It is safe to say that Reykjavík is my favorite city. It is a place where lives two-thirds of Icelanders and it might not have that many sights, but it has great vibes. Whether you are starting your adventure here or finishing, it has the relax Icelandic vibe with sparks of adventures in it. There is a lot of things to see in the city but one day in Reykjavík can be enough.
One day in Reykjavík
Reykjavík is a relatively new city so it might seem like a place that is not necessary to visit – and if you feel like just visiting nature, maybe you shouldn’t spend here too much time and one day is enough.
The most famous church in the whole of Iceland. It is the big one that sort of looks like a rocket. It used to be the biggest building in the city but it changed when businesses grew big in Iceland and skyscrapers were needed.
With 74,2 meters it is still the highest church in the country. It was built in 1940 and up till the ’70s, it was the biggest building in the country. The church here is Lutheran. On Sundays, you can come here for a mess or singing.
The entrance to the ground levels is for free, but for going up you need to pay about 900ISK. I recommend doing it, you don’t see the capital of arctic that often from that point of view. It is quite a nice view because you will see how colorful the buildings around are. Besides, it takes only about half an hour so it fits well if you have only one day in Reykjavík.
Harpa is a must when visiting Reykjavík. It is a concert hall and one of the most iconic buildings in Reykjavík. And it is relatively new – it opened up just in 2011. From that date, it is home to national orchestra and opera. There are also conference halls and concert halls.
Even though it seems like a busy place, it is still allowed to go in and have a seat. If you are in Reykjavík just for one day, you might want to peek in and perhaps buy here souvenirs. On the ground level, there are some shops open for everyone. If you walk around during the night, the inside might not be opened, but it has charming lighting.
Solfar Sun Voyager
Very popular sculpture in Reykjavík and the most know one too. It is the “sort of” boat sculpture not so far away from Harpa. The boat is supposed to be a dreamboat and ode to a sun. It comes with hope for freedom and a better time. The statue made entirely of stainless steel and granite stands here since 1987. If you come here so see this beauty, you can see here the open sea and the mount Eskja. The statue is not too far from Harpa, nearly in the city center so it is easy to visit. I recommend watching the sunset there.
Hofdi house is also known as the house of peace as it is the place where the cold war between the USA and Russia have ended. The house is very recognizable from far. Mainly because when you see it, unlike other houses, it is not surrounded by fences, but there is still a big lawn all around it. The building itself is also very nice but nothing that you couldn’t see anywhere else in Europe. The significance is mainly due to the story when Gorbachev and Reagan met here in 1986.
You cannot get in, but if you go around, some boards will explain what happened and what they were talking about. The main reason for the meeting taking place in Iceland is because it was a neutral country and almost exactly in the middle between North America and Europe that was widely governed by the Soviet Union. This building is just across of street from the Solfar Sun Voyager, so it is easy to get here from the city center.
Imagine peace tower
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Since we are on the topic of peace. There is yet another sight about the piece. This tower is like a memorial to John Lennon. Every year Yoko Ono comes to Iceland to light up this tower that will burn a pillar of light into the sky. Whether you like Yoko Ono or not, I still like what she is doing for her husband after so many years of his death. Besides this idea is very much like the song “Imagine”, since the tower is just light, there is nothing else than imagination left.
It lights up on John Lennon’s birthday (8.10) and turns off on the day of his death (in December). Visiting in these months will give you a special occasion to watch northern lights and Peace tower at once.
Place where you get to see another great view of Reykjavík. This time from your own feet and not from the height of some cathedral. Tjornin pond is a place in the city center of Reykjavik with a lake. You can go around and enjoy the beauty of nature right in the city center. Except for the lake, where is usually a lot of birds, you get to see a local municipality and also the museum of Icelandic Art. I think that there are some better museums that you can visit, but this one is nice at least for the view.
Museums to visit during one day in Reykjavík
Like any other city, even Reykjavík has a lot of museums in its sleeve. If you have only one day in Reykjavík, it is probably not necessary to visit all of them. Especially if you have an itinerary all around Iceland. Then it is not necessary to visit the museum of glaciers because you can see some glaciers by your self. Which might not be that educating but it is perhaps even more fun.
