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Visiting Reykjavik for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do


Visiting Reykjavik for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do
Hi, I'm Karen!

Karen is a Scottish freelance travel and culture writer based in the US. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, National Geographic, BBC, and Condé Nast Traveler.

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Hi, I'm Karen!

Karen is a Scottish freelance travel and culture writer based in the US. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, National Geographic, BBC, and Condé Nast Traveler.

see more

Reykjavik, though small, is packed full of idiosyncratic attractions. Visitors to the Icelandic capital can bathe in geothermal waters, spot the northern lights, and ride through the surrounding countryside on a unique breed of horse. If it’s your first visit, you’ll want to cram in all the best bits—here are our recommendations for your first time in Reykjavik.

Take a hop-on hop-off bus tour

Skip the hassle of getting around.

You can get a sense of the layout of the city and knock out the most important landmarks by taking a hop-on hop-off-bus tour. These tours allow you to customize your itinerary, so you can get off at whichever stop you want and spend as long as you like there. 

Go sightseeing

Journey around the Golden Circle

It's popular for a reason.

Iceland’s Golden Circle consists of Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall, and it's easily done on a day trip from Reykjavik. You can even add on an additional activity, such as snowmobiling on a glacier.

Visit the Golden Circle
A group of tourists walk among the scenery during a Golden Circle tour, Iceland.
The Golden Circle is a quintessential Iceland experience. | Photo Credit: Brian Fulda / Viator

Book the Blue Lagoon in advance

Avoid disappointment on the day.

The Blue Lagoon, with its mineral-rich geothermal waters, is one of Reykjavik’s busiest attractions, so plan your visit wisely. Book your ticket in advance, and visit either on the way to the city from the airport or on the way back to save time.

Bathe in the Blue Lagoon

Go aurora hunting

There are few better places for it.

If you're visiting during the winter months, you have a good chance of spotting the northern lights, but it’s best to go on a tour led by guides who know where to find the best viewing spots. If you don’t see them, many tours will let you join again the following evening for another chance.

Related: How to See the Northern Lights in Iceland

Find the aurora
A man looks out over the northern lights in Iceland
The northern lights are a must-see occurrence when in Reykjavik. | Photo Credit: Brian Fulda / Viator

Ride an Icelandic horse

Where else could you do that?

Cute, woolly, and exceptionally sturdy, the Icelandic horse is an icon of the nation. Your tour operator will pick you up in Reykjavik before matching you with your mount, which will then carry you through the countryside, past mountains, lakes, and lava fields.

Go horseback riding

Take a bite out of the food scene

Yes, including hot dogs!

Don’t leave Reykjavik without trying some traditional Icelandic dishes, such as skyr (a yogurt-like dairy product) and Icelandic lamb soup. A guided walking tour can take you to some of the city’s best food spots, including the oldest restaurant and a much-loved hot dog stand.

See food and drink tours

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See all Reykjavik tours
929 tours & tickets
Things to do in Reykjavik
See all things to do in Reykjavik
Things to Do in Reykjavik This Spring
Things to Do in Reykjavik This Spring