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Reykjavik

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Travel Guide Europe Iceland Reykjavik

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Introduction

Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik

Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and, not without reason, has become more popular in recent years. Still more travellers find their way to one of the smallest capitals in Europe and although many combine a visit to the city with some sights inland, like the Golden Triangle (Gulfoss, Thingvellir and Geysir), other travellers choose to visit Reykjavik only as a weekend trip. It has numerous bars and restaurants, but especially the alcoholic drinks don't come cheap here, so be prepared! Apart from nightlife and shopping, the city has several cultural things to see as well, like the Hallgrimskirkja and the famous house where presidents Gorbatsjov of the Sovjetunion and Reagan of the USA met in 1986. It's even a good place to visit in winter, as temperatures are surprisingly mild this time of year and you might enjoy the nordic lights (aurora borealis). In summer though, the sun shines 24 hours a day, and although still not warm, people enjoy being outside on the main shopping street or one of several squares in the centre of town.

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Sights and Activities

Reykjavík's old town is small and easy to walk around. The houses have some very distinct features, most notably their brightly colored corrugated metal siding. Plan to spend at least a couple hours just wandering around, taking in the city. And for further feasts of the eyes, there are several museums and art galleries in the city, most of them within easy reach of the downtown area.

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Events and Festivals

  • Þrettándinn (06 Jan 2014) - The Twelfth Night, the last day of Yule, is celebrated in a colourful festive manner like New Years. Dinners, bonfires, parades and loads of fireworks celebrate the end of the Christmas season. It's a time for friends and family to gather around bonfires and share Icelandic folklore.
  • Dark Music Days (Lat January/Early February) - This contemporary music festival has performances from the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, choir performances and various workshops and other concerts occur too!
  • Museum Night (08 Feb 2014) - All of Reykjavik's museums stay open late into the night, often past midnight with a special night bus that travels between the museums. All entrance is free in the celebration of culture and is a fantastic opportunity for tourists and locals to check out the museums in a unique way. Special events, such as theater, visual arts and dance are put on as well making it a fun night.
  • Imagine Peace - Yoko Ono's work of art to commemorate John Lennon is in the form of a wishing well with a tall tower of light emerging from within. The words Imagine Peace are inscribed on the well in 24 languages. The light will be relit on October 9th 2012 by Yoko Ono and will relight every night until Dec 8th, then Dec 21st–28th & Dec 31st 2012.
  • Thorrinn (25 Jan 2015 - 22 Feb 2014) - Full of laughter and fun, this festival celebrates the annual Thorrablot (the Midwinter Feast). Thorrablot takes place in the coldest dark days of the year and is a Scandinavian tradition with lots of Viking history. Traditional Viking food is served, followed by Brennivin which is a strong Icelandic spirit. Dancing in the evening continues into the early morn where the celebrations end.
  • The Iceland Airwaves Festival (31 Oct 2013 - 04 Nov 2013) - It's Scandinavia's largest music festival that is spread in 8 main venues in downtown Reykjavik. Some of the World' most exciting artists have performed here.
  • Reykjavik Art Festival (Mid-May) - It is one of Northern Europe's oldest and most respected arts festivals as it has been going annually since the 1970's. For two weeks, international and national artists/performers host concerts, exhibitions, dance, theater, and opera performances to promote Icelandic culture and art.
  • Festival of the Sea (First Sunday in June) - The history of sailors and the sea is of great importance to Iceland's economy and people. This festival celebrates by bringing every ship into harbour and allowing every sailor the day off. There is a diverse program of events which include sailors competing in rowing, strongmen competitions, Ocean Rescue demonstrations, arts and crafts, sailing and aerobatic airplane stunts. It's a light hearted day of fun for everyone.
  • First Day of Summer (19 Apr 2014) - Icelanders celebrate the First Day of Summer with parades, sporting events and entertainment. The arrival of summer is always welcomed after a cold Icelandic dark Winter.

