Reykjavik is a blossoming city destination with many unique things to do. Tourism to Iceland has exploded in recent years, partly from its exposure in films and television and partly from word of mouth. To put it plainly, everyone who visits this awe-inspiring island cannot contain how much they love it! It’s fast filling the number one spot on many travelers’ bucket lists.
Whether you’re looking to connect with Viking culture, or on a venture to see majestic landscapes and natural wonders, Reykjavik offers something for you. It has a vibrant cultural scene with a plethora of exciting adventure tours, thriving nightlife, world-class restaurants, art galleries, museums, shops etc. to explore throughout your stay.While Iceland’s capital city is known to be a terrific base from which to immerse yourself in some of the island’s breathtaking wonders, such as the famous Blue Lagoon geothermic spa, or to watch The Northern Lights, fewer people know of some of the more unique things to do. These things are no less entertaining and certainly worth a visit! Here are 17 unique things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland.
If you are still planning your trip, we have a 5 Day Iceland Itinerary, 4 Day Iceland Itinerary, and 3 Day Iceland Itinerary, depending on your needs. We have carefully crafted these itineraries to include the best of the best stops and things to do in Iceland!
17 Unique Things To Do In Reykjavik Iceland
The Phallological Museum
The Phallological Museum is unquestionably one of the weirdest (and oddly amusing) unique things to do in Reykjavik. The collection began as a passion project by Sigurdur Hjartarson who started collecting specimens of animal penises as a kid. It includes blue whales, dolphins, reindeer and foxes which are preserved in formaldehyde.
Over time the collection expanded to include animals that aren’t native to Iceland. Ever wonder what an elephant penis looks like? Well, now you know. The museum is interesting, funny and maybe a bit gross. It’s both a nod to science and to humor. Open from 10am to 6pm a visit to the museum costs about 1700 ISK. For more information please visit their website.
Find Street Art
Reykjavik is a city where street art is evolving from the graffiti phase into more of a statement piece. It is art that is more, shall we say, “artful” than just your typical tagging. You can find both pop up and commissioned pieces along Laugavegur and Grettisgata (on the main downtown drag) as well as near the harbor district (south of the Maritime Museum).
Many of the murals you will find are part of a project called Wall Poetry. It was organized about five years ago by the musical festival, Iceland Airwaves, and the German Art Institution, Urban Nation. Additionally, every year a main road in downtown Reykjavik is transformed into a rainbow road to celebrate diversity. These colorful walls (or roads) are perfect for an impromptu photo shoot!
Explore The Harpa Concert Center
A fantastical addition to the Icelandic cultural scene is the Harpa. It is THE go to Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Center. Harpa is one of Reykjavik’s greatest landmarks. It is at the heart of the city and features views of the mountains and the North Atlantic Ocean. Harpa is a unique thing to do and see in Reykjavik because of its interesting architecture.
Not only does the concert hall host musical concerts or conferences it also features stand-up comedy, art exhibits, and musicals. At one point the building even acted as a screen on which to play the computer game Pong! Harpa is definitely made to adapt to whatever event it hosts. It is not to be missed!
This stop is in a great area and actually on our list of Best Places To Stay In Iceland. In this post, we offer suggestions for where to stay around the Ring Road!
Walk Along The Seltjarnarnes Peninsula
The picturesque stretch of land known as the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula is a popular visit for birdwatchers, visitors to the lighthouse, and runners or walkers. You will love the 7.4 km (4.6 mile) loop around the seaside path that is available. It connects easily to the Sculpture and Shore Walk.
To run only the peninsula, start out near the intersection of Nordurstrond and Sudurstrond. Facing the ocean, find the paved Gongustigur Path and head north. At the end of the point, you’ll be face to face with views of the Grotta lighthouse. This is a great mini day trip from Reykjavik to escape the city and see some nature!
Try Hot Dogs
You might think that there’s nothing special about a hot dog…Well the hot dogs in Iceland are no regular dog…This place is famous for its hot dogs! Baejarins Beztu is the name of the most iconic chain. It’s been open rain or shine any day of the year for almost 80 years!
The ingredient of the hot dog is what makes it stand out. While most hot dogs are made out of pork or beef, the hot dogs here in Reykjavik are made from lamb meat. Foodies, do not miss this opportunity!
