The most northerly capital city in the world, there are few principal centres that match the compact and easily negotiable uniqueness of Reykjavík, Iceland.
Holidays in Reykjavík
Comparable to Cambridge in terms of population with just over 130,000 inhabitants calling this south-western corner of Iceland home, this cute capital is bursting with colour. Reykjavík is still teaming with plenty of galleries and museums, serving to teach tourists about the proud indigenous culture found here.
The best way to explore Reykjavík’s condensed core is by foot, with visitors able to get up close and personal to multiple attractions in a single afternoon. With plenty of thrilling day trip activities close to one another such as scaling the Hallgrimskirkja, church or posing next to The Sun Voyager monument, taking in many landmarks at once is incredibly satisfying.
The clue really is in Iceland’s title. The highest average temperatures in Reykjavík are around 11°C between July and August, but who travels here to sunbathe? Wrapping up warm in a large duffel coat is all part of the Icelandic experience with a freezing low average of 0°C lasting throughout January to March.
First-time visitors to Reykjavík also need to be aware of the capital’s hugely unpredictable weather, with the city’s location beside the Atlantic meaning sea wind is notoriously chilling. Rainfall is also largely consistent throughout the year with most falling in January at an average of 50mm.
Things to do on holiday in Reykjavík
The only trouble you’ll experience in Iceland is deciding what day trip to sample first with an entire plethora of invigorating inner-city and rural-based activities on offer.
Conquer the Golden Circle tour
Referred to as geysers worldwide, the name derives from Geysir, the popular hot spring which lay just one-and-a-half hours outside central Reykjavík. Spectacularly shooting water up to 70m in the air, the site is marvellously unrestricted only serving to underline the feeling of a true escape to the wilderness. This natural wonder is only one third of what is referred to as the ‘Golden Circle’, however.
Making up this awe-inspiring trio are the Þingvellir National Park and Gullfoss. Equally fascinating in their own right, the former is the dramatic canyon and UNESCO World Heritage Site which marks part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, while the latter is an incredible double-tiered curtain of water that fabulously falls 32 metres.
Watch whales in their natural habitat
A fantastic year-round activity in Reykjavík is heading out on a whale watching tour with the Old Harbour only a few streets away from downtown. A handful of long-established operators transport visitors on unforgettable tours, typically lasting around three hours. The city’s original tour company, Elding, even boast a floating museum when you return to shore - but it’s out on the waves where fascinating memories are created.
Time your trip between April and late October and you’ll see your fair share of Minke whales that thrive in Reykjavík’s surrounding waters during this period - and that’s not all. Other species on your seen list may include white-beaked dolphins, who frolic in the water to warm your heart on this frostiest and most bracing of expeditions.
Brush up on your Icelandic history
Comprehensively informing visitors about Iceland’s history right the way from Viking settlement to present-day photography, the National Museum of Iceland is an ideal place to begin your Reykjavík adventure. Lock in to ‘Making of a Nation – Heritage and History in Iceland’, which is a fascinating permanent exhibition of nearly 2,000 objects such as sailboats, furniture, books and more.
By beginning your journey at the museum, visitors gain an incredible insight into Icelandic culture, customs and folklore that may well be witnessed first-hand on alternative pursuits later on your holiday. Another great way to appreciate Reykjavík is through art and sculpture.
While trips to the Reykjavík Art Museum and Kjarvalsstaðir come highly recommended, don’t miss out on visiting the Einar Jónsson Museum. A pioneer in Icelandic sculpture, you don’t even need to set foot inside the museum to appreciate Jónsson’s works. After all, several of his public monuments are scattered across Reykjavík such as Ingolfur Arnarson – revered in history as the first Scandinavian Viking and Icelander to settle in the country when arriving in 874 AD.
Leave your comfort zone and sample Icelandic food
An interesting piece of national folklore is the fact the country's last ever McDonalds now resides in a museum! The world’s most famous burger chain now ceases to exist in the country due to an economic crash in 2008. With the Golden Arches off the menu, there are several native Icelandic dishes to sample should you dare in Reykjavík.
Slátur (blood pudding), svið (sheep’s head) and hákarl (shark) represent some of the left-field, yet common dishes within Reykjavík, while hangikjöt (smoked meat) and harðfiskur (dried fish) represent some of the more appetising options. Like most capital cities worldwide, there are a wide variety of eateries available across the convenience-splurge spectrum, but if you’re looking to grab something quick on the go, drop by Bæjarins Beztu hot dogs downtown. So good that former U.S. president Bill Clinton stopped by in 2004, a dog is available for around 400 krónur.
Gaze in wonder at the Northern Lights
If all that wasn’t enough, there are always the Northern Lights. The famous dancing auroras typically keep visitors’ eyes on the skies between October and March, although the fascinating lights have been known to be spotted as early as August. There are many factors which need to align for the best chance to marvel at these spectacular sky shows.
The green light is best observed when the skies are guaranteed to be dark and clear. Elsewhere, timing is everything considering the fact the Northern Lights usually shine big and bright for two to three-day intervals before subsiding somewhat. Near Reykjavík down Route 40, one of the best places to observe the show is from Álftanes, a peninsula that juts out from the mainland with fantastic panoramic bay views. Gawp in amazement as the sound of the ocean waves and pretty skies make for an incredibly moving experience.
Realise your Reykjavik dreams and book today
There are a number of fantastic Reykjavik deals available in the Blue Sea Holidays portfolio so book today to avoid disappointment.