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Weather

The weather in Reykjavík is notoriously unpredictable. One minute the sun may be shining on a nice summers day, the next it may change into a windy, rainy autumn. Temperatures in Reykjavík are quite bland: They don't go very high in the summer, nor do they go much below zero during winter. It follows that the differences between seasons are relatively small compared to what people experience on either side of the Atlantic.

January is the coldest month and usually has some snow, while there is frequently no snow on the ground during Christmas in December. Summer is without a doubt the favorite season of most Reykjavík inhabitants. Many of them seem to imagine their city is slightly warmer than it really is and it takes little to get them to start wearing shorts and t-shirts, or to go sunbathing in parks. Don't think too much about how silly it may seem, just join them in enjoying the season!

Wind is the main problem with the Reykjavík weather. The city is quite open to the seas, and the winds can be strong and chilling to the bone. Windy spots generally feel significantly colder than those with more shelter.

Temperatures in Reykjavik rarely drop below -12 °C in winter and rarely rise above 15 °C in summer. 20 °C is almost a heatwave and if it gets this warm, it is mostly just a matter of days (or hours!). You can have literally 4 seasons in one day.

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Getting There

By Plane

International
Keflavik International Airport, about 50 kilometres from the capital Reykjavik is where you will land when visiting Reykjavik or Iceland as a whole.
The national carrier is Icelandair which has flights to most major destinations in the western half of Europe and the eastern half of North America. Note that off season (wintertime) some destinations might not be served or have a reduced schedule at least.

In addition, Wow Air has budget flights to and from U.S. and European destinations, including Amsterdam, Baltimore, Berlin, Boston, Copenhagen, Dublin, London and Paris.

Domestic
Air Iceland operates regular scheduled flights from Reykjavík to major domestic airports in all parts of the country, like Akureyri and Egilsstaðir. Landsflug also has flights to smaller airstrips around the country, for example several daily flights from Reykjavík to Vestmannaeyjar.

To/from the airport
Buses travel between the airport and Reykjavik on a regular basis, taking around 45 minutes. Expensive taxis are available as well and there are many options with rental car companies like Hertz and Avis.

By Train

There are no train services to and from Reykjavik.

By Car

Reykjanesbraut (Road 40), enters the city from the west linking it to Southwest Iceland and Keflavík International Airport;
The Ring Road (Road 1), enters the city from both east and north.
If you're driving into town from South Iceland or West Iceland, beware of some quite heavy traffic jams on Sundays when people are going back home after a weekend away. This mainly applies during the summer, and becomes even worse on Mondays after three-day weekends, not to mention if the weather has been good.

By Bus

There is an extensive bus service to most parts of the country and seasonal to the highlands. The Flybus travels between the international airport in Keflavik and the capital Reykjavik. Note that bus services are limited from October to May. June to September is your best bet.
Check BSI for an overview on bus companies. Otherwise check the bus companies directly: Austurleid for South and East Iceand, SBK Travels for the Keflavik and Reykjanes area, Stjornubilar for the Westfjords and Trex for West and North Iceland.

By Boat

Several cruise liners stop in Reykjavík each summer, mostly arriving in Sundahöfn, which is 3km east from the city centre.

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Getting Around

By Car

Driving in Reykjavík is the preferred method for most residents there. As a tourist though, you should be able to manage without a car if you're only staying in the city. Driving is recommended though for travel outside of Reykjavík and its suburbs.

By Public Transport

Reykjavík has a public bus system that is clean and reliable, called Strætó.

By Foot

Walking in Reykjavík is highly recommended, the downtown is very compact and many attractions are within walking distance from most hotels. The city is very beautiful, and the sidewalk and pathway system is first-rate. Reykjavík drivers are in general very friendly, and will sometimes stop for you even when there is no crossing facility.

Unknown to many tourists a very long and scenic pathway for walking and cycling circles almost the whole city. A good starting point is anywhere where the city touches the sea. The path leads by an outdoor swimming pool, a sandy beach, a golf course, and a salmon river.