Visit Hallgrimskirkja Church
Hallgrimskirkja is an astounding piece of architecture located in the capital city of Iceland as well as the tallest building in downtown Reykjavik. It is likely the most popular attraction in Reykjavik, or at least the most visited in Iceland.
As the highest structure in downtown, the church makes a statement making it one of the most photographed locations in the city. It acts as a sort of hub to the rest of the city since the most popular spots are all near the church. A visit to the church is free but there is a small fee to visit the tower. There you will find the most beautiful panoramic view of Reykjavik.
Hike Mount Esja
The most popular Reykjavik hiking trail by far is at Mount Esja. Often called the “city-mountain” it takes up most of the skyline to the north of Reykjavik. The trail starts from a place called Mogilsa which is about a twenty minute drive from the city It has a big parking lot and a cafe.
The view from the top is absolutely noteworthy. On clear days you will see the scenic fjord and the blue ocean bay, Reykjavik city, and the numerous mountains around. You can sign the guestbook that they have available to show that you were there.
Photograph the Sun Voyager Sculpture
The Sun Voyager is a well-known statue displayed along the seaside of Reykjavik. Designed by artist Jon Gunnar, the statue is the artist’s depiction of a dreamboat. It is an ode to the sun and something that inspires dreams and imagination, symbolizing light and hope.
Fun fact. Some people think it looks like a Viking ship when in reality it is not. The statue is a wonderful photo opportunity, especially at sunset!
Visit The Reykjavik Punk Museum
Head to the Punk Museum to see Icelandic punk rock pieced together on to the white tiles of a former underground public toilet. The country’s music history is documented from the early days of punk to new wave revolution. It features beloved artists such as Bjork and Sigur Ros.
The exhibition is tiny and the displays are a bit unorganized, but what do you expect from punk rock? Chances are you’ve never seen anything like it. Probably the most fun you will ever have in a bathroom…
Find Deals At Kolaportid Flea Market
One of the best places to experience the local side of Reykjavik is the Kolaportid Flea Market located close to the city’s old harbor. Open at weekends only, you can find anything from wool apparel, fish, and candies, plus plenty of books and collectibles.
This is definitely the perfect place to people watch as well as browse what the market has to offer.
Eat Ice Cream
The most popular place to get ice cream in Reykjavik is very likely, Valdis. Located in the up-and-coming foodie district Valdis offers gelato-style ice cream in creative flavors like carrot cake or salted liquorice.
Another place that’s fun to visit is Isbud Vesturbaejar. They are known for their soft serve dipped in a chocolate shell. You might not immediately associate Iceland with ice cream but trust us when we say it’s worth a sampling.
Experience Reykjavik Nightlife
More recently Reykjavik has become recognized for its fast-paced nightlife. It has been featured in travel magazines from all over the world. Many tourists are surprised by the variety of entertainment venues, bars and restaurants that are available. Reykjavik hosts a great variety of clubs too and an atmosphere to suit every inclination.
Whether you’re looking to relax with a beer or hit the dance floor, Reykjavik has your back!
Best Affordable Places To Stay in Reykjavik
Located in the heart of Reykjavik it is only minutes away from the iconic national cathedral. Travelers will love the homey guest rooms, on-site bar and restaurant, free wifi, luggage storage, and more. One of the more popular cheap hotels in Reykjavik, Centric Guesthouse is less than ten minutes walking distance from the majority of the capital’s most popular sites.
The Capital Inn
Are you looking to stay at a cheap hotel in Reykjavik where you will truly feel at home? Look no further. This cozy guesthouse is nestled just 2.2 miles from the city center of Reykjavik.
Arcturus Guesthouse Reykjavik
This cheap hotel in Reykjavik is loved by guests who enjoy the proximity to downtown. The majority of the most popular tourist spots in Reykjavik are within 3-15 minutes away walking, and even shorter by taxi. Have your own car? Not to worry! Arcturus offers free parking so you don’t have to pay the high price of parking when exploring downtown. Honestly, this is a huge perk but the free wifi and comfortable and modern rooms aren’t bad either!