Whales of Iceland
Like a lot of other cities in Iceland, Reykjavík also offers an option for whale watching. Chances are that if you are here shortly, you won’t have time to do it. But you can visit this amazing museum that has a truly amazing exhibition.
In this museum, you will get to see all about whales. Both bigger and small ones. And it is not just about a lot of signs where you will have to read all about the whales. Mainly you can see the whales in their live sizes. Even the Blue whales. That might be something even more special because that way you can see all the whales and see how they differ and how big is Blue Whale comparing to other species.
It cost 2900 ISK for entrance. And the museum is open daily from 10 am till 5 pm all year around. But it is limited how many people can go in, so if you want to visit it, you should probably book the date ahead. The walkthrough of this museum usually takes about an hour and a half so it fits nicely in the time you have in Reykjavik.
Or as you might know it – museum of penises. Yes, it is a thing. For some reason, Iceland does have a museum of penises. You can see there about 300 specimens from different species. And when I say species I mean all kinds of animal penises from polar bear to whale penis. And not just animal specimens, nowadays the museum also has a human specimen as well and about 5 others that are promised.
All of these specimens are usually either dried or in a jar. And you can observe them all. Even hamster one, there is special glasses for that. Other than that, you will get to know a lot more about mating rituals of animals. You will also see some art pieces that are dedicated to this organ. For example, there is someone who made a phone that is shaped like a penis or there is also a sculpture of winners of silver Olympic medals. As bizarre as it sounds, it is definitely fun to visit. You can go through whole exhibition in just 45 minutes and it cost 1700isk. It is open all year round from 10 am to 6 pm. In the end, you will get the chance to buy interesting souvenirs.
Special occasions in Reykjavík
Iceland is full of artists and so every November is there a huge music festival, where every singer and band from Iceland are playing. Not only from Iceland though. And sometimes they do it for free. It is about finding the right bar. It is a very crowded time in Reykjavík, and most of the concerts are in the evening, so you would still manage to see all of the other things during the day. During the festival, you can also very often listen to famous Icelandic musicians like Of Monster and Men or Kaleo.
Whether you are gay or not, this is quite a fun thing to do. Icelanders are very proud of their LGBT rights, so they make a big thing out of this festival. At the same time, Reykjavík is quite a small city so it is hard not to notice things like this.
The first week in August one of the street is painted to the colors of the rainbow, there is a huge parade. It is lovely to see that even a country that small is very tolerant. Even politicians are usually attending pride.
Organizing One day in Reykjavík
Most of my recommendations are coming down to walk. In general, I would visit the Halgrimskirkja in the morning. Then I would recommend going to the Penis museum if you are interested because it is relatively close to the church. The visit to this museum takes about 45 minutes and Halgrimskirkja might take about 45 minutes as well. Then you still have a lot of time to go and explore the Tjornin pond and get lunch in the city center. After that, you will still have enough time to see the whale museum, which takes a little bit more time. After that, walk around the shore to visit Harpa and the rest of the sights around the sea. Certainly, I recommend staying at Sun voyager in sundown.
Where to stay?
My most favorite accommodation is the Kex hostel. Even though there is a hostel in the name, you can find here all kinds of accommodation from a double room with a private bathroom, to a budget room. There is also a very fancy dormitory. One of the best things about this hostel is not just the fact that it is in the city center, but also the concerts, that you can come and see here. Kex is organizing a lot of hotels also with famous musicians.
Generally Iceland has a lot of great hotels, where you can stay in Reykjavík. Both luxuious and budget ones. If you like certain brand, you can find here even Hilton hotel.
Make sure you book the accommodation on time, the hoster is rather popular, so you can very well lose your place very quickly.
How to get to Reykjavík?
If you are coming here directly from Keflavik airport, you can take either taxi or a bus. The bus is much cheaper and even if you take the bus, you can still get directly to your hotel. Here you have two options. The bus stops in the Bus terminal, Hotel Viking and Aktu Taktu. Either you can get a ticket to go to one of those places or pay a shuttle that would get you further. Further stops are easy to ask for, usually, just tell the person your hotel and they will either find you the right shuttle to go there.
If you are looking for going back to the airport, you should just tell it to your hotel and they will tell you the times or order that shuttle your self.
It usually takes about 45 minutes to get from the Keflavik to the bus terminal and from there, it is about 15 minutes with shuttle to hotels all around Reykjavík.
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