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6 of the best in Reykjavik, Iceland

If your time is limited in Iceland, my recommendation would be that you explore beyond Reykjavik and see the incredible natural landscape that the country has to offer. The likelihood is though that, at some point or other, you will find yourself in the capital. If your time there is limited also, like ours was, then here are some of the key things a first-time visitor will want to see.

Sun Voyager

The Sun Voyager has been a familiar feature of Reykjavik’s waterfront since 1990 and is said to be a symbol of Icelandic dreams of hope, progress and freedom. This sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason is a prominent landmark that reflects the spirit of the city. Many visitors believe it to be a Viking long-ship – however, this was not the original intention and it is in fact a dream boat and ode to the sun, representing a promise of undiscovered territory. A gentle stroll along the waterfront at sunset, whilst admiring the view of the bay and Mount Esja beyond, is the perfect way to take it in.

Hallgrímskirkja Church

The impressive Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik is one of Iceland’s most famous structures. Built between 1945 and 1986, this Lutheran (Church of Iceland) church was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson and its tower resembles the basalt pillar formations characteristic of some parts of the country. In addition to the tower, there is a traditional nave plus a cylindrical sanctuary at the other end of the church which is said to resemble a Viking war helmet. For a small fee, visitors can go up the tower – one of the tallest structures in Iceland at almost 75 metres high – via a lift and access an observation deck with views over the city.

Harpa Concert Hall

The Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik is a beautiful and modern concert hall and conference centre, designed by the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects in co-operation with Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Its steel framework clad with geometric-shaped glass panels makes it one of the city’s most striking landmarks, as well as a centre of cultural and social life, and a tourist attraction in its own right. It was to be part of a redevelopment of the Austurhöfn area, complete with a 400-room hotel, luxury apartments, retail units, restaurants and a car park; however, this had to be scaled back when the 2008 Icelandic financial crisis took hold. Iceland’s government funded the remainder of the concert hall’s construction and today it houses the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the offices of The Icelandic Opera.


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Sky Lagoon

Just to the south of downtown Reykjavik, Sky Lagoon is a geothermal spa that opened in 2021. It boats a 70-metre infinity-edged geothermal pool with a swim-up bar and stunning views of the North Atlantic, as well as being known for its unique seven-step ritual experience. Away from the city centre, this luxurious thermal spa is your gateway to feeling calm, rejuvenated and stress-free in a magical manmade lagoon.

A Reykjavik swimming pool

A swimming pool is a popular way for locals to spend time relaxing in Iceland, but can (and should!) be experienced by tourists too. There are at least seven public baths to choose from in Reykjavik; we visited Sundhöllin, the oldest swimming pool in the city which has the same designer as Hallgrímskirkja Church (Guðjón Samúelsson). Sundhöllin was renovated in 2017 and is today home to both an indoor and outdoor pool, a lap pool, a children’s pool, three hot tubs, a cold tub and two saunas. Give visiting a traditional Icelandic swimming experience a try, but do be careful to adhere to the bathing rules and etiquette.

Reykjavik’s swimming pools offer a fun way to relax on holidays. Visit one of these pools and experience a refreshing swim, or take advantage of the pool’s facilities.

FlyOver Iceland

FlyOver Iceland is an immersive experience where you can soar over the vast landscapes of Iceland. This dramatic ‘flight’ over some of the the country’s most spectacular landscapes lets you witness incredible panoramas. Explore Iceland with a virtual reality tour, with an amazing bird’s eye view of Iceland’s natural wonders. This simulation has to be experienced to be believed!

Don’t feel you have enough time to see all these things? We had only two nights in Reykjavik and managed to visit all the above, in addition to going on a whale watching tour from Reykjavik’s old harbour and our Dining with Icelanders experience. How, you ask? We used the Hopp electric scooters that you’ll find scattered around the city. Not only are they super fun and easy to use, but they are a great way to efficiently get around Reykjavik! (Admittedly, we used the car for Sky Lagoon since that is further out…)

Planning a trip to Iceland yourself? You can watch a video from our trip to Iceland here:

YouTube video

Disclosure: Our trip to Iceland was sponsored by Helly Hansen.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. That modernist church must be a controversial piece of architecture and not to everyone’s taste. I can see where it’s coming from as it really is about the history of Iceland and it’s people.

    1. Hi Elaine – there is certainly plenty to keep you occupied on a long weekend in the city. I hope you enjoy it and are able to make use of some of the ideas!


  2. The Flyover Iceland simulator is a great way of getting a field for Iceland’s unique topography. Quick and cost-effective too.

    1. Hi Joe – it gives a good overview of Iceland, that’s for sure. We visited towards the end of our stay. I’m not sure whether it’s best to visit at the beginning (and get a taste for what you’re about to see if you’re about to venture further afield), or to save it to the end (and be able to place some of the things you see with what you have already witnessed). Either way, I’m sure you’ll love the experience! We have a post coming soon that goes into more detail about what you can expect from Flyover Iceland.


  3. Just as well that you said that the sculpture was a dream boat, like so many other people I would have thought that it was a Viking boat too.

    I wonder if the Reykjavik authorities have thought of commissioning a few more sculptures for the waterfront? Across the planet many cities have discovered that a sculpture trail along a gentle walk attracts many visitors.

    1. Sadly, Jón Gunnar Árnason died from cancer a year before the sculpture took pride of place in its present location, so there will be no more sculptures from him. There are some other interesting sculptures to look out for in Reykjavik, though, including the Unknown Bureaucrat, Water Carrier, The Black Cone, Tómas Guðmundsson, The Spell Broken, Roots, Boy and Girl, Man and Woman, Settler, Mermaid, Mothers’ Love… and more. Google them if you’d like to know more!

  4. I can’t believe that you’re still posting on Iceland. You packed in so many activities and stayed at so many great places.

    Usually, I’d describe it as the holiday of a lifetime but I suppose for the editor of A Luxury Travel Blog it’s only another couple of weeks at the office. Business as usual.

    1. Hi Julie… I haven’t finished yet. We still have a few more posts to come! Even though we are lucky enough to enjoy all sorts of fun and exciting trips, this one was indeed extra special!


  5. I haven’t been to Reykjavik since the Sky Lagoon was built. That will be my first port of call when I return, hopefully in the not too distant future.

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