By Bike

It is easy to get around Reykjavík by bicycle, if you can deal with sometimes strong headwinds and a few hills. There are not many dedicated bicycle paths and so most cycling is done on the street or on the sidewalk (both are legal). When cycling on the street you must obey the same traffic rules as cars. When cycling on the sidewalk it's important to be considerate of people who are walking there, they have the right of way.

Where there are specially marked paths for cyclists these are frequently shared with pedestrians, with a painted white line indicating the division between the two forms of transport. In these cases the narrower section is the bicycle path. Dedicated bicycle paths are a new phenomenon in Reykjavík but their number is increasing every year. These mostly link the city centre with the suburbs.

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Eat

Food in Iceland can be expensive. In order not to break the bank, you'll need to be smart when eating. On the budget side, you're mostly looking at international-type fast food options common to what you'd find in Europe and America.

10-11 is a chain of convenience stores (open 24/7) with plenty of ready-to-eat items such as sandwiches, wraps, and surprisingly enough, tacos. 10-11 is always open but also more expensive than supermarkets, that's why you see most Icelanders shop for food at Bónus (open 10-18), a low-cost supermarket chain. Even better, you can find a fish shop which will sell you some ridiculously fresh and absolutely delicious fish, at a very reasonable price, and cook it yourself with some potatoes and vegetables. It will be really nice. The fish shop could be in Kolaportið, a downtown market which only opens on weekends, or alternatively you could look up one of the many fish shops (fiskbúð) all around town.

Try one of the hot dog places that are found everywhere. This German import has become thoroughly Iceland-ized. A dog should set you back 250-300 kr. Ask for "Eina með öllu", a hot dog with everything on it. Delicious.

Apart from the usual suspects such as KFC and Subway (McDonald's was recently re-branded Metró by the local franchise holder, but the menu remains the same) and the hot dog stands mentioned above, Reykjavík has a number of home grown fast food restaurants. In the city centre many are open 24/7 in weekends, serving the partying crowd. Names include Nonnabiti and Hlöllabátar (subs and sandwiches), Kebabhúsið and Ali Baba (kebabs), Serrano (burritos) and Pizza Pronto (you can guess what they sell). You should be able to fill your stomach at each of these for 1,000 kr or less.

The most local street food you can find is kjötsúpa, Icelandic meat soup. It is a spicy vegetable soup with lamb meat. They have a vegetarian version of it too, that is just the same soup minus the meat. You can find vans selling it next to the Hallagrimskirkja and at the northeastern corner of Tjörnin. A small bowl costs about 700 kr and a large one 1,100 kr as of August 2014.

Thais form, along with Poles, the largest immigrant community in Reykjavík and as a result there are a lot of good and cheap Thai restaurants around the capital, often run by Thai families. You will usually get large portions without paying much more than 1,000-1,500 kr. Options in central Reykjavík include Krua Thai (Tryggvagata 14) and Núðluhúsið (Laugavegur 59, 2nd floor).

There are tons of cafes everywhere in the city that are relatively inexpensive and a great place to sit, relax, and warm up. You can also check your e-mails if you bring your computer, as there is free Wi-Fi in most of them. Kaffitar and Te & Kaffi are comparatively large chains and serve great barrista style coffee, that might however be on the expensive side.

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Drink

Reykjavík is considered to have some of the best nightlife in all of Europe and it can be almost guaranteed that you haven't really "partied" until you've done it here. This fact is proven by the number of celebrities who come specifically for it.

Drinking is expensive - expect to pay between 600 and 900 Jr for a draft pint at a bar. Bottled beers and mixed drinks are more expensive, sometimes outlandishly so. Despite the cost, going out in Reykjavik is a fun experience. Since alcohol is expensive at Reykjavík bars and clubs, Icelanders usually buy their alcohol at the government owned liquor stores (Vínbúðin, called Ríkið by locals) and stay at home drinking until about midnight (or later), then they will wander to the bars. Do not expect bars and clubs to become crowded during weekends until about 1:00am (at least). Cover charges are very rare in Reykjavík, unless there is live music or some other sort of event going on. Note that although the legal age for entering clubs is 18, the legal drinking age is 20 and many places set higher entry age limits themselves.

