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  • The Curious Traveler

What to do in Reykjavik

If you are arriving to Reykjavik early or extending your visit after a Boundless Journeys Iceland tour concludes, there is enough to keep you busy in this small, compact city for a leisurely 2 days. 

312The two main streets in the city are Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur. Laugavegur is one of the oldest shopping streets in Reykjavík and literally translates to “wash road” because it once led to the great old hot-springs in Laugardalur where the entire city’s washing was once done! Its popularity with locals and tourists is mainly for the prestigious shops and exclusive stores, and in the evenings, the street’s many bars and restaurants open.

Katya_reykjavik (2)Skólavörðustígur is one of the most attractive streets in Reykjavík running from Laugavegur up to the magnificent church of Hallgrímskirkja (take the elevator to the top of the tower for a 360-degree view of the city). The street has charming old houses with stores and galleries where you can find everything from Scandinavian-style household goods, souvenirs, and fine woolen products to cafes and delis.

307For a different type of shopping experience, head to the indoor flea market down by the harbor, a fun way to mix with locals. Plus, practically next door to the flea market is the famous Reykjavik hot dog stand—well-known for its exceptional “loaded” hot dogs. What makes them so good? They’re made with Icelandic lamb, primarily, and some Icelandic pork and beef. These animals freely roam the countryside munching happily on fresh grass, which makes for a truly gourmet and tasty hot dog, served with sweet brown mustard, relish, and a mayonnaise-based sauce. Just order it loaded—you won’t be disappointed.

Enjoy museums? There are a few you can explore, including the Reykjavik Art Museum; the National Museum of Iceland, which exhibits a fascinating collection of artifacts that tell the story of Iceland’s history and heritage from the Settlement Age to the present; and the Settlement Exhibition, which is built around the ruins of a Viking longhouse excavated below street level.


IMG_7218 (1)While our Northern Lights Adventure includes a trip to the Blue Lagoon, our summer tour does not, so if you would like to go, your best bet is to go directly from the airport, as it is midway between the airport and downtown Reykjavik, plus, your room may not be ready for a few hours after your early morning arrival. It’s a wonderfully relaxing experience after an overnight flight. You can book the Flybus and Blue Lagoon combo ticket. You might also enjoy a visit to Laugardalslaug Thermal Pools. The complex houses a 50-meter outdoor pool, two water slides, numerous “hot pots” (Jacuzzis), and a thermal steam bath. An all-day pass to Laugardalslaug costs approximately $2.50 (locker rental is included in the price).

If the weather is cooperative, you may want to reserve a whale-watching tour from the harbor, or the free (contribution only) 2-hour city tour (our Northern Lights Adventure includes a city tour). Another option is a bike or Segway tour with Iceland Bike. If you contact them, let the owner, Stefan, know that we referred you!

For a city of just about 200,000, Reykjavik has a surprisingly cosmopolitan restaurant scene. There are many choices, and simply wandering the streets will likely lead you to a delightful hidden gem. The following are just a few recommendations for your pre- or post-tour time in Reykjavik in rough order from most expensive to least. Reservations are typically recommended. Cuisine in Iceland is varied, creative, and delicious.



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