Intro to Reykjavik

What’s there to do in Reykjavik, Iceland? Well, a lot. I have no doubt that Iceland is at the top of your “countries to visit” list. And, if it’s not, it’s most likely on a friend’s. Why? Iceland is a phenomenal country with extremely diverse nature – from glaciers to forests to black-sand beaches – kind, welcoming people, a form of government that seems to work more than most, and endless opportunities for adventures both near and far. In short, Iceland is a must-see country. And, if you’re going to Iceland, you’re most likely making Reykjavik your first stop. Whether the city is as awe-inspiring as you’ve heard is entirely up to you to find out.

Tip: If you’re looking to book a tour, I recommend my friends over at Iceland Travel.

Jump to:

Beautiful streams shooting from above the Gljúfrabúi waterfall in Iceland
Beautiful streams shooting from above the Gljúfrabúi waterfall in Iceland

117-second history of Reykjavik

800s

Reykjavik is considered to be the first permanent settlement in Iceland. Around 870 A.D., Ingólfr Arnarson, his wife, and brother ventured over to Iceland from what is today considered Norway. Ingólfr built his home, in Reykjavik, in 874 A.D. In terms of how Ingólfr decided to settle in Reykjavik, he supposedly threw a pair of long poles – known as “high-seat pillars” – from his ship and decided settle where they washed ashore.

Despite the thought that Ingólfr was the first to settle Iceland, it’s widely believed that Papars (Irish monks and hermits) had been in the country before him. They were supposedly Christian monks who somehow ended up in Iceland.

900s

The name Reykjavik (Smoke Cove) comes from the steam that early settlers saw rising from the land. And by 930, most fertile land on the island was claimed. A legislative and judiciary assembly (known as Althing) was formed so that the settlers would have a bit of law and order regarding Icelandic commerce.  

1200s

Around the 13th century, the rules that the Icelanders had put in place began to crumble under the pressure of various tribes. So, in 1262, the Norwegians assumed control. This lasted until 1415, the year the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden became united. After they all broke up (boo-hoo) in 1523, Reykjavik, and the entire country, was absorbed into what was known as Denmark-Norway.

1400s

As time passed, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Harsh climates, unforgiving soil and volcanic eruptions made it impossible to thrive there. In the early and late 15th century, two cases of the Black Death hit Iceland, decimating their population by 50%.

The Danes eventually placed hard economic restrictions on the country, which weakened it even further. Not to mention the fact that pirates were going to Iceland and stealing people to be slaves! Man, it was tough to be an Icelander.

1700s

Fast-forward to the 18th century. Life was certainly tough in Iceland, but urban development was beginning. The harsh sanctions that the Danes put on Iceland were lifted in 1786, and domestic industries – fishing, sulphur mining, agriculture, shipbuilding and wool (yeah, wool) – began to increase. At the same time, Reykjavik secured a permanent trading charter, which signified its emergence as a city. Woohoo! Finally, a little bright light in this land of darkness.

1800s

By the 19th century, Icelanders were beginning to feel…Icelandic. Nationalist sentiments were on the rise, and our friends in Iceland wanted independence. The movement to be free from Denmark was led by a man named Jón Sigurðsson. At the same time, the general assembly of Iceland was moved from Thingvellir to Reykjavik, establishing Reykjavik as the capital of the country (started from the bottom, now we here)!

Executive power continued to move to Reykjavik, and Denmark granted Iceland a constitution in 1874. In 1918, the country finally gained independence from Denmark…sort of. Denmark signed an agreement with them, which was valid for 25 years and designated them as a sovereign state in personal union with Denmark.

1900s

The Great Depression delivered a harsh blow to Iceland. Despite this, Iceland was considered a highly strategic point during WWII, which is why British troops, then the US Army, decided to occupy it. The country saw the occupation of Denmark, around 1944, and decided it was as good a time as any to declare full independence. While many associate “occupation” with negative effects, the occupation of Iceland proved to be positive in terms of the country’s economy.

After the war, Reykjavik was the place to be. It was modernizing at a rapid pace (the world chess championship was held there in 1972, as well as the important Reykjavik summit in 1986).