Bars are open to 1:00am on weeknights, but most will stay open until 6:00 or 7:00am on Friday and Saturday. The clubs and bars themselves are mostly found in a very small area of the city centre, it's easy to just walk around and follow the crowds. You're sure to find somewhere to go, but if you're not sure, groups of drunken Icelanders will usually be eager to help a tourist out! During weekends, live music is easy to find in some of Reykjavík's bars. During the day, be sure to pick up the free English-language magazine The Reykjavík Grapevine for information on live music events for that evening. It is easy to find in shops, restaurants and bars around the city.

There is an ice bar in Restaurant Reykjavík where all the furniture and the bar are made from glacial ice. This seems like an interesting place to go, however, you will be charged 1,300 kr for entry which includes a single vodka-based cocktail in what is effectively an atmosphere and music-free deep freezer. You cannot bring in or buy more drinks, if you are keen for novelty it is good, otherwise perhaps not worth the money.

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Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
101 GuesthouseLaugavegur 101 Snorrabraut 29Guesthouse85
4th Floor HotelLaugavegur 101Hotel-
Alba GuesthouseEskihlid 3 HlidarGuesthouse-
Alfholl-GuesthouseRanargata 8Guesthouse-
Baldursbra Guesthouselaufasvegur 41Guesthouse-
Blaklukka GuesthouseHvammsgerdi 12Guesthouse-
Bolholt ApartmentsBolholt 6Guesthouse-
Domus GuesthouseVeghusastigur 7 101 ReykjavikGuesthouse-
Einholt ApartmentsEinholt 2 ReykjavikGuesthouse-
Guesthouse BB 44Borgarholtsbraut 44 Nýbýlavegur 16Guesthouse-
Guesthouse Egilsborgverhoult 20 101GUESTHOUSE79
Guesthouse OdinnOdinsgata 9Guesthouse85
Guesthouse PaviBrautarholti 4Guesthouse76
HeidashomeHverfisgata 102Guesthouse80
Hotel FlokiFlokagata 1Hostel-
Reykjavik BackpackersLaugavegur 28Hostel76
Reykjavik City HostelSundlaugavegur 34 IS-105 ReykjavikHOSTEL84
Reykjavik Downtown HostelVesturgata 17Hostel88
The Capital-InnSudurhlid 35dGuesthouse77
Thor GuesthouseSkolavordustig 16Guesthouse-
Travel InnSoleyjargata 31Guesthouse-
Guesthouse TunguvegurTunguvegur 23APARTMENT70
Guesthouse GaltafellLaufásvegur 46Guesthouse-
Guesthouse PalshusEinarsnesi 58Guesthouse-
Aurora GuesthouseFreyjugata 24Guesthouse-
Kriunes HotelVatnsenda 203 KopavogurGuesthouse-
Guesthouse VonLaugavegi 55Guesthouse-
Metropolitan HotelRánargötu 4aHotel-
FIT GuestHouseA23 Guesthouse Auðbrekka 23 KópavogurGuesthouse-
AbodeSkólavörðustígur 35Apartment-
Our HouseKarastigur 12GUESTHOUSE-
Grettisgata ApartmentsGrettisgata 43 101 ReykjavikApartment-
Blue House B&BValhusabraut 19 SeltjarnarnesGUESTHOUSE83
Reykjavik residence HotelHverfisgata 45Hotel-
Igdlo GuesthouseGunnarsbraut 46GUESTHOUSE86
KEX HostelSkúlagata 28HOSTEL88
Bina GuesthouseBugdulaekur 1GUESTHOUSE-
Abode LittleOdinsgata 17, 101 GroundfloorApartment-
Loki 101 guesthouseLokastigur 24AGuesthouse-
Hotel LaxnesHaholt 7HOTEL-
AR GuesthouseBraedraborgarstigur 3GUESTHOUSE-
Reykjavik Peace CenterVogasel 1GUESTHOUSE-
Heytjörn CabinsLaufasvegur 2Guesthouse-
Flying Viking GuesthouseKrókhálsi 5aGuesthouse-
Fjord GuesthouseHverafold 33GUESTHOUSE-
Konrads B&BLokastigur 11GUESTHOUSE-
Grettisborg aparmtentsGrettisgata 53bApartment-
Grettir GuesthouseLaugavegur 28aGUESTHOUSE82
Hotel GardurHringbraut 29HOTEL-
Arctic Comfort HotelSidumula 19HOTEL-
Pisa GuesthouseLækjargata 6bGuesthouse-
Ranargata 23Ranargata 23APARTMENT-
Rentice GuesthouseKvistavellir 15 221 HafnarfjörðurGuesthouse-
Loft HostelBankastraeti 7HOSTEL88
Hlemmur SquareLaugavegur 105HOSTEL84
Central GuesthouseRánargata 10 ReykjavíkGuesthouse-
Bus Hostel ReykjavikSkogarhlid 10HOSTEL-
Hostel B47Baronsstigur 47HOSTEL82

