Reyjavik makes for the ultimate short-break or stopover city.

Whether you love nature, eating, drinking, culture, or adventure, Rekjavik has something for everyone. It’s a cool capital city awash with street art and interesting architecture. Check out some live music, bar hop for happy hour, gorge on seafood, or visit one of the many museums. Rek is also on the doorstep of some of the most incredible scenery in the world. Here is a guide to the ultimate short break in Rekjavik!

How long to visit

You could easily base yourself in Reyjavik and explore Iceland for weeks, however if you’re limited for time, I would recommend 5-days. That being said, you would be amazed what you can pack into 48-hours!

When to visit & weather

Each season offers something different. Winter is freezing but beautiful, as the country is blanketed in snow and the sky alight with aurora borealis. Summer is pleasant weather but brings huge crowds! Spring and fall are great times to visit for moderate temperatures and fewer tourists.

September is the perfect month for warm weather (for Iceland), Northern Lights, and moderate crowds. It’s still busy but not as crazy mid-summer.

Northern Lights season is September to March.

Clothing: Pack warm clothes, thermals, a windbreaker, and raincoat, no matter what the season. Iceland is unpredictable with wild weather!

Thingvellir national park

What to do

  • Visit a geothermal spa. Blue Lagoon is infamous but look out for influencers, crowds & high prices. There are alternatives, like the Secret Lagoon.
  • Golden Circle: self-drive or tour natural wonders like Gullfoss falls, Thingvellir National Park, and Geysir
  • Snorkel or dive in the continental divide at Silfra in Thingvellir
  • Dine in a tomato greenhouse on the Golden Circle at Freidheimer.
  • Visit an art gallery or museum: there are dozens, showcasing everything from punk rock, to whales, to Vikings, and even penis’s
  • Go inside a glacier and tour Langjökull Ice Cave & Lava Cave
  • Drive along the east coast and visit Selfoss and Seljalandsfoss falls
  • Climb Hallgrímskirkja church for epic views
  • Watch the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra at Harpa
  • Visit Perlan, a wonderful building with fantastic views, exhibitions, and restaurants overlooking the city
  • Go whale watching in hopes of catching a glimpse of humpbacks
  • Ride fringed Icelandic horses at Solvangur Icelandic Horse Centre

Eating

I expected Iceland to be beautiful, what I didn’t expect was how amazing the food would be. Iceland was a culinary highlight for me. The seafood is incredible and we didn’t have a bad meal. It’s not cheap to eat out, but at least it’s really good!

  • Kex Hostel has a good vibe, great beer, and affordable food.
  • DILL serves Nordic cuisine & was awarded Iceland’s first Michelin star.
  • Fish Company is a cool space with good food. They sometimes have live music. Try the Icelandic scallops or arctic char!
  • Essencia is the place for super fresh Italian food.
  • Snaps is a stylish French restaurant with a hidden bar downstairs.
  • Bryggian Bruggus is a gastropub with great food and a brewery onsite.
  • Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is the infamous hot dog stand that serves dogs with an Iceland twist.

Drinking

Reykjavik has great nightlife and a myriad of breweries, cocktail bars, and pubs. Iceland is known for its music scene with artists like Bjork, Of Monsters & Men, and Sigur Ros all coming out of Iceland.

Best happy hours in Rekjavik: KEX hostel, Big Lebowski, Bar Ananas, and Boston.

Best cocktail bars: Slippbarinn, Hotel Holt Gallery bar, Klambrautin Ristorante, and Apotek.

Breweries: KEX, RVK, Bryggian Bruggus.

Craft beer bars: Skuli, Microbar, Icelandic Craft bar.

Live music venues: KEX has a jazz bar and hosts bands, Gaukurinn for punk, metal & hardcore, IÐNÓ is the oldest venue, Dillon Whiskey Bar for blues, Prikið for hip hop, Harpa for concerts & classical

Where to stay

Reykjavik Residence Hotel: These lofted 1-3 bedroom apartments are some of the highest-rated in the city. From $200 USD/night.

Room with a View Apartments: Large apartments with balconies in a good location. From $180USD/night.

Ambassade Apartments: A cute 2-bedroom house in a great location. From $220/night.

KEX Hostel is cool but pricey for a private room! From $100USD/night.

Happy hour at KEX Hotel

Top tips

  • Iceland Air offers free stopovers, book your flights to Europe or North America with a stopover in Reykjavik!
  • Pack warm clothes, no matter what time of year. It’s the second windiest country in the world. Bring a windbreaker/rain jacket.
  • Pre-book hotels, ideally 6 months in advance: everything sells out.
  • High season (mid-June-August) is best avoided as it’s crazy busy and overtourism plagues Iceland during these months.
  • Buy food from Bonus grocery store to make meals & snacks if you’re on a budget.
  • Happy hour is the only affordable time to buy drinks. Pickup some duty-free alcohol on arrival into Reykjavik airport.
  • Driving is safe and easy. Pre-book your car and get a 4WD if you can.

If you have more time

Visit the West Fjords or drive around Iceland. For more information:

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