2000s

As time went on, our friends in Iceland experienced a financial boom. At least, until the crash of 2008, which led to the resignation of the government. Yes, the government. Icelanders aren’t to be messed with!

Since then, the country has been on a steady road to recovery, while earning top rankings in terms of GDP (ranked 28th in the world for GDP per capita) as well as overall happiness (ranked 3rd happiest country in the entire world). From tough times was born a tough country, a place that demands a visit and certainly won’t disappoint.

Sources:

The mighty Skogafoss waterfall, note the long staircase to the right
The mighty Skogafoss waterfall, note the long staircase to the right

Things you have to see in Reykjavik

Seljavallalaug – Seljavallalaug (sel-tiya-vah-lah-loog) is my favorite place in Iceland. I know this is a guide about Reykjavik, but I’m going to include a handful of places you should take day trips from Reykjavik to. And, Seljavallalaug (always a finger-twister to type) is at the top of the list. Built in 1923, Seljavallalaug a pool cut into the side of a mountain in a beautiful valley sprawling with little white waterfalls. It’s 25-meters long and 10-meters wide; plenty of room to fit a good amount of people. However, getting there isn’t easy. You need to turn off of the ring road onto a side street, park your car, and hike a bit (directions below). But, man, when that pool and valley of waterfalls comes into view, there’s almost nothing else like it. I went in September, so it was a bit cold, but completely worth it. If you’re a germaphobe, you should note that it’s only cleaned once a summer! There are changing rooms, too.

Price: Free to enter

Address: Directions (you’ll need them)

Hours of operation: Always

Time required: 1 hour

Seltjarnarnes – Seltjarnarnes is a little township located within Greater Reykjavik (Reykjavik and six municipalities outside of it). If I didn’t have an Icelandic friend, I probably would have never visited it. But, I’m so happy I did. It’s a quaint town with a beautiful lighthouse and boathouse. It was nice to see a less touristy place in the country and felt very relaxing. It’s on the list of Things you have to see in Reykjavik, because it conveys a different side than the vibrant nature and adventure typically associated with the country, which is important if you want to get to know the real Iceland.

Price: Free to enter (it’s a town)

Address: Seltjarnarnes

Hours of operation: Anytime

Time required: 1 hour

Vesturbæjarlaug – Hot tubs. Yes, you read that correctly. Hot. Tubs. Instead of heading to the bars after a long day at work, most Icelanders head to public pools and hot tubs to cool off (ironic pun intended). Again, I most likely would not have visited the pools of Vesturbæjarlaug, but it’s beyond worth it. It’s better than the Blue Lagoon. I was in Iceland in September, and nothing scared me more than going outside, in the cold, in just a bathing suit. But, there was something soothing about the entire experience. The pools at Vesturbæjarlaug varied in size and temperature, and I met a few new people there. What’s even more amazing is the fact that “famous” Icelanders go there all the time. My friend told me she’d showered with Björk (not with her, but next to her, you know what I mean), and I managed to see the first person to come out as gay on television, an ex soccer player turned sports commentator, and one of the singers of the Icelandic band, GusGus. It’s a very family friendly place and no stress, at all. No photos allowed, though!

Price: $5

Address: Hofsvallagata, 107 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: 6:30am – 10pm (times vary) daily

Time required: 2 hours

Reynisfjara – This beautiful black beach (instead of sand, there are small, rounded black rocks) is not to be missed. As you walk across the beach, you may feel as though you’ve been transported to another planet. There are some basalt columns (naturally formed, but they look like someone cut them into perfect rectangular columns) to the left of the beach, which I wasn’t expecting. And when you look out into the sea, you’ll see what’s known as Reynisdrangar, which are two basalt sea stacks. As legend goes, they were formed when two trolls attempted to drag a three-masted ship on shore, and as the ship sank, it became needles of rock. Spooky. My favorite part about the beach (you should walk the whole thing) is that there were little yellow flowers growing among the little black rocks. There was something poetic about it.

