Reykjavik, the northernmost capital city in the world is perfect for a short escape. This detailed 3-day itinerary in Reykjavik will guide you through your visit to the capital of Iceland. It includes all the main places of interest, as well as some smaller museums and attractions. Find suggestions for accommodation and dining options as well as some tips to save money.
Disclosure: Please note that this post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on a link marked with [AD] and proceed to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
This Reykjavik itinerary is based on my visit to Reykjavik with Christos in August 2021 as part of a larger trip around Iceland. We had exactly 72 hours to spend in the city in the span of four days, i.e. 2 full days and 2 half ones (the arrival and departure days). In our opinion, this is enough time to spend in Reykjavik to get a good taste of the city. Follow this itinerary as a stand-alone trip or as the begging (or end) of a longer trip around Iceland.
3 Days in Reykavik: Itinerary Overview
- DAY 1: Get to know Reykjavik
- Walking Tour of Reykjavik
- Reykjavik City Hall – 3D Map of Iceland
- The National Gallery of Iceland
- Walk in the Park
- DAY 2: Visit the museusms of Reykjavik
- National Museum of Iceland
- The Settelement Exbition
- The Culture House
- Reykjavik Art Museum Hafnarhús
- Reykjavik Museum of Photography
- Icelandic Phallological Museum
- DAY 3: Explore the Old and New Harbour
- Whale Watching Boat Tour
- Reykjavik Maritime Museum
- Aurora Reykjavik: The Northern Lights Centre
- Saga Museum
- Whales of Iceland
- The Marshall House
- FlyOver Iceland
Planning your trip to Reykjavik
Read below to find information to help you plan your trip to Reykjavik. Click here to skip to the city itinerary.
Official language: Icelandic (but English is widely spoken)
Currency: Iceland Kronur (ISK)
Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) / UTC+00:00
What is the best time to visit Reykjavik?
You can visit Reykjavik year-round, although the best time to visit is during the summer. During the summer you will benefit from long days and not very cold weather. Visit at the end of June for a chance to experience the midnight sun.
This itinerary is designed for a summer visit and some of the attractions mentioned may not be open during the winter months. So, if you choose to do a winter excursion in Reykjavik you may need to do a bit more research.
How to get to Reykjavik?
Iceland is located in the North Atlantic Ocean in the middle of Europe and America. The closest airport to Reyjkavik and the main airport of the country is Keflavik International Airport (KEF). You can easily fly there from many destinations in Europe and from some destinations in the USA.
To get to Reykjavik you can either take the shuttle bus or a taxi. A taxi to the centre of Reykjavik costs around 15000 ISK (~ €100) per way for a 45-minute trip, while the shuttle bus costs between 3000 and 4000 ISK (~€20-25) per person.
There are two main bus companies that run services to BSI Bus Terminal in Reykjavik: FlyBus [AD] and Airport Direct [AD], while Gray Line [AD] operates services to their own bus terminal in the city centre. All companies offer the option to drop you off at your accommodation (if it is included in their hotel list) for an extra fee.
How to move around in Reykjavik?
Despite, being the largest city in Iceland, Reykjavik is a small and easily walkable destination. All of the sights included in this itinerary are within walking distance from each other. Assuming you will also stay somewhere in the city centre, there will be no need to use a car or public transport during your 3-day stay in Reykjavik. So, if you have a car (or even a camper van) I suggest you leave it parked in the outskirts.
Of course, if you ever need to go somewhere further, you can easily use their extensive network of public buses, called Strætó. A single ticket costs 490 ISK (~ €3) but if you purchase the Reykjavik City Card (see below for more details) you will get free rides to the city’s buses.
Where to stay in Reykjavik?
As I mentioned above, it’s best if you stay somewhere in the city centre. There are many accommodation options there for various budgets.
When we visited the city, we stayed in Hótel Frón [AD], a nice and not very expensive hotel on the main tourist road of Reykjavik. The hotel is only a short walking distance from most of the places mentioned below and next to a lot of eating and drinking options. (To give you an idea the longest we travelled on foot to or from the hotel without a stop was 25 minutes).
Where to eat in Reykjavik?
There are many eating options all over Reykjavik. In the itinerary below I mention some of the cafes and restaurants we tried and I recommend visiting. (If you notice some gaps is because the place we tried wasn’t that good).
Note that prices may be a bit higher compared to other European cities. Standard meals cost at least 3 000 ISK (~ €20), but it is possible to find dishes with less than that (usually in fast food-style places). A fairly standard and decently priced meal is fish and chips.
