Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik is increasingly ranked as one of the world’s best cities for travellers. We reveal 11 great reasons to visit the city.
1. Because it's highly recommended
One of the world’s leading travel guide publishers, Rough Guides, rated Reykjavik as the world’s number one city for tourists. They state that the Icelandic capital is a must-visit because of: “…the arts scene, cool nightlife and the slew of natural wonders that lie right on its doorstep…”
2. To be inspired
In addition, a holiday survey this week has ranked Reykjavik as the world’s 5th most inspiring city. Based on eight criteria associated with innovation and creativity, the Icelandic city was rated fifth in the world out of 85 cities and just behind Miami, Bruges, San Francisco and Bristol. Reykjavik scored the top place for an inspiring winter trip.
Whale watching trips leave from Reykjavik
3. To go whale watching
Seeing a whale is a truly impressive experience and something that will stay with you for life. Indeed, there are a total of 23 different types of whale to be spotted around Iceland, including minke and humpback. The best time of year to spot these elusive mammals is May to September but you can see them all year round. Other marine wildlife you may also see includes dolphins, porpoises and sea birds, including puffins. Whale watching trips leave from Reykjavik's old harbour in summer and winter.
If you are lucky you might see the Northern Lights.
4. To gaze at the Northern Lights
Nothing is ever guaranteed with the Northern Lights, but Iceland’s location makes it a favourite place to look out for this night-time spectacle. November to March is the best time to see this natural wonder and you have more chance if you go at a time of the month when the moon is small. Other top tips for success include checking weather forecasts for a partially clear night and temperatures below freezing. There are organised Northern Light tours that leave from Reykjavik, or you can simply drive or walk to a dark area and stare at the skies.
5. For an amazing array of museums
Reykjavik is home to a surprising number of museums for such a small city, each revealing a slice of the country’s fascinating history. The museums include the Víking Maritime Museum, the Art Museum, the Maritime Museum and the Einar Jonsson Museum.
The church of Hallgrimskikja.
6. To look up at Hallgrimskirkja
Of great note is Hallgrimskirkja church, which boasts a 244ft tall steeple that took nearly four decades to build (it was completed in 1986). The view from the top is breath-taking.
7. For foodie gems
The luxury restaurant, The Fish Company, allows you to sample a mix of traditional Icelandic food with modern international twists. Other recommendations include Sushi Samba and Grillmarkadurinn, as well as the must-visit Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for “the best hotdog in town”.
8. And a few drinks
Alcohol can be expensive in Iceland, so happy hour at the Lebowski bar in Reykjavik is not to be missed. The Art Deco bar has a buy one get one free on beer and wine from 4pm to 7pm. Local craft beers are also tempting. Try the welcoming establishments of Micro, Slippbarinn and The Laundromat Café, where there are actual washing machines, too.
Great sights, night and day and festivals all year round
9. For festival fun
Reykjavik has a fantastic number of festivals taking place all year round. They include Dark Music Days, Winter Lights Festival, Stockfish Film Festival, Food and Fun Festival, Sonar Reykjavik, as well as festivals for folk, blues, music experiments, children and arts. Find out more about the festivals.
10 Because it's a great base for nearby attractions
The capital city is the perfect landing spot for visiting an amazing array of nearby attractions. Most of the sights are geological wonders, such as waterfalls, lava plains, hot geysers, warm lagoons (especially the Blue Lagoon, located between the airport and the capital city), glaciers, volcanoes, strange rock formations and black sand beaches. Join a tour from Reykjavik to any one or more of these attractions or drive & hike.
There is also a lot to see near Reykjavik, such as great lava plains.
11. To take a tour
Macs Adventure offers a range of Iceland tours, which start in Reykjavik, including walking tours and drive & hike holidays. You could easily add on a few days at the start or end of your trip for seeing the attractions of the popular capital city.