Want to see Reykjavik in one day and don’t know where to start? This guide contains all you need to know for how to spend one day in Reykjavik perfectly.

If you’re visiting Iceland, there is a very high probability you will arrive and depart from Reykjavik. It is Iceland’s capital, the most northern capital city in the world, and the home to many of the top things to see in Iceland.

But Reykjavik is more than just a gateway to see the rest of Iceland, it has much to offer too. From architecture to rainbow street art, coffee shops to museums, there is something to do in Reykjavik for everyone, no matter the weather or time of year!

When you’re planning your trip to Iceland, add (at least) one day in Reykjavik to your Iceland itinerary. And with the many day trips from Reykjavik, museums, and tours on offer, you could certainly stay longer than a day in Reykjavik if you wanted to as well.

IN THIS ARTICLE
Reykjavik Map

What to See in Reykjavik in One Day Walk Around the City Centre
Search for Street Art
Climb up Hallgrímskirkja
Refuel at Cafe Babalu
Enjoy the Reykjavik City Pond
Visit the Harpa Concert Hall
Admire the Sun Voyager
Reykjavik’s Museums & Exhibitions The National Museum of Iceland
Whales of Iceland
The National Gallery of Iceland
Arbaer Museum
The Icelandic Phallogical Museum
Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach
Thufa Hill
Reykjavik Whale Watching
Northern Lights Tour Reykjavik
Blue Lagoon Iceland
How to Get Around Reykjavik
– Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik Center
Best Time to Visit Reykjavik
Where to Eat in Reykjavik
Where to Stay in Reykjavik

One Day in Reykjavik Map

What To See In Reykjavik In One Day

This one day Reykjavik itinerary is written in a suggested order that allows you to do as much as possible in 24 hours in Reykjavik. But, of course, you can do it in whatever order suits you best.

Walk Around The City Center

Start your day by getting familiar with the picturesque Reykjavik city center. The best streets to add to your one day Reykjavik itinerary are Laugavegur (the main shopping street full of unique boutiques and souvenir opportunities), Bankastræti (a short but picturesque street running from Laugavegur with cute cafes & shops), and Skólavörðustígur (probably the prettiest street in Reykjavik!).

Since time is limited on your one day in Reykjavik, walk in a triangle down Laugavegur, along Bankastræti, and up Skólavörðustígur for an unofficial walking tour of Reykjavik’s town center.

Laugavegur shopping Reykjavik

Search for Street Art

It would be hard to spend one day in Reykjavik and not see some incredible street art. It is all over the city, but especially in the center.

As you walk the main streets, keep your eyes peeled for some awesome art on the side of buildings. There is even some amazing LGBTQ+ street art around Reykjavik. If you want to visit the famous rainbow street in Reykjavik, you can find it on Skólavörðustígur.

Climb up Hallgrímskirkja

At the top of the rainbow street, you’ll see one of the top sights in Reykjavik – Hallgrímskirkja. Icelandic words can be challenging to wrap your tongue around, but it is pronounced kind of like Hal-scream-skirk-ya. And you can’t miss it!

This spectacular church architecture was inspired by the glaciers, mountains, and rocks of Iceland’s landscape. It is also an amazing opportunity for panoramic views across the whole city. The opening hours are limited, so check before you go to be sure you can visit the observation tower during your one day visit to Iceland.

Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church. The people of Iceland were majority Catholic until the 16th century when Lutheran became the official state church. Today about 80% of Icelanders identify as Lutheran. 5% follow other Christian denominations and almost 5% practice ásatrú, the traditional Norse religion.

Make sure to read our 7 day in Iceland itinerary if you are going to travel around Iceland!

Refuel at Cafe Babalu

Re-energize from all those stairs with coffee & cake at Cafe Babalu. This gay-owned cafe in Iceland is a great spot to warm up and enjoy some famous Icelandic skyr cake and coffee.

The cafe is super cute and make sure to go to the bathroom downstairs, as it’s an experience itself.

Where to Eat in Reykjavik Cafe Babalu Reykjavik

Enjoy the Reykjavik City Pond

The Reykjavik City Pond, also known as Lake Tjörnin, is a beautiful pond and iconic spot in the city center of Rekjavik. Next to it, you can find the Reykjavik city hall, multiple museums, and the beautiful church Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík.

This pond reflects Reykjavik perfectly, nature combined with urban development. Take a stroll around the pond and enjoy what it has to offer.

Photographers love this pond too, as you can make beautiful photos of the reflection in the water here.

Visit the Harpa Concert Hall

Harpa Concert Hall is hard to miss and definitely a must-see in Reykjavik. The architecture is a magnificent construction of light and color and wandering around inside or outside will leave you speechless. The building is inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland.

There are many top photo spots in Reykjavik and this is no exception. If your one day Reykjavik itinerary allows time for it, they offer guided tours of the behind the scenes areas too.

If you are looking for things to do in Reykjavik at night, check out their events schedule before your Iceland trip. There will even sometimes be events with free admission.