How much to budget for 3 days in Reykjavik?
Budget is a big topic when it comes to Iceland, as it can be a very expensive country. The majority of your budget will be your accommodation, so it all depends on where you will stay. A decent hotel double room with breakfast costs about €120-150. So, for three nights you will need about €225 per person.
Then, you need to plan for food and drink. You can aim for about €30-50 per person per day, so for three days, this comes to €150. In terms of attractions, you will need another €150 to visit everything below. Lastly, save another €50 per person for your airport transfer.
This brings the total to €575 per person. On top of that will be your flights, travel insurance, regional mobile data (although if you have an EU mobile plan you will not need that), and any shopping you may wish to do.
Tax-free shopping in Iceland
On that note, it is worth mentioning that in Iceland you can enjoy tax-free shopping on items you take outside of Iceland and cost at least 6000 ISK (~ €40) on a single purchase. The only requirement is that you keep the receipt and complete the relevant form (ask the cashier to give you one). Then, before leaving Iceland give the form to the Tax Refund Desk at the airport (located near the baggage drop off area). In a couple of months, 14% of the amount you spent will be returned to your card.
Should I purchase the Reykjavik City Card?
If you plan to follow everything below then, yes definitely, it will save you a lot of money!
The Reykjavik City Card offers free entry and discounts to many places in Iceland. It is available for 24, 48 and 72 hours and includes unlimited use of the city buses, free entry to all the departments of the Reykjavik City Museum, the Art Museum, the National Museum and Gallery and more. Additionally, you can get discounts on other attractions, restaurants, shops and thermal pools around the city.
For the 3 day Reykjavik itinerary below I suggest you purchase the 48-hour card and schedule it to start on your first day, just before visiting the National Gallery of Iceland. It costs 5850 ISK (~ €40) per person and the card can pay itself by visiting three of the free museums.
Find out more about the Reykjavik City Card here.
Buy your Reykjavik City Card from GetYourGuide [AD].
Day 1: Get to know Reykjavik
Spend the morning of your first day travelling to Reykjavik. Many flights arrive early in the morning, so you can easily be ready to start exploring the city by noon. Before starting, I suggest you pass from your accommodation to leave your luggage (or even to get your room if possible).
Hint: While walking around Iceland, look around! Many buildings are covered in colourful street art, while some roads like Laugavegur street and Skólavörðustígur have beautiful art on the walkways too. The latter street is especially known for its rainbow-coloured walkway.
Start your day with a quick lunch at one of the city’s many cafes. I suggest trying some of the pastries at Brauð & Co (especially the cinnamon bun) or one of the sandwiches at Sandholt.
While you are in the area don’t forget to pass from Whats’ On, Iceland Tourist Information desk to collect your Reykjavik City Card. Schedule it to activate at 4 pm, when you will visit your first museum included in the card.
13:30 Walking Tour of Reykjavik
CityWalk.is offer free walking tours of Reykjavik and they are a great way to learn more about the city on your first day there. The tours are free, which means that at the end you can pay the tour guide as much (or as little) as you want, based on the quality of the tour.
The tour lasts about 2 hours and it takes you around the main sights of the city centre, starting at the Austurvöllur square in front of the Parliament Building (Alþingi). Each guide takes you on a slightly different walk, so what you will see may vary from the description on the website, without meaning that you will miss out on anything.
There are daily tours, and usually, during the summer there are both in the morning and in the afternoon. The exact time may vary depending on when you visit, so check before turning up. It is also a good practice to reserve a spot in advance. In the case that there are no afternoon tours when you visit, you can move the first activity of day 2 here and then do the tour on the next morning instead.
Do you prefer a bus tour of Reykjavik, instead? Get your Reykjavik Hop On Hop Off bus tickets from GetYourGuide [AD].
15:30 Reykjavík City Hall – 3D Map of Iceland
The walking tour is expected to end close to the City Hall. The City Hall is right next to Lake Tjörnin and inside visitors can find a large 3D map of Iceland. The map is made out of cardboard and it is built on a scale of 1:50 000. As the map is 3-dimensional you can also see the elevation around the island on a scale of 1:25 000.
Note that the Lake Room (Tjarnarsalur) may be closed to visitors in the case of meetings or other events.
Find out more about the Reykjavik City Hall here (currrently only in Icelandic).
