Every Icelandic student takes mandatory swimming lessons – for ten years. This rigorous curriculum has at least one happy result: pools, everywhere! 

The Capital Region – an urban sprawl of five municipalities, including Reykjavík – has 17 public pools altogether. All but one are outdoor, thanks to cheap geothermal heat. 

From the Atlantic Ocean to Olympic-size pools, here are nine places to visit in Reykjavík where swimming is only part of the pleasure. 

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Largest swimming pool. Largest waterslide. Largest locker rooms. The Laugardalslaug pool is the most popular in Reykjavík, if not the country, and it's within walking distance to the city center. Swimming is a healthy sport, but most people come for the multi-temperature hot tubs. Laugardalslaug a top choice for families, especially when paired with one of the great ice cream stores in this part of town. 

You won't miss the 50m outdoor swimming pool, with eight lanes and traffic rules. Indoor is another 50m pool reserved for training and competitions. 


Welcome to the beach of Reykjavík. Nauthólsvík is where locals bring foreign friends to test their strength – swimming in an Icelandic ocean requires a bit of mettle. Over summer, the ocean's temperature can reach double digits (like, say, 10°C!) but overwinter a very, very cold plunge is part of the program. Afterward, people linger in the hot tub (38°C year-round) overlooking the beach. 

The Nauthólsvík cove is man-made, and the yellow sand – brought from elsewhere – is a hot commodity for sunbathing, volleyball, and other typical beach activities on warm summer days. Changing rooms and hot tubs are admission free during the summer but cost 740 Krona during winter. 

The Sky Lagoon is a perennial favorite for good reason @pytiiam on ig

The Sky Lagoon 

While the Sky Lagoon is 75m long, don't attempt to swim laps. This is a luxury bath with a view across the Faxa Bay and a swim-up bar. 

The enterprise opened in 2021 at the tip of the Kársnes peninsula, a short drive from the city center, entering the growing selection of high-end bathing resorts around Iceland. Sky Lagoon is the only one in Reykjavík, competing with the famous Blue Lagoon, located some 40 km (25 mi) from the city. 

Admission is 7000 Krona and extra for the steam-bath treatment. Children under the age of 12 are not permitted at Sky Lagoon.   


The suburban Árbæjarlaug is a top choice for families, with shallow pools for all ages. The indoor area looks like a small greenhouse, delivering a warm, fun atmosphere often missing in the older concrete pools. Outside you'll find a leisure pool with toys and a waterslide tall enough to have an age limit.

The swimming pool is 25m long, with five lanes and a basketball hoop. 


This is the best place for a city-center swim. Built in 1937, Sundhöllin translates as "The Swim Hall," and it was designed by the legendary architect Guðjón Samúlsson, who is better known for churches and theaters. 

In 2017, the pool reopened after a year-long revamp that added an entire outdoor area with hot tubs and another swimming pool. The original indoor pool remains open, as is the secret upstairs hot tub with city views. 

Male locker rooms are original, while women now dress in the new extension. Over summer, we recommend the outdoor locker rooms — ask staff for directions. 


Among the three pools within walking distance from the city center (together with Sundhöllin and Laugardalslaug), the Vesturbæjarlaug has the strongest neighborhood spirit. It was, in fact, built in 1961 with local donations and volunteer work. 

The original 25m swimming pool is crowded for swimming, but fortunately, most guests are fine doing nothing! The habit of hanging out in hot water after work is strong in this neighborhood, home to academics and artists. 

Kids won't enjoy Vesturbæjarlaug as much as other options in Reykjavík. Try instead the modern Sundlaug Seltjarnarness, some two kilometers further into the suburbs. 


Some pools are good for meeting new people; others are for zoning out, like Dalslaug. The pool opened in 2021 in the youngest suburb in Reykjavík. It is, so far, quite big compared to the community it serves and the layout captures the Icelandic pool culture of today: one modestly large swimming pool surrounded by many large, multi-temperature hot tubs. Take your pick. 

Gudlaug baths, geothermal hot tubes, located on Langisandur, Akranes, Iceland
Take your cold plunge with a lovely hot bath afterwards at Guðlaug Baths © Alamy Stock Photo

Guðlaug Baths 

For lovers of sea swimming – and those who want to try – the Guðlaug Baths are well worth the 40-minute drive to the coastal town of Akranes. The gorgeous baths overlook the "Long Sand Beach" with two hot tubs and easy access to the sea. A typical visit goes cold swim, hot bath, cold swim, hot bath. Shower. 


The Olympic-size swimming pool at Ásvallalaug is where many of Iceland's best swimmers train. The massive 6000-square-meter indoor swim hall – with a kid's pool and a waterslide – is the largest in the country. There are two hot tubs outside, but the main reason to visit is the comfort (or preference) of being inside. 

Etiquette at pools

Do not enter a public pool with dry hair. It means you are an amateur, guilty of breaking the rule of showering before bathing – with soap. The pools have limited chlorine and most people prefer to keep it that way. 

You'll also want to take your towel poolside. Many people leave them behind in the locker rooms, but you should dry off before dripping water (and wetting the floor) from the pool to the locker rooms. There is a "dry-off" area by the showers with towel racks.

Until recently, women had a dress code different from men. Now, going topless is allowed for everyone who wants.

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