When in Iceland, spend some time in the compact capital city that offers art, culture, cafés, and churches, all contained within its 106 square miles (274 square kilometers). Use this guide to plan a day of strolling through its scenic streets!
Designed by Guðjón Samúelsson in 1937, the form of Hallgrimskirkja Church was inspired by the unique shapes of cooled lava. The church took over 40 years to build, though the steeple was actually completed first. Apart from the widely photographed exterior, the church’s enormous pipe organ is its most famous feature. Weighing in at over 25 tons, it emits a deep and reverberating sound. Visit the church and grab some shots of the exterior, and then head to the top of the steeple for the best view of the city.
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
If you get hungry while you’re wandering, visit Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for the “best hotdog in Europe.” Open since 1937, the Bæjarins Beztu stand is an Icelandic legend; most locals have eaten there, in addition to some very special international guests including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Metallica vocalist James Hetfield. If you go, order in true Icelandic fashion with all the toppings (“eina með öllu”). Your dog will be covered in ketchup, fried onions, raw onions, sweet mustard, and a mayonnaise sauce infused with sweet relish. Enjoy!
Harpa Concert Hall
A multi-purpose concert hall and conference center, Harpa is as distinct as it is beautiful. Located on the old harbor between the mainland and the ocean, the nearly transparent building reflects both, referencing Iceland’s dynamic and changing natural landscape. Explore the expansive interior or spend some time watching as reflections dance across the glass walls of this unique Icelandic structure.
Throw on a sweater and go explore Reykjavík’s incredible street art! The tradition of urban art in the capital started in 1990 when Icelandic teens began tagging buildings with bubble lettering. Since then, the practice has expanded to include mural art that overtakes the entire sides of buildings. Often commissioned, the displays of street art generally reflect the character of a neighborhood, and there’s no better way to get to know the colorful neighborhoods of Reykjavík than through their artistic stylings.
The Sun Voyager
To enjoy more public art, head to Sæbraut Road where you’ll spot Iceland’s famous Sun Voyager. This steel statue fashioned in the shape of a viking boat represents the promise of discovery, new territory, progress, and freedom. Often described as a dreamboat, the statue is referred to as an homage to the sun.
The pier / waterside area (Old Harbor)
Stroll along the waterfront and soak up the fresh, crisp air and the views of Mount Esja across the bay. While you’re there, check out the Vikin Maritime Museum, as well as the marina. If you haven’t already, buy a hot dog from the world-renowned Bæjarins Beztu and enjoy a lunch with a view. It’s the perfect picnic location and offers plenty of photo opportunities!
Reykjavík is a compact city that’s easily walkable, and it’s filled with plenty of opportunities to explore cafés and other shops. For a pleasant shopping experience, head to the city’s Laugavegur Street, which translates to “Wash Road,” as it was once where Icelanders took their laundry to be cleaned. It has since been turned into a bustling thoroughfare where locals showcase delicacies and homegoods from across the country. Visit Kiosk for funky, cool Icelandic designs, or duck into Sandholt bakari for a slice of freshly baked bread and a cup of coffee.
Header image by Nalan Gürsoy