1-2 Days in Reykjavík, Iceland

I highly recommend more than a couple days in Iceland but many people enjoy a stop over on their way to their longer vacation or destinations so I have been getting a lot of requests for the top things to do if you are only in Iceland for a couple days. Here is a jammed packed itinerary if you only have 1-2 days in Iceland. If you would like to stay longer and explore outside the city, check out my Travel Journal which has some amazing and highly recommended tours to The Golden Circle, Southern Iceland, and Snaefellsnes Peninsula

– Day 1 –

The Blue Lagoon: After landing, take a bus to The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa located in a lava field. Relax in the warm waters and enjoy the natural scenery. It feels great to soak in the water after a long flight.

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: The Blue Lagoon is set up to work great to visit to/from the airport, they have lockers and a great system for storing your luggage. Make sure to book your tickets to The Blue Lagoon and what time you plan to arrive and you can even purchase your transfer tickets in advance. More information: SHUTTLE BUS TRANSFER TO AND FROM THE BLUE LAGOON

After your soak, take the bus to downtown Reykjavik and check into your hotel or AirBnB. There are ride shares and taxis available if you are not close to the town center. The bus drivers are extremely helpful and can give advice on how to get from the drop off to where you are staying.

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: I recommend not renting a car in Iceland as they have an amazing bus system and the city is very walkable. It is easy to figure out, trust me, I am the worst and I was so impressed with how easy it was to navigate and everyone is super nice and willing to answer questions – tourism is their largest export. There are cards you can purchase for unlimited rides for while you are there, more info.

Get a lay of the land with a walking tour like Reykjavik Walking Tour – Walk with a Viking or go to the visitor’s center to familiarize yourself with the bus routes and learn all the things to do in the area!

Take a stroll on Skólavörðustígur street, a charming street lined with shops and boutiques.

Enjoy lunch at Salka Valka where you can have stew on a plate or Hressó Hressingarskálinn for Traditional Meat Soup at the oldest restaurant in Iceland.

Stop by The Lebowski Bar for a drink inspired by the film “The Big Lebowski”. They also have bar food if you prefer a more casual place for lunch. This is a MUST VISIT in my opinion, ideally to enjoy a White Russian.

Don’t miss Hallgrimskirkja, a large church that offers great views of the city from the top and is the most iconic building in Iceland.

Take a rest at your hotel and get ready for a night out at Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, where you can catch a show or concert. End the night with dessert, or a late dinner, at the Sky Bar, which offers panoramic views of the city.

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: Depending on the season you visit, do not miss out on two natural wonders…

Winter: Aurora Borealis The best time to see the northern lights in Iceland is during the winter months, from September to April, when the nights are longest. The northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, are visible when the sky is clear and dark. The best way to see the northern lights is to head out of the city and away from artificial light pollution. You can also check the aurora forecast, which will give you an idea of the chances of seeing the lights on a particular night. Additionally, you can book a tour which will take you to the best spots where you can see the Northern lights.

Summer: Midnight Sunset The best time to watch the sunset in the summer in Iceland is during the months of June and July, when the days are longest. The sun sets around midnight and rises around 3 am. To catch the sunset, you can head to a location with a clear view to the horizon, such as a beach or a hill. Some popular places to watch the sunset in Iceland include:

  • Reykjavik, from the top of the Hallgrimskirkja church.
  • Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, in the south-east of the country.
  • Vatnajökull National Park, which offers a wide variety of landscapes to watch the sunset over.
  • Diamond Beach in Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
  • Dyrhólaey, a small peninsula in the south of Iceland.

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: The midnight sunset was one of the most stunning and spiritual experiences I have had! I sat there for hours in awe. This was the only day out of the entire week we were there that the sun was out; even though it was summer it felt more like the “gray season” in Seattle.

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: It’s important to be aware that Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable, so be prepared for changing conditions, and bring warm clothes, a good camera and a tripod. Also, check the forecast and the road conditions before you head out.

– Day 2 –

Start your day at The Laundromat Cafe for breakfast and coffee.

Next, visit Kolaportið, an indoor flea market where you can find a variety of Icelandic souvenirs and handmade goods.

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: There are food stands set up in the back of the Kolaportið where you can find local and inexpensive food. They even have traditional Icelandic food as well.

Afterward, head to Whales of Iceland, an interactive museum that showcases the country’s whale species. They also are proud to be the largest whale museum in Europe!

