Only got 24 hours in Reykjavik and looking to pack in as much as possible? Then this is the city guide for you!
So, you’ve only got 24 hours in Reykjavik before going off and exploring some of Iceland’s awe-inspiring nature such as the black sand beaches at Vik and the waterfalls at Gullfoss and Skógafoss? Perfect! Reykjavik is an amazing city to explore and there really is loads to see and do in a day!
One of the beautiful things about Reykjavik is with 200,000 people calling it home it might appear like a large city (especially when you consider the entire population of Iceland is only 330,000!), but in terms of its size it’s relatively small and very easy to get around – put it this way, you’ll be able to walk to from one side of the city to the other in about 20 minutes!
Right, it’s time to make the most of your time in Reykjavik so wakey wakey! You’ve got a big day ahead of you!
08:00 – Walk down to the waterfront for sunrise(ish)
Waking up at 08:00 kinda depends on whether you’re in Reykjavik during the summer (when it’s super easy), or winter (when it’s super hard). Either way, if you can get up early then you should head down to the waterfront and say hello to the mountains! It’s amazing at how close Reykjavik is to the great outdoors – this why you’re in Iceland after all so this is the perfect way to start the day!
09:00 – Head to the Laundromat Café for the biggest breakfast of your life
There’s a reason why breakfast at the Laundromat Café is famous – it’ll be the biggest breakfast of your life! With granola and yogurt, bacon and eggs, a grilled tomato, potatoes, sausages, a stack of pancakes, Nutella, butter, a pile of fruit and even a wedge of cheese for good measure, this isn’t exactly the healthiest starts to the day, but it will keep you going on and on and on, especially when it’s cold outside!
10:00 – Stand in the shadows of Hallgrimskirka
Standing at 74.5 metres, Hallgrimskirka is the tallest church in Iceland and it really is a sight to behold. The unique architecture is based upon the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape (the pillars do look a lot like the ones you find on the black sand beach at Vik), and you can even take the lift to the observation tower for some of the best views around town. Also, it’s good seeing Hallgrimskirka in the morning as it’ll orientate you – being the biggest landmark in Reykjavik, once you know where it is you won’t get lost!
11:00 – Take in the amazing street art around the city
A little surprisingly but there’s a really thriving street art scene in Reykjavik with some truly epic pieces. With streets artists like Dface being commissioned with huge murals, more and more pieces have popped up around the city. The best way to see all this street art is take a wrong turn down a side street and see where it takes you. Make sure you bring your camera – you’re going to need it!
12:00 – Visit the National Museum of Iceland (or the Icelandic Phallological Museum if that’s your thing)
The National Museum of Iceland is a journey through time. It begins with a ship landing in the country in medieval times and takes you all the way through to the modern day. The museum caters for all ages and you can even dress up in traditional local costumes (worth it for that alone). And in case you were wondering, the Icelandic Phallological Museum is all about cock. And yes, it is a lot of fun.
14:00 – If you’re feeling peckish it’s time for a cinnamon bun and a strong coffee from Braud & Co.
You know a place is going to be good when a) you can smell the amazing cinnamon buns from a good block away, and b) you can see the line-up for the shop from a good block away. Braud & Co. has become one of the places to go in Reykjavik purely for their cinnamon buns, and they do a damn strong coffee too (as does Reykjavik Roasters just a few shops along the street – another place with cracking coffee).
15:00 – Drool over some photo porn (and no, not that type of porn) at the Reykjavik Museum of Photography
Being the photographer that I am, obviously I’m going to recommend visiting the Reykjavik Museum of Photography. With over six million photos (yes, six MILLION!), some of which date back nearly 150 years, there are some amazing examples of photography at this museum. Also, they always have some very thought provoking exhibitions on (such at the current one Metomorphosis by the famous Icelandic photographer Sigurjon Sigurgeirsson). Very underrated this place and well worth a visit.
16:00 – Check out the epic Perlan building on the edge of the city
It doesn’t take much to translate Perlan (it’s “pearl” if you’re struggling, because, well, it looks like a pearl) and it is one of the most unique buildings in all of Reykjavik. Even though the Perlan’s revolving restaurant is currently closed for renovation, you can still come here for a coffee and to take in the stunning views of of the city. The inside is equally as magnificent too!
17:00 – Wander at the beauty of the Harpa building
The Harpa is arguably the most beautiful building in Reykjavik. Home to the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, it is also a mecca for all other musicians and bands in Iceland. If you can coincide your 24 hours in Reykjavik when there’s a performance or event going on at the Harpa then it’s a must, but even seeing the building in itself is enough for most people. I mean, just look at it!?
18:00 – Dream about lands unknown at the Sun Voyager sculpture down by the waterfront
The Sun Voyager is another fine example of the amazing art and architecture scene in Reykjavik. Down by the waterfront and a short walk away from the Harpa, the Sun Voyager is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun, and it’s supposed to represent the desire to explore undiscovered territory (much like why you’re in Iceland yourself!) The best time to come here is when the sun is real low in the sky for the best photos.
19:00 – Go for a drink at Kex Hostel and swap stories with other travellers
A drink in a hostel full of backpackers? You betcha! Kex Hostel has quickly established itself as one of the best places to go for a drink in Reykjavik and there’s always an amazing atmosphere here. Tourists returning from their adventures in Iceland come to swap stories over craft beers and it’s a great place to pick up one or two recommendations. Also hugely popular with the locals too.
20:00 – Find somewhere amazing to eat (in your budget of course!)
If you’re looking for a cheap(ish) eat then you can’t go wrong with the burgers from K-Bar on the main high street (I might argue one of the best burgers I’ve ever had!) On the flip side, if you want to spend in excess of £100 on a meal then restaurants like Vox in the Hilton, Matarkjallarinn and Apotek are all amazing options. “Cheap” eating in Reykjavik isn’t really a thing but the food is damn good so just enjoy it!
22:00 – Party until the sun comes up (or never goes down?)
If you’ve still got some energy left in you then hit a bar like The Big Lebowski or Micro Bar for a couple of drinks. There are also a couple of late-night bars/clubs in Reykjavik and you really can party until the sun comes up (I have done this, it’s weird leaving a bar at 3am to bright sunshine!) Also, if you’re looking for a few people to party with Wake Up Reykjavik do amazing bar crawls around the city! Guaranteed fun these!
So there you have it, 24 hours in Reykjavik! If you manage to do all of this then you really have seen some of the best sites in the city and it’ll set you up nicely for the rest of your trip in Iceland! Right, now it’s time to explore that landscape…
My trip to Iceland was part of a campaign with Lonely Planet and Three all about using your phone doing the things you love (and yes, I took a selfie while hanging on the ice wall!) As always, all views and opinions are entirely my own and without bias.
Have you ever been to Reykjavik before? If so, what are some of your favourite things to do in the city? And top tips for everyone else? Make sure you let me know in the comments below!
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