Reykjavik is the world’s most northern capital city, found on the small island nation of Iceland. It is cosmopolitan, loaded with rich art, and allows you to explore some of the nation’s most epic landscapes!
You’re traveling to the cultural epicenter of Iceland. History-wise, it is one of the most important cities in the country, and it’s packed with fun things to do.
Whether you’re aiming for a museum-crawl, an adventure outdoors, or just grabbing a few pints at the local bar, our guide is going to give you the tools to craft the perfect 3 day itinerary in Reykjavik.
You can continue onwards from here, exploring this beautiful country, or go home and dream of round two. But one thing is for sure, your first time in Reykjavik will be unforgettable…
Let’s not waste any more time here — we’re off to explore Reykjavik!
- A Little Bit about this 3 Day Reykjavik Itinerary
- Where To Stay In Reykjavik
- Reykjavik Itinerary Day 1: I’m in Iceland, baby!
- Reykjavik Itinerary Day 2: All Gold Everything
- Reykjavik Itinerary Day 3: Show Me Something Weird
- What to Do with More than 3 Days in Reykjavik?
- Best Time To Visit Reykjavik
- How To Get Around Reykjavik
- Plan a Trip to Reykjavik – What to Prepare
- Final Thoughts
Iceland is one of a kind. It’s a nature lover’s paradise and there is just so much to experience here!
Reykjavik is a great starting point if you’re planning a backpacking trip in Iceland, because it packs a lot of awesome things to do. The city has plenty of places to visit and also offers you the chance to go on little trips to visit some of the epic Icelandic landscapes.
The city is relatively easy to get around. You can walk to most places within the city, and buses run frequently to other locations. Despite that, renting a car is very much advisable if you plan on venturing out into the wild.
If you’re wondering what to see in Reykjavik in 3 days, we hope our guide helps you cut through the noise and design the perfect itinerary for you.
Off we go!
3 Day Reykjavik Itinerary Overview
- Day 1 in Reykjavik: Hallgrimskirkja, Sun Voyager, Harpa Concert Hall, Whale Watching, The Icelandic Punk Museum
- Day 2 in Reykjavik: Thingvellir National Park, Gulfoss Falls, Blue Lagoon
- Day 3 in Reykjavik: Icelandic Phallological Museum, Laugavegur, National Museum of Iceland, Perlan, Aurora Borealis
- More Places to See in Reykjavik: Videy Island, Grotta Lighthouse, Árbær Open Air Museum
Alrighty. First, let’s figure out where you should stay in Reykjavik.
The compact downtown area is the heart and soul of Reykjavik. It’s called Midborg, or 101 among the locals, and you’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars in the area. It’s a great place to stay if you want to be surrounded by historical landmarks.
Vesturbær has a nice vibe to it, and it’s one of the best neighborhoods to stay in the city as well. It’s located near the old harbor in the north part of town, and there’s plenty of chic cafes and trendy bars if you’re into that. It’s a great place for foodies!
If your budget is low, Hlidar in the east is where you will find some of Reykjavik’s coolest hostels and budget hotels. It is popular with students and is home to the Reykjavik Museum of Art and the Icelandic Phallological Museum (we’ll get into that one later).
Best Hostel in Reykjavik – Galaxy Pod
Galaxy Pod Hostel is our pick for the best place to stay in Reykjavik. The hostel is located in Hlidar, just a short walk from downtown, and is close to tons of bars and restaurants. It comes fully equipped with a movie room, a bar, a social lounge, and a self-service kitchen.
Best Airbnb in Reykjavik – Charming downtown apartment
This one is as central as it gets. One street away from the main shopping, bar and restaurant zone, Laugavegur, it is walking distance from anything you might need in town.
It is also 5 minutes away from Hlemmur, the main bus station where every bus in Reykjavik departs. The balcony is a great place to relax and the sea view is incredible!
Best Budget Hotel in Reykjavik – Heida’s Home
This modern guesthouse is situated in the center of town, conveniently located to explore Reykjavik. It’s only 12 rooms in total, each fully-ready with Wi-Fi, heating, and a lot of great amenities.
Best Luxury Hotel in Reykjavik – Tower Suites Reykjavik
Tower Suites Reykjavik offers stylish penthouse suites in central Reykjavik. Set on the 20th floor of a contemporary glass tower and fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows, these luxury suites have unrivaled panoramic views of the city and harbor.
