What to do in Reykjavik on first day

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By Johann H Ragnarsson

What to do in Reykjavik on first day

Harpa Concert hall
Harpa Concert Hall

I was thinking, what if I were a tourist in Reykjavik for the first time. First thinking would, of course, be what to do in Reykjavik. How would I plan the day if I have found information like I as a local have?  Well, this is my idea.


Reykjavik is a very friendly city, the capital of Iceland, and it´s excellent to be there with the whole family. But it´s not many which know that this small capital, with 120.000  inhabitants (but 200.000 in the metropolitan area), spread out over a large distance with an area of 274 square km.

There is a lot of sports arena, very goods restaurants, a lot of interesting places to see, so organizer first day are no easy.

But here is my idea!


Swimming pools Reykjavik
Laugardalslaug (Meltwaterfalls)

For sure, after good breakfast, I would start the day to go to the hot swimming pools in Reykjavik. I would choose Laugardalslaugin, which is in a valley that have been building up as an excellent sports valley.

There is the biggest pool, national stadium for football and athletic, sports hall for the national teams in handball, basketball, and volley. And there is too indoor ice rink, so few things are named.

The Laugardalslaug are 50 meters long with eight lanes. Plus 30 meters pool for children and adult where you can play basketball, relax and more things. There is the water hotter than in the 50 meters pool.

But too, it´s seven hot pots that are excellent to jump in to relax and soft the muscles! And it´s one cold pot too if you dare to jump in! But the water in the pool is hot like in all swimmings pools in Iceland. So it´s good idea to jump in the cold pot for 30 seconds, or less, and then take the run to the pool were is 10 meters away.

Laugardalslaug is, like most pools in Iceland, very attractive both for locals and tourist. Last years have been building up a lot of excellent place in the pool are for children, so it´s excellent for families to spend a good time. And around the area and good roads to run or walk.


After the swimming is a good idea to walk a little bit in the valley, Laugardalur. There is a good coffee house, Cafe Flora, in the beautiful garden with an enormous selection of Arctic flowers and plants. Very relaxing place to walk in. With a side of the garden is a Zoo park with most Icelandic animals. Foxes, seals horse to name few are there, an ideal place for children to look at.


In Iceland have always been a big tradition for hot dogs. 50 meters from the entrance in Laugardalslaug are typical hot dogs for sale and after good swimming it´s good a next step in the first day in Reykjavik.


Pipe organ in Hallgrimskisrkja
Pipe organ in Hallgrimskisrkja

Next place I would go to is at the top in the biggest church in Iceland, Hallgrimskirkja (73 meters high). You can go, to the tower, and there is a fantastic view over Reykjavik. Ideal for photography and see how the city is organized. Too, see the sea and mountains around the city.

In the church is very famous and excellent pipe organ. Must see when you go in the church.

The church is named after one of the most famous poets and priests in Icelandic history, Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614-1674). His most famous work is The Passíusálmar, which are the collection of 50 poetic text. The texts explore the narrative, as traditionally presented, from the point where Christ enters the Garden of Gethsemane to his death and burial.  On Easter each year it´s very important for many Icelanders to go and listen to the Passíusálmar which is read in many churches. You can see an excellent book about the Passíusálmar here.


Next I would go to Perlan. Beautiful building on the hill Öskjuhlid. It is restaurant and cafeteria plus much more. There is a superb view there from the 27 meters high building. You can walk there in the circle in viewing desk so you can see both the city and landscape. A place that is must go to. In this place have been hot water storage tanks for decades but 1991 was it improved in the house as it is now.


A lot of information about Perlan can be seen here.


After Perlan is excellent to walk to the beach, Nauthólsvík, which are located close to Perlan,. In the summer of 2000 the Geothermal beach in Nauthólsvík was opened and have been very popular. It´s golden beach, something you would more expect to see in Spain or Italy. The see is around 16°C in the summertime.

Sea-swimming is very popular there, like in more places.

But next to the beach is excellent bistro restaurant, Nautholl. Good restaurant with a beautiful view over the see and a very relaxing and warm place. Here is more information about him but I can personally highly recommend this place.


After the dinner, I would go to the magnificent Music Hall, Harpa. It´s very particular and beautiful building. 2011 was the house open, and many great events have been there. It´s big with a lot of glasses which is special to see in both daytimes and too in the evening when the lights play with the glass walls.

The road from Nautholl to Harpa can be a little bit extra nice with go direct to north to the sea on the road Saebraut. There is excellent walking path with the side of the sea to Harpa which is very popular to walk or run on.


In the rest of my first day in Reykjavik I would go to the Harbour. There is a plenty of people, pubs, nightlife and a good way to finish good day to just walk and feel the atmosphere.

But this is just an idea, one of the thousands. I hope you have like it. If you have another ideas, please give the information in the comments for other people, looking for a trip to Reykjavik, to enjoy.

 In the end, here is a video from the atmosphere in the swimming pool, Laugardalslaug


About the author
Johann H Ragnarsson

4 thoughts on “What to do in Reykjavik on first day”

  1. What a great list of things to do in Reykjavik! Hallgrímskirkja and Harpa look very interesting and beautiful, and I’d love to see them one day.

    You mentioned breakfast, which made me wonder: What is a typical Icelandic breakfast?


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