Reykjavik Old Harbour: This historic area is home to several shops selling souvenirs, traditional Icelandic wool products, and art. Some popular options include: The Grandi Area, This area is located in the west of the harbour and is home to several shops and restaurants. Here you can find Icelandic design and handcrafted goods, such as jewelry, clothing and ceramics. Reykjavik Fish Market, This market offers a wide variety of fresh seafood, as well as local products such as skyr, smoked salmon, and traditional Icelandic delicacies and Reykjavik Art Museum: Located in the harbor, the museum shop sells Icelandic art, design and crafts.

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: It’s worth noting that Iceland is known for its high prices, so be prepared to pay a bit more for the goods you buy. Also if you are trying to keep to a budget I would suggest going to a market and buying snacks and bread for sandwiches so you do not have to eat out for every meal. We did this and made PB&Js for our lunches and it saved hundreds of dollars! If you drink alcohol, another suggestion is to grab some on your way out of airport at the duty free shop. A bottle of wine can be over $50 at the market and at restaurants a glass of wine can be $30!! Draught beer when we were there in 2018 was $20 for a pull.

Omnom Chocolate: a local chocolate factory that offers tours and tastings. Unsure if they still offer tours due to the pandemic but if not, it is still worth stopping by to pick up some chocolate with their unique flavors and assortments and amazing artwork packaging everything you purchase.

Enjoy a Local Food/Drink Tour: Iceland is known for its unique and delicious cuisine, and there are several food tours available that allow visitors to experience the best of Icelandic food and drink. Some top food tours in Iceland include:

  1. Reykjavik Food Walk: This tour takes visitors on a walking tour of Reykjavik’s best food and drink spots, including traditional Icelandic restaurants, bars and coffee shops. You will get to try a variety of Icelandic dishes, such as skyr, smoked salmon, and traditional Icelandic delicacies.
  2. Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour – Icelandic Traditional Food: Finding authentic places to eat can be tricky in an unfamiliar place. Take the guesswork out of your visit to Reykjavík on this guided walking tour that takes you to a multitude of eateries around the capital, including the city’s oldest restaurant and a much-loved hot dog stand. In a small group of no more than 12, learn about Iceland’s culinary history and traditions as you sample such dishes as Icelandic meat soup, skyr, and lobster
  3. Private Reykjavik Food Tour: Explore the local food of Reykjavik on this private walking tour. Get acquainted with the old Reykjavik city center as you travel from restaurant to restaurant trying Icelandic delicacies including fermented shark. Also learn about the history of the country and get recommendations for the rest of your stay in Reykjavik. Read more about Private Reykjavik Food Tour
  4. Reykjavik Beer & Booze Tour: Spend an evening sampling the best of Iceland’s craft beers over the course of this 2.5-hour tour. Sip 10 different beers, most of which can only be found in Iceland, and learn about the history of Icelandic beer from the Vikings to present day. Travel with a small group, which ensures personalized attention from your guide and an intimate atmosphere.
  5. Weekend Reykjavik Food Tour with a stop at the Reykjavik Flea Market: Get a taste of Iceland as you walk around its capital on a tasting tour. Join a small group and experience traditional foods, drinks, and snacks with your guide as you walk around the city center. Visit famous locations, a flea market, bars, and even a supermarket to sample everything from hot dogs to seafood to beer.

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: It’s worth noting that due to COVID-19 pandemics, some of the tour availability and format may have changed, please check with the tour providers before booking.

Here are the stops and highlights from the tour Jess and I went on in 2018…

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: There is ongoing debate in Iceland regarding the consumption of exotic and endangered animals as food. On one hand, some argue that traditional Icelandic cuisine, which includes dishes such as hákarl (fermented shark), svið (sheep’s head) and rams testicles, is an important part of the country’s cultural heritage and should be preserved. These traditional foods are based on using all parts of the animal to minimize waste and make the most of the resources available. On the other hand, there are concerns about the sustainability and ethics of consuming exotic and endangered animals. For example, shark populations have been in decline for decades due to overfishing, and some species of shark are now considered endangered. Eating shark meat can contribute to the decline of these species. Similarly, there are concerns about the environmental impact of consuming other exotic animals, such as reindeer, which are not native to Iceland.
Additionally, there are concerns about the welfare of the animals being consumed, and the conditions in which they are raised. As a result of these debates, some restaurants and retailers in Iceland have stopped offering exotic and endangered animal meats on their menus, and there are campaigns to raise awareness about the environmental and ethical implications of consuming these foods. It’s important to be aware of these issues when traveling to Iceland and making decisions about what to eat. It’s always good to consider the sustainability and ethics of the food choices and ask questions about where the food came from and how it was produced.