Admire the Sun Voyager

From the Concert Hall, enjoy a walk along the shore to the Sun Voyager sculpture. The walk itself is a nice opportunity to enjoy the fact that Reykjavik is surrounded by water.

On a clear day, you can see over to the Island of Engey as you stroll along the pedestrianized walkways. The Sun Voyager (Solfar in Icelandic) itself is another impressive piece of design. Made of steel, the sculpture designed by Jon Gunnar Arnason resembles a Viking long-ship.

Sun Voyager Reykjavik itinerary

Reykjavik’s Museums & Exhibits

With your remaining time on your one day trip to Reykjavik, you should choose to visit one of the many great museums and exhibits Reykjavik has to offer.

TOP TIP: get a Reykjavik city card and get access to all museums and public transport!

The National Museum of Iceland

The National Museum of Iceland is home to temporary and permanent exhibitions, showcasing Icelandic history. There is an option to take an audio self-guided tour to learn more about the artefacts. There is also a cafe and (of course) a gift shop.

Whales Of Iceland

This exhibit is suitable for kids and adults and showcases 23 artificial life-size models of various whale species found in Icelandic waters. Whales Of Iceland is the place to be to learn more about these beautiful creatures. Reykjavik is actually a great place to go whale watching, but continue reading to learn more about Reykjavik whale watching.

The National Gallery of Iceland

This art museum in Reykjavík explores traditional Icelandic culture through artwork and features famous Icelandic artists.

Arbaer Museum

Arbaer is an open-air museum with more than 20 buildings that were originally located in central  Reykjavik. They now form a town square, a village, and a farm.

The Icelandic Penis Museum

Yep, you read that right! A museum dedicated to the collection of 215 penises and penile parts belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals that can be found in Iceland. Perhaps not your everyday museum, but the museum is informative, weird, and oddly amusing at the same time.

Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach

If museums aren’t your thing, or if you’re visiting Reykjavik in the summer, you may want to spend the rest of your day at the Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach instead.

Situated on the other side of the town, but still easily accessible, this man-made beach offers golden sands and is naturally heated by Iceland’s hot springs.

The beach is free to access in the summer season from May to August. Additionally, there are hot tubs and thermal pools with an entrance fee. In peak season, the lagoon is 15-19 ° C (59-66 ° F) and the hot tubs are 30-39 ° C (86-102 ° F).

Thufa Hill

Another fun attraction is this public artwork by Icelandic artist Ólöf Nordal, called Þúfa in Icelandic. It’s a grassy hill that you can walk on. It’s near the old harbor. It’s a great viewpoint to see the Reykjavik skyline and to overlook the islands of Faxaflói bay.

Reykjavik Whale Watching

Depending on how long you are staying in Iceland and where you are going to, you can either watch whales in Reykjavik or the whale capital of Iceland Husavik. Other places that are popular whale watching spots in Iceland are Akuyeri and Dalvik. You can watch whales all year round in Reykjavik and Elding whale watching is a great company to go whale watching with. Schedule at least 3-4 hours during your one day in Reykjavik to see whales!

Depending on the time of year and many other factors like weather, foodavailability, oceanic currents and migratiun you will be able to see humback whales, minke whales and white-beaked dolphins in Reykjavik. Those are the main species in the area. Though, it’s wildlife, so you never know what you are going to see.

In case you won’t see any dolphins or whales during your tour, you get complimentary tickets. This way Elding whale watching wants to guarantee you will spot these beautiful animals!

Northern Lights Tour Reykjavik

Depending on what time of year you visit, finish off your one day in Reykjavik with one of the world’s most fascinating natural wonders. This is the best thing to do in Reykjavik, provided you get lucky.

Since the Aurora Borealis is a naturally occurring phenomenon, it can never be guaranteed. However, if you are visiting Reykjavik between September and April, book a Northern Lights tour for your best chance at seeing them.

The tours will take you outside the city, and are led by experts who know where and when they can be most expected to pop up.

Bonus: Blue Lagoon Iceland

If you have more than one day in Reykjavik (or want to add some luxury into your journey to/from the airport), be sure to make time for a trip to the famous Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon is right by the airport, making it a perfect way to begin or end your time in Iceland. Whether you want to spend a whole day getting pampered, or a couple of hours having a drink in the natural geothermal heated waters, this experience will leave you feeling relaxed and loving Iceland even more.

TOP TIP: Book ahead for a ticket, as this is a very popular attraction in Iceland.

How to Get Around Reykjavik

Reykjavik is best explored on foot if you are able. Once in the center, the city itself is fairly small and much of its beauty lies among the picturesque streets that would be hard to access on other modes of transport. Get the most out of your one day in Reykjavik and pack some good (warm!) footwear to explore the city.

If you would rather not (or are unable to) walk around Reykjavik, the city also offers a Hop On – Hop Off bus tour. This is a good way to see Reykjavik in 12 hours if you’re short on time. The tour has 16 stops and runs daily.

How to get from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik Center

The international airport is a 45-minute ride from Reykjavik. Public transport is available, but your fastest options are to get either a taxi or Flybus.