16:00 The National Gallery of Iceland
If you finish the above by 4 pm, cross the Tjörnin Lake and visit the National Gallery of Iceland (closes at 5 pm). The National Gallery of Iceland displays art from the 19th and 20th centuries as well as various temporary exhibitions from Icelandic and international artists.
Find out about the National Gallery of Iceland here.
17:00 Walk in the Park
Finish your day with a relaxing walk at the park of Reykjavik. Once you exit the National Gallery, return to the Tjörnin Lake and head left to enter Hljómskálagarður, a green area with a lake and many statuses. If you want, continue further into Vatnsmýri, before starting to make your way back to the city centre.
Have an early end to your end with some fish & chips from Fish&Co. If you have space for dessert try Valdís ice cream shop a few doors nearby.
Walking Route Directions
Here is a map with some walking directions to cover the activities of the day. You can click on the map to open it in Google Maps and use it on your trip. Note the route of the walking tour is not included here. Also, don’t forget to adjust the start and end of the route to include your accommodation.
Day 2: Visit the Museums of Reykjavik
The second day in Reykjavik is all about museums and galleries. The aim is to become more familiar with Icelandic history and learn more about the culture of the city.
The first place of interest for today is the largest church in Iceland, Hallgrimskirkja. It is a Lutheran church named after the Icelandic poet Hallgrímur Pétursson. It is truly a landmark of the city, with its spectacular architecture and a 74,5m tall tower.
Once, inside the church, you will notice its simple yet impressive layout. You can’t leave without noticing the large concert organ, weighing 25 tons. If you are lucky you may even be able to listen to an organist playing it during your visit.
Before leaving, purchase a ticket and get up to the tower, to enjoy great views of Reykjavik and the sea. There is an elevator that goes almost to the top, and from there you need to ascend a few stairs to go to the main observation platform. The platform is covered with openings on the walls to see the view.
Find out more about Hallgrimskirja here.
11:15 National Museum of Iceland
The National Museum of Iceland takes you through the history of Iceland from the Settlement Age and the Vikings in the late 800s to the present day. You will learn about the ways of life of Icelanders, their beliefs, their practises and much more during different periods in history.
Find out more about the National Museum of Iceland here.
12:30 The Settelement Exbition
The next museum on the list is the Settlement Exhibition. This museum is built around the ruins of the earliest house in Reykjavik and showcases different areas and what they were used for. Around the ruins, there is space for rotating exhibitions about the Vikings.
The Settlement Exhibition is one of the five locations of the Reykjavik City Museum and you can find more about it here.
Find a place to have lunch at the nearby Ingólfur Square and its surrounding area. There are many cafes, restaurants and a few street-food kiosks. (If you’re curious, we had some ice cream at Gaeta Gelato.) The next stop is about 10 minutes away, so if you don’t find anything interesting in that area there will be more options along the way to your next stop.
14:00 The Culture House
Part of the National Gallery of Iceland, the Culture House builds on the collections of the other gallery by displaying additional work of Icelandic artists. Start from the top of what is considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in Iceland, reminding you of other European cities, and make your way to the ground floor by admiring Icelandic nature and much more from the perspective of artists.
Find out more about the Culture House here.
15:15 Reykjavik Art Museum Hafnarhús
The Reykjavik Art Museum is another museum with branches in different parts of the city. The Hafnarhús building is the one closest to the city centre and focuses on contemporary art. There are rotating exhibitions of renowned artists both local and from abroad. On the museum’s top floor you will find a permanent exhibition about Erró, a famous Icelandic artist.
Find out more about the Reykjavik Art Museum here.
16:30 Reykjavik Museum of Photography
Next to the Art Museum, you will find the Reykjavik Museum of Photography. It is another part of the Reykjavik City Museum. To access it, you will need to enter the Grófarhús building and take the lift to the top floor. There, you will find black and white photographs from various events throughout the city’s history, as well video displays analysing important items of the exhibition. On your way down, take the stairs to see another part of the collection hanging from the walls.
Find out more about the Reykjavik Museum of Photography here.
17:15 Icelandic Phallological Museum
Perhaps the most quirky museum of your visit. The Icelandic Phallological Museum is all about phallology and contains more than 200 phallic specimens of all types of mammals that you can find in Iceland. It combines scientific facts with a dose of humour, so it’s great to finish your museum run for today. Don’t forget to show your Reykjavik City Card to get a discounted entry.
Find out more about the Icelandic Phallological Museum here.
