Discovering the Soul of Reykjavik, Iceland
Arts & Culture
Reykjavik's off-the-beaten-path offerings are as captivating as its well-known attractions. By exploring its hidden neighborhoods, unique experiences, and local treasures, you'll uncover the authentic heart of this Icelandic capital. Get ready for a journey that goes beyond the surface and into the soul of the city!
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Where to stay in Reykjavik, Iceland
Apotek Hotel by Keahotels
A blend of historic Reykjavik charm and modern sophistication, offering guests a luxurious sanctuary in the city's heart.
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Things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland
The reason for my first visit to Reykjavik was to attend Iceland Airwaves, an annual music festival which offers a unique and immersive music festival experience that combines musical exploration with the natural beauty and cultural charm of Reykjavik. This event is a celebration of both Icelandic and international music, showcasing a wide range of genres from indie rock and electronic music to folk and experimental sounds.
One of the best things to do in Iceland is experience their geothermal pools and hot spings. Sky Lagoon is a geothermal spa located in Reykjavik, Iceland, offering a unique and luxurious relaxation experience with breathtaking views of the ocean and the city's skyline. If you're looking for a serene escape to unwind and rejuvenate, and want to bypass the touristy Blue Lagoon, Sky Lagoon is a must-visit destination and one of my favorites.
Sometimes you need a break from all the tourist sites and want to sing really loud to a room of strangers. SÆTA SVÍNIÐ gastropub offers up some local musical talent in their basement plus adds in prizes for a job well done.
Taking a stroll around the streets of Reykjavik is a beautiful way to take in the city and stumble into new experiences, see the local street art and architecture and try new things. Their streets are all very walk-able and everyone speaks English. A few of my favorite shopping streets are Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur.
KIOSK is an exceptional clothing store that offers the best of Icelandic fashion design from the conceptual to the elegant. Every time I am in Reykjavik I stop in to see one-of-a-kind designed garments that I will always treasure.
An insider tip is to purchase all alcohol you might want to imbibe during your stay at the Keflavik International airport when you arrive as you can get a better duty free discount there than anywhere in Reykjavik.
If you have the opportunity to visit in the Spring and rent a car, take the time to drive 2.5 hrs. to the black sand beach Reynisfjara in Vik where the history of volcanic activity and basalt columns meat the sea. On the way there you will see many exceptional sites and waterfalls you must take the time to stop at on the way back. For example, the beautiful views from the lighthouse at Dyrholaey are outstanding. For an amazing lunch stop try Mia’s Fish & Chips before you see the awe-inspiring waterfall at Skógafoss. Another epic waterfall along the way is Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. There are so many sites to see on this drive, it's worth it to go and stop whenever you're inspired, you can't go wrong with the natural beauty.
A must-see tour are through historic sites such as the Golden Circle where you will see the historic Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station that pumps the natural resource throughout the country, Thingvellir National Park where you can walk between the Northern American Plate and the Eurasian plate, Geysir and Gullfos Waterfall are a must see if you've never been.
An off-the-beaten-path lunch stop is in Fontana at a hot spring pool called Laugarvatn. Its a very small town and offers up beautiful views and relaxation and escape from the tourist sites.
Places to eat & drink in Reykjavik, Iceland
Breakfast. Brauð & co has the best breads and pastries organic and locally sourced ingrediants that melt in your mouth
For a breakfast and lunch option, try Baka Baka. This cottage like cafe offers up the most delicious pizza and baked goods. Their menu is full of a variety of options for every type of diet. Everything is sourced locally with a farm to table edge.
A breakfast and afternoon coffee/pastry option is the delicious Sandholt, which offers the most exquisite pastries and mouth watering breads. You also can't go wrong ordering an espresso while enjoying the delicious smells waiting for you breakfast service.
Food Halls are a great way to try lots of local eateries at once and Reykjavik has many to offer. My favorite was Hlemmur Food Hall where they have the best ice cream Gaeta Gelato (yes they eat ice cream all year round) and the delicious foodie-centric Krost for fish and grilled Icelandic finest fair.
Dinner in Reykjavik can be a beautiful experience since the skies show up differently. In the winter a stroll into town can display a beautiful Northern light show and in the spring and summer the sun might never fully set and be very bright at 10pm.
My favorite restaurant for dinner is Apotek in the Apotek Hotel. One of the finest local chef's Carlos Gimenez has created a luxurious menu and worked with amazing local talent to combine his menu with craft cocktails and elegant deserts.
Another favorite is his second restaurant Tres Locos, which recently opened in 2023 and offers Mexican food that is authentic, delicious and unexpected so far from home.
Need to Know
For more travel inspiration, check out Fora Advisor Sharon Wu's guide, The Best of Reykjavik, Iceland.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Reykjavik.