  • Taxi: Iceland doesn’t have Uber. However, you can catch a taxi from outside the terminal. Expect the ride to cost between 100-150 euros (117-175 US dollars). This is the fastest, but also the most expensive, way to get from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik.
  • Flybus / Airport Express: These buses depart outside the arrival hall and leaves every 35-40 minutes after the arrival of each flight. It stops at the BSI bus terminal. Those with a Flybus+ ticket can then transfer to smaller minivans for a hotel door drop-off. For returning to KEF, you can buy a ticket at BSI Bus Terminal or online. The price for a Flybus to the BSI bus terminal is usually double the price than the price for the public bus.
  • Public Bus: The public bus goes a couple of times a day from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik center. Outside the airport, on a road called Kjóavöllur, you will find a small bus stop. Don’t trust the time table that’s at the bust stop, but download the app called Straetó to check the up to date time schedule. This is the cheapest way to get to the city center, though also the longest and less reliable one. A one-way ticket costs 1920 ISK (about 12 euros/14 dollars), at the time of writing this article.

Renting a car? Get the best car rental Iceand deals and compare prices 

Best Time to Visit Reykjavik

You can visit Reykjavik all year round, and depending on when you go, you may experience a very different city. In fact, it’s worth visiting Reykjavik for a day in summer and returning again in winter for two very different experiences. Because of its northerly location, there are 4.5 hours of daylight in January and 21 hours of daylight in June. This can make for two very different visits! Especially if you are only spending 24 hours in Reykjavik.

If you are visiting Reykjavik in the winter, plan your one day Reykjavik itinerary carefully ahead of time. Schedule indoor activities like museums and the beginning and end of the day, so you can make the most of the limited daylight at midday. Although dark, Reykjavik in the winter has the bonus opportunity to catch the Northern Lights.

If you are visiting Reykjavik in the summer, you won’t see Northern Lights, but you will see a lot more of everything else. Check out Iceland’s geothermal beaches and pools, enjoy waterside walks and perhaps even see the midnight sun (Sumarsólstöður).

Where to Eat in Reykjavik

Iceland is not known for its affordable food options. However, if you are a foodie (and especially if you eat meat and fish), here are some of the top places to check out for where to eat in Reykjavik. 

  • Cafe Babalu: A cozy gay-owned cafe in the town center. Serving coffees, Skyr Cheesecake, and sandwiches.
  • Baejarins Beztu Pylsur (BBP): A world-famous hot dog stand, open till 2 AM. A favorite for tourists and locals alike.
  • Út í bláinn (Perlan): The restaurant’s glass dome building is a sight in itself. Eat on the revolving top floor dining area for panoramic views and top-quality cuisine.
  • Fiskfelagid: A chance to try some locally sourced sea-food right by the Old Harbour. If you’re feeling adventurous enough, they also sell reindeer.
  • Bergsson Mathús: Eating vegetarian in Reykjavik can be challenging, but this spot by the National Museum serves healthy vegetarian food all day.

Where To Stay In Reykjavik

Reykjavik accommodation isn’t the cheapest, but just like everything in Iceland, with a little planning and searching you can find accommodation in Reykjavik for every budget.

When choosing which area to stay in Reykjavik, you have a few options:

  • City center: Best for nightlife, short trips, and sightseeing.
  • Vesturbær: An older neighborhood, best for nature lovers, and chilled vibes.
  • Hlíðar: A more residential area, close to the bus terminal, universities, and nice parks.
  • Airport: 30 miles outside Reykjavik, good for late arrivals or exploring Reykjavik for a day during a layover.

Budget Accommodation Reykjavik

Bus Hostel: As you’d expect, a hostel right by the bus terminal. Making it super convenient for day trips from Reykjavik and transfers to the airport. This simple, but clean, hostel is great for shared and private dorm rooms when traveling to Iceland on a budget.

Hotel Cabin: A simple, but clean hotel to the East of the city center. Just a 10-minute walk from the main shopping street, Laugavegur. What’s convenient about this hotel is, is that if you come by car they have a big free parking area behind the hotel.

Mid-Range Accommodation Reykjavik

Hotel Klettur: Well located and stylish, this hotel is right in the hub of the city center. It even has a games room & bar for a perfect night-in in Reykjavik.

Stay Apartments: A great way to save money in Iceland, staying in an apartment with a mini kitchenette. Super central, with clean decor and even laundry facilities.

Unique / Luxury Accommodation Reykjavik

Exeter Hotel: This modern hotel is right by the harbor and oozes style and class. It offers spas and hot tubs and is an IGLTA partner.

Reykjavik Domes: What could be more fun than sleeping under the stars (and maybe even the Northern Lights?) in Iceland. These glass-roofed domes in Reykjavik are just 10km from the center, so you get the best of both worlds. Make sure to book the luxury dome with a hot tub for the most romantic evening. It’s most convenient to stay at Reykjavik Domes if you have your own car.

Enjoy your one day in Reykjavik!

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One Day in Reykjavik Iceland