If you stand in the city centre and look out over the ocean, the mountain on the other side of the fjord is called Esjan. Not only is it very pretty, as well as helpful when you need to know which direction is north, it’s also a popular hiking spot for locals. The most popular route is straight up the well-worn path from the visitor centre towards a landmark, a rock cleverly known as Steinn (Rock). This hike should take about an hour each way for experienced hikers.
Sólfarið (The Sun Voyager)
A beautiful sculpture in the image of a Viking ship located by the ocean on a small peninsula by Sæbraut, close to downtown Reykjavík. The sculpture, by Jón Gunnar Árnason, symbolises the Viking past of Icelanders and is an ode to the sun. It serves as a reminder of our history and heritage when the first Viking settlers came sailing to Iceland. The best time to see Sólfarið is when the sun is setting.
This majestic church is one of Reykjavík’s most iconic buildings and is visible from almost anywhere in the city. The tower of the church is among the city’s highest buildings and offers a fantastic view over the city and its surroundings. It’s named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson, author of the Passion Hymns. The architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, designed the church to resemble the basalt columns common in Iceland’s landscape.
Standing at 25m and built on the city’s hot water tanks, Perlan is one of Reykjavík’s most striking buildings. Inside Perlan, you can visit the Wonders of Iceland exhibition, spread over multiple levels. A visit to a real ice cave, planetarium shows, a spectacular 360° viewing platform, and information on Iceland’s history, glaciers, and volcanoes are all included in a ticket. Up on the top floor, there are a restaurant and coffeehouse. Surrounding Perlan is the Öskjuhlíð area, one of the many green spaces in Reykjavík, perfect for a walk on a sunny day.
The Old Harbour
The descriptive name comes from the fact that it’s the first lasting harbour in Reykjavík. The most visited area is the eastern pier, where you’ll find a community of shops, galleries, electric bike and scooter rentals, and whale watching companies. Ever since the Reykjavík fishing industry moved to a new harbour, the area is filled with excellent restaurants and coffeehouses, shops, galleries, and museums.
Reykjavík City Hall
The building, with its impressive, modern design, was completed in 1992 and sits on the north shore of Tjörnin, Reykjavík’s downtown lake. It houses offices for the mayor and the city’s executive officials and is also open to visitors. The reception area features exhibition halls, where exhibitions, fairs, and cultural events take place. The three-dimensional map of Iceland is always a favourite with visitors to the country.
Viðey island lies off the coast of Reykjavík and can be reached by ferry. It was inhabited for the larger part of Iceland’s history and has a rich historical background. Attractions include impressive works of art, such as the Imagine Peace Tower by Yoko Ono and Richard Serra’s outdoor sculpture Milestones. With an extensive network of trails and a population of resident horses, the island can be explored both on foot and by horseback.
Harpa is Iceland’s biggest concert hall, suitable for a broad range of concerts and cultural events. Looking out over the Reykjavík harbour on one side and glorious Mt. Esjan on the other, Harpa also hosts promotions, plays, and public events. If you haven’t got a ticket for a show, you can still stop by the restaurants and shops in the building. The attention-grabbing honeycomb facade was designed by Ólafur Elíasson, a Danish artist of Icelandic descent.
Tjörnin – The Pond
Tjörnin is the heart of Reykjavík. People go to the pond to feed the birds and enjoy one of the most amazing views in Reykjavík. A walk in the adjoining park, Hljómskálagarður, is delightful on a sunny summer’s day. The lake freezes over in winter, although hot geothermal water is pumped into it to defrost an area for the birds. If you’ve brought your skates, skating on Tjörnin is a popular pastime, especially when the city is adorned with Christmas lights.
Höfði House, built in 1909, is one of the most beautiful and historically significant buildings in the Reykjavík area. Originally built as a French embassy, Höfði is today best known as the location for the summit meeting of presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986, a historical event that effectively marked the end of the Cold War. During this meeting, images of the house were broadcast all over the world.
Imagine Peace Tower
Yoko Ono dedicated the Imagine Peace Tower to her husband, John Lennon. This work of art has the form of a wishing well emitting a powerful beam of light. The strength, intensity, and brilliance of the light beam continually change as particles in the air fluctuate with changing weather and atmospheric conditions. The beam is visible from all over Reykjavík.
Thanks to Iceland’s abundance of geothermal heat, Icelanders’ favourite pastime is going swimming. Every town has at least one thermal pool and Laugardalslaug is Reykjavík’s largest one, located in Laugardalur valley. Its facilities include a 50m outdoor pool, an outdoor children’s pool and paddling pool, waterslides, numerous hot tubs, a steam bath, a gym, and a mini golf course. There really is no better place to be on a sunny day (or even a cold one for that matter!).
The golden-sanded geothermal beach at Nauthólsvík in Reykjavík is a little piece of paradise. It opened in 2001 to the delight of residents and tourists alike. The creation of the geothermal beach was an ambitious but successful project involving the construction of a lagoon with large sea walls, where cold sea water and hot geothermal water blend together to ensure a comfortable water temperature. Next to the lagoon, there are a large hot tub, changing rooms, toilets, grills, and a small shop!
Laugardalur is a charming neighbourhood, containing a youth hostel, a campsite, and Laugardalslaug swimming pool. There’s also a skating hall and a family park/petting zoo, making it perfect for a day out with the family. Laugardalur boasts a beautiful botanical garden featuring an impressive selection of arctic flowers and plants as well as Flóran, a lovely café.