Reykjavik is the capital and largest city in Iceland, and the place most tourists make their home base. Even if you plan on exploring Iceland’s more rugged areas, chances are you’ll spend at least a day in Reykjavik (and you should!). The city is compact and walkable, safe and (with the very notable exceptions of Friday and Saturday nights) very laid back and quiet. You can easily cover the downtown area in a morning’s stroll. But don’t sell the city short; there’s plenty worth seeing and doing here so plan to devote at least a day or two to exploring.
Despite its small size, Reykjavik offers plenty of cultural activities, including several art and history museums that can help visitors gain a better understanding of life in Iceland – both in the past and in modern times. The 871 Settlement Museum is particularly excellent, with comprehensive interactive and multimedia exhibits about life in early Iceland. For art, visit the free Reykjavik Art Museum (RAM) a collection of three buildings scattered around the city, each with a different artistic focus.
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There are two shopping malls in greater Reykjavik, but the best and most unique shops are located in the city center. Laugavegur is the main shopping drag and is home to boutiques in nearly every style and price range.
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Eating and drinking
Dining and drinking can be very expensive in Iceland, but that doesn’t stop locals from hitting the town hard on the weekends. The city has a disproportionately large number of restaurants, bars and cafes, serving everything from traditional Icelandic cuisine to French, Indian, and Mexican food. Thankfully many cheaper options, like pizza, hot dogs, and noodles, are also available.
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It’s easy to explore Reykjavik on your own – the city is simple to navigate, small, and safe. But a guided tour can help you learn more about the city and the culture than going it alone. And, one of the best guided walks of the city is totally free.
>> more on guided tours in Reykjavik
Most tourists head to the Blue Lagoon for a good soak, but locals head instead to one of the many city pools, which are cheaper and much less touristed. Swimming and soaking at pools and hot springs is an important part of daily life in Iceland so the Reykjavik city pools are inexpensive and open all year round. Most even offer suits and towels for rent.
>> more on hot springs in Reykjavik
Photo by: Alex J White,