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48 Hours in Reykjavík: Top Things to Do

|May 27, 2017
Loves writing, food, runes, Reykjavík life, traveling in Iceland and being out in nature. Born in England but fell in love with Iceland in 2010 and moved here, been here since.

48 hours in Reykjavík might not seem like a lot, but with the right itinerary, some advanced planning and a good pair of walking shoes you’ll get to enjoy all the best things the city has to offer.

From swimming pools to schnapps and everything in between, we’ve compiled the perfect 48-hour itinerary for Reykjavík. Read on to discover what your ideal Icelandic break looks like.

Day One

Breakfast in the City

Your first morning in Reykjavík is the perfect opportunity to explore the city, get acquainted with the locals and sample some authentic Icelandic cuisine. Tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to breakfast in the city. Bursting with quaint cafes, bakeries and coffee houses, you’ll find it hard to pick the one for you. Luckily, we’re here to help.

Sandholt Bakerí is a fourth generation, family-run bakery in the heart of the city. The bakery opens at 7 am, making it the ideal option for anyone suffering from jet lag, and serves delicious homemade bread, pastries and tarts. Grab a coffee and a pastry and relax in the bakery’s welcoming interior.

Another breakfast option is Bergsson Mathús, a cozy café found near Reykjavík City Hall which prides itself on serving only ‘honest food’. The café boasts an extensive breakfast menu, with everything from a vegan-friendly chia porridge to grilled sourdough with bacon and scrambled eggs on offer.

After breakfast, it’s time to purchase your Reykjavík City Card.

Buy Your City Card

There’s no escaping the fact that Iceland is an expensive country, but with a Reykjavík City Card you can make incredible savings. The 24-hour card costs 3.800 ISK and includes free entry into Reykjavík’s best museums and galleries, as well as Reykjavík Zoo.

In addition, cardholders can enjoy free use of the public bus transport and entry into the city’s pools and saunas. There’s also the option of visiting the beautiful, historic island of Viðey.

Book Tomorrow’s Tour

Staying in the city doesn’t mean you have to give up on seeing Iceland’s wild countryside and beautiful natural attractions. An organized tour is a great way to see more of the country, without the hassle of renting cars or looking up directions. For short stays, we recommend a combo tour.

Maybe, a glacier hike with volcanoes and waterfalls, a Golden Circle and snorkeling in Silfra fissure trip or a Golden Circle and super jeep tour. The options are endless, with something there to suit everybody.

Read our blog Adventure Activities Near Reykjavík, to learn more about our tours.

Go for a Swim

There’s nothing Icelanders love more than a dip in the pool and luckily for tourists, there’s a wealth of swimming options available. The most popular, and largest, pool in the city is Laugardalslaug, which was originally built in 1968, but has since been extensively renovated. To visit the pool, take the number 14 bus from the city centre.

Upon arrival, visitors can relax in one of the seven hot tubs, swim in the 50m pool or even play a game of golf on the mini-golf course. If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll be glad to know that the pool has three water slides and a children’s pool for them to enjoy.

After visiting the pool, catch the bus back to Hlemmur, before heading to Hallgrímskirkja, Iceland’s iconic white church.

Read our complete guide to hot springs and pool etiquette before visiting one of the city’s pools.

Visit Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja is one of the most visited sites in Iceland, which is no surprise to anyone who’s traveled to the top of the church tower. Boasting extraordinary views over Reykjavík, thousands of tourists flock to the church each year to capture panoramic shots of the city.

After visiting the church, venture across the road to Kaffi Loki for an Icelandic treat or two. If it’s too early for lunch, try coffee and kleina (Icelandic pastry) or delicious Icelandic rye bread ice cream.

Visit Reykjavík’s Museums and Galleries

After lunch, it’s time to visit Reykjavík’s quirky artisan quarter. From Kaffi Loki, stroll downhill on Skólavörðustígur before turning right onto Laugavegur. Reykjavík’s main thoroughfare is home to some of the city’s more interesting clothes shops, concept stores and galleries. With such an eclectic mix of products on offer, tourists will have no trouble picking up a quirky souvenir or two.

