Reykjavik: hard to say, easy to love! Iceland’s intriguing capital has so much packed into its intimate city centre that it can be difficult to know where to start. The beauty of this small yet perfectly formed northern gem is that it’s incredibly accessible – so walking is absolutely de rigueur. And, of course, Reykjavik isn’t really that hard to say – just ask a one of the locals along the way.
Recommended Reading: Depending on how long you’ve got, you might want to add a few extra stops to this suggested itinerary – check out this blog post for some unusual ideas.
The Ultimate Walking Tour of Reykjavik
If you’ve got a day, you’ve got Reykjavik’s culture covered. But don’t take that to mean there’s a lack of attractions – just that if you know where to go, the short distance between these sites means you’ve got yourself an independent cultural walking tour.
If Reykjavik has one iconic symbol, it’s this – and what a superb place to start your tour. The soaring height of the tower of the Church of Hallgrímur, or Hallgrímskirkja, makes it one of the country’s tallest buildings. No matter where you find yourself in the city, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of it. Up close, however, is the best way to appreciate its unique architecture. Inspired by the otherworldly basalt columns of Svartifoss Waterfall, the church is dedicated to the poet Hallgrímur Pétursson.
The Settlement Exhibition
A 20 minute walk will take you to the Settlement Exhibition. The building is situated alongside the ruins of a Viking longhouse, and the exhibit itself tells the story of the city’s founding. Its extended name, Reykjavik 871± 2, refers to the town being settled upon a layer of ‘tephra’, a deposit from a volcanic eruption around 871 AD.
Top Tip: While there’s plenty to see, absolutely don’t miss the collection of found objects from the Viking age and two pieces of turf, the remnants of the oldest man-made structure in Iceland.
Hafnarhús Art Museum
Only ten minutes from the Settlement Exhibition is Hafnarhús, Reykjavik Art Museum’s newest addition and perhaps most impressive space. With six exhibition spaces, Hafnarhús is home to a fantastic array of contemporary art. The most notable is the collection of works by Erró, the city’s beloved artist. The museum features more than 2,000 of his permanent pieces, as well as changing exhibits from other well-known local and international creatives.
Next stop is the nearby City Hall, a building which attracts Reykjavik’s bird life (a deliberate invitation from its designers). After decades of deliberation and planning, it was finally completed, and lovers of architecture will find much to admire in the progressive, contemporary look of the finished product.
Don’t Miss This: Make sure you discover the huge 3D map of the country, which includes reliefs of the volcanoes, glaciers and fjords that make up Iceland’s unique landscape.
National Museum of Iceland
The heritage of this fascinating country can be explored in full detail in this excellent museum. It features a collection of objects ranging from the Viking era to modern day. You will be taken on a coherent journey into the heart and soul of Iceland’s history, culture and people, making a visit here a fantastic addition to your compact walking tour.
Lake Tjörnin, set in the city’s picturesque Old Town, is a favourite meeting spot for locals and tourists. As well as being extremely photographic due to its watery backdrop, the area provides a habitat for a vast amount of birdlife. Tjörnin is also home to a host of eclectic art galleries and museums, which can make it hard not to get sidetracked.
The House of Parliament
Heading back towards the waterfront, those interested in the history of Iceland will find the House of Parliament to be an unmissable stop on their walking itinerary. One of the city’s most important cultural landmarks, it stands as an immovable symbol of the power of democracy. Although the building itself is quite diminutive in terms of being a political base, its size is certainly not indicative of its historic importance.
Fast Fact: The House of Parliament was constructed from local stone found in a former quarry on the rocky slopes of the hill of Skólavörðuholt – a truly lasting legacy.
Harpa Conference Hall and Centre, set on the edge of the waterfront district, is a truly astounding feat of contemporary architecture. Its stunning shimmering yet transparent façade provides both outward facing of the bay and Mount Esja, as well as a look into its interior through mammoth planes of angled and juxtaposed glass.
Top Tip: The vibrant area around Harpa is also home to the magnificent Sun Voyager, a striking skeletal sculpture of a Viking boat.
How to Get to Reykjavik
With a flight time of just three hours from the UK, Reykjavik is close enough for a short, spontaneous break. Multiple airlines offer regularly scheduled flights to Reykjavik Keflavik Airport (KEF) and, with over 60 flights a week, even last minute options are not too difficult to find.
When you land at the airport, the easiest and most convenient way to get directly to your accommodation is with a pre-booked transfer through Shuttle Direct. A friendly driver will meet you at the airport and take you on the picturesque 45-minute journey into the city.
Where to Stay
Fosshótel Rauðará – The delightful Fosshótel Rauðará situates you right in the heart of Reykjavik, within walking distance of many of its cultural attractions. The ambient, well appointed rooms provide a comfortable, spacious home away from home, and the onsite facilities include a very welcoming onsite bar and restaurant. Just a few minutes from the famous Klambratun Park and Church of Hallgrímur, the hotel’s accessible location puts the city right on your doorstep.
About Shuttle Direct
As one of the most trusted names in airport transfers throughout Europe and North Africa, Shuttle Direct has a service to suit your needs. If you’re looking for a door-to-door ride to your accommodation, you can choose from our extensive range of shared and private services. Simply make an online booking before you leave and we’ll do the rest.