Reykjavik romances visitors with its bewitching mixture of big-city excitement and village vibe. During the summer, sunlight shines on the world’s most northerly capital for 22 hours a day, but a seemingly never-ending night takes over the city in winter. Throughout both seasons, Reykjavik thrives thanks to its many cultural trappings. The capital plays host to state-of-the-art geothermal pools, world-class restaurants and many fine museums and galleries. Friendly locals make the city feel like home quickly, and visitors fast fall in love with the Icelandic capital.
Reykjavik is intimately connected to its natural landscape, and visitors from April to October can spot whales off the city’s coast. The surrounding ocean is home to many types of whales, including Humpback, Orca, Blue, Minke and Sperm whales. Seals and dolphins are also often spotted. Many whale-watching tours depart from Reykjavik, and visitors can also take sea-angling cruises to catch their own fresh fish from the cool waters.
The most eye-catching landmark in Reykjavik is the Perlan, built in 1988 above the large tanks that hold the city’s reserves of natural hot water. Inside the stunning glass dome is a rotating restaurant that serves some of the capital’s finest cuisine, and the outdoor viewing platform offers panoramic views of Reykjavik.
The city is home to a number of fine museums. The well-planned National Museum offers a great introduction to Iceland’s history and culture. Featuring models of Thor, silver hoards and swords, the Settlement Era exhibit is the museum’s most popular. Another big draw in the collection is the 13th-century church door carved with the story of a lion and the knight he protected.
Key moments in the country’s history come alive in sometimes eerie detail at the Saga Museum. Hair-raising screams and thudding axes provide the soundtrack for some of the more bloodthirsty exhibits, and many of the molds used to create the silicon models were taken from the faces of local residents.
The outdoor Arbaer Museum is another must-see sight that offers visitors a glimpse into traditional life in the countryside. The museum features transplanted houses from around Iceland, and visitors are welcome to wander through the grounds and the residences. Local actors dressed in period costumes demonstrate farm chores, like cow milking, butter churning while providing insight into traditional life.
A short boat trip from the coast takes visitors to Videy Island, home to majestic rock formations, miles of hiking trails and at least 30 species of birds. Intriguing sculptural artwork can be seen all around the island, including pieces by Richard Serra, Yoko Ono and other renowned artists.
One of the country’s most dazzling buildings is the Church of Hallgrimur. Over 1,000 people can worship in the church at one time, and its steeple towers above all the other buildings in the capital. Named for the local poet Hallgrimur Petursson, the church includes a statue to Leif Ericson, the first Viking to discover America.
Other must-see sights in Iceland’s capital include the central Tjornin pond, the late 20th-century City Hall, the National Gallery of Iceland, the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, the grand Culture House and the Alpingi, home to the Icelandic parliament.
Reykjavik Geographical Location
Reykjavik is located on the southwest of Iceland and is its only city.
The population of Reykjavik is approximately 202,000.
Icelandic is the official language of Iceland although English, German, and Nordic languages are also widely spoken.
Reykjavik Predominant Religion
- 81% Lutheran Church of Iceland
- 13% Other
- 2% Roman Catholic Church
- 2% Reykjavik Free Church
- 2% Hafnarfjorour Free Church
The Lutheran Church of Iceland is the nation’s official religion and the majority of the population considers themselves to be religious.
The Icelandic Krona is the official currency of Iceland.
Rainfall is frequent throughout the year in Reykjavik and it is normally cold without much variation within the daily temperature.
Reykjavik Main Attractions
- Golden Circle Route
- The Pearl
- Hallgrimur’s Church
Other Attraction in Reykjavik
- National Museum of Iceland
- Gullfloss (Golden Waterfall)
- Volcano House