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Your guide to Reykjavík
All About Reykjavík
The capital and largest city in Iceland, Reykjavík, is a study in contrasts. At once modern and traditional, daring and modest, it’s now a place where natural geothermal baths are a common social gathering space alongside the hip, barista-helmed cafes that line Laugavegur street. Food runs the gamut here as well, with restaurants plating up everything from salted cod and locally-raised lamb to fresh skyr yogurt served traditional-style — with sugar, cream, and bilberries.
From its seat on the country’s southwest shore, Reykjavík serves as a natural gateway to outdoor exploration. Whale-watching boats ply the Faxaflói Bay in search of orcas, dolphins, and humpbacks, while just 20 minutes from downtown, the Álftanes peninsula resonates with the calls of migrating birds. In winter, darkened heaths outside the city offer undisturbed views of the Northern Lights. Reykjavík is also a frequent base camp for expeditions to Iceland’s majestic national parks, glaciers, and active volcanoes like the Geldingadalur, which lies just an hour’s drive from the city.
The best time to stay in a holiday rental in Reykjavík
The best time to stay in an apartment in Iceland is usually in the summer, when the weather is at its most pleasant. During this time, Reykjavík becomes a hub for events, concerts, and festivals, like the Secret Solstice Music Fest in June, or the Reykjavík Culture Night in August. The sunny weather also encourages outdoor exploration, from hiking through the Heiðmörk Nature Reserve to visiting the ducks at peaceful Lake Tjörnin.
With fewer people in town during winter, day trips to nearby spots such as the popular Hallgrímskirkja Church or the snow-ringed thermal pools of the Blue Lagoon are ideal for spending the cooler days away. The winter season is also the best time for viewing the Northern Lights outside town, a sight that draws visitors from all over the world each year. Autumn and spring months are also lovely times to visit, with plenty of bars and restaurants lighting up the central Laugavegur street at night, a splendid spot for visitors to enjoy a late night meal.
Top things to do in Reykjavík
Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach
There are hundreds of geothermal pools in greater Reykjavík, but there’s only one geothermal beach: Nauthólsvík. This human-made lagoon mixes warm geothermal water into a partially-enclosed section of the sea, creating a unique — and sometimes bracing — experience for swimmers and waders. In summer, colourful beach blankets dot the golden sands.
Red Hills on horseback
Riding horseback near Reykjavík usually means riding an Icelandic — a small, spirited horse that lives only in Iceland. Their unique tölt gait, in which one foot always touches the ground, makes for smooth riding through the brilliant red hills of the Elliðaárhraun lava fields.
Icelandic wool is prized for being tough on the outside and soft on the inside — a combination that makes Iceland’s iconic knit sweaters (called lópapeysas) an enduring winter essential. Mosfellsbær, 30 minutes east of Reykjavík, is the best place to experience the history of the wool industry, but you’ll also find shops along Laugavegur selling locally-knit sweaters, blankets, and yarn.