Europe Travel  --  Island Life

Reykjavik On Foot

Location: Reykjavik Iceland

We spent three days in Reykjavik (well more like two and half due to jet lag), but we found it compact and easy to maneuver. We saw several interesting sites all within easy walking distance from our hotel. If you are passing through the beautiful Icelandic city of Reykjavik, we recommend the following – Reykjavik on foot.

Reykjavik on foot
Skolavorthustigur Street

Take a Stroll and see Reykjavik on Foot

Consider picking up Rick Steve’s Iceland Guide, as we found it very helpful and on our first day we did his self-guided walking tour in the downtown core. It’s compact and very easy to do this walking tour in just a couple of hours. If you don’t have the book, Reykjavik on foot is easy with our suggestions;

Reykjavik on foot
Marker for where the shoreline used to be

Start at Ingolfstorg Square – location of the original Reykjavik farm. Currently a gathering place, although somewhat drab, there are a few historic buildings near by, as is Vestiurgata which is the original shoreline. This area was filled in but a brass marker in the sidewalk marks the spot.

Reykjavik on foot
Historic buildings near Ingolfstorg Square

We enjoyed wandering the back streets and seeing the local homes. Most of the homes today, even the historic ones, are covered with galvanized steel siding that protects from Iceland’s rough climate. Homes are small and tidy and often very colorful and patriotic. Two streets we recommend are Mjostraeti and Athalstraeti.

Reykjavik on foot
Reykjavik neighborhoods

A fascinating relief map of Iceland is available for viewing inside Reykjavik’s City Hall. We definitely recommend this if you are in Reykjavik on a week day. It’s free and really interesting.

Iceland Relief Map
Relief map of Iceland

Adjacent to city hall is the Pond (Tjornin) where on a nice day residents stroll and relax and feed the ducks. Across the pond you can see the University of Iceland and the National Museum which we recommend below. For more exercise you can extend your Reykjavik on foot tour with a walk all the way around the pond, about 2 miles.

Reykjavik on foot
The Pond

Head away from the pond to see Austurvollur, Iceland’s Parliament Building and Square. Both historic and modern it is another gathering spot with lots of history.

Reykjavik on foot
Parliament Square

Main Street Reykjavik on Foot

If you can, we recommend booking a hotel near the main street of Reykjavik known as Austurstraeti. We stayed in the very modest Hotel Fron. Nothing special, but comfortable and included breakfast for about $150 a night. The location however, is excellent for enjoying Reykjavik on foot, on one of the main streets called Laugavegur.

Laugavegur Main Street

The Main Street area known as Austurstraeti is great for strolling and shopping. From our hotel we could head down the hill to several sites including Laekjartorg Square.

Angling off up the hill from Laugavegur is Skolavorthustigur Street, lined with a rainbow. Many shops and restaurants line this historic street. From the bottom of the street you have a great view of Hallgrimskirja Church. Head up the street to see this iconic landmark.

Hallfrimskirja Reykjavik
Hallfrimskirja Lutheran Church

In the neighborhood of Hallfrimskirja you can also enjoy the Leif Erickson statue as well as Einar Jonsson Sculpture Garden just across the street.

Museums and Exhibitions

We did not see all the museums in Reykjavik but we were so glad we visited two. Both gave us a wonderful introduction to the history and geology of Iceland, prior to embarking on our camper van trek.

Reykjavik on foot
National Museum of Iceland

We highly recommend The National Museum of Iceland, just across the pond near the university and an easy walk from town. About $18 entry fee. The exhibit takes the visitor through ancient Iceland history and up to the 20th century. Superbly done and fascinating.

Reykjavik on foot
Ice Cave at the Perlan

A bit further walk but still doable is the brand new experience known as the Perlan. The first fascinating thing about this is that it is built into two old water tanks (great use of a former eyesore). Entry fee is just under $40 but for that price you explore a variety of exhibits about the natural aspect of Iceland as well as enjoy a really well done movie about the aurora borealis. In addition you can walk through a very authentic ice cave. Upstairs don’t miss the coffee shop with the best view in Reykjavik.

Reykjavik on foot
Wonders of Iceland exhibit at the Perlan

On the Harbor

Just a quick mention of two sites of interest on the waterfront. If you have time take a walk through the Harpa Concert Hall, a architectural wonder. Check the schedule online for performances.

Viking Ship Sculpture
Sun Voyager Sculpture

We also enjoyed a brief stop at the Sun Voyager sculpture. You will probably recognize this metal sculpture of a Viking Boat, particularly beautiful at sunset.

Eating in Reykjavik

Next week I’m going to explore more in depth the foods we discovered in Iceland, but today let me touch on a couple great places to eat. Thanks again to the Rick Steves guide we learned about the Hlemmur Food Hall – a converted bus station now housing several restaurants. We walked in and sat up at the bar of Skall without knowing anything about it. An excellent decision. Absolutely delicious and unique variety of small plates from cod to tomatoes, lumpfish roe to cauliflower.

Reykjavik on foot
Hlemmur Food Hall

We also had a fantastic meal at Rok. Reservations are a good idea here, but we arrived early enough that we were able to squeeze into a table. Rok is in a historic old house with beautiful wood beams and we again did a selection of small plates, sharing everything from langoustine soup (divine) to Icelandic char, reindeer and green salad. I’ll talk more about all these next week.

Reykjavik food tour
Your Friends in Reykjavik Food Tour

One thing I really recommend is to consider either a food tour (which we did) or a history tour with Your Friends in Reykjavik. Our food tour opened our eyes to some of Iceland’s most traditional (and a few bizarre) dishes. I’ll tell you about that next week.

Colorful Iceland homes
Reykjavik Neighborhoods

Reykjavik on foot. Compact and easy, this city is interesting, maneuverable, colorful and delicious. I hope you will visit soon.

See last week’s blog Iceland by Camper Van.

Learn more about Iceland at Visit Iceland.

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  • Reply Renee

    I love the architecture of the church, so unusual. It looks like such a vibrant city, colourful and playful, and love the walking tour you provided.

    July 17, 2021 at 1:19 am
  • Reply Sue

    This is fantastic as I am heading to Iceland (fingers crossed!) at the end of August. Exploring any city is best on foot & it’s great to see how accessible the city is to walk around. I love the idea of the food tour, will make a note of your restaurant recommendations & excited to read your next post!

    July 17, 2021 at 1:27 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Thank you Sue. You will love it.

      July 17, 2021 at 7:26 am
  • Reply Alma

    I am still green with envy, ha ha! But thoroughly enjoying traveling virtually with you while you were on foot at Reykjavik.

    July 17, 2021 at 2:43 am
  • Reply Jennifer Mostert

    I’ve always been fascinated by the architecture of Hallfrimskirja. Were you able to go inside?
    Iceland has always been high on my bucket list, but it’s going to be a while before I can travel abroad again. So thank you for taking me on a walk with you around Reykjavik.

    July 17, 2021 at 3:04 am
    • Reply Laureen

      We did not go inside but it has recently reopened. Through out the country there are a handful of churches by this same architect.

      July 17, 2021 at 7:26 am
  • Reply Linda (LD Holland)

    We were glad we took a day on our visit to Iceland to wander around Reykjavik. Although we had a much warmer day for our wandering. We found a great cafe across from the Hallfrimskirja for coffee and the view. But we sadly did not visit any of the museums. A food tour sounds like a great idea … for our next visit.

    July 19, 2021 at 1:31 pm
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