After driving in Iceland for several days (read about that HERE and HERE), we ended our 6-day itinerary exploring Reykjavik for the weekend. Reykjavik is the northernmost capital of the world and such a unique little city.
I didn’t expect to see as many colorful homes (super happy about that). I also didn’t expect to see the hefty prices on the restaurant menus (not so happy about that).
Quick Tips on Reykjavik
- Everyone speaks English
- The currency is tough to understand; after 6 days in Iceland, we still didn’t understand it
- It’s the most expensive city I’ve ever visited
- They have a lot of happy hour options
- They have a great cafe culture
- We visited Iceland in May, and it was still cold, but I’m always cold. The temps ranged from 35º- 50ºF
- Getting into the city center is easy. We took a bus directly into the city. You can book this cheap option ahead of time. They will pick you up from the airport and take you to the center or your hotel. Click here to book the bus.
Where to Stay in Reykjavik
You don’t need a car to explore the city center if you’re staying nearby. The city is very walkable. We had an Airbnb near Hallgrímskirkja church and were able to walk everywhere twice per day. We even kept running into the same strangers because that’s how small the town is. A safe bet would be to stay anywhere near the center.
Any corner of the center (or just outside of it) will do just fine, and you’ll be able to walk anywhere you’re looking to go. Reykjavik is incredibly safe. Iceland has been voted the safest country in the world for multiple years in a row. So if you’re going to try Airbnb anywhere, Iceland would be a good start.
If you prefer hotels/hostels, I’ve heard great things about Kex Hostel. We went to photograph their interior lounge/cafe because they’re pretty cool-looking interiors (photo above). Although it’s a hostel, they do offer some rooms with private bathrooms. Click here to book Kex. Another good one is the Reykjavik Residence Apartment Hotel near the city and has excellent reviews. Click here for the latest prices.
Where to Eat Cheap in Reykjavik
As I mentioned, Reykjavik is the most expensive city I’ve ever visited. From what I’ve learned, food costs so much because importation is expensive, so is labor, and so is farming. Liquor is costly!
So we had a light breakfast, stuffed ourselves during happy hour, then ate the famous (and cheap) hot dogs for dinner! One cocktail can cost you $20-$25. I quickly had to figure out how not to blow my entire month’s budget on this one weekend.
For breakfast, we would have coffee and a pastry. They have several excellent local bakeries, and we were never disappointed with the sweets. Our first morning there, we splurged and created a “cafe crawl” of our own.
We tried Reykjavik Roasters, Mokka Kaffi, and Cafe Babalu.
We were going to do a fourth (Stofan Cafe) but couldn’t handle any more caffeine. Our favorite was Reykjavik Roasters! Mokka Kaffi did have delicious waffles, though, so I recommend giving those a try.
There’s an app you can download to see what time restaurants have their happy hours in Reykjavik—that’s how popular they are!
The funny thing is, they usually offer 50% off their prices, which equals a regular-priced meal in Chicago or NYC.
We tried Solon Bistro for food during happy hour and had a good experience. Make sure you also take advantage of half-off cocktails during this time.
We visited Apotek Restaurant for drinks and loved everything we ordered. Try Brennivín, Icelandic’s signature beverage, also known as “the black death.” It’s seriously not that bad, especially when it’s in mojito form.
Slippbarinn is another happy hour spot we didn’t get to try but read great things.
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is the place to be! Hot dogs are only a few dollars (unheard of in Iceland), and they are delicious. A lot of celebs have visited, and it was also on Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations.
source: flickr.comsource: bostonglobe.com
Across the street from the yummy hot dogs, you’ll find Harpa, a stunning concert hall, and a conference center. It has a glass facade and makes for some fun photos inside.
The best view of the city is definitely from the top of the Hallgrímskirkja church. It’s the largest church in the country and right in the city center. You’ll get a 360º view over all of Reykjavik from the top of the tower. It costs $15 for two tickets.
Of course, my favorite part of Reykjavik was all the color! Iceland isn’t the sunniest destination, but the colorful homes brought the city to life. There’s also tons of cool street art and plenty of fun shops to wander around for hours.
How cool is this building?!
Reykjavik is an excellent base if you don’t plan to drive the ring road around Iceland. There are plenty of day tours that take you directly from Reykjavik to the blue lagoon, the waterfalls, northern lights chasing, etc. I’ll list some of the best ones below.
If you’re only looking to try the Blue Lagoon, this entrance package includes the entry ticket, a silica mud mask, a towel, and a drink! It’s a great deal; you can book that here.
11-hour day tour around the famous Golden Circle + the blue lagoon: Click here for booking.
This one is 14 hours but takes you to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, which is STUNNING and worth it. It also makes some stops along the Golden Circle: Click here for booking.
This tour is 10 hours but focuses more on the south of Iceland and makes stops the others aren’t offering, minus the Blue Lagoon. It all depends on what you want to see; GetYourGuide has tons of tours to offer. Click here for booking.
I love this next tour because it takes you the opposite direction up to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, which is yet again another gorgeous area. If you have enough days, I’d recommend doing a Golden Circle tour and the Snæfellsnes peninsula: Click here for booking.
We did many of these stops when driving around the ring road if you want more inspiration to choose what things you’d like to see, read that post HERE.
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