The world’s most northerly capital combines colourful buildings, quirky people, a wild nightlife and a capricious soul to devastating effect. Most visitors fall helplessly in love, returning home already saving to come back.
The city’s charm lies in its many peculiar contrasts, which, like tectonic plates clashing against one another, create an earthquake of energy. Reykjavík offers a bewitching combination of village innocence and big-city zeal. It’s populated by darkly cynical citizens (a quality brought very much to the fore by the country's recent near-bankruptcy) who are, in spite of everything, filled with unstoppable creativity and enduring spirit. In summer the streets are washed by 22 hours of daylight; in winter they’re scoured by blizzards and doused in never-ending night. Reykjavík is a city that treasures its Viking past but wants the future – the very best of it – NOW!
You’ll find all the cultural trappings of a large 21st-century European city here: cosy cafés, world-class restaurants, fine museums and galleries, and state-of-the-art geothermal pools. Reykjavík has also become infamous for its kicking music scene and its excessive Friday-night runtur, a wild pub crawl round the small, superstylish clubs and bars.
Add to this a backdrop of snow-topped mountains, an ocean that wets the very toes of the town, air as cold and clean as frozen diamonds, and incredible volcanic surroundings, and you’ll agree that there’s no better city in the world.
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Best places to stay in Reykjavík
Iceland - Reykjavik (Chapter)
The world’s most northerly capital combines colourful buildings, quirky people, eye-popping design, a wild nightlife and a capricious soul to devastating effect. Most visitors fall helplessly in love, returning home already saving to come back.
The world's hottest cool places
The rewards for braving the cold are many. The northern hemisphere offers wonderful winter travel, with fewer crowds than in the summer months. A dusting of snow makes anywhere look charming, and it's one time of year when you can get away with wearing seriously nasty jumpers...
Reykjavík destination guides
The land of fire and ice: touring Iceland's Golden Circle
The stark beauty of Iceland's wild scenery. Photograph by David Noton Pulling into Reykjavík harbour, it seems remarkable that anyone could make their home in this forbidding land. Huge cliffs loom all around, looking like they might lurch forward at any moment and push the tiny town into the sea...
Sailing from Spitsbergen to Greenland, follow the ice’s edge with an eye peeled to the horizon for wildlife. Navigating south, you'll explore this remote landscape not only by ship but also on foot and via Zodiac. This journey highlights the contrast and change in the Arctic as you move south, finally ending in the Iceland, "the Land of Fire and Ice.
Reykjavik Shore Excursion: Reykjavik Sightseeing Tour
If you’ve only got a short time in port in Reykjavik and you want to see all the major sights, take this sightseeing shore excursion. On this 2.5-hour tour of the city, you’ll see top attractions like the Hallgrimskirkja church, the presidential residence at Bessastadir, the fish market in Hafnarfjordur, the open-air Arbaer Museum and the recreational center of Laugardalur.
Best in Travel Readers’ Choice Award: and the winner is…Iceland
Every year, we publish Best in Travel, Lonely Planet's picks for the top destinations of the coming year. It's a long, involved process and, like laws and sausages, you probably don’t want to know what goes in to it...