the most popular tourist destinations and it is easy to see why. This place is full of history and has some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet. From natural hot springs to majestic waterfalls, this place has it all. While many people choose to spend a week enjoying all Iceland has to offer, many try to fit in what they can during a layover in the capital city of Reykjavik. If you are looking for things to do in Reykjavik during a layover, we have a great list for you!
If you plan your trip between May and August,you will be delighted in knowing that the sun is up for nearly 21 hours. This is great when you are looking for things to do in Reykjavik during a layover because regardless of the time you are there, you are pretty much guaranteed plenty of light to see things regardless if the rest of the town is out & about.
If you are planning on just going to Reykjavik from the airport, you won’t need to rent a car. Their bus system will take you anywhere you need to go. If you do plan on going outside of town or to tour the Golden Circle, you will need to rent a car.
One great thing to consider if you are there during the time they have them is a FREE Walking Tour of the downtown area. A local tour guide will take you around downtown and give you a broad view of the area along with a little humor. While it is free, you should plan on giving a tip at the end. Departure is twice a day (12pm & 2pm) from the small green clock-tower on Laekjartorg Square, 7 days a week.
If you are planning to check out Reykjavik on your own, be sure to download this map of Reykjavik. It will help you find your way through town easily while also giving you landmarks for the shops and restaurants you might want to check out. Wondering what you should make sure to see while here? Here is our list….
Things to do in Reykjavik during a Layover
If you are hitting Reykjavik early and looking for an early morning breakfast, you will be hard pressed to find ANYTHING open. The exception is Bergsson Mathus that opens at 7am. This quaint eatery has great coffee and a wonderful array of small plate choices. I say small plates, but for me the servings were large and enough to really fill you up! Bergsson Mathus is right off Vonarstræti so while there you might as well take some time to walk around and check out some street art.
Reykjavik has a HUGE street art scene. One of the huge places where you’ll find street art and some artsy shops are on Laugavegur. Laugavegur which means “Wash Road,” used to be the main path to the hot springs where many Icelanders would do their laundry. Now, it is a place to purchase trendy clothes, jewelry and much more.
There are also many sculptures scattered throughout Reykjavik. One of the best places to find several in the same place is along the banks of Tjörnin (the central lake in the city). The above sculpture is the Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat which can be found at the entrance to the City Hall. Yes, it does seem fitting.
Reykjavík’s main landmark is the Hallgrímskirkja. It was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson who drew upon the Icelandic environment that surrounded him, the vision of lava as it cools into basalt rock.
In front of the church is a statue of Leif Eiríksson who was the first European to discover America. The statue designed by Alexander Stirling Calder was a gift from the United States commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of the establishment of Iceland’s parliament at Þingvellir (930 AD).
Reykjavik has a few different museums you might be interested in exploring while in the city center. The most unique is the Settlement Exhibition. The museum’s main exhibit is an excavation site that dates back to A.D. 930 and gives you a first hand glimpse into what it was like for the first settlers of the area. Prices for Settlement Exhibition:
- ADULTS 1,650 ISK
- CHILDREN (0-17) Free admission
- SENIORS 67+ & DISABLED Free admission
- STUDENTS WITH STUDENT CARD 1,100 ISK
During most summer months, there are FREE guided tours.
A trip to Iceland isn’t complete without a trip to one of their several area Geothermal Pools. Unfortunately, you will need to drive about a hour or more outside of Reykjavik to get to them. Our favorite is the Secret Lagoon and it is about 1.5 hour drive from Reykjavik. If you can’t make the drive, you might want to check out the Laugardalslaug Geothermal Swimming Pool.
If you get the chance to stop in Reykjavik during a layover, don’t waste your time in the airport! Get out & explore this city if time allows and immerse yourself in the culture. Iceland is one of my favorite places in the world and I’m sure it will be on your top list once you get the chance to check it out!
Have you been to Iceland? What things do you enjoy doing in Reykjavik?