If you want to treat yo’ self, this is our recommendation!
Your first day of exploring Reykjavik. We hope you’re as excited as us! We’re starting off with some of the city’s most iconic sights and then move on to some wilder things. Snooze away, get your coffee fix, and let’s do this…
Your Reykjavik itinerary starts with a visit to the largest church in Iceland. Hallgrimskirkja rises above Reykjavik with its 240 ft-high tower, offering spectacular 360° views of the city.
The exterior of the church is said to mimic the Icelandic landscape with its staggered concrete facade. Hallgrimskirkja is a working Evangelical-Lutheran church, so everyone is welcome to join services and concerts. At times, it may be restricted to public access because of masses, weddings, etc.
The building itself is pretty cool, but make sure you go up so you can gaze at where the ocean meets the sky.
- Cost: $7
- How long should I stay here? 1 hour tops.
- Getting there – Many bus routes stop close to the church. If you’re staying downtown, you can walk there!
The Sólfarið, or Sun Voyager, is a huge stainless-steel artwork on the northern shore of Reykjavik.
It is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun. It symbolizes the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope and freedom.
Designed by Jón Gunnar Árnason, it is a product of a competition to celebrate the city’s 200-year anniversary in 1986.
The concept of the statue itself is quite crazy: Jón says he experienced an uncanny feeling that he’d been in Iceland before, many centuries ago, and the design is inspired by those same memories.
Come gaze at the sun reflecting in the stainless steel and learn more about this remarkable monument!
- Cost: Free
- How long should I stay here? Half an hour.
- Getting there – From your last stop, follow the street Frakkastígur straight into the sea.
Reykjavik’s Concert Hall and Conference Centre is a multi-purpose architectural work of art. It’s nestled in a modern glass honeycomb structure and has won the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Award, given by the EU to reward quality architectural production in Europe.
The building itself is a beauty to look at, and it also offers great views of the city and its surroundings!
Harpa is a state-of-the-art conference center, and one of the best ones in Northern Europe. It is home to The Iceland Symphonic Orchestra, The Icelandic Opera, and The Reykjavik Big Band.
There are a number of shops inside to pick up an Icelandic gift and various stages and screens for music and theatre performances. You can check their schedule online.
- Cost: Free
- How long should I stay here? Half an hour to 1 hour.
- Getting there – A short seaside walk from the Sun Voyager.
For this next bit, we’re setting off into the Atlantic Ocean to spot some of its most magnificent mammals. The waters here are rich with aquatic life, and it’s easy to spot creatures like minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, and even humpback whales.
Whale watching is a fantastic thing to do if you’re planning a trip to Reykjavik, and there are a number of companies operating tours from the harbor — prices vary.
Some tours operate in a way that, if you don’t see a whale, you go on another for free! And if you start getting seasick, or can’t handle the cold, you always take cover in their inside deck.
The idea is to instill guests with a fascination and respect for the whales and there is nothing better than seeing them in their natural habitat. You are guaranteed to gain a new level of appreciation for these majestic animals.
If you don’t feel ready for the real thing yet, you can always visit the Whales of Iceland exhibition to learn about these giants of the sea.
- Cost: Depending on the company you choose, 90 to $100.
- How long should I stay here? 3 hours.
- Getting there – The tour starts from Reykjavik’s old harbor.
Down below Bankastræti, not far from the harbor docks, this tiny museum chronicles the rise of Icelandic punk music in the 1980s. It was started by John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols) in 2016.
The Icelandic Punk Museum is located in a former public toilet in downtown Reykjavik. It’s small, gritty, and we love it!
Despite its size, this place is jam-packed with photos and posters, instruments, streaming videos of classic club shows, and all the memorabilia you can think of.
Get chatting with the owner, and a quick visit can turn into a fully-immersive history lesson. His passion for the place and the music is contagious, and it resonates around every little corner of the museum.
Punk’s not dead.
- Cost: $12
- How long should I stay here? Around 1 hour.
- Getting there – The museum is downtown, not too big of a walk from the harbor.
Today, we’re getting a taste of Iceland’s famous Golden Circle. In order to see all of it, it’s really advisable you get a car. Otherwise, your best bet is to book an all-inclusive tour and be free from all the planning hassle. Let’s go!
The Golden Circle is one of the most popular routes in Iceland and it’s filled with incredible scenery to explore. Thingvellir is one of its main attractions and it’s only a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik!
