Discover top Reykjavik attractions to visit
Friday, 13 August 2021
Iceland is a place of great beauty and intrigue, drawing travellers to its ancient lands from all over the world. Its capital city, Reykjavik, is a big part of this, delighting with its intimate nature, quaint appearance, and excellent attractions. From relaxing in one of its many geothermal pools to a church with an epic view of the city’s stunning backdrop, Reykjavik has so much to offer. In this guide, we highlight just a handful of many fantastic tourist attractions that are not to be missed, inspiring you to book an Iceland Cruise to the world’s northernmost capital city.
Any trip to the capital of the land of fire and ice will not be complete without a relaxing dip in one of its 17 geothermal pools. This is the way to relax when in Reykjavik, with these delightful public pools dotted around the city and filled with Iceland’s natural geothermal water. The pools are utilised by the locals as a beloved meeting spot and are a great way for visitors to become ensconced in this key part of Icelandic culture. The hot waters have been utilised for centuries and Visit Reykjavik has explained what this cultural scene looks like today:
“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 gather 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 dates to the pools; friends meet up and others come solo for the zen quality of the water and steam.”
The largest pool in the city is Laugardalslaug – featuring hot tubs and three waterslides. Read more about Reykjavik’s pools here. Reykjavik city attractions don’t come any more relaxing than this.
Reykjavik’s most prominent landmark and one of its most iconic attractions is certainly the Hallgrímskirkja church. This impressive building, located in the city’s centre, can be seen from all over Reykjavik. Standing tall at 244ft high, this Lutheran church is truly something to behold, and its height and location provide for the most epic views of the city. Not many visitors to Reykjavik will leave without stopping by, climbing to the top of this national monument to the observation deck. Holiday snaps of the city and surrounding mountains won’t get any better than this.
Marian, from the travel blog Travel Shop Girl, spoke to us about her visit to this special church: “One of my all-time favourite destinations is Iceland. And no trip to Reykjavik is complete without a visit to Hallgrimskirkja. Nothing beats the 360° views from the top on a sunny day.”
Marian also spoke to us about her top tip for visiting this special destination in general: “My top tip is to be open to everything. You must try the coffee as it’s crazy good. Talk to the locals and learn about where they like to go and what they like to do. While there are certainly many tourist attractions, there’s so much more just beneath the surface of Iceland.”
For a local’s perspective, Auður, the owner of I Heart Reykjavik – an Iceland travel blog – spoke to us about her thoughts and memories of the church: “Hallgrímskirkja church was my neighbourhood church when I was growing up so I have a lot of memories connected to it. For visitors, I think it's interesting to see how big and grand it is on the outside while it's quite modest and simple on the inside. The church tower also offers some of the best views of Reykjavík.”
Auður also offered a top tip for visiting the city: “A walking tour is a great way to discover Reykjavík as you need a local to tell you all the city's secrets. Many people never leave the main shopping street but that's not where the magic happens.”
Perlan – Wonders of Iceland
Image credit: Perlan
Perlan is a truly unique attraction to visit and should certainly be on your Reykjavik to-do list. This special nature exploratorium features a host of fascinating exhibitions pertaining to Iceland’s natural world. Visitors can go on a cinematic and interactive underwater journey around the country, go inside a real ice cave that is 100 metres long and includes 350 tons of snow from the Icelandic mountains, and also head to the world-class planetarium featuring 8k projection and opportunity to observe the northern lights. Perlan also includes an amazing 360-degree observation deck and a rotating restaurant.
The team at Perlan spoke to us about what they believe makes them such a special attraction: “Perlan is the no. 1 attraction in Reykjavík; it’s an iconic building and one of the main landmarks in Reykjavík. The building is composed of a glass dome that sits on top of six hot-water tanks. The tanks serve as an important link for the hot water distribution from the deep boreholes within the capital itself.
“Today Perlan hosts a one-of-a-kind nature exploratorium. It’s a learning laboratory where visitors explore Icelandic nature through science and human perception. At Perlan, visitors can explore Iceland’s rare and astonishing natural wonders through a series of exhibits and immersive presentations. Cutting-edge technology, interactive experiences mixed with captivating information and stories, make the exhibits both fun and educational.”
Jurga from the travel blog Full Suitcase has visited Perlan and highly recommends it: “One of the must-see Reykjavik attractions is the Perlan Museum. It’s a place where you can get acquainted with Iceland’s natural wonders in a fun and educational way. One of the main highlights of Perlan is the Northern Lights show, Áróra, that allows you to experience some of the magic at any time of the year and in any weather. Another not to be missed Perlan attraction is a real ice tunnel. It's so well made that it feels like walking inside a real glacier! There is so much to see and experience at Perlan. Don’t miss it when in Reykjavik!”
Jurga also spoke to us about her top tip for visiting Perlan: “My top tip for those planning to visit Perlan is to take some warm clothes, gloves, and a hat because it’s really cold inside the ice tunnel. If visiting during the high season, you may also want to reserve an Áróra show time slot in advance.”
Another of Reykjavik’s most striking landmarks is known as the Sun Voyager. This shining steel sculpture resembles a Viking ship called the ‘Solfar’ – translated to ‘Sun Voyager’. Situated by the seaside, many of the city’s locals enjoy strolling along the waterfront to meet at the landmark. Stopping by here – especially at sunset – provides for some remarkable photo opportunities, featuring beautiful Mt. Esja in the background. The Sun Voyager is described as “an ode to the sun” and conveys the artist’s “dream of hope, progress, and freedom”. If you are looking for free attractions in Reykjavik, this is certainly one to add to your list.
Reykjavík City Museum
No trip to a new city is complete without visiting one of its premier museums. This is what is on offer at Reykavik City Museum, a fascinating attraction that provides an engaging journey through the city’s history, culture, and heritage. The museum is made up of five separate museum experiences, covering everything from the settlement of Reykjavik to the present day. Four of the museum sites are in walking distance of downtown Reykjavik and the Open-Air Museum is only a short fifteen-minute drive from the city centre.
The Settlement Exhibition is certainly a must-visit. Built around the ruins of a Viking longhouse, the exhibition focuses on Reykjavik’s settlement in A.D 871. The remains of a hall built during this time is at the centre of the exhibition and is one of the oldest man-made structures in Iceland. Those fascinated with Viking history will also love exploring the various objects in the exhibition stemming from this fascinating period in Iceland’s history.
READ MORE: Must-try Icelandic food and drink
The best attractions in Reykjavik to visit
- Geothermal pools
- Perlan – Wonders of Iceland
- Sun Voyager
- Reykjavík City Museum
We hope this list proves inspirational for your travel plans to Iceland. For those looking for attractions close to Reykjavik, there is a lot to be excited by. If a holiday to lovely Reykjavik sounds right for you, make sure to take a look at the incredible cruise holidays in 2023 which visit Iceland, including cruises to Canada and cruises to Greenland.
For more tips, guides, and advice, make sure to visit our blog page.