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The Best Attractions in Reykjavík

    Updated: 28th January 2024

    Reykjavík, Iceland’s vibrant capital, stands as a harmonious blend of nature’s majesty and cultural richness. Amidst its stunning landscapes, visitors encounter a world where history, art, and adventure converge, offering an array of experiences for every traveler. As you embark on your journey through Reykjavík, be prepared to immerse yourself in a city that seamlessly bridges the serene beauty of Iceland with a lively, artistic spirit. 

    Hallgrimskirkja

    Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavík, Iceland
    Credit: Chilli Head

    Hallgrimskirkja, a prominent landmark in Reykjavik’s skyline, is an architectural marvel designed by Guðjón Samuelsson. Inspired by Iceland’s natural landscapes, the church’s structure evokes a sense of the country’s rugged beauty. Completed in 1986, the vast, light-filled space inside contrasts with its stark exterior, exuding a serene, welcoming atmosphere. Its impressive organ, with 5,275 pipes, crafted by Johannes Klais, is a particular highlight and can be heard during regular services and the international organ music festival. The observation tower provides breathtaking views of Reykjavik and beyond, while the statue of Leifur Eiríksson, a gift from the United States, stands below on the front steps. Despite its grandeur, Hallgrimskirkja remains a humble parish church, inviting visitors to a unique spiritual and aesthetic experience​​​​​​.

    Perlan

    Perlan, Reykjavík, Iceland
    Credit: Chilli Head

    The Perlan Museum is an interactive experience blending education with entertainment. Its Nature Exploratorium, notably the real indoor ice cave, life-size bird cliff and volcano show, provides a unique and immersive way to learn about Iceland’s natural phenomena. The Planetarium dome theatre also features a virtual showing of the northern lights, complete with ancient stories and the science behind the spectacle. The 360-degree views from Perlan provide an incredible view in all directions, encompassing the surrounding ocean and mountains. Conveniently located near the city center with ample free parking, Perlan is both accessible and accommodating, making it a must-visit for those interested in Iceland’s natural wonders.

    Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre

    Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre is a hub of culture and arts in the city, offering a diverse range of experiences. Its striking design features a distinctive glass facade, while inside visitors are treated to world-class acoustics, making it an ideal venue for various musical performances, from classical to contemporary. The concert hall also hosts a variety of conferences and events, supported by state-of-the-art facilities. Not just a venue for events, Harpa also offers guided tours, providing insights into its architectural marvel and cultural significance. The on-site restaurants and cafes offer delightful refreshments with a view and the gift shop sells unique souvenirs, reflecting Iceland’s rich cultural heritage. 

    The settlement exhibition

    The Settlement Exhibition offers a captivating glimpse into Viking history, uniquely presenting archaeological discovery using modern presentation. This museum, centered around the remains of a Viking-era longhouse, provides an immersive experience that’s both educational and visually striking. Visitors can expect a variety of historical artifacts and informative displays, making it an ideal spot for those interested in the storied past of Iceland. The exhibition’s layout is thoughtfully designed, allowing for an up-close look at Viking life. While not extensive in terms of artifacts, the focus on the longhouse and its context within Viking culture makes it a worthwhile visit for those with an interest in the era. It’s a great introduction to the history of the region, suitable for spending a few insightful hours.

    Aurora Reykjavik

    Aurora Reykjavik provides an educational and immersive journey into the world of this natural phenomena. Visitors are greeted with a range of interactive exhibits, which include detailed explanations about the science and folklore surrounding the auroras. A highlight is the specially designed Northern Lights Planetarium, a realistic simulation of the lights ideal for days when they’re not visible in the sky. Photography enthusiasts will appreciate the section dedicated to capturing the Northern Lights, complete with tips and tricks from seasoned photographers. For those keen on witnessing the Northern Lights in person, Aurora Reykjavik also offers guided tours, which are tailored to increase the chances of spotting this natural wonder. 

    Arbaer Open Air Museum

    Arbaer Open Air Museum is immersive historical experience located on a former farm in Reykjavik and has been delighting visitors since 1957. This living museum, with over 20 buildings forming a village and farm, is a gateway to the past. It vividly showcases the architecture, lifestyle, and history of Reykjavik from the 19th and 20th centuries, and visitors can interact with costumed guides, see domestic animals, and engage with various exhibits. The museum offers daily guided tours in English, providing deeper insights into Icelandic history. Whether it’s witnessing craft days, vintage car displays, or exploring the changes in consumption patterns in the 20th century, the museum presents a fun, educational experience for all ages, making it a must-visit for anyone interested in the historical tapestry of Reykjavik​​​​​​​​​​.

    Sun Voyager

    Reykjavik’s seafront is home to the Sun Voyager, an iconic sculpture resembling a Viking ship. Crafted by Jón Gunnar Árnason, this striking stainless steel structure stands as a testament to Icelandic heritage, symbolizing a dream of hope, progress, and freedom. Its sleek design and prominent location make it a favorite stop on a tour of the city, and visiting during different times of the day, especially at sunset, provides an unforgettable experience as the light plays off its polished surface, creating a breathtaking silhouette against the sky. 

    Laugardalslaug

    Laugardalslaug, a popular sports and swimming complex amongst locals, is famous for its variety of hot and cold pools, slides, hot tubs and steam room, catering to all preferences. The highlight is undoubtedly Iceland’s largest swimming pool, providing ample space for a relaxing swim or energetic aquatic activities. Whether you’re looking to unwind in the soothing waters or engage in some physical exercise, Laugardalslaug promises a memorable visit. The venue also features a restaurant, beach volleyball and even mini golf making for a fun day out with the family.  

    Saga Museum

    Exploring Saga Museum and journey through history with its lifelike figures and engaging storytelling. This museum uniquely brings to life the tales and characters from the famous Icelandic sagas, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage. One of the highlights is the realistic wax figures, expertly crafted to represent historical figures and scenes from the sagas. The attention to detail in each exhibit is remarkable, providing an authentic glimpse into the past. Additionally, the museum offers an interactive experience, where visitors can dress in Viking-era costumes. The audio guide, available in several languages, complements the visual displays by providing insightful narratives. It’s an ideal destination for those interested in history, culture, and storytelling. 

    The Einar Jonsson Sculpture Museum (Listasafn Einars Jonssonar)

    The Einar Jonsson Sculpture Museum is a highly recommended destination for art enthusiasts. As Iceland’s first public art museum, it houses the exceptional work of Einar Jonsson, a pioneer in Icelandic sculpture. The museum itself, also designed by Jonsson, stands as a testament to his artistic vision. Visitors can explore a diverse collection of his sculptures, both indoors and in the serene sculpture garden. Jonsson’s work, deeply influenced by Icelandic culture and mythology, offers a unique blend of traditional and modern artistic elements. 

    Conclusion

    Overall, Reykjavík stands as a captivating blend of natural wonders and cultural marvels. From the breathtaking views of the Northern Lights to the architectural masterpiece of the Harpa Concert Hall, the city offers experiences that are both exhilarating and enriching. Its streets, lined with colorful houses, lead to museums and galleries that tell the story of Iceland’s unique heritage. For those seeking adventure, the surrounding landscapes provide a playground for exploration.

    Check out our other Reykjavik guides here!

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