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How to Best Explore Iceland During a Layover

Gullfoss Waterfall
Gullfoss Waterfall | © Oatsy40 / Flickr
Depending on the length of your layover, there are many options for getting to experience some of the best that Iceland has to offer in a short amount of time and without traveling very far from the airport. Whether you are in Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik for a stopover weekend between North America and Europe or on an extended visit, there is a perfect itinerary to explore everything cultural and gastronomical in this city. If you are more interested in visiting the natural sites in the area, there are many to choose from as well.

Brunch

For Reykjavik’s best food options, we recommend Snaps, a French-Icelandic bistro nestled in the old part of downtown, where you can drink a mimosa amid the cozy atmosphere of ample windows and hanging plants, and choose from a vast menu of egg styles from Eggs Norwegian to Eggs Benedict.

Snaps Bistro-Bar

Bistro, Restaurant, European, Northern European
Cozy interior of Snaps Bistro
Cozy interior of Snaps Bistro | © Snaps Bistro
This bar is located in a quiet, picturesque neighborhood that is home to many. The cozy atmosphere, complete with low lighting, hanging plants, and large windows, is one of the most memorable in Reykjavik. If you want a quiet evening with friends in a sleek and cool environment, go here and check out the gin and tonic menu. They also offer a range of French brasserie-style dishes such as moules marinières that have been prepared with mussels harvested at Breidafjordur, as well as French onion soup made with Icelandic Isbui cheese.
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Meal service:

Late Night

Atmosphere:

Cosy, Romantic

Swim

We recommend lounging in one of the many public swimming pools dotted around the city and at its outskirts. With Iceland’s plethora of geothermal heated water, the pools reflect the long-standing tradition of the public bath as a social place. Enjoy the Art Deco style Sundhöllin, for example.

Reykjavik Art Museum © Shadowgate/Flickr

Museum

After a relaxing lounge in the pool, check out some of the city’s many museums and art galleries. If Icelandic history and Vikings are more your style, check out the National Museum. Here are 10 of Iceland’s best museums to scope out your options.

Golden Circle Tour

This tour, which takes about six hours in total, starting and ending in Reykjavik, is definitely the number one tourist trip and for good reason. It covers three incredible sites with a tour guide and for a good price. The sites include the Geysir Hot Spring area, which comprises a dozen boiling pits – the most active of which, Strokkur, spouts every few minutes to heights of 30 meters. The tour also includes Thingvellir National Park, the site of the first democratic election 1,000 years ago, and Gullfoss waterfall.

Architectural Landmarks Tour

Reykjavik is quite small and compact and makes a great place for walking between landmarks. This tour will take you through the green lawn of Klambratún Park in East Reykjavik to the Mýri area near the University, through downtown and over to the oceanside Harpa Concert Hall. For a place with rather young architecture, Reykjavik has made up for the centuries of living in impermanent structures with these 10 remarkable architectural highlights.