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What To Do During A Layover In Reykjavik


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Delly Bertsch



Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a city that seamlessly blends natural beauty with urban charm. Its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and rich history make it a captivating destination for travelers. Even if you find yourself with just a short layover in Reykjavik, there are plenty of exciting activities to make the most of your time. From exploring the city center to indulging in geothermal spa experiences, Reykjavik offers a myriad of options to ensure a memorable layover.


As you step off the plane and into this enchanting city, you’ll be greeted by the crisp, invigorating Icelandic air and the promise of an adventure waiting to unfold. Whether you have a few hours or a full day to spare, Reykjavik beckons you to immerse yourself in its unique blend of modernity and tradition. Let’s delve into the delightful possibilities that await during your layover in Reykjavik.


Explore the City Center

Reykjavik’s city center is a bustling hub of activity, filled with a delightful mix of colorful buildings, charming cafes, and unique shops. Begin your exploration at the iconic landmark, Austurvöllur Square, where locals and visitors converge to enjoy the lively atmosphere. Take a leisurely stroll along Laugavegur, the city’s main shopping street, and immerse yourself in its vibrant energy. As you wander through this eclectic neighborhood, you’ll encounter an array of boutiques, art galleries, and inviting eateries, each offering a glimpse into Reykjavik’s creative spirit.


Don’t miss the chance to visit the charming Old Harbour, where you can admire the picturesque views of the surrounding mountains and the mesmerizing Harpa Concert Hall. This modern architectural marvel is a sight to behold, with its distinctive glass facade reflecting the city’s ever-changing hues. The city center is also home to numerous museums, including the National Gallery of Iceland and the Reykjavik Art Museum, where you can immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the country.


For a moment of tranquility amidst the urban bustle, make your way to Tjörnin, a serene lake that provides a peaceful retreat in the heart of the city. Here, you can observe graceful swans gliding across the water and savor the idyllic surroundings. Whether you’re drawn to vibrant street art, historical landmarks, or simply the charm of a new city, Reykjavik’s city center offers a captivating blend of experiences that are sure to leave a lasting impression.


Visit the Hallgrímskirkja Church

No visit to Reykjavik is complete without marveling at the awe-inspiring architecture of the Hallgrímskirkja Church. This iconic landmark, named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson, stands as a testament to the country’s rich cultural heritage and unique design aesthetic. As you approach the church, you’ll be struck by the grandeur of its imposing facade, which is reminiscent of the basalt columns found in Iceland’s natural landscapes.


Upon entering the church, you’ll be captivated by the serene ambiance and the interplay of light filtering through its distinctive, geometric windows. Ascend to the top of the church’s tower for a breathtaking panoramic view of Reykjavik, where you can marvel at the city’s colorful rooftops, the surrounding mountains, and the glistening waters of Faxa Bay. The Hallgrímskirkja Church serves as a poignant symbol of Iceland’s enduring spirit, and its significance extends beyond its architectural magnificence.


While at the church, take a moment to appreciate the powerful Klais organ, whose resonant tones fill the space with a sense of reverence and wonder. The church often hosts musical performances, adding an extra layer of cultural richness to your visit. Whether you’re drawn to the spiritual significance of the church or simply wish to admire its striking design, a visit to the Hallgrímskirkja Church promises an enriching experience that encapsulates the essence of Reykjavik’s allure.


Relax at the Blue Lagoon

Nestled amidst Iceland’s otherworldly landscapes, the Blue Lagoon is a geothermal oasis that offers a rejuvenating escape for travelers with a layover in Reykjavik. Just a short drive from the city, this natural wonder invites visitors to immerse themselves in its mineral-rich, azure waters, surrounded by rugged lava formations and ethereal steam rising into the crisp Icelandic air. Whether you seek relaxation, wellness, or a touch of indulgence, the Blue Lagoon presents an opportunity for a truly unforgettable experience.


Upon arriving at the Blue Lagoon, you’ll be greeted by the soothing sight of the vibrant, mineral-infused waters, which are renowned for their skin-nourishing properties. Slip into the inviting warmth of the lagoon and feel the stresses of travel melt away as you bask in the tranquil ambiance. The lagoon’s silica mud masks offer a chance for a revitalizing skincare treatment, allowing you to emerge with a radiant glow and a sense of renewed vitality.