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Work

There's not much in way of employment opportunities in Reykjavík at the moment. Since the economic collapse of 2008, unemployment has risen to around 8% and unless you have special skills you're likely to be at a disadvantage as a foreigner in a job hunt. Additionally, it's extremely difficult for non-EEA citizens to get a visa unless they already have a job.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Most of Iceland is well connected. Most homes have ADSL connections which work well most of the time. There is however a firewall which can cause connections problems especially at busy times. Most hotels, guesthouses, hostels, cafés etc. have a working Wi-Fi network. Generally it's free of charge, but sometimes there might be a small fee or limited amount of time. There are a couple of public computers at the University of Iceland and the National Library that you can use for free and without the need to log in.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The international telephone code is 354. National numbers in Iceland are seven digits long and generally written in the form xxx xxxx or xxx-xxxx.
There are no area codes in this closed numbering plan and the international call prefix is 00. Numbers of mobile phones tend to begin with either 6xx xxxx, 7xx xxxx or 8xx xxxx, while land line numbers start with 5xx xxxx (in Reykjavík) or 4xx xxxx (the country side). The Icelandic emergency number is 112 for all services.

Internally, phone calls in Iceland are very reasonable priced and most providers offer friends and family discounts or free calls/messaging to same network phones. International calling cards are available in most convenience stores which can significantly reduce the cost of international calls.

There are three main companies who supply personal internet connections: siminn Vodafone and Talk. It is very important to get full details of the charges and excess charges as it is very easy to run up a huge bill without being aware of it, especially on a mobile connection. You can buy a local SIM card, if you have an unlocked mobile phone. The major internet companies can supply 3G mobile internet on a monthly basis. If you are travelling be sure to check the coverage because the mobile connection is not as wide as the mobile phone connection.

Post

Iceland's Postal Service (tel. 580-1200) is reliable and efficient. General post office hours in Reykjavík are 9:00am to 6:00pm weekdays, but post offices close earlier elsewhere. Mailboxes are bright red and marked Pósturinn. Stamps are sold at many locations, including Nóatún supermarkets; N1, Olís, and Shell gas stations; and some bookstores. Mail typically takes 3 to 5 business days to reach Europe or the United States. If you are importing goods through the post, it takes a while to sort out the customs and tax based on the value of the item, so be sure to have receipts readily available. For sending packages you can also use international courier companies like TNT, UPS, FedEx or DHL, since they are fast, reliable and generally competitively priced as well.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 64.135338
  • Longitude: -21.89521

Accommodation in Reykjavik

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Reykjavik searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Reykjavik and areas nearby.

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This is version 31. Last edited at 12:17 on Sep 30, 16 by Utrecht. 49 articles link to this page.

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