While it may be only getting colder for the next few months, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find a worthwhile vacation. In fact, many cities are able to utilize colder weather to their benefit, beyond just skiing or snowboarding.
Reykjavík, which translates roughly to “Smokey Bay”, is the most northern based capital on the planet, comprised of a population so small that it hardly compares to most others. However, despite being the hometown of approximately 200,000 citizens, Reykjavík provides a wide range of culture, food, and activities that can keep any traveler entertained.
The choices for activities go on for days, and there’s no way to truly cover all of the experiences the city offers. From the natural beauty to the architecture within the city limits, there are tons to do in this winter wonderland. We organize a list of 5 fulfilling actives you’ll definitely want to do during a winter visit to this secluded gem of a city.
1) Visit the Harpa Concert Hall
The Harpa Concert and Conference Hall is an massive glass structure right by the old harbor of Reykjavík. The building is worth a visit for its architecture alone; as you’ll be able to take in the custom design of it both from the outside and inside, as well as snap a few photos.
It’s also worth checking out what’s taking place inside the Harpa during your stay in Iceland. You may be able to see the Icelandic Symphonic Orchestra during a rehearsal, or attend a show with some of Iceland’s most famous bands.
Harpa is the venue for “Sónar Reykjavík,” the electronic music festival, Iceland Airwaves, and hosts Reykjavík Fashion Festival. With so many events that come through this concert hall, plan ahead and experience a show that you may never get to see back home.
2) Local Swimming Pools
With such a connection to the surrounding ocean, and other natural destination around the city, there aren’t too many more ways to see Icelandic culture then following the locals and visiting one of Reykjavik’s local pools? Thanks to Iceland’s work in renewable energy, the use of water in large capacities is very affordable, making it a favorite past time among the locals.
With 18 swimming pools to choose from, The greater Reykjavík area can be a spa tour of sorts, if you wanted it to be! Some of these pools have both an indoor and an outdoor pool, a sauna and at least one hot tub. These pools also have heated water, making them accessible all year round.
Icelandic swimming pools are more like a luxury spa than your everyday communal pool at home. Which might also be the cheapest spa you ever come across, considering the accessibility in the city. If you’re looking for something in a more natural setting, there is the geothermally warmed up water by Reykjavík beach, Nauthólsvík.
The best thing about Reykjavík’s swimming pools is that they can be enjoyed all year round, in any type of climate. You can perfectly enjoy a soak in an outdoor hot tub, even if it is literally freezing outside!
3) Visit Hallgrimskirkja Church
Standing proudly in the center of Reykjavík is Hallgrímskirkja church, which is visible from almost every angle of the city, making it almost impossible to miss. At the top of the building is a viewing platform with 360 degree views over the entire city. Along with the view from Perlan on Öskjuhlíð hill, this is probably the best view you will get of the city, aside from flying over the city.
The tower is open daily, except on Sundays when there are religious services. As an operating church, the tower may sometimes be closed due to services or concerts being held inside. Be mindful, and respectful, of the practices in and around the tower, but if you have the chance to go, go!
4) Trek through the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a very popular, and massive, 190-mile long tourist route that runs by Thingvellir National Park, the 105-foot dual-flowing waterfall “Gullfoss” (aka the Golden Falls), and the geothermal Haukadalur valley’s “Strokkur”, a geyser that gushes water 60 to 100 feet into the air every few minutes.
According to recent visits, the Golden Circle, which is settled in South Iceland about 25 miles away from Reykjavik, is a can’t-miss part of Iceland, even on a rainy day. However, getting there can be tricky as public transportation does not travel to the region. Plan on paying for a car or joining an organized tour. (Our travel agent can help you find recommendations!)
The Golden Circle is free to visit all day long, but some of the sights, like Kerid, a volcanic crater, do charge an entrance fee. If you decide to sign up for a guided tour, expect to pay for the experience. Complimentary parking is provided at all attractions; most also have restrooms, gift shops and quick-service eateries.
5) See the Northern Lights
Iceland is one of the best and few places in the world to experience the rare and gorgeous natural show known as the Northern Lights. You may be able to spot them from downtown Reykjavik, but the best place to see them within the city limits is by the seashore at Seltjarnarnes.
There, you will be far away enough from the street lights and be able to take in the full experience. The area of Grótta is particularly nice; many birds nest there and there is also scenic views like a charming old lighthouse, perfect for photography enthusiasts.
As long as you can get as far as possible away from the city’s light pollution as possible, you should be able to see the lights occur. Be sure to pick your spot along the coastline, looking out towards the sea. The northern lights can only be seen between late August and early May, so if you are here in the summertime, you can enjoy the midnight sun instead.
If any of this piqued your interest, be sure to reach out to our travel agent and get more information about this beautiful city. Experiencing this city is not only affordable but provides the chance to have more than a few once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Have a heavy coat prepared, and let us take care of the rest for you!