The geological processes which shaped it are as remarkable as the great historical events which took place in this location. Thingvellir was listed on UNESCO‘s World Heritage List in 2004 for its geological uniqueness and historical significance.
It is a beautiful site with a wealth of things to do, and where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. The perfect chance to explore an epic Icelandic landscape on a trip to Reykjavik.
The park is virtually impossible to access by public transportation. If you rent a car, drive the ring road north out of Reykjavik and pass the town Mosfellsbaer, then take the first exit to the right at a roundabout onto road 36, which leads you to Thingvellir.
- Cost: Free to enter, $4 parking fee.
- How long should I stay here? 2 hours.
- Getting there – You can drive, or take one of the many tour buses available.
Along with Skógafoss, Gulfoss is right there at the top of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls. The name roughly translates to “Golden Falls” and it really is a place to witness the power of the elements.
This dramatic waterfall is over 100 feet deep and consists of two enormous cascades. It’s located right at the start of the Hvita canyon, carved by a river with the same name. The black gorge is around 1.2 miles long and, together with the waterfall, creates an amazing natural spectacle.
Even though it’s quite popular, its remote location still allows you to make sense of the ineffable forces of nature that have worked this landscape for years and years. When it’s sunny, the light and the mist create some really sexy rainbows at Gulfoss; during winter, the falls glitter with ice.
Above the falls there’s a tourist information center, shop, and cafe, plus bathrooms (the ones inside are free to use).
- Cost: Free
- How long should I stay here? 1 hour.
- Getting there – An hour drive from Thingvellir National Park.
A visit to the Blue Lagoon is a must for anyone traveling to Iceland. It’s a beautiful geothermal spa and a wonderful place to restore your energy after a long day exploring the Icelandic landscapes.
The official website describes it as “an otherworldly wonder in the heart of a volcanic landscape”, and it really feels like something extraordinaire.
The water in the lagoon is rich in silica and sulphur, giving it the notable regenerative qualities that it is so famous for. There is also an R&D facility on-site that finds cures and remedies for skin ailments. Silica mud is available for free by the pool for you to enjoy.
If you didn’t rent a car, you’ll need to book a transfer with a tour company. This place has become really popular (for obvious reasons), so you’ll need to book your ticket a few days in advance.
The experience comes at a hefty price, but you can save a TON of money if you book it within an all-inclusive Golden Circle tour.
- Cost: $54
- How long should I stay here? 1-2 hours.
- Getting there – A 2-hour drive from Gulfoss. There is an official shuttle as well, but no official public transport from Reykjavik.
Reykjavik can be quirky. If you’re in the city for 3 days, we’ve got a couple more things you should add to your itinerary. We’re crossing off a few more essentials, but we’re also starting with something unusual. Get weird.
Yap, this is a weird one.
Aside from, you know, all the epic landscapes you’ve seen the day before, one of Reykjavik’s most unique attractions is this rather odd museum.
As the name suggests, the Icelandic Phallological Museum is essentially a museum full of penises. In fact, over 200 of them. And they come from all the land and sea animals that are found in and around the country.
Specimens from all kinds of whales, polar bears… and even extinct animals! Even though it may sound weird at first, the museum is actually a very interesting biology lesson.
Be sure to check out all the unique and bizarre items in the museum shop. They are sure to provide a laugh or two and maybe even make for a cool gift to bring back home.
- Cost: $17
- How long should I stay here? How much do you like dicks?
- Getting there – A short walk from the city center.
Laugavegur is one of the oldest shopping streets in downtown Reykjavik and a popular place to look for local gifts, grab a quick bite to eat, or just browse through some specialty stores. You can walk here from the last stop.
The same road formerly led to the hot springs in Laugardalur, where generations of women took their laundry for washing. A walk down this quaint street is a great way to experience contemporary culture and interact with locals.
Pop into a local bakery, indulge in delicious pastries and doughnuts, and grab some fresh coffee from the local coffeehouses. On Friday and Saturday nights, the street is packed with activity well into the early hours.
- Cost: Free
- How long should I stay here? As long as you wish. Plenty of lunch opportunities as well.
- Getting there – From your last stop, walk 20 minutes south on Hverfisgata street.
After some well-deserved lunch, it’s time for another museum — we promise we left the weirdness for the morning time.