18:30 Sculpture and Shore Walk
Finish your day with a walk at a part of the Sculpture and Shore Walk. The complete walk starts from the Harbour area and goes all the way to the Recycled House. The Shore Walk then continues for a few more hundred metres until the Viðey Ferry Terminal. You can choose to walk as much of the 5km walk as you want, but the part I suggest covering starts from the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre and goes to the Sun Voyager (about 550m / less than 10 minutes per way).
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre
The Harpa venue is mostly known for its unique architecture. The glass design is inspired by the Icelandic landscape and has received numerous awards since its opening in 2011. At the concert hall, you can watch regular performances of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Icelandic Opera and more world-class performances.
Find out more about Harpa and their schedule of events here.
The Sun Voyager (Solfar) is a sculpture made of steel on the shore of Reykjavik. It resembles a Viking ship, but in reality, the purpose of the sculpture is to visualise a dream boat that symbolises hope and makes an ode to the sun.
Return to the city centre and choose a place to have dinner. There are many options along Laugavegur street for various tastes and budgets. We had burgers at the Lebowski Bar and then we went for dessert at the Lookoomas for some Greek doughnuts. If you want something more international or just a fancy drink you can head to the Hard Rock Cafe on Lækjargata road.
Walking Route Directions
You will notice that the order of the places is not the most efficient in terms of distance walked, however, this is necessary to align with their opening hours.
Day 3: Explore the Old and New Harbour
This is your final full day in Reykjavik, so the day today is focused on the new and old harbours. Read on to find some of the activities you can do there.
09:00 Whale Watching Boat Tour
Start your take with a boat tour sea safari to try to spot some whales and other marine life. The area around Reykjavik is known to have regular whale sightings, so whale watching tours are very common. The most usual types of wildlife you can spot on these tours are dolphins, puffins and minke or humpback whales.
Boat tours usually start early in the morning and last between 2.5 to 3.5 hours. There are a few companies you can use and different experiences to try. The most popular tours are with the traditional bigger boats, which can fit a lot of people but can’t go very close to the animals. If you want to have a closer look at wildlife, then you should get a rib boat tour. No matter, which tour you get remember to dress in warm clothes (some companies allow you to rent arctic suits to keep you warm) as it can be really windy on the boat.
Your Reykjavik City Card gives you a 10% discount if you book your tour with Elding [AD], but from our research, Reykjavik Sailors [AD] is the cheapest overall. Special Tours [AD] is another popular company that allows you to get a compo ticket [AD] with the Whales of Iceland (see below).
Once you finish your tour, start making your way to the new harbour where I suggest you make a lunch stop before continuing your day. We had some delicious pizza at a very affordable price at Flatey Pizza, but if you want something different there are more options along Grandagarður street.
13:30 Reykjavik Maritime Museum
The first museum of the day is the Reykjavik Maritime Museum, the third branch of the Reykjavik City Museum that you will visit on this trip. The museum has a small exhibition about the maritime history of Reykjavik and space for temporary exhibitions on the upper floor related to fishing and the sea.
Outside the museum, you will find the Óðinn Coast Guard Vessel, and for an extra fee, you can access it on a guided tour. The tour takes about 1 hour, so if you want to follow it (there is usually a tour at 2 pm) you will have to skip some of the other activities of the day.
Find out more about the Reykjavik Maritime Museum here.
14:15 Aurora Reykjavik: The Northern Lights Centre
This exhibition is all about the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis as is the scientific name of the phenomena. It goes through some of the traditions and beliefs surrounding the Northern Lights that different civilisations have. Then, it explains how they are formed and what conditions need to exist to see the lights. You will also find some locations from where you can see the Northern Lights in Iceland and finally some tips on using your camera to capture them.
Use your Reykjavik City Card here and at the next two attractions to get a discounted entry.
Find out more about Aurora Reykjavik here.
Buy your Aurora Reykjavik tickets from GetYourGuide [AD].
15:00 Saga Museum
The Saga Museum is a wax museum depicting figures from the Sagas. Sagas are stories from the history of Iceland from the times of the Vikings. Once you arrive you will be given an audio guide to wear. The audio guide will tell you a short summary of the stories that the wax figures were taken from. The whole experience takes about 30 minutes.
(On a more personal note, we didn’t really enjoy our visit here. We found the stories to be slow-moving and not very engaging. If you are short on time, then don’t stress too much about visiting this place.)
Find out more about the Saga Museum here.