Another Option for Lunch: For a more economical, less political and quicker option, enjoy a traditional Icelandic hot dog from, the famous Baejarins Beztu, opened since 1937.

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: Hot dogs are a thing in Iceland (don’t really know why and either did our guide). The Works is what this place is known for (onions, mustard, mayo-ish sauce, ketchup) IT WAS SO GOOD!! Worth the long wait in line. The Clinton is just mustard and is named after Bill who came to Iceland in the 90s. It was a big deal because the whole Monica thing was going on and he had ordered a hot dog. This hot dog stand has been on countless food shows and is far the most famous hot dog stand in Iceland. A number of celebrity patrons have visited in recent years. Metallica frontman James Hetfield, and actor Charlie Sheen are among famous people who have ordered from the stand. Also appeared in the first season of Anthony Bourdain’s travel program No Reservations

Icelandic Phallological Museum If you are up for something truly unique and surprisingly very educational, located a short 2-min walk from Baejarins Beztu is the infamous Icelandic Phallological Museum, a unique and interesting museum that showcases phalluses of various animals found in Iceland.

Austurstræti street: End your day where you began ands take an international tour of bars and restaurants on Austurstræti street, 3 fun must-visits are The England Pub, American Bar, and The Drunk Rabbit Irish Pub.

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: “Spin for a Drink” is a popular game that can be found in bars and pubs in Iceland. The game is also known as “spinning the wheel” or “the beer wheel”. The game involves spinning a large wheel that has different sections with different drink options or prices on it. Players take turns spinning the wheel and wherever the wheel stops, they have to take the drink or pay the price that is indicated on that section of the wheel. The game is a fun and exciting way to make drinking with friends more interesting and can be a good way to try different types of drinks or to save money on drinks. It’s usually played in groups, and it’s a popular way for locals to socialize.

During Jess and my trip we were drawn to The English Bar as the live music was on point. We saw they had a wheel and thought we needed to try it once while we were in Iceland. I paid my 25,000 krona and hoped for the best. I WON THE BEST POSSIBLE!! 8 beers. worth over $250!!! We gave some of the beers away (good strategy to sit at the bar) and then we ended up drinking the rest of the night for free as when the people we gave beers to won, they shared their winnings. Great way to meet friends, drink for cheap and have fun. We ended up meeting a semi-pro futbol team.

Additional Time in Iceland?

If you have more time to check out Iceland OUTSIDE Reykjavik, here are some suggestions on where to go and what tours and sites we saw and absolutely loved:

The Golden Circle

Small-Group Golden Circle Tour and Secret Lagoon Visit from Reykjavik

Southern Iceland

Southern Iceland Glaciers, Waterfalls and Beaches Day Tour

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Snaefellsnes Peninsula Classic Day Tour from Reykjavik

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: I have the name of the tours I booked under the location however these tours may no longer be available given the last couple years. I have linked to similar tours on Viator above for reference (Viator is where I have booked all my tours from Paris to Iceland to Yellowstone to Ireland!)

😋 RacheyZee’s Triscuit of Information: Trolls are a popular figure in Icelandic folklore and culture. They are often depicted as large, hairy creatures that live in the mountains and are known for their mischievous and sometimes dangerous behavior. In Icelandic folklore, trolls are said to be powerful beings that can shape-shift, and possess supernatural powers. The obsession with trolls in Iceland is reflected in the country’s art, literature, and pop culture. Trolls can be found in many forms of art, from sculptures to paintings, and they are often featured in Icelandic folktales and legends. They also appear in many souvenirs, such as keychains, magnets, and postcards, that can be found in Iceland’s gift shops. In recent years, the fascination with trolls has also led to the creation of various tourist attractions such as Troll Parks, where visitors can see large sculptures of trolls and learn more about Icelandic folklore. Some of these parks also have a playground and other activities for children. In Iceland, it’s not unusual to find a troll-themed restaurant or a troll-themed tour, which are designed to give visitors a taste of Iceland’s rich cultural heritage. Additionally, some locals also believe in the existence of trolls, and they still hold traditional rituals to protect themselves from their mischief. Overall, the obsession with trolls in Iceland is a reflection of the country’s unique cultural heritage and its rich folklore. It’s a fun and interesting way for visitors to learn more about Iceland’s history and culture.

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