I don’t recommend you do 24 hours in Reykjavik. I recommend at least 72 hours, but that’s because I love Reykjavik so much that I think it deserves more of your time.
That being said, a lot of people take advantage of Icelandair’s free stopovers between Europe and North America (and why shouldn’t they). I guess a little time in Reykjavik is better than none at all!
So if you’re going to only spend a short while in Reykjavik, here’s how to make the most of your stay.
Grab breakfast at Laundromat Cafe, one of the funkiest, yummiest cafes in Reykjavik. The food is amazing, and the fact that their many bookshelves feature books organised by colour makes me rather happy. Don’t forget to grab a funny postcard at the till – they’re free!
Spend the morning exploring Reykjavik. It’s totally walkable, so you can see a lot in a day. Explore the town centre, and be sure to make a visit to the pond. It’s beautiful in the summer, and in the winter it totally freezes (we were there mid-November and it was frozen). Kids play on it after school, dogs scamper across, and people head out and skate. It’s such a gorgeous sight, and if you don’t make it here in the morning, try to come back just before sunset, when it’s really beautiful.
For lunch, you absolutely must go to Saegreifinn, aka the Sea Baron, and have their humarsupa. It’s the best lobster soup you’ll ever have. It’s served in a mug with a side of bread, and I crave it constantly. The restaurant is right on the harbour, and very appropriately decorated. It’s basic, and so, so perfect.
After lunch, head out for a walk. One of my favourite walks is up Skólavörðustígur to Hallgrimskirkja. Along Skólavörðustígur there are loads of little boutiques and galleries where you can pick up some really great local artisan stuff to bring home for family or yourself. I’ve bought some gorgeous ceramics there both times I visited.
As you wander up the street, make sure to poke down some of the side streets – they’re just as interesting, really colourful, and so quiet. When you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded with a visit to Hallgrimskirkja. You know that I really don’t like churches, but this one is so different, that I can’t help but like it. I’ve never gone to the viewpoint, but apparently it’s fantastic.
While you’re over on this side of town, don’t miss the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Yep, that’s right, it’s a museum of willies.
Appropriately, my next suggestion is to grab a snack. A pylsur from Baejarins Beztu, a little tiny box in the middle of town. Pylsurs are hot dogs, and they are delicious – totally unlike the street meat you find in North America. They’re smaller, and they have a standard set of toppings. You can get them plain, or with one or two of the toppings, but go all out and get one with everything – the crispy onions are put on the bottom, and then there’s ketchup, sweet mustard, raw onions, and a delicious remolaði sauce. Want it all? Ask for one with the works – “eina með öllu”.
Before dinner, hit up a bar (there are plenty), like Kofinn (where, coincidentally, you can order sushi from Sushibarinn next door).
For dinner, there are some fantastic options. If you want something a little more low key, Sushibarinn is perfect. It’s tiny, but absolutely delicious. If you’re looking to spend a bit more, Sjávargrillið is the place to go. Their portions are quite big, and are totally yummy. Very local, huge seafood focus, and really, really fantastic.
Spend the evening at any one of the great bars in the city. There are loads in the centre (like Kofinn), but surprisingly, Slippbarinn, the bar at the Icelandair Marina Hotel was full of locals, wicked drinks, a great atmosphere, and surprisingly reasonable prices. If you’re staying here (which I recommend), it’s an awesome place to finish the night off. Seriously – I’m not one for hotel bars, but this is a total exception.
If you’re going to Reykjavik, you really should do more than 24 hours, but hey, you’ll figure that out pretty quickly once you get there!