15:45 Whales of Iceland
Next on the list is Whales of Iceland. This exhibition has a similar nature to the previous one, where you are given an audio guide and you walk through the displays. What is unique here, is that the displays are real-sized replicas of different types of whales so you can really get an idea of their size. The audio guide is very informative on the main characteristic of each species. Additionally, if you want to learn more about any of them, there are interactive screens with more info.
Similarly to before, you will need about 30 minutes to listen to the whole audio guide. Also note, that if you purchased a boat tour with Special Tours it will be cheaper to upgrade your boat tour ticket to include Whales of Iceland, instead of purchasing a new one (even if you use the Reykjavik City Card discount). Remember that if you want to use your card, you need to do this before it expires at 4 pm when the 48 hours conclude.
Find out more about the Whale of Iceland here.
Get your Whales of Iceland ticket from GetYourGuide [AD].
16:30 The Marshall House
If you did not have enough of art and culture already you may want to check out the Marshall House (Marshallhúsið). The Marshall House consist of two museums/galleries the Living Art Museum, and the Kling and Bang displaying rotating contemporary art exhibitions.
Find out more about the Marshall House here.
You should have already noticed from your walk along the shore of Reykjavik yesterday and the boat tour this morning a green dome at the edge of the harbour with a wooden structure at the top. This is called Thufa (Þúfa) and it is a piece of art created by Ólöf Nordal. It represents Iceland’s past with references to the fishing and the wind-dry method.
Use the spiralling path to climb to the top and see the wooden fishing shed with some drying fish and of course to enjoy the view of the coast.
17:45 Omnom Chocolate Ice Cream Shop
It’s time for a quick afternoon break with some delicious ice cream with unique combinations of toppings at the Onmnon shop. Onmnon is famous for its chocolates and you will find them all over Iceland. I suggest you focus on ice cream here, as you can purchase some chocolate bars later from the supermarket or the airport (chocolate is cheaper there).
18:15 FlyOver Iceland
Finish your day with this exhilarating experience. This was totally one of the highlights of our visit and if you like thrill and simulation theme park rides, you will definitely enjoy this one. The whole experience takes you through some lively videos about Iceland’s past and finishes with a 9-minute virtual flying experience going over some breathtaking places in Iceland.
The centre closes at 7 pm, so ensure you are not late, otherwise you will miss the last run (about 30 minutes long) of the day.
Find out more about FlyOver Iceland here.
Get your FlyOver Iceland tickets from Viator [AD].
Return to the city centre for a large walk around Reykjavik and maybe do some souvenir shopping (many touristy shops are open until late). Now is the time to try a place for dinner you spotted on your walks around the city in the last few days, before returning to your accommodation to pack your bags.
Walking Route Directions
Note that the first stop on the map is only a generic location of the Reykjavik Harbour, the exact meeting point of your boat tour will depend on the company you will choose to go with.
Extend your Reykjavik Itinerary
Extend your trip by a few more days to visit more attractions in Reykjavik or explore some of the nearby destinations.
Additional places to visit in Reykjavik
This itinerary already includes a lot of museums and attractions but there are a few more places you can visit in Reykjavik. Some examples are the remaining two locations of the Reykjavik Art Museum (in Ásmundarsafn and Kjarvalsstaðir), the Árbær Open Air Museum, Perlan a science museum with an indoor ice cave and planetarium, Videy Island, the Reykjavik Zoo and Family Park, the Sigurjón Ólafsson Museum, the Einar Jónsson Museum, the Ásgrímur Jónsson Collection and many thermal pools. To save some money on admission, don’t forget to purchase the 72-hour Reykjavik City Card [AD] instead of the 48 hour one.
Road trip around Iceland
Rent a car and go on a road trip around Iceland. In fact, this is what we did. You can find more about our 12-day road trip around the west, south and southwest of Iceland here.
If you don’t want to rent a car, but still want to visit some popular places close to Reykjavik like the Golden Circle or the Blue Lagoon, you can take one of the many organised day trip tours that depart from the city. They may be a bit pricey but the locations you will visit will totally be worth it!
Eigðu góða ferð!
P.S. The above itinerary is an almost exact copy of what we did when we visited Reykjavik. The only difference is that we skipped the National Gallery of Iceland on Day 1 and the Marshall House on Day 3 because we didn’t follow an efficient route and they were closed by the time we got there. So, I made sure to structure the routes better here so that you have time to see everything.
P.S.II “Eigðu góða ferð!” means “Have a nice trip!” in Icelandic.
Did you like this post? Save it for later!