Price: Free to enter

Address: 2.5hrs from Reykjavik, take the Ring Road

Hours of operation: Anytime

Time required: 2 hours

A beautiful view of the water from Reynisfjara, Iceland
A beautiful view of the water from Reynisfjara, Iceland

Perlan – This place is awesome. “The Pearl” is a glass-domed restaurant that revolves. Yes, revolves. As in it moves around in a circle. It’s about 84-feet high and situated on a hill. The restaurant is described as “fine dining,” so I thought about my poor little wallet and decided to save him the agony of losing a bit of weight. Regardless, that’s not why I went! I went for the view, and it was a wet one. Rain, wind and high altitudes are rarely a good combination, but I loved it. I walked around the pearl a handful of times, and took in all that I could see of Reykjavik below.

Note: Google told me that the pearl is closed. Upon further inspection, I saw that the restaurant moved, but the building is still there. It’s worth the journey to see if you can still go up to the viewing deck – if you do, let me know!

Price: Free to enter

Address: Oskjuhlio, Reykjavik 125

Hours of operation: Might be closed

Time required: 30 minutes

Skógafoss – On the waterfall spectrum of spectacular to okay, this is closer to the spectacular side than Seljalandsfoss, but still not the best waterfall in the country. What’s great about Skogafoss is that there is a long and vertigo-inducing set of stairs that you can climb to the top of the waterfall. Despite being around 527 steps, it makes for an enchanting aerial view of the waterfall (you can see all of its power up close). Once up there, you’ll see other places to walk around. I surveyed the area a bit, but it’s important to be careful here. One slip and you’ll most likely not live to tell the tale. If you’re into movies (who isn’t), you may enjoy to learn that Skógafoss was featured in Thor: The Dark World and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Price: Free to enter

Address: Skógar (Off Ring Road)

Hours of operation: Anytime

Time required: 1 hour

Gulfoss – Now this is the waterfall to see. On the waterfall spectrum of spectacular to okay, Gulfoss is the closest to spectacular compared to all of the other waterfalls I visited in Iceland. Why, you ask? Well, it’s because of its sheer power. It’s scary! After walking down a few dozen steps, you’ll be at one of the waterfall’s most powerful points (the place where it drops). And, man, does it drop. I stood there for close to an hour, just watching the water and mist crash all over the place. It’s truly a sight to behold. The waterfall itself is located in a canyon, which makes the whole experience even more dramatic. Adding to this all is the fact that Gulfoss has two abrupt plunges – one about 36 feet and the other 105 feet. After you’ve had your share of the waterfall, you can hike around the area, which is stunning. I crossed a “no trespassing barrier,” which I don’t always recommend, but I didn’t feel like there was any real and imminent danger, so check that part of the area out at your own risk.

Price: Free to enter

Address: Southwest Iceland (Off Ring Road)

Hours of operation: Anytime

Time required: 2 hours

Strokkur – Looking for an active geyser? Strokkur is the place to be. Located in the valley of Haukadalur, Strokkur is one of the two many geysers there – the other is known as “Geysir,” which was the first geyser known to modern Europeans, and is what gave English the word “geyser,” itself. But, while Geysir doesn’t erupt often, Strokkur erupts every 5-10 minutes, shooting hot water into the air up to around 15-20 meters. Sometimes 40. Like with any highly visited attraction, try to get there early so you have a little alone time with Strokkur. Regardless, it’ll definitely blow a few times while you’re there! Definitely worth the visit.

Price: Free to enter

Address: Haukadalsvegur, Geysir

Hours of operation: Anytime

Time required: 1 hour

Strokkur having a little fun in Iceland
Strokkur having a little fun in Iceland

Blue Lagoon – The infamous Blue Lagoon. If you’ve done any research on Iceland (I doubt my guide is the first you’ve seen!), you probably noticed travelers in blue waters with white substances caked all over their faces and possibly a drink or two in hand. That is the blue lagoon, a luxury and geothermal spa visited by hundreds of thousands (if not more) of tourists every year. Despite how touristy and crowded it can be, it’s completely worth it. After walking down a long pathway, you’ll have to wait in line for a bit (depends on time of day / year, of course) and then you’ll be directed to a changing room. Afterwards, you’ll pass through a little pool, then make your way through a cave of sorts into the open, light-blue waters of the lagoon. It’s honestly really cool, and unlike anything else I’ve seen in this world. The mist blows off of the water like smoke, and you can grab white silica from designated places, or just the bottom of the lagoon, and put it all over your face and body; it’s supposed to be exfoliating.