A visit to the National Museum is the perfect way to learn about the history and culture of Iceland and its people. If you have time, you should definitely add it to your itinerary.
From the early days of Viking settlers to its modern-day culture, the museum has a permanent exhibition neatly illustrating the most interesting and peculiar stories of the country.
You’ll find other temporary displays rotate on a yearly basis yearly and are also worth looking into. Among the museum’s many precious raw materials is the Valthjófsstadur door, an extremely rare and valuable find featuring elaborate medieval engravings from a 12th-century tale.
- Cost: $16
- How long should I stay here? 1-2 hours.
- Getting there – Catch bus 12 from Hlemmur station, near Laugavegur.
Situated on the top of Öskjuhlíð hill, Perlan was originally built in 1991 as a cluster of hot water tanks. It was later converted into a building open to the public, hosting exhibitions, a planetarium, an observation deck, and a fine-dining restaurant.
If you are interested in the Earth’s natural forces, then you’ll surely enjoy it here. Iceland was born from fire and ice, and to fully appreciate the power of these elements, Perlan brings them to life with interactive exhibitions by talented artists and cutting-edge technology.
Perland is the largest nature exhibition in all of Iceland. It’s a great way to learn about Iceland’s natural forces. Plus, there’s a fantastic deck with 360º views over the city!
- Cost: Tickets start at $30.
- How long should I stay here? 1-2 hours.
- Getting there – Bus routes 1, 3, 6, and 55.
This is how you end your trip with a bang.
The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, is perhaps the number one thing that draws visitors to Iceland in the winter. It’s one of the best countries in the world for it, and watching the stars dance across the sky changes people’s lives.
Iceland is located at a high latitude, meaning there is no darkness from mid-April to mid-August (long live the midnight sun). In this period, you cannot see the Northern Lights, but their season runs from late August to mid-April — September to late March being the absolute best time for it.
Once darkness falls, the Aurora can be visible at any time of day. The optimum time seems to be around 9:30 pm to 1 am and that is when a lot of the “hunts” begin. There are numerous tour operators offering late-night sightseeing excursions.
The only problem is that, as a natural phenomenon, they’re elusive and unpredictable. If you have a rental car, you have a bit more freedom to get out of town and look for them, but booking a tour is recommended if you don’t.
Some hotels in Reykjavik may offer a special Northern Lights wake-up service as well, so if the sky mysteriously lights up, they will let you know.
- Cost: Free if you’ve rented a car, $90 for a small-group tour.
- How long should I stay here? 3 hours.
- Getting there – Find a way to escape the city lights or join a tour.
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
Staying longer? No problem! Check out some of our extra suggestions to make sure you make the most out of your first time in Reykjavik.
Just a quick ferry away from Reykjavik, on a short stretch of water, lies the tranquil Videy Island. It’s a historic location with ancient ruins and evidence of settlement as early as the 10th century.
There are a couple of interesting buildings on the island, including the first stone building in the country, and one of the oldest churches too.
Mostly, it is the natural landscape, flora, and birdlife that draws people to Videy. There also sculptures by Yoko Ono and Richard Serra to explore, and you can enjoy a hot coffee in a little cafe while taking in the scenery.
It will only take you a couple of hours to see the whole thing on foot. The views are beautiful, with Reykjavik’s skyline and surrounding mountains at a distance, and it’s a great way to feel a world away from city life.
Ferries run frequently from multiple locations, be sure to check in advance.
- Cost: $13
- How long should I stay here? 2-3 hours.
- Getting there – You can take the ferry from the harbor.
Grotta Lighthouse is located on the Seltjarnarnes peninsula, the most north-western point of Reykjavik. It is a small lighthouse that dates back to 1947, but it’s not the lighthouse itself that is the main attraction in the area.
The Seltjarnarnes peninsula is a reserve and home to abundant birdlife, making it a great place to enjoy the outdoors, go for a walk, or do some bird watching. At night it is one of the most beautiful spots in Reykjavik — when the moon is out, the reflection on the water is breathtaking!
If you time it right, this is a great spot to see the Aurora Borealis.
Getting there is fairly easy: it’s only a short drive from downtown, and buses stop nearby. The lighthouse itself is not usually open to visitors.
- Cost: Free
- How long should I stay here? 45min.
- Getting there – Take bus 11 to Lindargotu road.
