Reykjavik – the capital of Iceland – has a long and interesting past. What we see today in Reykjavik is the product of that past: the harbor waiting to receive incoming ships, the thermal baths, the colourful homes, and the simplistic yet progressive way of life. Reykjavik is a city with history rich in identity and continuity with the past and spending only three days in the capital isn’t long enough. But if that’s all the time you have, here’s how to spend three days in Reykjavik!
Assuming you arrive on an overnight flight, take a bus into Reykjavik from Keflavik airport (Gray Line or Fly Bus). Drop your bags off at your hotel, or check in depending if your room is ready. It’s time to start!
Have a small, but filling breakfast at Cafe Loki. The mashed fish on rye is particularly tasty!
Take the I Heart Reykjavik Walking Tour (check out the review: click here). The tour ends in Old Reykjavik around noon and I promise you’ll be hungry from the walk, and possibility from shivering. Luckily Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is nearby for a perfect hot dog lunch. While you’re in the area, don’t forget to pick up the Reykjavik City Card from the Tourist Information Center.
After lunch, walk across the street to the concert hall Harpa. It is open all day and welcomes visitors to admire its interior. Tours are available as well.
Now you should be properly tired and it’s most likely time for your hotel check in. Head back to your hotel, but not for a nap! Grab your bathing suit and head to the nearest municipal thermal pool. The entry fee is covered if you show the Reykjavik City Card. (New to thermal baths in Iceland? Check out the step by step process here: Thermal Bath Etiquette in Iceland). Enjoy a relaxing soak in the hot tub for as long as you want or swim a few laps if you have the energy.
Make use of the Reykjavik City Card. Choose a few museums to check out and make sure you use the city bus (free with your city card).
The National Museum of Iceland has a great exhibit on the settlement of Iceland and the history leading up to modern day Iceland. I found many of the artifacts in the museum were very well preserved, relevant to the exhibits and nicely displayed. There is also a very useful free locker space to store larger bags and to hang coats.
The Settlement Exhibition is also a really neat exhibit located in Old Reykjavik. Ancient building structures were recently discovered. When archaeologists dated the ruins, they estimated it around 871 AD plus or minus two years. The exhibit was thus named 871 +/- 2, but marketing and promotional staff were not convinced. So the exhibit simply became known as the Settlement Exhibition, but you can still find evidence of its scientific name around the museum.
Don’t forget to use the Reykjavik City Card at any of the many restaurants offering discounts to card holders. There are many in the area surrounding the Settlement Exhibition.
A walk to the Sun Voyager after dinner is a great end way to end the day. From Harpa, you can easily walk to it on the paved walking path along the ocean. Contrary to some belief, the Sun Voyager is not a viking ship, but an artistic interpretation of a boat bearing dreams and hope.
Today is the day to leave the city once you’ve had a chance to discover the neat things offered in Reykjavik. There are a number of tour companies that offer discounts on popular tours with the Reykjavik City Card.
Many of the tour companies are located on Laugavegur or the quay of the Old Harbor. You can head out on the ocean for a whale watching tour, stroll through the lava fields on horseback, or relax on a coach bus on the Golden Circle Tour.
On my third day, I went snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure. See the video of the experience here: Snorkeling Silfra with Arctic Adventures.
Good to know
Reykjavik City Card: 24h, 28h and 72h options are available. The card can be purchased from the Tourist Information Centre, but can also be purchased at many hotels.
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