The lagoon is man-made. As the story goes, in 1976, a pool was formed from the wastewater of a geothermal plant, and one guy, with psoriasis (red, itchy and scaly patches of skin), got the idea to jump in. Afterwards, his psoriasis was supposedly cured. So, the lagoon is often associated with having healing effects on the body and skin.

There’s a restaurant, bar and cafe to satisfy any of your food and / or beverage-related needs. Just know, it’ll cost you. I bought the most basic ticket (standard), and it ran me around $50. Again, worth it, but I wouldn’t go again unless it were for free.

Price: $48 – 478

Address: Nordurljosavegur 9, 240 Grindavík

Hours of operation: 8am – 10pm daily

Time required: 2 hours

A martian-like view on the way to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. The water in the lagoon is the same hue of blue!
A martian-like view on the way to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. The water in the lagoon is the same hue of blue!

Things you don’t have to see in Reykjavik, but might want to

Seljalandsfoss – Iceland is a country full of waterfalls. Some spectacular, others okay. I consider myself a waterfall enthusiast, so I don’t say any of this lightly. Seljalandsfoss is closer to the spectacular side of the spectrum than the okay side, but I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest waterfall in the country (see above for that one). However, it’s large and worth a visit (it’s the most popular waterfall in the country, if that matters). What’s pretty cool is that you can walk into a little cave behind the waterfall and view its enormous power gushing and thrusting all over the place. What’s not cool is that there are a ton of tourists, and they’ll most likely be in that cave right with you.

Price: Free to enter

Address:

Hours of operation: Always

Time required: 1 hour

Thingvellir National Park – Remember Thingvellir (spelled Þingvellir) from our brief history of Reykjavik and Iceland above? If not, no worries. It was the historic site where the Icelandic parliament was established in 930 AD. No biggie, right. Today, it’s a national park, featuring the Mid-Atlantic ridge, which separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates (thick pieces of rock and crust that, when they touch, cause earthquakes and other natural disasters). So, the park is pretty important for a handful of reasons. I didn’t feature it on the Things you have to see in Reykjavik list, because it’s just a nice (beautiful, really) place to walk around; and I’m saying this as a park guy). There was a huge flag of Iceland blowing in the wind, and you can see Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland.

Price: Free to enter, just have to pay for parking

Address: Thingvellir

Hours of operation: Always

Time required: 1 hour

A bit of Thingvellir National park in Reykjavik, Iceland
A bit of Thingvellir National park in Reykjavik, Iceland

Skálholt – I somehow found myself on a tour, which brought me to this place whose name I only recently learned of (years after my trip). But, it was nice nonetheless. Skálholt is basically a place (it used to be an Episcopal “see,” which is a town where a cathedral or bishop’s home is located) which was one of the most important places in Iceland. This is because before the reformation and Lutheranism, Iceland was largely Catholic, and Skálholt was one of the main places for culture and religion (it’s also where the first school was established). The main draw is the cathedral, with features a very “Nordic” version of Jesus in a colorful mosaic. Aside from the cathedral, there were two houses nearby completely covered in grass. For some reason, I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

Price: Free to enter

Address: Skálholti, 801 Selfossi

Hours of operation: Always (at a reasonable hour)

Time required: 30 minutes

The mosaic of nordic Jesus in the cathedral at Skálholt, Iceland
The mosaic of nordic Jesus in the cathedral at Skálholt, Iceland

Nesjavellir power plant – If you’re into geothermal power, I’m sure the power plant is worth it. If not, pass. I went, since it was a stop on a tour I was on, but I didn’t want to shell out the money it cost to get in, so I hung out in the main lobby for an hour. However, hanging out in the lobby wasn’t for nought! There’s an excellent selection of photography books, as well as books on Icelandic history. The visit prompted me to order The Little Book of Icelanders in the Old Days, which is a humorous, informative and enjoyable read. There’s also a cafe in the lobby.

