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
Fire and ice: adventures in Iceland
You could be forgiven for mistaking Iceland's scenery for a sci-fi movie set. Boiling water blasts out of geysers, and cracks in the earth belch steam. Arid plains and mustard-coloured rocks stretch endlessly into the distance. Volcanoes lurk menacingly under a covering of snow.
Reykjavík destination guides
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.
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.
Golden Circle Classic Day Trip from Reykjavik
Want to see some of the best-known natural phenomena in Iceland on a day trip from Reykjavik? From spouting geysers, tumbling waterfalls and ancient volcanoes, the popular Golden Circle Classic full-day excursion by coach will introduce you to Iceland's world-renowned pristine natural beauty surrounding the capital.
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.