Reykjavik, Iceland – What To See and Do


One of the most popular cities to visit in the world right now is Reykjavik, Iceland. The capital city is a gateway to the attractions of the Golden Circle, yet an interesting place in its own right. With a population of 120,000, its compact enough to explore easily in a weekend.

Hallgrímskirkja church is a good place to start your exploration of the city. Designed by Guðjón Samuel in 1937, it has a striking Art Deco look. However, construction only started in 1945 and finished in 1986. The statue in front of the church is of Leifur Eiriksson, who was the first European to discover America, in around 1,000 A.D., 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavik, Iceland - the view from the top is worth a visit
It looks impressive from all angles…and whilst the interior is quite simple, there’s a huge organ constructed by the German organ builder Johannes Klais.

Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran church in Reykjavik, Iceland
It’s definitely worth getting a ticket for the church tower as the view from the top is fantastic. You can see much of the town and to the sea beyond.

View from Hallgrímskirkja church roof in Reykjavik, Iceland
From here, make your way towards the City Hall on Tjarnargata 11 and the statue of the Unknown Official designed by Magnús Tómasson in 1994 – an intriguing image of a faceless bureacrat.

A bizarre statue of a faceless commuter in Reykjavik, Iceland
The main street, Lækjargata, is a short walk from here and has a number of quirky stores. The Icelandic people certainly seem to share a sense of ironic humour with the Brits.

A polar bear outside the Icelandic shop, I Don't Speak Icelandic, in Reykjavik, Iceland
Don’t forget to post a letter to Icelandic Santa!

Letters to the Icelandic Santa - a postbox in Reykjavik, Iceland
Puffins are pretty popular in Iceland but contrary to popular belief, they’re rarely eaten. You’ll come across plenty of puffin related gifts in this shop, also on the main street.

The Puffin Shop - a fun gift shop in Reykjavik, Iceland
Scandinavian design is such a big trend and I can see why, it’s both cosy and functional.

A stylish home and interior shop in Reykjavik Iceland, complete with a cat!
There are some colourful murals gracing the walls around Reykjavik…

A mural in Reykjavik, Iceland
Street art in Reykjavik, Iceland
Harpa is one of the most photogenic buildings in the city. This conference centre and concert hall was inspired by the Northern Lights and it really makes use of light thanks to its multi coloured glass panels. It was designed by Henning Larsen Architects and artist Olafur Eliasson, and the first concert took place in 2011. The Iceland Symphony Orchestra and The Icelandic Opera are both based here.

Harpa, the concert hall building in Reykjavik, Iceland
When we visited, there was also a comedy show that sadly we didn’t get time to see: How to become Icelandic in 60 minutes. It promises to teach you how eating sour sheep balls could save your life, and how to behave like a true Icelander.

How to become Icelandic in 60 minutes - a one man show
These stone piles or cairns are known as steinvarða and were built as landmarks along paths, helping people to find their way from the 9th century onwards. Nowadays they are built for fun, and these are to be found along Sæbraut, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

A view of the lake in Reykjavik, Iceland
My favourite statue though has to be Solfar Sun Voyager, a little further along Sæbraut. This magnificent steel boat may resemble a Viking Ship, however this wasn’t the original aim – it was supposed to be a dreamboat and ode to the sun. Unfortunately the designer, Jón Gunnar Arnason had leukaemia and died in 1989, before Solfar was placed in its current location. Its message of light and hope takes on a whole new meaning, knowing how ill he was.

After all this sightseeing, you’re probably getting hungry, and one of the most fashionable restaurants in Reykjavík is The Grillmarket or Grillmarkadurrin. Using the freshest local produce, they cook using coal, fire and smoke.

The Grillmarket restaurant in Reykjavik, Iceland - popular with celebrities for its delicious food
Some elements of the interior are by Tom Dixon, the famous British designer and they certainly give the place a contemporary feel. The day after we visited, the Kardashians came here but don’t let that put you off ;-). We didn’t stay overnight in Reykjavik as we were heading off to Hotel Ranga in South Iceland to explore the Golden Circle but there are a number of good options like Kvosin Downtown Hotel if you wish to do so.
Have you ever been to Reykjavik, Iceland?

Tom Dixon lighting in the Grillmarket restaurant in Reykjavik, Iceland

  • I’d love to go to Reykjavik!! Kouzu, the sushi restaurant near where I live, has those same Tom Dixon lights 🙂

    • They’re so stylish aren’t they – and I remember seeing them at the Mondrian when we had lunch

  • great photos! and there was a cat:) always a bonus:) my best friend spent her honeymoon on Iceland:)

    • That cat was so cute, I couldn’t resist a photo. What a fun place to spend a honeymoon!

  • I really want to visit Iceland!! Loving that polar bear haha

    Ash | Liakada

  • Aaaaaaaiii I’m going to Reykjavik this winter and I’m so happy for this post! Thank you for doing my research for me Suze, you’re a star! 😉 x

    Posh, Broke, & Bored

  • Did you write a letter to Icelandic Santa? That church looks different, it is kinda looks like something from Lord of the Rings 🙂 I haven’t been to Iceland, however I want to go there or Norway to watch the northern lights!

