The Best Things To See and Do When Visiting Reykjavík

Feed whooper swans at Lake Tjörnin in Reykjavík, Iceland
Feed whooper swans at Lake Tjörnin in Reykjavík, Iceland | © Lundi Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Melanie Moore

Reykjavík is one of the smallest and most remote capitals in the world. But the Icelandic city, which can easily be explored on a weekend break, offers a wealth of cultural, gastronomical and visual experiences.

Reykjavík is a popular destination that often attracts visitors looking to explore Iceland’s diverse landscape through day trips to areas outside of the city. But there’s a range of things to see and do within the capital itself. From natural wonders to cultural institutions, get the most out of your visit with the help of this guide of the best things to see and do.

Harpa Concert Hall

It’s difficult to miss Harpa Concert Hall with its honeycomb glass panels and shimmering coloured lights. Situated by Reykjavík Harbour, this award-winning architectural wonder offers a modern contrast to the city’s traditional buildings. Often recognised as a symbol of Iceland’s recovery after the economic crash, Harpa is the home of Iceland Airwaves festival and a number of innovative musical and entertainment events. While there’s no entrance fee, tickets have to be purchased to take part in the tour. If you happen to be visiting Reykjavík on New Year’s Eve, stop by Harpan to see the building transform into a light show.

The Harpa Concert Hall is considered a symbol of Iceland’s economic recovery

Overlooking the city from the highest point in Reykjavík, this iconic concrete church can be seen from anywhere in the city. The unusual architectural style represents the basalt columns that are found throughout the Icelandic countryside, and appears to be pixellated when viewed in low light, as each column casts a shadow onto the next. Though it’s free to enter Hallgrímskirkja, it’s highly recommended that you pay the fee to take the lift up to the top of the building as it offers one of the best views of the city. Open year-round, you can see the snow-capped Snæfellsnes glacier on sunny days; however, watch out for the cold winds blowing at the top, even on the warmest days. A visit during the summer means that you’ll be able to catch a concert during the international organ festival when musicians from all over the world come to play on the Hallgrímskirkja pipe organ.

Hallgrímskirkja church is designed to reflect Iceland’s natural landscapes

Sun Voyager

Many people visiting the Sun Voyager mistake it for a Viking ship. But the sculpture – created by Jón Gunnar Árnason – was intended to be a dreamboat and an ode to the sun. The popular attraction is Iceland’s most famous sculpture and can be found just a short walk from the city centre along the Sæbraut coastal road. Though the area surrounding the sculpture tends to get crowded during the day, the best time to visit is at sunset or sunrise when the colourful sky and the backdrop of Mount Esja, enhances the sculpture’s appearance.

The Sun Voyager sculpture is an ode to the sun


The main street in Reykjavík extends all the way from downtown to the trendy district of Hlemmur. Known as the city’s main shopping street, Laugavegur is one of the oldest roads in Iceland and was once the route that women took to wash clothes in the hot springs centuries ago. Home to a number of fashion boutiques, vintage stores and puffin gift stores, Laugavegur turns into a pedestrianised street in the summer with local residents making it their main route for pub crawls.

Laugavegur is the main shopping street in Reykjavík


Located on the outskirts of Reykjavík, atop a forested hill, Perlan is a dome-shaped building offering a 360-degree view of the city and sea. The state-of-the-art entertainment centre is like a time capsule and has world-class exhibitions covering different eras while explaining how they shaped Iceland. The popular tourist attraction is also home to a man-made ice cave, a planetarium showing Northern Lights short films and a revolving restaurant.

Head to Perlan for spectacular views of Reykjavík

FlyOver Iceland

Reykjavík has upped its game in recent years to provide premium entertainment for visitors. The latest attraction to offer a stunning visual experience and give tourists a taste of the wider countryside is FlyOver Iceland. Easily accessible in the Grandi harbour area, visitors are able to take a virtual flight over the Icelandic landscape, flying over waterfalls, black sand beaches and glaciers. Suspended with your feet dangling, the ride comes with special effects to give visitors a surreal experience.

Take a virtual flight over the incredible natural landscape with FlyOver Iceland

Whale watching

Whales have long been a part of Icelandic culture and folklore – in fact, Keiko, the orca in the Free Willy films, was from Iceland. Twenty-three whale species can be found in Iceland alongside dolphins, porpoise and puffins, which are also served at certain restaurants. Visitors can sign up for a half-day tour that departs from Reykjavík’s harbour several times a day, all year round to get up-close with Iceland’s wildlife. Though it’s available at any given time, a visit in the summer gives you a greater chance to spot minke and humpback whales.

Humpbacks are just one of 23 whale species found around Iceland


This scenic lake in the centre of downtown Reykjavík is home to 40-50 species of birds. In the summer the area swarms with Arctic terns swooping to catch flies in the evenings, and during wintertime, you can hear Hooper swans taking turns to honk at each other. As the lake freezes in the winter, the pond becomes the main place for ice skating in the city. Meanwhile, the council pumps hot water into one end of the lake to ensure the birds are still able to swim there.

Tjörnin Lake is a fantastic place to bird watch
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article