For those seeking a touch of luxury, the Blue Lagoon also offers a range of spa treatments, from soothing massages to restorative facials, all designed to enhance your well-being and relaxation. As you unwind in this captivating setting, take a moment to savor a refreshing beverage from the lagoon bar, where you can enjoy a drink amidst the serene surroundings. Whether you choose to revel in the lagoon’s restorative waters or pamper yourself with a spa treatment, the Blue Lagoon provides a blissful interlude that perfectly complements your layover in Reykjavik.


Discover the Harpa Concert Hall

Perched on the edge of Reykjavik’s picturesque Old Harbour, the Harpa Concert Hall stands as a stunning testament to the city’s architectural innovation and cultural vibrancy. This modern masterpiece, with its striking glass facade reflecting the surrounding landscapes, offers a captivating blend of design, art, and world-class performances. Whether you’re drawn to its mesmerizing architecture or the allure of its cultural offerings, a visit to the Harpa Concert Hall promises a memorable experience during your layover in Reykjavik.


Step inside the Harpa to discover its soaring interior, where light dances through the glass panels, creating a mesmerizing interplay of colors and reflections. The concert hall hosts a diverse array of events, from classical music performances to contemporary concerts and theatrical productions, ensuring there’s always something captivating to experience. Take a guided tour to gain insight into the hall’s design and acoustics, and to learn about its role as a thriving cultural hub in Reykjavik.


For those with a penchant for the arts, the Harpa also houses exhibition spaces that showcase the works of local and international artists, providing a captivating glimpse into Iceland’s creative landscape. As you explore the hall, you’ll encounter a range of inviting cafes and restaurants, where you can savor a delightful meal or a cup of coffee while taking in the breathtaking views of the harbor and the surrounding mountains.


Whether you attend a performance, admire the architectural marvel, or simply revel in the vibrant atmosphere, the Harpa Concert Hall offers a captivating blend of cultural immersion and visual splendor that is sure to leave a lasting impression.


Sample Icelandic Cuisine

Exploring the culinary landscape of Reykjavik is an essential part of experiencing the city’s vibrant culture. Despite its remote location, Iceland boasts a rich and diverse culinary heritage, influenced by the island’s natural resources and traditional cooking methods. During your layover, take the opportunity to savor the unique flavors of Icelandic cuisine, which often celebrate the freshest local ingredients and time-honored recipes.


Begin your gastronomic adventure by indulging in the iconic Icelandic dish, “kjötsúpa,” a hearty lamb soup brimming with tender meat, root vegetables, and aromatic herbs. This comforting bowl of goodness provides a taste of traditional Icelandic home cooking and is a perfect way to warm up during the cooler months. For seafood enthusiasts, “plokkfiskur,” a delectable fish stew featuring flaky cod or haddock, is a must-try, showcasing the bounty of the surrounding seas.


For those feeling adventurous, delve into the world of Icelandic delicacies with a sampling of “hákarl,” a fermented shark dish that holds a special place in the country’s culinary heritage. While its pungent aroma may be an acquired taste, tasting hákarl offers a unique insight into Iceland’s culinary traditions. To satisfy your sweet tooth, treat yourself to “kleina,” a traditional Icelandic pastry reminiscent of a twisted doughnut, often enjoyed with a cup of coffee as a delightful snack.


As you wander through Reykjavik, be sure to visit local restaurants and cafes to savor dishes that highlight the best of Icelandic cuisine. From innovative takes on classic recipes to modern interpretations of traditional fare, the city’s dining scene offers a wealth of culinary delights to suit every palate. Embrace the opportunity to savor the flavors of Iceland, and let the city’s culinary offerings enrich your layover experience with a delectable taste of local culture.


Take a Golden Circle Tour

Embarking on a Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik is a captivating way to immerse yourself in Iceland’s natural wonders and cultural heritage, even during a layover. This popular route encompasses three primary attractions: the mighty Gullfoss waterfall, the geothermal area of Geysir, and the historic Þingvellir National Park. Each stop along the Golden Circle offers a unique perspective on the country’s geological marvels and historical significance, making it an ideal way to make the most of your time in Iceland.


Begin your journey by marveling at the awe-inspiring Gullfoss waterfall, where the Hvítá River cascades dramatically into a rugged canyon, creating a mesmerizing display of raw natural power. Feel the mist on your face as you stand in awe of this majestic spectacle, and capture the perfect photo to commemorate your encounter with one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls.


Next, venture to the Geysir geothermal area, home to an array of hot springs and bubbling mud pools. Here, you can witness the impressive Strokkur geyser erupting with explosive force, sending a plume of steaming water high into the air at regular intervals. The geothermal activity in this area provides a captivating glimpse into Iceland’s volcanic landscape and the powerful forces that shape the island’s terrain.


Conclude your Golden Circle tour at Þingvellir National Park, a place of immense historical and cultural significance. This UNESCO World Heritage site not only showcases Iceland’s breathtaking natural beauty but also served as the original meeting place of the Althing, one of the world’s oldest parliaments. Stroll through the park’s rift valley, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, and absorb the profound sense of history and geology that permeates the surroundings.


Whether you opt for a guided tour or choose to explore independently, a Golden Circle excursion from Reykjavik promises a captivating adventure that allows you to witness the extraordinary geological features and historical landmarks that define Iceland’s allure.


Shop for Souvenirs

While on a layover in Reykjavik, take the opportunity to explore the city’s vibrant shopping scene and bring home unique souvenirs that capture the essence of Iceland’s culture and craftsmanship. From handcrafted woolens to distinctive local delicacies, Reykjavik offers an array of charming boutiques, markets, and artisanal shops where you can find the perfect mementos to commemorate your visit.


Begin your shopping excursion at the city’s renowned flea market, Kolaportið, where you can browse an eclectic assortment of goods, including Icelandic woolen sweaters, locally made handicrafts, and an array of vintage treasures. Engage with friendly local vendors and immerse yourself in the lively ambiance of this bustling market, where you’re sure to uncover hidden gems and one-of-a-kind keepsakes.


For those seeking authentic Icelandic wool products, a visit to the city’s specialty knitwear stores is a must. Admire the exquisite craftsmanship of traditional lopapeysa sweaters, which feature intricate patterns and are crafted from the finest Icelandic wool, providing both warmth and timeless style. These iconic garments serve as a cherished reminder of your Icelandic adventure and make for a meaningful souvenir to treasure for years to come.


Delve into the world of Icelandic design and contemporary art by exploring the city’s galleries and concept stores, where you can discover a diverse array of locally made jewelry, ceramics, and home decor items. From sleek, minimalist designs to bold, nature-inspired motifs, Reykjavik’s artisanal offerings reflect the country’s creative spirit and commitment to craftsmanship.


Lastly, indulge in the flavors of Iceland by seeking out specialty food shops that showcase the country’s culinary delights. From rich, velvety chocolate to artisanal sea salt and wild berry jams, these delectable treats make for delightful gifts to share with friends and family or to savor as a cherished reminder of your time in Reykjavik.


As you wander through Reykjavik’s charming streets, take the time to peruse the city’s diverse array of shops and markets, and let the spirit of Icelandic creativity guide you to the perfect souvenirs that capture the essence of your layover experience.



As your layover in Reykjavik draws to a close, you’ll find yourself enriched by the myriad experiences that this captivating city has to offer. From immersing yourself in the vibrant energy of the city center to marveling at architectural wonders and indulging in the restorative waters of the Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik has undoubtedly left an indelible impression on your journey.


Whether you chose to explore the cultural landmarks, savor the flavors of Icelandic cuisine, or embark on a Golden Circle adventure, each moment spent in Reykjavik has been a delightful interlude, offering a glimpse into the heart and soul of Iceland. The city’s unique blend of modernity and tradition, coupled with its breathtaking natural landscapes, has created an experience that is as enriching as it is unforgettable.


As you bid farewell to Reykjavik, take with you the memories of its vibrant streets, the warmth of its people, and the echoes of its timeless stories. Whether you depart with a handcrafted souvenir, a newfound appreciation for Icelandic culture, or simply the tranquil sense of rejuvenation, your layover in Reykjavik has been a journey filled with discovery, wonder, and the promise of future adventures.


As you board your onward flight, carry with you the spirit of Reykjavik, knowing that its allure will continue to beckon, inviting you to return and delve deeper into the captivating tapestry of experiences that Iceland has to offer.