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8 Reasons to visit Reykjavik, the capital city of Europe’s mysterious winter wonderland.
An example of spontaneity at its finest: meeting two girls for the first time on a Saturday, then booking a trip to Iceland with them for the following Thursday.
Normally I’m a little skeptical to plan things without much preparation.
But I have to say my random visit to Iceland this past weekend was an absolute success.
We only had a few days before the school year in London started. So we didn’t have the time to explore much of Iceland.
But we spent a few days in Reykjavik and had an amazing time exploring the area and experiencing our first glimpses of Icelandic culture.
We also took a day trip to the famous Blue Lagoon, which was one of the best days of my life!
Many people venture to Iceland to road trip around the rugged countryside and see massive waterfalls and glaciers.
I would absolutely love to do that one day when I have more time and money. But for now I am content with the quick weekend I had in Reykjavik.
So for anyone who thinks the wilderness is the only real point of interest in Iceland, think again!
And for anyone planning trips around Europe, either while studying abroad or backpacking, try throwing Iceland into the mix.
Here are 8 reasons to visit Reykjavik, Iceland.
8 Reasons To Visit Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland exudes a refreshing natural beauty, and Reykjavik might be the most pristine city I’ve ever explored.
When you’re visiting Iceland, don’t just skip the city and head straight for the wild!
Spend at least a few days in the capital to admire the architecture and design, taste some local food, and absorb the charm.
Iceland is actually pretty cheap to fly to from New England in the USA as well.
So for all my friends at home who are looking for a fun getaway, here are 8 reasons to visit Reykjavik.
1. The Clean, Pure Air
Reykjavik is so incredibly peaceful that although it’s a capital city, the serene atmosphere feels like a dream.
The second I stepped out of the Reykjavik airport, the cold fresh air instantly energized me.
The air contained hints of sulfur, but it created a raw, sharp aroma that revitalized the senses.
“Air” may seem like a weak start to this list of reasons to visit Reykjavik.
But if you’ve never visited Iceland before, I’m sure that the crisp air is the first thing you’ll notice as well.
2. Classy Architecture
The sense of freshness and purity that you get from the air also resonates in the architecture of Reykjavik.
Most of the buildings are simple and modern.
There are lots of clean, neutral color, sleek monuments, historical statues, and neat parks and ponds, all of which truly embodied the word “classy”.
3. The Colors
Although much of Reykjavik is clean and simple, there are so many splashed of color throughout the city to add some excitement.
Just walking around you’ll see brightly colored buildings, doors, and streets that are fun to look at and too photograph.
Every September, the street in front of the Hallgrímskirkja is painted rainbow in celebration of Gay Pride.
So Iceland is actually super colorful if you look around!
4. The Hallgrímskirkja
I’m sure you were super confused in the last paragraph when you saw the word “Hallgrímskirkja”. What the heck is that?
The Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran Church in Reykjavik that is also the tallest church in all of Iceland.
This incredible structure is 75.5 meters tall and it was the first landmark we saw in the city.
In front of this magnificent church is a powerful-looking statue of Leifur Eiríksson.
He was supposedly the first European to discover the Americas about 500 years before Christopher Columbus did.
5. The Harpa
Another one of the most distinguished landmarks of Reykjavik is the Harpa.
This concert hall and conference center is the center of culture and society of the city. It’s a fascinating place to visit!
Not only is the outside of the building super modern and a bit eccentric, but the inside is full of gorgeous art, unique design, and lots of attractions.
6. The Street Art
Reykjavik has some of the most beautiful street art I’ve ever seen.
Not once did I find any of the common vulgar slogans or graffiti spray-painted onto a wall that you often see in cities. E
very single piece of street art was an impressive, colorful, artistic masterpiece.
Remember how I mentioned that Reykjavik is actually super colorful? The street art is a major contributing factor.
If you love street art, that is definitely one of the best reasons to visit Reykjavik.
7. The Blue Lagoon
While visiting Reykjavik, you absolutely have to take a day trip to the famous geothermal pool known as the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon is absolutely breathtaking.
You’ll see foggy, steaming periwinkle water surrounding black volcanic rocks. And you’ll get to smear thick white silica mud onto your face for some natural health benefits.
A day at the Blue Lagoon is reason enough to fly to Iceland for a weekend.
Wondering how to visit the Blue Lagoon from Reykjavik?
As the Blue Lagoon is only about 45 minutes away from Reykjavik, it’s a super easy day trip to include in your trip to Iceland.
You have to book your ticket in advance. The standard entry fee to the Blue Lagoon ranges from 6,990 to 11,990 Krona, which is around 50 to 80 USD.
The steep price is worth it for the unique luxury experience.
You can add round-trip transfer to Reykjavik for 40 USD. Check the official Blue Lagoon website for more info.
If you visit in the late morning or afternoon when the entry fee is the most expensive, it might even be a little cheaper to book a tour on Get Your Guide
This day trip from Reykjavik includes round trip transportation and the ticket to the Blue Lagoon. It costs 128 USD and is rated 4.3 out of 5 stars by other travelers.
8. Icelandic Food and Drinks
Another amazing reason to visit Reykjavik is the interesting local food. Here are a few things I tried that made an impression on me:
I really wanted to try this Icelandic yogurt so I bought some from the supermarket.
Skyr is super thick and creamy, and definitely some of the best yogurt I’ve ever eaten.
Why ice cream is so popular in a country this cold is beyond me.
But nonetheless, we read that ice cream is a local favorite in Iceland so we had to try some.
There is a famous ice cream shop called Isbud Vesturbaejar, where they make these giant ice cream conceptions filled with candies, fruit, and chocolate.
The three of us split one and it was so delicious.
Whale & Puffin Meat
Another fun food experience was eating at a local restaurant that offered tasting plates of unique local dishes.
I decided to break my vegetarianism momentarily just to take a bite of the local whale meat and puffin meat, which was interesting.
Puffin tasted like chicken, and whale didn’t taste like much because it was smothered in BBQ sauce.
Other random foods
I recommend just window shopping in the streets of Reykjavik and going into a few artisan shops.
Lots of them have samples of weird local treats, like dried wild crowberries and black lava crackers.
There were actually lots of foods infused with black lava, like sea salt and spice blends.
Black lava-infused crackers or salt is a fun souvenir to take home as well!
I also sampled the traditional Icelandic spirit called Brennivín, also known as the Black Death.
It tasted exactly how I expected any clear, strong liquor to taste: terrible.
Luckily, I had some of the most delicious tap water ever to wash it down, which brings me to…
ICELAND HAS THE BEST TAP WATER I’VE EVER TASTED.
No lie, every time I drank tap water in Iceland I was blown away by how fresh and clean it tasted. And it’s free, which isn’t always the case in Europe.
☼ ☼ ☼
So those are my 8 reasons to visit Reykjavik!
I’m sure Iceland has much more to offer than just this capital city and the Blue Lagoon.
But for those who don’t have the time or money to set out on an epic road trip of the Icelandic countryside, a weekend trip to the city is a great place to start!!
To read about my other adventures in the frigid temperatures of northern Europe, check out these articles: