Here is a list of 15 places that are worth seeing while in Reykjavik, Iceland. I’ve listed them in walking order, and I’ve also placed a link in each location’s picture that you can click on for the Google Maps street address. Don’t feel like you have to do them all. You are welcome to pick and choose.
Also, you should try to download a Google Maps of the area to save data. Here are instructions.
Hallgrimskirkja is likely the most iconic building in Iceland, as well as the tallest church. Services are held throughout the week and in several different languages. You can find the times on the church’s website. Hallgrimskirkja makes for the perfect start of any walking tour. You can even go to the top of the steeple for an admission fee. At the top, you’ll have an excellent view of the city. Admission into the church is free, but the inside is not as beautiful as the outside of the building. The architecture, Guðjón Samúelsson, designed the Lutheran church to resemble the landscape of Iceland, most noticeably the basalt rock formations.
2. Leifur Eiríksson
Leifur Eiríksson was an explorer from Iceland during 970c-1020c. He is given credit for sailing and setting foot on North America before Christopher Columbus. His Statue stands just in front of Hallgrimskirkja.
3. Brauð & Co.
You’ll see a lot of delicious Iceland bakeries in the city of Reykjavik. The one bakery you need to go to is Brauð & Co. Just ask them for a warm cinnamon snuder – easily the best treat you’ll have during your trip!
4. Hofdi House
This stop is a bit out of the way. So if you wanted to skip something for walking or time purposes, this is the one that I would recommend skipping. That being said, this is a historic landmark due to the fact that it was the 1986 location for the Reykjavík Summit meeting of presidents Ronald Reagan of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It was one of the final steps toward ending the Cold War.
5. Sun Voyager
From the Hofdi House, you can enjoy a wonderful shoreline walk towards your next point of interest, Sun Voyager. Created by sculpture Jón Gunnar Árnason in 1990. Sun Voyager pays homage to the Viking heritage of Iceland. Sadly, Jón Gunnar Árnason fell ill during the work on the project and did not survive to see the final home of his piece of art.
6. Harpa (Concert Hall)
The Harpa is the largest concert hall in Iceland, and hosts a variety of shows, entertainment options, and experiences. Beautifully crafted by Olafur Eliasson and the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects, construction started in 2007 and was completed in 2011. Harpa is an Old Norse word for harp or lyre, so it perfectly fits the venue.
7. Harbor in Reykjavik
Adjacent to the Harpa is the Harbor in Reykjavik. There are a few vessels in the area that are mainly used for fishing. You will also see a few coast guard vessels. Iceland takes their fishing industry quite seriously. In fact, the only wars that Iceland as a nation actively fought in were the Cod Wars, of which there were three. Iceland is largely considered the victor in all three, and there are plenty of plaques that go into greater detail about these events in the harbor. Another interesting event involved Sea Shepherd, the popular boat featured in the Whale Wars TV show. In the harbor, you can learn about a time that they sunk an Icelandic whaling boat. (you may wish to get a hot dog at the stand adjacent to the harbor, see 13)
8. Ingólfur Square
Ingólfur Square is a popular place to grab a bite to eat. There are also events held in the square and occasional sporting event viewings. This might be a good place to stop and grab a snack before moving on to your next location. Location address here.
9. Cathedral of Christ the King
Cathedral of Christ the King is a Catholic church that was consecrated in 1929. Bernard Bernard and Jean-Baptiste Baudoin were two Frenchmen who built a small wooden church on the grounds in 1864. It was the biggest church in Reykjavik until Hallgrimskirkja.
10. Reykjavík City Hall
The City Hall lies adjacent to Tjörnin, a beautiful pond near the city center filled with fowl of all kinds. Inside, they have a wonderful 3D map of Iceland, which is useful to gain an understanding of the topography in the area.
Alpingi is Iceland’s parliament building, and just so happens to be the oldest parliament in the world (not the building itself). Founded in 930, the parliament today is comprised of 63 seats. At its original founding, the parliament had 48 judges rule over decisions. This was subsequently changed when Iceland submitted themselves to the monarchy of Norway, which were then both ruled by Denmark under Danish rule.
12. Reykjavík Junior College
The oldest junior college in Iceland, RJC, or often abbreviated MR, is over a 1000 years old. The school requires mandatory Latin, as well as Icelandic. There are approximately 400k native Icelanders, which makes the dating scene a tough field to play. To help make sure that you’re not dating your cousin, the Iceland Ancestry Database goes all the way back a 1000 years ago and can easily be accessed by the citizens of Iceland – just to be on the safe side. And you thought your high school days were tough.
13. The Hot Dog Shake and Pylsa Stand
Icelanders love their hot dogs, or in Icelandic – Pylsa. The most famous one is located next to the harbor. Click here for the address. Lines are often long at this stand, mainly because Bill Clinton and other celebrities have eaten here. In fact, Bill Clinton said this was the best hot dog he has ever eaten, and we all know that he never lies. This stand is closer to the downtown center and offers the exact same hot dog without the line – an inside piece of advice from a local Icelander.
14. Prime Minister’s Office
While in session, cabinet meetings are held twice a week. The Prime Minister uses this office for supportive and administrative functions and serves as the highest order of the executive brand in Iceland.
15. Ingólfur Arnarson
According to legend and lore, Ingólfur Arnarson and his family are considered the first permanent inhabitants of Iceland. The story goes that when he spotted the land off in the distance that he threw his high pillar chair into the sea and said that wherever the chair was found that he would make the location his home. It took about three years before his servants found the chair, which was found in what is today’s Reykjavik Harbor. And as they say, “the rest is history.”
I hope that you found this guide helpful and insightful. There are, of course, many other sites and place to see in Iceland. If you find one that you feel like is a must, please let me know and I will add it to the list. From Ingólfur Arnarson, I recommend walking up the main strip towards Hallgrimskirkja. There are a number of wonderful shops along the way to the church.