Visiting Reykjavik For The First Time

Over the past few years, Iceland has become an incredibly popular country to visit. With a well-developed tourism infrastructure and a distinct lack of violent crime, Iceland is an ideal starter country for those looking to dip their toes into solo travel- myself included! (I actually tagged this trip onto the second half of my solo trip to Amsterdam)

There are a few options when it comes to traveling through Iceland, but I chose to book a hotel in Reykjavik and take different day tours out and about in the city.

Don’t make my mistake when booking a Reykjavik hotel- it’s absolutely worth the few extra bucks to stay in a hotel closer to town center. Find a hotel within a few minutes’ walking distance of Hallgrímskirkja and you’ll be a few minutes walk from pretty much everywhere. I have found that most of the rooms are fairly simple and there’s an overwhelming smell of sulfur in the rooms, especially when taking a hot shower- Iceland uses it’s natural geothermal energy to heat the water. Don’t worry, this smell is completely normal!

Can’t Miss Stops in Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja is one of the most famous stops in Reykjavik and for good reason! The design of the church is based on the basalt columns spread around Iceland’s coast and it’s really impressive to see in person. I always make it a point to climb the best viewpoint in town and while the observation tower was closed for my visit, it’s definitely worth a stop to see the colorful buildings and surrounding mountains from above.

The Harpa Concert Hall is also worth a visit with its colorful geometric glass panels that reminded me of a honeycomb. The building is lit up at night so try to visit it at least once in the daytime and once at night for the full experience.

Just a few minutes’ walk from the Harpa Concert Hall, the Sólfar, or Sun Voyager, sculpture sits facing out to the sea. Built to celebrate Reykjavik’s 200 year anniversary and a tribute to the voyagers of the past and the hopes of the future, this sculpture is one of my favorite pieces of Icelandic art.

Iceland is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in the world and have regularly been painting Skólavörðustígur Street rainbow in support of their annual pride parade. This rainbow has more recently been made permanent and is a popular spot for photos! This street is one of the busier roads in Reykjavik with tourist shops lining the streets and a straight shot down to Hallgrímskirkja, so make sure to get there bright and early for pictures without other tourists in the background.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is probably the most famous hot dog stand in the world and definitely the most famous one in Iceland. This stand is referenced repeatedly in guidebooks and constantly suggested by fellow visitors, but I found this history of it to be more exciting than the hotdogs themselves. The original stand has been open continuously for over 80 years and has expanded into a small chain throughout the city. It’s probably best known for its celebrity visitors including Bill Clinton and Anthony Bourdain. Make sure to try this lamb-based hot dogs “with everything”: Icelandic ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade, fried onion, and raw onion.

When people think of Iceland they picture gorgeous landscapes of waterfalls, glaciers, and the Northern Lights, the capital city of Reykjavik is certainly worth exploring. Make sure to schedule some free time on your trip to check out what it has to offer!

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