24 Hours in Reykjavík
Iceland is home to the world’s oldest parliament, Europe’s largest glacier (by volume), Björk and now you for at least 24 hours! Whether you’re spending the day in Reykjavík before or after your Backroads Iceland trip, this guide offers an easy plan for a great day in the city, maximizing your time and showcasing all this capital has to offer.
7 a.m. – For Early Risers
Like to get a feel for a city by rising early and hitting the town? Me too, so head down to the harbor to experience Iceland’s unique relationship with the sea and visit the Solfar Sun Voyager sculpture (selfie time!). You can take your running shoes and meander around one of several paths along the coast. Make your way up the hill to Frakkastígur Street and stop by Braud & Co., a tiny bakery and bread-lovers paradise, and treat yourself to a cinnamon roll. Fear not, your coffee fix is only a few yards away at Reykjavík Roasters, a seriously trendy coffee shop perfect for people-watching.
10 a.m. – The Official Start of the Day
Take a stroll up to the Hallgrímskirkja church to get your bearings, take the elevator to the top ($6), and marvel at the best views of the city (selfie time #2). Right next door is the Einar Jónsson Museum, a small museum showcasing the works of Iceland’s first sculptor, with a sculpture garden in the back (closed Mondays). Return to the harbor and check out the Harpa Concert Hall, home to Iceland’s symphony orchestra and opera, and winner of multiple design and architecture awards. Finish your morning adventures by exploring Laugavegur Street, a hyper cool thoroughfare that is home to many of Reykjavík’s coolest cafés, bars and shops. Hidden between the more touristy shops are Kisok and Geysir, specializing in local, authentic and original Icelandic clothing.
1 p.m. – Lunchtime
Complement your busy morning with a laid-back lunch at Café Loki, famous for its traditional Icelandic fare, including meat soup, homemade bread and cakes. Also, look out for the huge mural of Ragnarök painted on the wall! Want to eat like a local? Go straight to Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, an Icelandic institution, serving “the best hot dog in town” from a red-and-white hot-dog stand near the harbor (expect a line of hungry locals regardless of the time of day or night).
3 p.m. – Afternoon Adventures
For a slice of culture after lunch, why not explore Reykjavík’s vibrant art scene, best experienced at the i8 gallery and the Reykjavík Art Museum, home to both major international and local Icelandic artists. No trip to Reykjavík would be complete without a visit to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa (reservations required). Here you can bathe in the clear, blue, mineral-rich waters while you gaze into the nearby lava field of Grindavík. Getting there is easy with bus transfers from Reykjavík.
7 p.m. – Dinner
For a slightly more formal dining experience, look no further than Bryggjan Brugghús. Here they serve their own beer–pumped directly from the brewery–and specialize in high-quality seafood caught right off the coast. A less formal option is Matur og Drykkur (“Food & Drink”), a luminous space with wooden chairs and tables, which serves classic Icelandic cuisine with a modern twist. I recommend (in all seriousness) the trout smoked with sheep’s dung or the crispy seaweed.
9 p.m. – Evening Hours
Beer was formerly considered non-patriotic and was banned up until 1989. Luckily, now there are plenty of great bars in which to drink the frothy brew. The two places where your author conducted the most research are Kaldi Bar, a cozy microbrewery, and Skúli, a craft beer bar with a strong focus on the award-winning brews from the Borg brewery.
After a full day in Reykjavík, it’s time to get some rest before you begin your Backroads Icelandic adventure or hop on the plane home and book another trip–the world is calling!