City walk Reykjavik, discover all highlights
We’ll explore Reykjavík with a walk that includes the main attractions. The starting and ending point is the Hallgrímskirkja church.
Photo by: Nic McPhee
Reykjavík is the northernmost capital in the world. It is a small, hip town and perfect to explore on foot. Typically, the coloured houses are made of corrugated metal.
1. Hallgrímskirkja church
The Hallgrímskirkja (Church of Hallgrímur) has a 73-metre-high tower and is located near the old centre. The church is built on the Skólavörðuholt hill. The construction work began in 1945; the church was inaugurated in 1986. The striking design is the work of architect Guðjón Samúelsson. He was inspired by the basalt structures that can be found all over Iceland.
2. National museum
In the National Museum, you will find a chronological overview of the social and historical development of Iceland, from the Vikings until today. Temporary exhibitions are also organized.
3. Ráðhús reykjavíkur
Near the Tjörnin lake, you will find the Reykjavík city hall. On the first floor, there is a cafe, where you will have a beautiful view of the lake. Inside, you can also look at a (very impressive!) model of Iceland.
4. Icelandic House of Parliament
In this building the Alþing (parliament) comes together. It was built in 1880 and is located on Austervöllur Square.
5. Reykjavík 871 +/-2 Settlement museum
The Settlement Museum displays the history of the Vikings in an interactive way. It’s not a big exhibition, but the engaging manner of presentation makes it worth a visit.
6. Old harbour
At the old harbour, you will find many restaurants, cafes and tourist agencies (whale watching tours start here). Walk along the wharf and admire the moored vessels: from small, coloured sailboats to whale hunters.
Wander through the narrow, picturesque streets with old renovated fishermen’s cottages and taste the local seafood specialties. Try the lobster soup at Saegreifinn; you’ll recognize the restaurant on the corner by its turquoise colour, Geirsgata 8.
There are several galleries and craft shops, as well as plenty of places to buy souvenirs. You will also find the viking maritime museum, which delves into the maritime history of Iceland.
7. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
Order “ein með Ollu” (one with everything). You’ll get a hot dog with sweet brown mustard (pylsusinnep), ketchup, raw onions, fried onions and a slightly spicy mayonnaise. Less is more? Go for the Clinton-style hot dog — mustard only— as the former US president did here in August 2004. TIP: Order two immediately, because after your first, you will probably want another one, and the queues can be quite long.
8. The Culture house (Safnahúsið)
The Culture House focuses on culture in the broad sense of the word, from Icelandic art and photography to design and history. There are also plenty of interactive displays provided for children.
The Harpa Concert and Conference Centre near the harbor opened its doors in 2011. In 2013, the building won the Mies van der Rohe Prize, an award for contemporary architecture. The building stands out thanks to the many-coloured glass. Walk inside to admire the architecture up close.
10. Sun voyager (Sólfarið)
Sun Voyager (Sólfarið) is a work of art in stainless steel by Jón Gunnar Árnason. It was unveiled in 1990 and has the shape of a boat. It pays tribute to the sun and stands for hope, progress and freedom. You can find it near Sæbraut on the promenade along the water.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the embassy of Great Britain was located here. This is where Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met for discussions in 1986. The signing of a treaty between them was cancelled at the last moment. To commemorate this historic occasion, the flags of the United States and the Soviet Union are hanging in this building.
12. Icelandic Phallological museum
At the Icelandic Phallological Museum, or Penis Museum, you will see over 150 penises (and parts) of Icelandic land and marine mammals including whales, walruses and polar bears. There is even an example of a 1.5-metre penis from a sperm whale.