After strolling through the shops, it’s time make use of your City Card and visit some free museums. From Laugavegur, you’re within easy reach of two top museums – The Culture House and The Settlement Exhibition.

The Culture House is home to an exhibition that is titled Points of View and is a unique journey through Iceland’s visual legacy. The museum offers tourists an innovative guide into Iceland’s cultural history and includes a number of treasured artifacts, as well as modern Icelandic art.

The Settlement Exhibition is based on the settlement of Reykjavík and is centered around the archaeological excavation of one of the first houses in Iceland. Both museums are very interesting and offer a great insight into life in early Reykjavík, as well as information on Iceland’s cultural past and present.

Go for a Walk by the Sea

The Kársnes Peninsula offers walkers the ideal route for an evening stroll. To get there, take bus 1 to Hamraborg and walk in the direction of the church. Once there, follow the footpath which traces the peninsula.

Typically, the coastal walk takes about an hour, which allows visitors plenty of time to breath in the invigorating sea air, as well as enjoy the stunning ocean and mountain views. After your walk, it’s time for dinner and drinks.

Dinner and Drinks

It’s nearing the end of your first day in Iceland and by now you’ve probably worked up quite an appetite. To complete your day in Reykjavík, it’s time to sample some incredibly tasty fresh fish!

One of the best fish restaurants in town is Messinn, which has an incredible menu and serves everything from salted cod to lobster salad. Harbourside, you’ll find Kopar, an elegant fish restaurant which provides diners with both excellent food and romantic views across the marina.

For more restaurant recommendations, read our 11 Best Places to Eat in Reykjavík blog.

Reykjavík is renowned for its nightlife, with the bars and streets regularly packed with revelers. The main streets of Laugavegur, Bankastræti and Hverfisgata are home to some of the city’s best-loved pubs.

Kaldi on Laugavegur is the perfect haunt for beer lovers as the micro-brewery serves a wide selection of local beers on tap. The cozy bar has a great atmosphere and is a hit with locals and tourists alike.

Situated on Veltusund, close to Iceland’s favorite hot dogs, Pablo Discobar is the place to be if you want good cocktails, dancing and a fabulous tropical interior. On weekends, the bar is filled with people dancing like no one is watching, while Wednesday sees Icelanders arriving for the bar’s Wednesday night drinks special.

And while it may be tempting to stay out all night, don’t forget you have a tour booked for tomorrow, so make sure to get a good night’s sleep.

Day Two

Adventure Tour

Be sure to set your alarm nice and early, as it’s time to prepare for the adventure of a lifetime. Last night, you ate good food, drank great beer, and showed off your signature moves on the dancefloor, but this morning it’s time to prepare for your big day out!

Check out Arctic Adventure’s range of day tours and find the perfect adventure for you. From jeep tours to helicopter tours, there are many adventurous activities a short distance from Reykjavik. Perhaps it's glacier hiking or snowmobiling?

Depending on the tour you’ve booked, make sure to pack appropriate clothing. If hiking, make sure to bring a warm underlayer, waterproof shoes and a waterproof outer layer.

Schnapps and Supper

It’s your last night in Reykjavík and the end of your Icelandic adventure. You’ve seen the best of the city, explored the rugged Icelandic landscape and visited some of the country’s most amazing natural attractions, so what’s next? To round off your trip, we recommend going for schnapps and supper.

Brennivín is a caraway-laced schnapps and is considered Iceland’s signature liquor. Ominously, the drink is sometimes called Svarti Dauði, meaning Black Death, but don’t let that put you off. Kaffi Loki offers good value Icelandic schnapps, with a shot of Brennivín on the menu for 1000 ISK.

If the shot is too much, the café has a selection of 3 different Brennivín coffees for you to try; the Farmer’s Coffee is just black coffee and schnapps, the Priest’s Coffee is black coffee, schnapps, cream and brown sugar, while the Bishop’s Coffee is a mocha with a shot of schnapps.

If you’d prefer to spread out your 48 hours in Iceland, check out our ultimate 2-day itinerary.

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