Free things to do in Reykjavík
Reykjavík, the world’s northernmost capital, and also one of the smallest in the world, is an amazing sustainable city surrounded by mind-blowing natural wealth. Travelling in a group always requires a bit more thoughtful planning, mainly if you don’t want to spend a fortune. And since Iceland is still a pretty pricy destination to visit, we’ve put together the very best free attractions and activities in the city that will make your group cherish those memories for a lifetime. Plus we have some great hostels in Reykjavík to stretch your money even further.
Discover the city from above
Perlan, in English ‘the Pearl’, is a great way to see the spectacular 360-degree panoramic view of Reykjavík and the mountains. There is a café inside, so if you wish you can admire beautiful scenery while sipping on a nice hot coffee. Plus, there are two artificial geysers as well which will surely entertain the kids as the inside one blasts off every couple of minutes – truly fascinating.
Swim with the locals in the North-Atlantic
From the Perlan, you can take a path directly to Nauthólsvík beach where you can take a dip and enjoy a bit of beach time. During summertime, the temperature is about 15 – 18°C but in wintertime it can go down below freezing. One of the traditions popular with brave locals, all dressed-up in my ballroom dress, is to swim in the icy cold sea on New Year’s Day. It is believed that besides this experience being invigorating, it is supposed to strengthen the immune system as well. Would you dare to try?
Go shopping at Kolaportið
Reykjavik‘s only flea market, a treasure trove of antique and vintage clothes, is located in the city centre near the harbour. There you’ll find all kinds of people selling many different things new and second hand, typical Icelandic homemade sweaters and stalls selling traditional Icelandic food. The market is open only on weekends.
Look for elves, hidden and mystical people in Iceland
You can take a tour in Iceland to look for elves and hidden people. Many Icelanders firmly believe in the existence of these mysterious beings and it is an inherent part of the Icelandic culture – have you ever thought, why would the entire country lie about this sort of thing? What’s more, you can even attend the Icelandic elf school to learn about different types of elves, trolls, gnomes, fairies and dwarfs.
Empty your mind, climb up the Esjan
Esjan is a very popular mountain among hikers and climbers and a great way to get rid of stress and everyday life overload. Hike the most popular hiking route to the Þverfellshorn summit where you can enjoy a spectacular view, relax and connect with your inner-self. Icelandic highlights are quite rough so before heading to the top of the mountain, consider the weather conditions, invest in good hiking shoes and wear breathable trousers and a jacket.
Share the peace
Visit Imagine Peace Tower, a memorial of John Lennon from his widow Yoko Ono situated in the Island Videy, right outside of Reykjavik. The peace tower was lit up on the 9th of October 2007 for the first time. Yoko Ono gathered wishes throughout the years that are buried underneath the memorial. The words ‘Imagine Peace’ are written on the memorial in 24 languages, making it a unique work of art, giving light to the strong message everyone should embrace.
Relax in the park
Klambratún is a large park in Reykjavik which offers a variety of activities like volleyball, Frisbee or golf. The park is sometimes used for concerts or entertainment and has been used on Culture Night where you can enjoy a host of events ranging from musical performances to art exhibits, all delivered by local budding talent. And like everything on Culture Night, it’s free.
Go for a stroll
Laugardalurinn is a valley in Reykjavik where in the old days, women washed their laundry in the hot water which came from beneath the earth. Now you can find the Botanical Gardens here, a fairytale-like garden with around 4,000 plants, a sport stadium, marked running paths and a children’s park – a great place to enjoy the outdoors in the city.
Experience a natural phenomenon
The most magical free thing to do in Reykjavik is to watch the magical show of the Northern Lights. The best time to spot the Aurora Borealis is from fall to spring on clear nights.
Try the sleepless nights in Reykjavik during the summer solstice when day and night merge here. Capture the midnight sun that creates shades of pink and yellow all around the city, feel the extra energy fuelling your body at that time and enjoy endless opportunities. Have you ever played midnight golf for instance?
Get a card
The Reykjavík Welcome Card is the easiest and most inexpensive way to experience the city. The card offers free entry to a great selection of museums and galleries, all swimming pools in Reykjavík and free unlimited travel by bus within the Reykjavik city centre. In addition, the card also gives you a free ferry trip to Viðey Island and discounts on various tours, in shops and on services. Reykjavík Welcome Cards are available for periods of up to 24, 48 or 72 hours.
Which places have we missed? Tell us more in the comments box below.
Still looking for ideas? Check out our Reykjavík Tripbook.