Last summer, my boyfriend and I decided to go to Iceland for our (first) summer holiday together and had an amazing time! We went to Reykjavik for 5 days, and it was plenty of time to explore the beautiful city, and take a day trip out of town. With uni, writing other blog posts and life getting in the way, it has taken me ages to narrow down the photos I wanted to use, edit them, and actually compile all my thoughts! However, since we will all be thinking about booking our summer holidays soon, it seems like a perfect time to bring out my recommendations on what to do in Reykjavik.
My first tip is to dedicate some time to walking around the city centre. There is so much beauty from street art, cute buildings and interiors, amazing food and gorgeous landscapes. It’s a great idea to plan out your days and activities before you leave for your travels, but I have always found that you find the cutest, quirkiest spots when you take some time to follow your feet and see where they take you.
Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon
One thing that my boyfriend and I knew we wanted to do as soon as we booked this holiday was take a tour out of town. Huw wanted to go on a Golden Circle tour, and I wanted to go to a lagoon. We looked at Blue Lagoon, which is possibly the most famous lagoon in Iceland – it’s the one you’ll see in every Instagram and Pinterest pic! However it’s super expensive, and that’s before you arrange your travel to get there.
I had a look around for different tours, and decided to settle on the Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon tour from iheartreykjavik. It was so easy to book through their website, and they were very helpful when I was trying to find out where my closest pick up point would be! The tour was amazing, and the Secret Lagoon was so worth it. It was much smaller than I expect the Blue Lagoon would be, but it was beautiful and very relaxing. (AND you could buy booze to bring into the pool with you, how cool is that?) I’m very glad we chose that package!
On the tour we stopped off at Þingvellir National Park which has some beautiful Icelandic landscapes, then to Geysir which is filled with loads of hot springs, some of which shoot metres up into the air every 5 minutes. Our last spot before we went to relax was the Gullfoss waterfall – we were dropped off at the top of the waterfall, and walked down ourselves to be picked up at the bottom. It was such a beautiful experience, and I would highly recommend this day tour if these are some of the things that you would enjoy!
Viking Settlement Museum
The first thing we saw as we walked into town from our Airbnb (which was actually a garage that had been converted into a studio livingspace – but that’s another story!) was the Viking Settlement Museum. I love history, so I was desperate to go and see what they had inside. I think for someone who loves history and/or Vikings, it’s worth it. It was interesting to learn things about the settlers that came to Iceland and their lifestyle, but it is a very simple museum. It has artifacts lining the room, and in the middle is the remnants of an old Viking house. There is also a variety of interactive screens that give you more information that I can remember! It was an enjoyable experience, but this recommendation really depends on your interests!
Hallgrimskirkja is the largest church in Iceland, and one of the largest buildings, too. The architecture of the building is stunning! I took so many pictures from so many angles, both during the day and at night. Including one when we were absolutely steaming and standing in the middle of the road trying to be arty. This picture is one of my favourites that I captured in Reykjavik.
You can take a look inside the chapel for free, however to go up to the top and spy some amazing views of the city, you have to pay (views like the cover photo for this blog post). Although Huw and I thought in the end that we could probably have gone up without a ticket without anybody noticing, as bad as that sounds. There were no security or anybody taking tickets, but I don’t think my conscience would have allowed me to chance my luck in a church.
I think we all know what this is.
I thought it would be hilarious to go and check out this museum, but I was a bit disappointed in the end. It was very expensive to get in, for it only to be a spacious back room to the reception rather than what I would usually expect from a museum. In hindsight, I’m not sure why I expected more than what it was, but it definitely wasn’t worth the price. We had a fun time wandering around recreating the “pickled boaby” scene from Still Game, and I even bought a shot glass to commemorate my time there. If you have the money and it suits your sense of humour, go and have a bit of fun for 20 minutes. But if you’re swithering between whether it’s worth all that money or not, you’re not missing out on anything special.
With this painted on the side of the building, you won’t miss it – and you don’t want to, either! We were recommended to go there by one of Huw’s friends who had previously been, and I’ll never love anybody more than I love that friend (sorry, Huw). These chips are amazing, but their sauces are what seals the deal. They have a selection to choose from, and each time we went back we picked 2 new ones to try. By the end of the holiday I didn’t want to see another chip for at least a month, but it was soooo worth spending our holiday stuffing our faces full of Reykjavik Chips. If there is anywhere on this list that you decide to visit, make it this place.
I can’t remember where I read about this place but after hearing it was a cute LGBT+ friendly cafe, I dragged Huw along with me. The decor and feel of the cafe is very cosy. It has little knick-knacks dotted around, hanging from the ceiling and it gives the place a cosy atmosphere. They made great hot chocolate and we shared an amazing New York cheesecake! I could have happily sat in here reading all day. A little easter egg that I loved was the bathroom (hear me out!). They play the Star Wars soundtrack on a loop, and the walls are covered in pictures of the characters, so you can sneak a pic of you and Princess Leia on your visit!
This place is a quirky, vegan cafe that (you guessed it!) has a neat collection of vinyls. I never took the time out to check out their vinyl section, but I’m pretty sure that you can browse and purchase them if any take your fancy. It’s a very chilled cafe, and has some amazing food. Not only does it taste amazing, but it looks gorgeous on the plate. Definitely Instagram worthy! They have a great selection of milk alternatives compared to other cafes, and the Swiss hot chocolate here is also to die for. It is a bit expensive, but the food is worth it.
Bravo is a lovely, small pub on the main strip in the city centre. Huw and I ended up here mostly every night either before or after dinner! It brands itself as a student pub, however I noticed people of all ages drinking here – probably because it was the cheapest place we found for beer. It also has a selection of games, and we ended up playing Chess almost every night, too. I’d never played it before, but it was so chilled out and sweet just having those moments where we were playing games and spending time together.
I was recommended this place by one of my friends, Olivia, who had bought a couple of prints from this shop when she was in Reykjavik! The artist who takes these photos has a nice balance between beautiful landscapes, quirky pictures, and humour. I picked up 2 prints from Fotographi, one of which is a photograph of a “no shitting” sign on a fence leading into a field. You can actually see it on this wall if you search closely for it! I thought something like that would be funny and confusing to hang on a bathroom wall.
It is a small shop, and worth popping into on your way past. Either to check out this photographer’s work, buy a few prints, or fall in love with the masses of old cameras they have decorated the shop with.
I mentioned earlier that you should schedule in free time on any trip to just walk around the city and explore. While we did this, we found ourselves at a waterfront and the views were breathtaking. The water was a gorgeous blue and green, like the way a pigeon’s feathers shine in the light if you look close enough. And the mountains in the background just added to how beautiful the landscape was. You can walk for quite a while along the waterfront, and we were very fortunate that the sun was shining on the day we walked along here! It was so beautiful and peaceful, and a great way to connect with nature. Ditch your phone for a few hours and sit and enjoy the views!
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If you are thinking of going to Reykjavik soon, I hope this travel guide helps! It is such a beautiful city, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. If you have any questions or want to talk about what to do in Reykjavik in more detail, you can find me on Instagram or Twitter.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you all next time!