Price: $10

Address: Paejarhahls 1 110, Reykjavik

Hours of operation: 9am – 5pm Mon – Saturday, 1pm – 6pm Sunday

Time required: 1 hour

Hallgrímskirkja – Even if you’re unfamiliar with the name, Hallgrímskirkja is the beautiful and famouse Lutheran church in the middle of Reykjavik. It’s also one of the tallest structures in all of Iceland. It somewhat resembles a spike on an EKG, even though the designer said it was intended to resemble mountains and glaciers, which are reminiscent of Icelandic nature; same thing, right? Construction of the church lasted 41 years – 1945 to 1985. What I’ll say about it, is that it’s nice to look at. I went inside, walked around a bit and saw a few religious sculptures (one was of a red hand with a spike nailed through it – stigmata), but didn’t go up to the observation tower.

Price: $8

Address: Hallgrímstorg 101, 101 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: Winter (October – April): 9 am – 5 pm, Summer (May – September): 9 am – 9 pm

Time required: 30 minutes

Kíkí Queer Bar – My newly acquired Icelandic friend said she was meeting a friend at Kiki’s, so I tagged along and ended up having a blast. The music was an eclectic mix of jams that I can only describe as European, and the dance floor filled out as the night went on. The whole bar was pretty small, but was a good place to start the night. Something tells me that the place got a bit crazier after I left.

Price: Free to enter

Address: Laugavegur 22, 101 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: 9pm – 1am daily

Time required: Up to you

Gljúfrabúi – Gljúfrabúi is a little, itty-bitty waterfall located a few minutes (walking) from Seljalandsfoss – very easy to miss, so make sure you don’t. You enter via a crack in the rockwall  (a gorge), and after walking a few meters (it was really wet when I went), you’ll see some of the most picturesque little waterfalls bursting from above. I was incredibly surprised that this place even existed, especially since it’s so close to the main attraction of Seljalandsfoss. Only later did I find out that locals were keeping it a secret for quite a long time. Once inside, it’ll be a bit difficult to take photos due to the bright lighting and mist everywhere, but a great place to stand is on one of the rocks to the right. However, be careful. They can be a bit slippery!

Price: Free to enter

Address: Next to Seljalandsfoss

Hours of operation: Anytime

Time required: 30 minutes

A stunning shot of Gulfoss from above
A stunning shot of Gulfoss from above

Gaukurinn – Gaukurinn is a live music venue and bar. I happened to go there when it was comedy night, and I was pleasantly surprised by how funny the comedians were (who knew Icelandic people were so funny?). One even managed to single me out and claimed I had never properly executed some not-to-be-mentioned act before, which I have. As I motioned to speak up, I proceeded to fall out of my chair and onto the floor, which caused everyone thought I was the drunk American. American, yes. But, at that point, I wasn’t close to drunk. I digress. It’s a fun place, and if you’re able to catch comedy night (Mondays) you’re in luck.

Price: Free to enter

Address: Tryggvagata 22, 101 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: 2pm – 1am Sunday – Thursday, 2pm – 1am Friday and Saturday

Time required: As much as you need

Things you should probably know about Reykjavik

Cost – Reykjavik isn’t Southeast Asia; it’s expensive. If you’ve been to New York City, you’ll be paying for goods and services around the same price, if not more sometimes. So, plan and budget accordingly if you don’t have thousands of dollars laying around.

Language – Icelandic people are amazing at English. So much so that you won’t need to learn a word of their hard-to-learn, but very unique, language – but, you should! Before you go, at least brush up on a few greetings and salutations, they’ll appreciate it.

Transportation – It’s important to note that there are no public railways in Iceland. There are taxis, but I would never recommend taking one for a long distance. To get from town to town, you can take buses or planes (depending on distance). But, I recommend renting a car. It will give you a lot more flexibility in getting around at your own speed (see what I did there?) and you can avoid the drag that tour groups can be. However, it’s important to note that rental cars aren’t cheap. It was the first time I rented a car internationally, and cost a couple hundred dollars for three days versus a country like Costa Rica where I rented a car for an entire week for $280. It’s also important to not race on the Ring Road. I guess I was speeding, because a few months after I arrived back to the States, I received a letter from Iceland. “Yippee!” I said to myself. “Who could it be from?” I wondered. Well, the wondering stopped when I saw the police insignia on the letter and a photo (how the hell did they get a photo in the middle of nowhere?) of my determined face with my foot no doubt crushing the pedal. Also, if you plan to head into mountains or go on back roads in the highlands (known as F-Roads) get a car with 4-wheel drive.

Seljalandsfoss showing off its power in Inceland
Seljalandsfoss showing off its power in Inceland

Safety – Iceland is one of the safest places I’ve been. Yes, I am a male. But, still, it boasts some of the lowest crime rates in the world and most risks in the country will be related to road hazards and nature (sometimes people die on those slippery glaciers). The weather is also pretty volatile, so plan ahead and make sure you’re with a buddy.

Poverty – Low crime rates typically also means low poverty rates. This holds true for Iceland. I saw two men asking for money (that would be like 2,000 people asking for money in the States), and my friend told me they were only doing it because they’re drunks. She also assured me that there were numerous places for them to go and get help, food, shelter, etc. The country really does take care of its citizens, and it’s a wonderful fact to witness.

A unique home cut into the side of a mountain in Iceland
A unique home cut into the side of a mountain in Iceland

Places to eat in Reykjavik

Glo – Glo is a vegan / vegetarian’s delight. But, you’ll certainly enjoy it even if you’re not one (they offer meat dishes). The brightly lit and well-organized restaurant is a “take what you want and pay at the end” place. According to Visit Reykjavik, Glo is the “most popular health food restaurant in Iceland,” and does its best to source majority of its ingredients from Icelandic farmers. In fact, the restaurant says that 50% of its ingredients are organic.

Price:

Address: Laugavegur 20b, 101 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: 11am – 9pm daily

Time required:

Café Babalú – This little cafe is located inside of a yellow house, and definitely gives off the homey, cozy feel. Once inside, you can grab a table in the first floor living room, or head upstairs and play board games, read magazines or journal a bit as you sip on your coffee or munch on one of their delicious vegetarian delights. I went to Café Babalú on my first day in Iceland, and returned many times; either for a cup of tea or a little tomato soup and grilled cheese to warm me up on a windy September day.

Price:

Address: Skólavörðustígur 22, 101 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: 11am – 11pm daily

Time required:

An artsy and ingenious way to block off roads in Reykjavik, Iceland
An artsy and ingenious way to block off roads in Reykjavik, Iceland

Lebowski Bar – If you’ve done any research on Reykjavik, you’ve certainly heard of Lebowski Bar, which is exactly what it sounds like: a tribute to the movie, The Big Lebowski, in the form of a bar. I usually think themed restaurants like this are a bit cheesy, but this place was awesome. It features an “American” centric menu, and the food is delicious. I had a vegetarian burger with fries and went back two more times, just to enjoy it again. The bar features a full bar, checkered black and white flooring, a diner style countertop (think milkshakes in the 40s) and typical diner booths. It also has a white fence (yes, a fence), which acts as a border to the main dining area. Definitely worth a look.

Price:

Address: Laugavegur 20b, 101 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: 11am – 1am Monday – Thursday, 11am – 4am Friday – Saturday, 11am – 12am Sunday

Time required:

Prikid – Prikid is an Icelandic word that means, “The Sticks.” I don’t know why this large barn-like restaurant / bar on the corner of Bankastræti is called, “The Sticks,” but I’m sure anyone in Reykjavik can explain it. I went here twice. Once for a quick meal (it was decent) and another as a last stop during what was a long night out on the town. It was somewhat late, so it wasn’t too crowded but a nice place to hang with friends. It’s supposedly the oldest bar in Iceland, if that matters.  

Price:

Address: Bankastræti 12, 101 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: 8am – 1am Monday – Thursday, 8am – 4:30am Friday, 11am – 4:30am Saturday, 11am – 12am Sunday

Time required:

Prikid, the oldest bar in Iceland
Prikid, the oldest bar in Iceland

Taqueria Lucha Libre at the Paloma – This little Mexican food truck had the best food I enjoyed in all of Iceland (you’ll notice I didn’t eat anything Icelandic, as it’s mostly seafood-based). It’s located next to Paloma, which is a cool nightclub worth a visit. But, back to Taqueria Lucha Libre. It’s supposedly the only food truck that offers vegetarian options in Reykjavik, and while I don’t remember exactly what I ordered, I know that it was delicious. Delicious enough to make my mouth water at the thought of it. Go! Go! Go!

Price:

Address: Next to Paloma

Hours of operation: 12pm – 10pm Sunday – Wednesday, 12pm – 2am Thursday, 12pm – 4am Friday – Saturday

Time required:

Vöffluvagninn – The Waffle Wagon – I stumbled over to Vöffluvagninn on one of the post-bar / club late nights I had in Reykjavik. I was walking around downtown, and spotted this yellow truck that seemed to grow out of the ground (or maybe descend from heaven above) right in front of me. I was magnetically drawn to it, gliding over on my feet, and ordered a Belgian style waffle with caramel. It was out of this world. But, if for some reason you’re crazy and don’t like Belgian style waffles, you can order them Icelandic style (strawberry jam and whipped cream) or American style (maple syrup). You can also order nutella on top. Now, it’s important to note that there are other wagons (donut wagons, etc.) in this same area, so don’t get confused. There’s only one Vöffluvagninn.

Price:

Address: Hallgrímskirkja Church / Lækjartorgur Square (the one I went to)

Hours of operation: Hallgrímskirkja Church 11am – 7pm Tuesday – Sunday, Lækjartorgur Square 10pm – 5am Friday – Saturday

Time required:

Rainbow road to Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik, Iceland
Rainbow road to Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik, Iceland

Where to stay in Reykjavik

Loft Hostel – After doing a quick search on Hostelworld, I quickly noticed, due to its ratings and photos, that Loft Hostel was a great place to stay. Fortunately, it didn’t disappoint. I stayed in an 8-bed room, and it was actually empty for most of the time I was there, which was nice. The hostel features a bar, a place to hangout and read, or get work done (inside and outside on a balcony), and a living room area to relax on a couch and watch some Icelandic TV (I watched the historic Iceland vs. Kazakhstan game here). It was also voted the “World’s Best Hostel” on Hostelling International in 2014.

Price: From $46 / night

Address: Bankastræti 7a, 101 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: Anytime

Time required:

Below is are a list of hostels I heard good things about, but didn’t stay in:

Below is a list of hotels for you to look at, if hostels aren’t your flavor:

A house covered in grass in Skáholt, Iceland
A house covered in grass in Skáholt, Iceland

Summary of Reykjavik

Reykjavik, the “Smoke Cove,” has been through a lot in order to get to where it is today. From Irish hermits to norsemen to the literal plague, the capital of Iceland has certainly earned its reputation as one of the most sought after destinations in the world, and it’s likely not to disappoint. Whether you’re in the mood for a delicious meal, fancy a night out on the town, or just want to use it as a starting point for your amazing Icelandic adventure, Reykjavik is the place to be.

Check out my other popular adventures:

Liked this guide? Leave a comment, subscribe to my newsletter and get loads more!

–––

Mateo is a writer who quit his flashy job in NYC to live life on his own terms. He’s done everything from working at an orphanage in Nairobi to building a new university in Abu Dhabi to sleeping on volcanos in Guatemala. And right now, he’s writing his second novel. His writing has been featured internationally in publications including Matador Network, GoAbroad, Víkurfréttir, Caribbean News Now and Black & Abroad. Regardless of where he is, he’s always working. To keep up with him, follow him on Instagram & Twitter at @AskMateo and read one of his elaborate stories at SwagPapi.com

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *