A photo of the skyline of Reykjavik from the water
You’ll no doubt want to visit the entire island during your visit to Iceland, but we absolutely recommend soaking up the culture and atmosphere of the capital city Reykjavik. Since you’ll be landing at Reykjavik airport either way, why not plan a few days to explore everything Reykjavik has to offer.
There are 10 unique districts spread throughout the capital itself, each with their own style and reasons to visit. We’ve brought the highlights of the most popular districts - Vesturbær, Miðborg & Hlíðar - and discuss the places to eat at, stay in and see while you visit.
As the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik is home to a large portion of the entire country. Of the approximate 365,000 natives across Iceland, there are roughly 131,000 living in Reykjavik - that’s around one-third of the entire population located in the capital. For this reason, it has the greatest level of infrastructure and places to stay and eat throughout Iceland. Furthermore, it’s regarded as one of the greenest and safest cities in all the world, so you’ll be sure to have a fantastic time.
One of the most sought after residential districts in Iceland (with the relevant prices to match), Vesturbær - also known as West Town - has historically been a largely real estate-focused area. Recently, however, the harbor area has seen an increase in tourist and commercial activity since it’s revival. The neighbourhood has become one of the trendiest places to be in all of Reykjavik, with a host of boutique shops, eateries and coffee shops rising up around the centrally-located district.
If you’re spending a bit of time in West Town, you’ll want to check out the following.
This huge water complex has everything you could want for a splash. Steam rooms, saunas, hot tubs and geothermally-heated swimming pools are all here if you fancy a swim. It’s a local favourite for a reason!
A once in a lifetime experience that you’ll struggle to find anywhere else in the world, take to the seas and witness the majesty of these gentle giants. Whales are typically an elusive creature, but you’ll see them up close in this exhilarating activity.
There are a number of fantastic places to stay in West Town, Iceland, and you’ll be sure to find something that suits your budget. We’ve selected a few recommended options below.
For anyone who is looking for affordable accommodation situated in a prime location, Blue House B&B is a great option. Located right near the waterfront, you’ll have access to incredible views from the comfort of your room.
Full spa suites, exquisite rooms and all the amenities you could want, this luxury hotel is designed with an Art Deco influence and is brimming with character. This is an ideal choice for those seeking a romantic getaway vacation.
There are a range of incredible restaurants to try in Vesturbær. We’ve picked a few favourites that offer something a little different.
From classic breakfasts to get your day started right, all the way to evening meals, Kaffihús Vesturbæjar offers something for everyone.
For those looking for a fine dining experience, Kopar delivers. Situated on the waterfront, Kopar is the perfect choice for a romantic evening or intimate dinner.
Quick, easy and incredibly popular in West Town, Lamb Street Food is a low-key meal that you’ll absolutely love.
Miðborg is one of the most frequented locations in Reykjavik for tourists, particularly due to the bustling nightlife scene and a range of tourist hotspots. Also known as 101 due to it’s postcode, it borders on Vesturbær and is likely to be one of the locations you’ll spend the majority of your time in Reykjavik.
If you’re spending a bit of time in Miðborg, 101, you’ll want to check out the following.
If you’re interested in the heritage and culture of Iceland, look no further. With exhibitions showcasing Iceland all the way back to it’s Viking origin and over 2,000 artefacts found across the country, it’s an amazing way to learn more about this Nordic nation.
Constructed in 1986 over a 41 year period, this Lutherian (Church of Iceland) parish church is an architectural masterpiece. It was named after poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson, and the building can be seen from all over the city, measuring nearly 75 metres in height.
One of the most remarkable landmarks in all of Reykjavik, Harpa stands as a significant cultural hub for all of Iceland. Consider catching one of the many incredible events available, such as the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, or even visit for a tour and meal.
Although you might not think to visit during the winter, this pristine beach is an amazing place to spend some time during the summer. The unique lagoon uses geothermal heating to increase the temperature above sea level, and there are even hot tubs and a steam bath.
Miðborg is a great place to stay as you’ll be so close to the many amazing shops, bars and nightclubs. There’s an absolutely huge selection of hotels and places to stay for a night or two, so we’ve picked a few that fit the budgets of any visitor.
While this is unlikely to be the most Icelandic of hotels you could stay in, the Canopy by Hilton is undeniably luxurious. In keeping with the Hilton brand across the world, you’ll have a second-to-none experience during your stay.
A more affordable option for those on a budget, the Hótel Klettur is nevertheless a stunning choice to get some rest and relaxation after a long day in Reykjavik.
Another 4-star hotel with all the amenities to ensure a pleasant stay, the KVOSIN even has apartment suites available for rent, should you have a larger family or simply want a bigger space to claim as basecamp for your holiday.
Miðborg has so many amazing restaurants and eateries that it could warrant an entire guide itself! You’ll be spoilt for choice as you explore the city center, whether it’s for breakfast, lunch or evening meals.
This trendy eatery is an affordable way to enjoy a quick bite in the evening, making it perfect for those on an action-packed day looking for a break. It’s highly reviewed and is a local favourite.
A high-end luxury dining experience, Kol Restaurant should be seen as much an experience as a meal. They also make incredible cocktails for anyone looking for a slightly boozier evening.
Another option for fine dining in Miðborg, the Old Iceland Restaurant is the perfect backdrop for a cosy evening filled with fantastic food. It leans towards more traditional Icelandic cuisine, so you can experience a taste of Iceland here.
While much of Hlíðar is mostly known as a residential area, there are some interesting and unique attractions to see, as well as a dedicated commercial section. There are three smaller neighbourhoods in Hlíðar - Hlíðar, Háteigshverfi, and Öskjuhlíðarhverfi - and Hlíðar has a large proportion of outdoor greenery compared to the rest of Reykjavik. Addresses in Hlíðar share the 105 postcode.
If you’re spending a bit of time in Hlíðar, you’ll want to check out the following.
Full of art and sculptures from prominent Icelandic artists and creatives, the Reykjavik Art Museum is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. There’s also a cafe and gift shop to pick something lasting up to remember your visit.
Another of the amazing outdoor areas for you to visit, this huge hill was used during World War II as a key area for bunker production. Atop the hill is Perlan, an incredible landmark building that is used as a planetarium and cultural hotspot.
If you’re looking to stay in Hlíðar, 105, you’ll want to check out the following.
This 4-star hotel is designed with a bohemian and maximalist approach to decor, offering a really unique vibe compared to many other hotels. This is part of a larger chain of hotels across Iceland, so you can always find another Guldsmeden hotel if you fancy staying elsewhere in Reykjavik.
Another 4-star hotel that offers a more traditional experience, the Grand Hotel Reykjavik has a large number of rooms and amenities for you to enjoy. There’s even a high-class dining experience and full spa suite to really relax you after a long day.
For anyone seeking a budget-conscious place to bed down for the night, the offbeat Hlemmur Square could be a great choice. Hostel space is available for this 1930’s building-turned-hotel and there’s even a craft bar for those looking for a drink.
If you’re getting hungry while checking out Hlíðar, 105, you’ll want to check out the following.
Voted as part of the best 2020 bar food destinations in Reykjavik, Iceland, KRÖST is a must. A fully-stocked bar and casual atmosphere set the tone for a perfect evening of laughs and good food.
Voted as one of Reykjavik’s 19 essential restaurants to visit, Skál! Is another casual eatery that has loads of praise for it’s incredible food and incredible prices. We couldn’t leave it off the list!
We hope this information has been helpful in planning your holiday to Iceland. For additional information about your journey to Iceland, including driving guidance, please see our guides below.