Our top sights, highlights and exclusive tips
A scenic and progressive city, Iceland’s capital city welcomes you with open arms and a shot of Brennivín - an Icelandic schnapps. Learn about Iceland’s early inhabitants at the Settlement Exhibition—the site of an actual archeological dig—and see how the untamed landscape inspired the design of the Hallgrímskirkja Church. Finish your day on the seaside with the Sun Voyager, a boat always headed towards new adventure on the horizon. Sample one of the city’s many eco-restaurants, where greenhouse-to-table is the norm and locally-sourced fresh fish is a staple.
National Museum of Iceland
The Settlement Exhibition
Named for its glassy dome, Perlan, or the “Pearl,” is an interactive natural history museum, perched on Öskjuhlíð hill. Get a 360-degree view of the city from the rooftop observation deck and walk through the almost 330-foot long ice cave, made with 350 tons of snow from the Blue Mountains. If you miss the Northern Lights, catch the Aurora show at the planetarium instead.
Hallgrímskirkja is both an Evangelical Lutheran church and a national monument to its namesake, Hallgrímur Pétursson—a 17th-century Icelandic clergyman and poet. Stand back to admire the expressionist facade, designed to evoke basalt rocks of the Icelandic landscape. Ascend the 20-story tower and overlook the Reykjavik skyline from bay to bay. Visitors are welcome here—just check the schedule.
Established in 1863, the National Museum of Iceland tells the story of this windswept Island from medieval settlement through to the contemporary day. Peruse some 2,000 objects and 1,000 photographs that together tell a story of resilient and daring people. Go inside a settler cabin and try on medieval armor for a fetching Viking selfie.
The Sun Voyager is a photo-trap that lives up to the hype. As you stroll the sculpture and shore walk on the Reykjavik seaside, you’ll come across the 1986 statue, by Jon Gunnar Arnason, called the Solfarid, or “Sun Voyager.” An abstracted steel boat, this piece commemorates the Viking history of the island. Visit the ship around the time the sun goes down: The sunset here with Mount Esja in the background is particularly spectacular.
Reykjavik City Pond, or “Tjörnin” as it’s commonly known, is actually a series of five connected bodies of water stretching from the city’s downtown to the domestic airport. Over 40 bird species call this lake home, including the arctic tern, eider ducks, and gadwalls. Birdwatch from the grassy shores—you're even allowed to feed the birds, although experts recommend you opt for grains over breadcrumbs.
The Settlement Exhibition blends archeology with new media for an immersive historical experience. Visit the actual archeological site of a 10th-century Viking longhouse or hall, uncovered in 2001 by city construction and now part of the Reykjavik City Museum. Learn about life at the time of the first European settlers and its evolution into modern Icelandic history.
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