Photograph by UIG, Getty Images
Read Caption

Iceland's largest city is nestled between mountains and coastline.

Photograph by UIG, Getty Images

Weekend Itinerary for the Explorer in Reykjavik

Let a local show you where to find cafes, bunnies, and the best public swimming pools in Iceland's capital.

Reykjavik is a very small and friendly city which just in recent years has become popular with tourists. It's not hard to have a good weekend here—just be sure to take a dip in some of our great swimming pools, try delicious local delicacies, and enjoy the great outdoors.

Friday

Evening: Start your trip in Reykjavík off with a happy hour at one (or more) of our many bars downtown. If it’s sunny choose a spot around Austurvöllur, a public square, where you can sit outside, enjoy the sun, and take in the view of the historic Parliament. Or stop in at Forréttabarinn for a drink and a starter.

When you’re ready for dinner, head over to the up and coming Grandi area. It's very close to downtown but has in the last couple of years changed from an industrial area to a combination of great food, culture, and industry. Messinn offers a delicious fish buffet if you want to try many sorts of Icelandic fish at one place while enjoying the beautiful view over the harbor. A little farther down the street, you’ll find Grandi Mathöll, a food hall in an old fish warehouse that has a variety of stalls and fantastic wines and beers, not to mention prosecco on draft. Also in the area are Flatey Pizza and Marshallhúsið.

View Images

Sundhöllin, also known as the swimming palace, hosts an indoor pool as well as outdoor jacuzzi.

After dinner, enjoy a drink or two at Slippbarinn. If you’re still up for more, move a few steps east, where you’ll find most of Reykjavík’s bars.

Saturday

View Images

Locals love pastries, breads, and buns. Find everything from a fresh loaf to snúður, a kind of Icelandic cinnamon bun at a local bakery.

Morning: Rise and shine! We Icelanders love our bakeries and breads, cakes, and buns. Take a walk around Reykjavík and find a local bakery for breakfast. I recommend Brauð & Co. You have to try snúður, a kind of Icelandic cinnamon bun with chocolate, caramel, or pink frosting on top.

Then head over to Hljómskálagarður Park and find a bench by the pond to enjoy the view. You can also bring bread to feed the ducks, but be aware they can be quite demanding.

Icelanders love swimming and almost every neighborhood has a public swimming pool. In this area I recommend Vesturbæjarlaug, Sundhöllin, and Sundlaug Seltjarnarnes. After a swim at Vesturbæjarlaug, have lunch next door at the lovely café Kaffihús Vesturbæjar (or Kaffi Vest).

View Images

Árbæjarsafn, an open-air history museum transports visitors into the past with staff dressed in period clothing. Make an appointment for a guided tour or choose to explore by yourself.

Afternoon: After you finish lunch at Kaffi Vest, take a little walk around the neighborhood and over to Ægissíða, a street that runs along the coast. Find the hammocks that are there right by the sea. Lie back, relax, and listen to the sound of the ocean. It’s also the perfect Instagram spot!

Even though is very cold in Iceland almost all year around, we just love ice cream. Try Valdís in Grandi for all kinds of flavors. If cupcakes are more your thing, visit 17 Sortir next door.

Next, go horseback riding. There are a few horse rentals in Iceland but Sólhestar is the best in my totally unbiased opinion (my father-in-law owns it!).

Evening: For dinner, head to the Laugardalur neighborhood and Laugaás, a really cozy old restaurant. Try the lamb and lobster feast.

If you walk a little bit further into the neighborhood you will find Grasagarðu, the botanical garden. In the summer it’s open until 10 p.m. There you can see over 5,000 plant species in eight plant collections. Next door is the zoo and you can see some animals through the fences even if it’s closed. There’s also lovely Flóran Café, though it´s only open from May 1 to October 1.

Now it´s time to head back downtown and have some drinks. Petersen Svítan is in a beautiful historic house once home to one of the first cinemas in Iceland. There’s a balcony where you can sit outside, have a drink, and enjoy the view over the city.

SUNDAY

Morning: On Sunday mornings there are very few people around. Walk around town, near the harbor, and enjoy being almost alone in the world.

Walk into town and start the day at Hverfisgata 12. The brunch there is something else! Try the Korean chicken and the potato pizzas.

Reykjavík is much more than just downtown. Head to the district in the eastern part of the city called Árbær. Start by going to Árbæjarlaug, a great swimming pool, then visit Árbæjarsafn, an open-air history museum. The staff dresses in period costumes and it feels like you’ve stepped into the past. You can make an appointment for a guided tour or just explore by yourself. Go to the coffeehouse there and have traditional Icelandic pancakes with sugar or a waffle with cream.

Before you leave, visit nearby Elliðaárdalur, a beautiful recreation area in the middle of the city. There’s a lake, a waterfall, lots of bunnies, and more. It will give you a taste of what to expect on your next visit to Iceland—this time to the countryside.

Viktoría Hermannsdóttir is a journalist in Reykjavik, Iceland. She lives in Vesturbærinn, the west end of the city, with her fiancé and their three children.