    Ela BellaWorld

    • I wish I had had the time to write to Santa, I’d ask to return! The church is so unusual and a great navigation tool as you can see it from almost anywhere. We didn’t see the lights but the person who stayed the day before we did was more lucky

  • I’ve got several Icelandic friends and I STILL haven’t gone to visit them – such a great post, I might have to book a trip in soon!

    Erin xx
    islandbell.co.uk

  • One of my besties in school was from Iceland, and her family would always send us cool gifts. I love the humour in the image above too, hehe. Wow, I didn’t think about the puffin craze! My sis used to live in Sweden and we’ve been a lot to Scandinavia, but I’d definitely want to visit Reykjavik. Thanks Suze, brilliant images, as always. 🙂
    FASHION TALES ~ Superfoodie Fix!

    • They really do have a great sense of fun! I was sitting next to 2 people from Sweden tonight and they were as fun loving as the Icelanders

  • I visited Iceland in December and loved it! the only thing is it was too coooold lol

    The Fashion Matters- Travel & Fashion blog

    • Yes it was pretty chilly when we were there in April apart from one sunny day, but we dressed up in ski gear most of the time

  • It’s on my bucketlist and I will hopefully be able to tick it off in the next couple of years. The sights on your photos are so impressive!

  • Funnily enough, I have actually noticed many more trips to Reykjavik showing up on social media lately. I’m not surprised at all, there seems to be a tremendous amount to see and do! Harpa truly does seem very photogenic – as is the kitty-cat you found sitting on the steps!

    ps. I hope you posted a letter to Icelandic Santa 😉

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice x

    • It’s true, lots of bloggers seem to have visited there recently. If only I’d known there was a Santa letterbox, I’d have prepared my letter well in advance 😉

  • Nina

    Beautiful pictures, and how cute is that cat on the stairs.
    Nina
    http://www.ninasstyleblog.com

    • What a gorgeous cat it was, and the long fur must come in handy to keep it warm in Wintertime

  • Reykjavik (and Iceland) is such a unique travel destination – we loved it!

    • Isn’t it just! And the Icelandic people are so cool too, I really like their sense of humour

  • Such a wonderful place, the buildings are stunning. I would love to go there one day. Gemma x
    http://www.jacquardflower.uk

  • What a cool and vibrant city! I visited a long time ago and need to go again. Fantastic photos!

    http://Leftbankgirl.blogspot.com

  • I’ve heard Iceland was beautiful but wow. I am just in awe at the beautiful architecture. I mean.. wow. I don’t even know what to say. Thank you for posting this Suze.

    Kia / KTS
    http://www.houseofkts.com

    • There are some really interesting buildings aren’t there – I think that the concert hall is my favourite

  • It looks so pretty there, I love that cat
    xo
    http://www.laurajaneatelier.com

  • I’ve wanted to go to Iceland for a long time. We were thinking of going this November for my bf 30th birthday. It’s such a pretty city. Seems quite modern aswell based on your pictures.

    • You’ll have a great time if you do go and you’re right, it is pretty modern in terms of the architecture and dining scene

  • I’ve heard such good things about Iceland- great shots as always, lady!

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

    • That’s very kind, Ashley, it’s such a colourful city that I wanted to capture that

  • Reykjavik has been on my list for ages! After reading this I definitely want to go and if it is only to post my Christmas wish list to the Icelandic Santa 😉

  • Iceland is one of my favourite destinations – love your photos Suze…

    • Ooh I remember that you went too, Suzanne, and we went to quite a few of the same places

  • Wow, I have never seen images like these from Iceland before, so charming, yet innovative in their designs and culture. There is so much inspiration and creativity, I’d love to visit someday! Thanks for sharing and I hope you’re having a great week so far!

    XO,

    Jalisa
    http://www.thestylecontour.com

    • My pleasure, Jalisa, and I’m glad that you enjoyed reading about it. Have a lovely week ahead

  • Such wonderful photos of Reykjavik! I’ve been there 3 years ago and it’s such a quirky and cool capital. We didn’t get to drive all over Iceland, but used Reykjavik as a base for daytrips which worked out fine.

    • I think that’s a great way to see Iceland, although it was very handy for us staying overnight near the Golden Circle

  • Lucy

    Reykjavik is stunning I had a wonderful time. I went at Christmas time so would love to go back in the summer. You look like you had a wonderful time the Icelandic have a wonderful warm and welcoming way and best of all they get the British awful sense of humour. I love the beautiful scenery that every where you look is stunning Lucy x

  • Your photos are so amazing from your trip Suze. Love the look of Harpa! Did you find it expensive out there or was it not too bad? Hope to catch up soon! Cx

  • I spent in Reykjavik only few hours, and that’s definitely not enough! 🙂 Thanks for such a nice photo gallery 🙂