Take a step back in time with a trip to the Árbær Open Air Museum. A visit here will give you a glimpse into the life of the Reykjavik people during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
This living museum is an authentic journey through time. You’ll encounter restored old dwellings, costumed guides, farm animals, and traditional crafts. The grounds are extensive, so there are lots of opportunities to run around and explore.
Most of the buildings have been relocated from central Reykjavik, and each of them is a different exhibition revealing how a few scattered farms on the South-East coast came to be the site of a modern-day capital city.
It is open only in the summer, but in December they open their doors on weekends for Christmas!
- Cost: $14
- How long should I stay here? 1 hour.
- Getting there – Take bus 16 heading to Árbær/Hraunsás.
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You’ll find plenty of activities to fill your 3 day itinerary in Reykjavik, no matter the season. Here’s a breakdown to help you decide when to visit Reykjavik:
Summer (June-August): the most popular time to travel. The weather is fair and the days are VERY long.
Fall (September-November): a good time to come if you enjoy cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.
Winter (December-February): a good time to see the Northern Lights, however, it’s very dark during this time. Temperatures are low but not so low, thanks to the Jet Stream.
Spring (March-May): it’s a nice alternative as well. It’s not too crowded, but it does get rainy.
|Average Temperature||Average Temperature||Crowds||Overall Grade|
|January||0°C / 32°F||High||Calm||🙁|
|February||0°C / 32°F||High||Medium||🙁|
|March||0°C / 32°F||High||Medium||🙁|
|April||3°C / 37°F||Low||Medium||😐|
|May||6°C / 43°F||High||Medium||😐|
|June||9°C / 48°F||Low||Busy||🙂|
|July||11°C / 52°F||Low||Busy||🙂|
|August||11°C / 52°F||Average||Busy||🙂|
|September||7°C / 45°F||High||Medium||😐|
|October||4°C / 39°F||Average||Medium||🙂|
|November||3°C / 37°F||Average||Calm||🙂|
|December||2°C / 36°F||High||Calm||😐|
How To Get Around Reykjavik
Public transportation in Reykjavik works great. It’s both accessible and affordable, with regular services to and from all the city’s main towns and sights. There are regular transfers from the airport to the city as well.
The city’s compact size also means that everything is fairly accessible within walking distance. If this is your preferred method of exploring, then you’re in good luck — and for longer distances, buses work great too.
If you plan on using the bus much, though, consider getting a Reykjavik City Card. Apart from the discounted fares, you get free entries on a great selection of museums, as well a free ferry trip to Videy island! Perfect if you’re staying 3 days in Reykjavik or more.
But for any Iceland itinerary, the best way to get around is by renting a car.
There are some great places outside of Reykjavik, and having a car will give you the most flexibility. Hell, the nature is insane here and you have to see it! SAD Cars and Car Rental Iceland are a great place to start if you want to compare prices — and get a 4×4 if you plan to do some off-roading.
If you’re feeling adventurous, and plan to visit more of the country, renting a van in Reykjavik is a damn good idea. It will cost you more than a car, but you cut on accommodation and make room for some epic travel stories!
Don’t forget to pack a good book! Lonely Planet Pocket Reykjavik (Travel Guide) is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city.
The weather is unpredictable and conditions can easily turn hazardous. Your Iceland packing list will vary throughout the year, but if you’re traveling in the rainy season, definitely pack a good jacket, a blanket or two, and some good solid shoes.
Similarly, it is a good idea to be aware of natural hazards. Iceland is home to many active volcanoes, hot springs, and glaciers, so it’s smart to be aware of the conditions in each place you’re visiting.
Iceland is one of the safest places you can visit, and Reykjavik itself has an extremely low crime rate. It is always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings, though, and to never leave yourself vulnerable to any misdoings.
Your biggest concern will probably be around road safety, the weather, and Iceland’s unique geological conditions.
Have you thought about getting Travel Insurance for your trip? We’ve put together a roundup of Travel Insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads, our favorite travel insurance provider.
We hope our guide helped you get a sense of what this city has on offer.
With 3 days in Reykjavik, you can get a perfect idea of the city’s history and culture, but also visit some of the country’s most epic sights.
Iceland really is a magical place, and Reykjavik is a great starting point to explore it. So, whether you’re in town for a short break or as the first stop in a longer Icelandic journey, you’re bound to have an awesome time here.
Use our itinerary to cook up your personal trip, choose the activities that you love the most, and then hop on a cheap flight!
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