If you’re wondering what to do in one day in Reykjavik then this post will give you a good idea. Maybe you just want to see the city quickly on a longer trip. If you have 24 hours in Iceland then you can easily do these things in Reykjavik in one day.
On say a 7 hour layover in Reykjavik then you can squeeze some things in, but will probably have to miss out on any of the longer Iceland one day tour options, such as the Iceland golden circle tour.
Either way having spent a week in Reykjavik this is what I can recommend to do with one day in Reykjavik. The weather in Iceland can be very changeable, and it also depends on what time of year you visit to what activities may be available. For example in summer you will have 24 hours of daylight giving plenty of time to explore. But in the middle of winter you will average around 6 hours.
Everyone should try and visit Iceland at some point! Trust me, it’s worth it.
I recommend getting the Lonely Planet Iceland (Travel Guide) before going.
What to See in Reykjavik in One Day
Reykjavik is a small city and most things you will want to see and do are downtown, and by the harbour.
Go to the main shopping street Laugavegur in the morning where you can find a number of coffeehouses and bakeries. There is a decent amount of good Reykjavik cafes to be found, and coffee culture is part of the city.
Grab some breakfast at one of these cafes before continuing to the end of the street and reaching the old historical area. Around there you will find a square with Iceland’s first ever statue, donated by Denmark. In the same square is the Icelandic parliament building called Alpingi, although you wouldn’t think it given its size.
It was in this square where the Icelanders came to protest against the government during the economic crash. There are plenty of small statues spread out all over this area and downtown Reykjavik in general. So keep an eye for them when walking around.
The Afternoon in Reykjavik.
Head down to the harbour and walk around the docks for a bit. In the same area by the boats you can find a few cafes to have brunch if you didn’t eat much earlier. While there you can go out for a few hours on a whale watching tour (weather dependant).
If the whale watching isn’t on then you can do the golden circle tour. It lasts around the same time as whale watching and takes you to some classic Iceland scenery, including a big waterfall, geysers, and a beautiful lake.
You can find some really good street art in the area just south of the harbour that’s worth a look. Especially if you like art.
There is the popular Sun Voyager sculpture on the waterfront near the old harbour near the Harpa Concert Hall (see if there is any performances going on there you may be interested in).
If you’re in Reykjavik over the weekend you can visit the flea market by the old harbour as well.
If you don’t want to do any of that then wander around some more and take in the lake and park behind the government house (mentioned earlier). Explore the neighbourhood up on the hill by the side of the main shopping street. Up there you can visit the Hallgrimskirkja Church, an iconic building of Reykjavik..
Or take a trip out to the Blue Lagoon which has a well known reputation.
Reykjavik Thermal Pools
In the evening you can spend a few hours relaxing in one of the thermal pools in the city centre. This is a cheaper and more convenient option than going to the blue lagoon, although definitely not as scenic. There are three pools to choose from. They will be marked on the tourist map you should have been given by your hotel or hostel.
At the three pools you pay only 650 kronor to have access to the outside hot-tubs .If the weather is bad you can appreciate being cozy warm while the cold rain or snow lashes down. I had a huge snow storm hit when in one and loved it.
This is a national past-time for the locals so it’s good to go and join in.
Things to do in Reykjavik at night.
The people of Reykjavik are known for there drinking and party attitude. Maybe because of all that cold weather and dark winters.
Grab some dinner first, again in one of the many restaurants around the main street. Naturally there are restaurants in other places, but this is the main area where they are concentrated. If you feel like it you can try some of the local specialities such as puffin and rotten shark (ugh).
Again in the same area, even maybe in the same place you ate, try some of the local beer. I personally loved the organic pilsner.
There is a great bar scene, and if you are lucky enough to be there from Thursday through to Sunday you will see how hard the Icelanders party. In the middle of winter, with freezing winds, you can see the girls in mini-skirts only and men with just a light top on. A hardy bunch.
Most people start on the main shopping street drinking, and slowly make their way from bar to bar towards the area around the main square,where many other bars await.
I personally enjoyed drinking in the Glaumbar and others in the same area. There is also a really good live music scene in Reykjavik and many bars will have bands playing.
Grab one of the famous hot-dogs at the hot-dog stand down by the waterfront area to help soak up some of that beer (ask a local, they will know what you are talking about).
If you feel like a more relaxed night and are not there in summer, and don’t want to join in the famous Reykjavik drinking scene, then book a tour to go in search of the northern lights. Again this is weather dependent as if there is any cloud cover you will not be able to see them. You can’t see them in summer due to the 24 hour daylight.
Enjoy One Day in Reykjavik
Although Reykjavik is not bursting at the seams with sites and attractions, it’s more than made up for by the warmth and hospitality of the Icelanders. I could have easily stayed longer than a week enjoying it.
If you’re interested in Arctic travel the take a look at this post about what it’s like living in the Arctic writer by four people that live in Svalbard in the Arctic Circle.
Take the Lonely Planet Iceland (Travel Guide) to help plan your trip more.
Iceland is expensive so be sure to take travel insurance just in case. I use World Nomads: