Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik, located on the southwestern coast of the island, is a vibrant cultural hub. Founded in the 9th century by Norse settlers, its name means “smoky bay”, due to the steam rising from the nearby geothermal hot springs. While well-known for its stunning natural landscapes, the city also boasts a thriving art scene with several museums, live music performances, and innovative restaurants using fresh local cuisine. Despite its small size, Reykjavik is a global city with a high standard of living and a well-educated population. Read on to see the top 5 things to see, eat and drink while visiting.

Top 5 Things to See in Reykjavik:

Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland

1. Hallgrimskirkja

This iconic church is Reykjavik’s most recognizable landmark. Located in the heart of the city and inspired by Icelandic traditions, this modern cathedral has an elevator that you can take to the top for stunning panoramic views of the city.

2. Blue Lagoon

Located about 40 minutes from Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon is a popular geothermal spa that offers visitors a chance to relax and soak in the warm, mineral-rich waters. The lagoon is known for its beautiful blue color and is surrounded by volcanic landscapes. (Insider tip – get the opportunity to explore this famed site on our Iceland walking tour)

3. National Museum of Iceland

 This museum offers a fascinating look at Iceland’s history and culture, with exhibits ranging from Viking artifacts to contemporary art. Stop in for an insightful visit to learn about this island’s remarkable history, from early Icelandic settlements to the country’s independence movement.

4. Perlan

A unique historical landmark, Perlan is a glass dome that sits atop geothermal water tanks in Reykjavik. This multi-purpose site includes fascinating nature exhibits, a revolving fine-dining restaurant, a museum, and an observation deck that offers incredible views of the city.

5. Tjörnin Lake

 Tjörnin is a small and picturesque lake located in downtown Reykjavik. It’s a popular spot for locals and visitors alike to relax, feed the ducks, and take in the beautiful views while exploring the city.

Top 5 Things to Eat in Reykjavik:

Icelandic Lamb in Reykjavik

1. Icelandic lamb

Icelandic lamb is considered to be some of the best in the world. The meat is grass-fed and free-range, and its distinctive flavor is the result of the sheep’s diet in this country’s unique climate and geography.

2. Skyr

Skyr is a thick and creamy dairy product that is similar to yogurt. High in protein and low in fat, it is a popular breakfast food in Iceland and is often served with fresh fruit and honey.

3. Fish and seafood

With its long coastline and abundant fishing, Iceland is known for its fresh and delicious seafood. Reykjavik has a number of seafood restaurants serving everything from fish and chips to gourmet dishes for you to try a locally caught specialty.

4. Pylsur

Pylsur is Iceland’s version of a hot dog and is a popular street food for locals and tourists alike. Made with organic and local lamb-based sausage, it is usually served with ketchup, mustard, raw onions, and remoulade in a warm bun. (Insider tip – sample some Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a popular small chain hot dog stand)

5. Rye bread

Rye bread is a staple in Icelandic cuisine and is often served with butter and smoked or pickled fish. This dark and dense bread is made with rye flour and often baked in geothermal ovens, giving it a unique flavor.

Top 5 Things to Drink in Reykjavik:

Microbrewery in Reykjavik, Iceland

1. Icelandic craft beer

Iceland has a growing craft beer scene, with a number of microbreweries producing unique and flavorful brews. Many bars and restaurants in Reykjavik offer a wide selection of local craft beers to try…skál (cheers)!

2. Brennivin

Brennivin is a traditional Icelandic liquor that’s made from fermented potato mash and flavored with caraway seeds. Its name means “Burning Wine” due to its strong and distinct flavor.

3. Icelandic coffee

Icelanders take their coffee seriously as many cafes in Reykjavik serve up a delicious and strong brew. A popular local variation is Kaffitar, which is a shot of espresso served with whipped cream and sugar.

4. Glacier water

Iceland has some of the cleanest and purest water in the world, thanks to its natural filtration through glaciers and lava rock. Drinking glacier water is a refreshing and healthy way to stay hydrated while in Reykjavik. (Insider tip: you’ll want to do this with the approval of your expert local guide on our Iceland walking tour)

5. Herbal tea

Iceland has a long tradition of using herbs and plants in their teas, and many cafes in Reykjavik serve herbal teas made from local plants like Icelandic moss and birch leaves. Often served with honey or sugar, a cup of tea is a great way to warm up on a cold day.

Ready to explore Reykjavik on foot and at eye level with Classic Journeys? Learn more about how we visit on our Iceland cultural walking tour and reach out to our Travel Experience Specialists to reserve your spot on an upcoming departure.

Explore Reykjavik