The Reality of Reykjavik

Before I arrived in Iceland, I thought Reykjavik was just a city we’d pass through in transit to the “real beauty of Iceland”.  Spoiler alert: I could not have been more wrong. 

Reykjavik’s most famous sight – the Hallgrimskirkja church

This is a city with delicious food and culture… and one I really wish we had more than 1 day in. As you’re planning your trip to Iceland, I hope this inspires you to make sure Reykjavik gets the time and attention it deserves!

And if you need any help figuring out your itinerary, be sure to check out my post on planning your trip to Iceland.

Where to Eat

Since I am predictable, I will start with the delicious FOOD that we had!

  • Brauð & Co
    • Holy crap bakery.  If you love pasteries, like I do, PLEASE stop here at least once a day and try something fresh.
    • Pro tip: They are known for their cinnamon rolls. Trust the masses here!
  • Svarta Kaffid
    • This was a Lonely Planet recommendation (my travel guru) and did not disappoint. Go here specifically for the soup in a bread bowl – they usually have 2-3 soups made fresh daily!
    • Pro tip: Butter in Iceland is out of this world good, so definitely put it to good use to finish all of your bread
Svarta Kaffid soup in a bread bowl
  • Lobster-Hut
    • If you know me at all, you know that food trucks are my jam!
    • This food truck serves all things lobster – actually langostine, which is similar in taste but quite affordable compared to the cost of lobster
    • Pro tip: The lobster hot dog sounds weird, but is SO good

Where to Stay

Since I do not like to recommend places I have not stayed in, I only have one suggestion here! And you guessed it, a Starwood hotel.

  • Ion City Hotel
    • This cozy hotel was tucked in the middle of shopping and food galore! It also happened to be right around the corner from Brauð & Co.  Delicious coincidence?! I think so.
    • We got upgraded to an amazing City Suite that had a balcony with views of the city and a personal sauna.

What to Do (in Reykjavik)

There are so many sights in and near the city! It’s such a walkable city so I highly recommend taking yourself on a stroll to see as much as possible.

  • Hallgrimskirkja Church
    • Pictured above, this is definitely the most photographed spot in Reykjavik and after visiting, I sure know why. It’s perfectly symmetrical and has an incredible organ system inside
    • Pro tip: You can even take an elevator to the top for city views!
  • Harpa Concert Hall
    • This is a concert hall by the Reykjavik harbor, but also one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen! The glass facade looks like a mermaid’s scales to me.
  • Solfar Sun Voyager
    • Along a gorgeous waterfront walking path is this gorgeous statue, made of stainless steel and an ode to the sun.
    • Everyone thinks it’s a viking skip, but it’s meant to symbolize a “dream boat” – something to inspire dreams and symbolize light and hope.
  • Shopping!
    • If you’re in the market for an Icelandic wool sweater, make sure to pop by the many stores.  Do your research as these can be quite expensive!

What to Do (near Reykjavik)

Warning: This section validates that I am an American tourist! 😉

  • Blue Lagoon
    • I know, I know. But would it really be a trip to Iceland without a visit here? Our crew decided we needed to check it out.
    • I’d recommend accurately setting your expectations before you go…this is NOT a naturally occurring hot springs in a gorgeous setting. It is a man-made hot springs heated with geo-thermal water from a nearby plant. It is very commercial. It is very crowded.
    • That said, it was an INCREDIBLE experience and the perfect activity for our first night in Iceland.  We felt so tired/jetlagged going in and beyond refreshed coming out.
    • Some packages also come with a free drink and a silica mud mask – both are critical to the experience!
    • Pro tip #1: The early/late slots are usually less crowded.  No matter when you go, you NEED to book ahead on their website to make a reservation as this normally sells out.  
    • Pro tip #2: This is only 20 minutes from KEF airport (where you’ll arrive) vs. a 45 minute drive (each way) from Reykjavik so it makes a great activity right when you land or right before you fly back home.  They also have luggage storage!
  • Costco
    • Yes, you read that right. Your friendly bulk discount retailer has a presence in Iceland!
    • Pro tip #1: We needed to go because American lost Adam’s luggage (another story for another day), but it is an amazing spot to load up on groceries for the week, especially if you’re driving the ring road! Iceland can be VERY expensive for food, so it’s best to stock up and save! We also bought a soft cooler there to help keep our food fresh on the road.
    • Pro tip #2: We were there on the weekend and they had free pastries, coffee and juice!  Costco, I love you.

Coming soon: A blog about the rest of my trip to Iceland beyond Reykjavik.

Have you been to Reykjavik?  I’d love to hear what you think.  Comment below with your favorite places to stay, eat and visit!

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