Hotel Hafnarfjordur offers FREE breakfast and that should be enough to sway you to book this place! They are one of the only cheap hotels in Reykjavik to offer breakfast which means one less meal you have to worry about in expensive Iceland! The modern hotel is about 10-15 minutes walking distance from all the popular sites and near major roadways.
Start Hostel is another one of those city center hotels in Reykjavik that plays the role of both a hotel and hostel, depending on your preference. For the price, the rooms are ultra comfortable, daily housekeeping is included, free breakfast, wifi, parking and more. Enjoy self-service laundry, a playground for the kiddos, close proximity to museums and sights, luggage storage, and tour and ticket assistance. If you are looking for Scandinavian comfort for a fraction of the price, Start Hostel is the place for you!
Best Mid-Range – Luxury Places To Stay in Reykjavik
Fosshotel is a modern style hotel located just outside the center of the city, but still close enough to all the action. The hotel is roughly one mile from both the Harpa Concert Hall and Hallgrimskirkja church. It’s also right next to the number 12 bus stop which is extremely convenient for getting picked up for tours. The hotel offers standard double rooms at a mid-range price, but if you’re looking for a tower view room or suite, family room, or deluxe double room, the prices are much higher. With a stylish design, great views of the city, accommodating staff, and comfortable rooms, the Fosshotel Reykjavik is where to stay in Iceland when planning a trip to the capital.
If you’re looking for luxury, you’ll find it in this beautiful art deco style hotel in the heart of Reykjavik. Hotel Borg is right next to Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, and the Reykjavik Cathedral. It is walking distance from the Reykjavik Art Museum, The Settlement Exhibition and of course the famous, prominent Hallgrimskirkja church. The hotel is also surrounded by an endless selection of excellent restaurants and cafes. The staff members of the hotel are incredibly friendly and are more than happy to suggest activities for you to do or answer any questions. From Hotel Borg you can experience the culture, shopping and food that Reykjavik has to offer while relaxing in luxury in between.
Visit The National Museum
The National museum offers captivating exhibits and one permanent display that presents the story of Iceland’s past, from the days of Vikings to the current culture. The main exhibit has over 2,000 artifacts discovered in various parts of Iceland.
This is the place to go if you want to learn more about Iceland’s rich history.
See Nautholsvik Beach
Nautholsvik is a geothermal beach that attracts about 530,000 vistors each year. It is a diverse outdoor recreational space is great for sunbathing, sailing, or swimming.
Have you ever gone to the beach and never touched the water simply because it’s too dang cold? Well here you won’t have that problem. Hot water is pumped into a man made lagoon to make the swimmers comfortable.
Watch The Northern Lights From Grotta Lighthouse
Grotta Lighthouse is at the north-westernmost point of Reykjavik, Iceland. It is located on the Seltjarnarnes peninsula and is a great place to enjoy the outdoors, go for a walk, or perhaps try your hand at bird watching. One of the most recommended things to do here is to watch The Northern Lights.
Tips For Spotting The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights are best witnessed during the darkest part of the night when it is clear out. Check weather conditions before you head out and see whether your chances are good to catch a glimpse with the Icelandic Met Office’s aurora forecast.
Winter is the best time to spot The Northern Lights. The season is technically August to March with a peak from September to March. March if often recommended to travelers because the climate is milder and the roads are easier to navigate with less ice.
Be patient! The lights come and go on their own terms, but if you are able to just wait it out (and the conditions and timing are good) chances are you will see something. Grotta has a lovely car park so you can spend your time waiting in warm conditions. Just cozy up and look to the skies.
Take A Whale Watching Tour
Whales are arguably the most fascinating creature to watch in the wild. There is just something magical about seeing them in their natural habitat and Iceland has wonderful tours to do just that.
If getting a good look at earth’s largest mammals is on your list of things to do, get on it here in Reykjavik.
Iceland will always be one of our top destinations…if not our very favorite! We hope to spend a month or more “living” there at some point, and not just because there are so many unique things to do, but because Iceland is relatively unspoiled. It has just the right amount of metropolitan but with a constant emphasis on the natural surroundings. Visit Reykjavik! As soon as you can, step into the wonder that is Iceland.
See More: The Ultimate 5 Days in Iceland Road trip