If you are traveling to Europe, consider a stopover in Reykjavik Iceland. Here is a list of things to do and how to spend 24hrs or a couple days in this nordic city.
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If you are flying anywhere in Europe, it’s worth your while to check if your chosen airline offers stopovers anywhere else. We recently flew to Ireland for a family vacation and had two stopovers in Iceland.
The first stopover was a short one of a little less than 24hrs, but allowed us to see a lot of Reykjavik. The second was a longer – 5 days – and allowed us to drive further and see the raw beauty of Iceland.
If your stopover is short, Reykjavik is your best option. It has a population of less than 130,000 and it’s small enough to explore the highlights in a day.
What to see in Reykjavik Iceland
The first four attractions are free and located within walking distance from each other. If you are renting a car, park at the church for free and make your way to the other places by foot.
A beautiful metal sculpture that sits at the bay in Reykjavik as an ode to its Viking sea faring heritage.
An iconic building in the center of Reykjavik, it can be seen towering over the town. It’s modern architecture is something out of a sci-fi book and the inside of the church is minimalist and white.
Harpa Concert Hall
The coolest piece of architecture I’ve seen in a while, the Harpa Concert Hall is open 24hrs and houses several art venues, shopping stores, a movie theater and a restaurant/bar. If you have more time, check out the comedy shows presented in English.
Reykjavik Bay and Harbor
Walk along the bay, specially if you are visiting during the summer when the sun sets for many hours and bathes the city in golden light way beyond 9pm. Right behind Harpa, you can watch the boats leaving and entering the harbor and people fishing from the cute yellow lighthouses.
A very cool museum that shows the geology of Iceland, it has an upper deck in which you can see Reykjavik and Hallgrimskirkja. You can’t miss the high tech room in which you can use your hands to open information on the wall in front of you and the ice caves right on site.
Where to Eat in Reykjavik Iceland
Iceland is a very expensive place to visit and food prices can seem outrageous at times. These places had reasonable prices and great food.
This food hall houses several small restaurants consider street food. But don’t let it fool you. The food is really good, the seating is communal and the prices are the best we’ve found in Iceland.
We had amazing Vietnamese food here for under $20 euros each. Don’t forget to try a cinnamon roll from the bakery as well. It was divine and I may even say it was the best I’ve ever had!
The restaurant and bar on the rooftop of the Center Hotel is right across the Harpa Concert Hall. It has amazing views of the harbor and on Saturday nights you can enjoy live music for free. Order the fish of the day. Prices range from $20-45 euros per dish.
City Park Hotel
When staying for just 24hrs in any city, it’s always convenient to dine where you are staying. At City Park Hotel (highly recommend it), an all-you-can-eat buffet costs $32 euros per person. You get a $4 euros discount if you stay at the hotel. It might seem expensive, but for Iceland it is actually a good deal.
It includes: soups, salads, two different types of meat (pork and lamb), lasagna, roasted vegetables, potatoes, breads and desserts. A 3-course meal for the price of a main dish at dinner in a regular restaurant in Iceland (yes, it is expensive!).
Transportation in Iceland
For a short stay, I recommend that you stay in a hotel that offers free shuttles to and from the airport.
Buses are available to do the transfer and you can book it during your flight (if flying Icelandair).
If you are older than 25 years old, and traveling with more than one person, it’s more cost effective to rent a car instead.
An important tip for family travelers: make sure you book with a car rental company that is on site in the airport.
We rented cars with two agencies outside the airport – one offered a van shuttle that picked us up and the other required us to take a bus to the rental office.
With a car seat and 3 bags to carry, the shuttle was a lot more convenient. Both options added at least 45 mins to our trip due to the volume of people also renting a car and having to process paperwork.
Where to Stay in Reykjavik
Keflavik is the nearest town to the airport so if you have a very early flight I’d recommend staying there.
From there you can arrange transportation to Reykjavik, which is located 40 minutes from the airport.
If you rent a car for the day, you have more options and staying in Reykjavik can break up the driving between your flights.
The best place we stayed in Reykjavik was this amazing apartment. It was located centrally and close to a grocery store and the Hlemmur Mathöll. It had everything we needed and more, including a playground for the little one and a large balcony in which he could run around.
If you have not yet signed up for Airbnb, you can use this link to get U$40 off your first stay and U$15 towards an experience and I will get U$30 off my next stay. Win- win!
The City Park Hotel is located a little further from the center of Reykjavik (but still close). However, it has large, clean rooms and super friendly staff. We arrived at noon, and they allowed us to do a super early check-in for free. The all you can eat buffet was also phenomenal! I am still dreaming of their brown bread.
There are a few Center Hotels in Reykjavik. The one we stayed in was right across the Harpa Concert Hall and the location was excellent! We also enjoyed the Sky restaurant and bar and the generous breakfast buffet offered.
There were some things we didn’t enjoy about this property. The rooms were much smaller and the other guests kept slamming the doors at all hours of the night. As family travelers now, we really value space for the little one to run around and silence at bedtime.
However, if you want to be within walking distance to the attractions I mentioned above, this hotel provides excellent location for one night.
For other hotels in Reykjavik click on the map below.