The holidays are always a special time of year, but there’s no place that makes the season brighter than Iceland. Even though Winter days are long and dark, the abundance of Christmas activities and holiday cheer will light up the season.
If you’re planning on spending the holiday season in Reykjavík, there are some amazing Christmas activities you can enjoy around the city. If you’re ready to rock around not just the Christmas tree, but all of Reykajvík this season, this guide is for you.
1. Send a Letter to Santa Claus
Many of us have happy memories of writing letters to Santa and leaving them next to a plate of milk and cookies. And, while those days might seem like a thing of the past, in Reykjavík you can relive your childhood and send a new letter to Santa or the 13 Icelandic Santas or Yule Lads!
Reykjavík’s darling Christmas shop, Litla Jólabúðin, has a large red mailbox outside it where you can drop off your letters to the Santa’s you believe in. If you head into the shop, you’ll find letters from Santa or the Yule Lads that you can even purchase and mail to your friends and family back home. Talk about spreading holiday cheer from afar!
To find this cheery holiday spot, you’ll need to take a stroll up Laugavegur. Halfway up the street, you’ll spot a pair of Santa’s boots located next to this mailbox.
2. Peruse the Christmas Markets
One of the many Christmas activities locals enjoy participating in during the holidays is checking out the Christmas markets. There are several markets located around the greater Reykjavík area, making it easy for you to get all your holiday shopping done.
Ingólfstorg square is a public square located in downtown Reykjavik that is turned into an adorable Christmas market that opens during the month of December. Holiday music fills the area and an ice skating rink marks half of this plaza.
Small Christmas houses offer decorations, hand-crafted gifts, and tasty traditional pastry for you to enjoy. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon during the holiday season.
If you’re willing to venture a little way out of the great Reykjavik city center, you’ll find the adorable town of Hafnarfjörður, just about a 20-minute drive from downtown Reykjavik. This quaint spot is nestled in a lava field and is home to one of the larger Christmas markets in Iceland.
Every weekend during December, the town’s plaza is turned into a Christmas village, where you’ll find live entertainment, music, and Christmas stalls selling handcrafts and tasty treats. The Icelandic Yule Lads are known to frequent this market, too, so keep your eyes peeled when in the area!
If you head to the southeastern part of Reykjavík, you’ll find the forest area of Heiðmörk. This spot sets up a beautiful little Christmas village each year and is a traditional spot for many families to go to buy their Christmas trees.
The Icelandic Forest Service operates the Christmas tree sale, and plants an additional 50 trees for each tree you purchase! When you’re not hunting down the perfect tree, you can enjoy huddling around a bonfire, drinking hot chocolate, and strolling through the artists’ stalls.
3. Eat Your Heart Out at a Jólahlaðborð
Christmas buffets, or jólahlaðborð, are one Icelandic tradition you don’t want to miss out on. During the holiday season, local restaurants will offer up holiday buffets that are jam-packed with tasty Icelandic treats.
A few traditional dishes you might find on the menu during this season include:
- Hangikjöt: smoked lamb
- Hamborgarhryggur: Glazed ham
- Jólagrautur: sweet rice porridge
- Síld: pickled or marinated herring
- Brúnaðar Kartöflur: caramelized potatoes
- Laufabrauð: thin, decorated wheatbread
Any of these dishes will leave your mouth watering for more. If you’re planning to spend the holidays in Iceland, be sure to swing by a holiday buffet for a traditional Christmas meal!
It’s also the season for the Christmas Beers so if you like beer, there are over 100 different types to choose from to sample
4. Go Ice Skating
If you’re going to spend Christmas in Iceland you simply have to spend an afternoon ice skating. And, luckily, there are two gorgeous spots where you can enjoy skating during the holiday season: Tjörnin and Ingólfstorg Square
One local favorite is Tjörnin pond, a large pond located in the heart of the city. You can often find locals walking or skating across the frozen water and sometimes even enjoying a game of football during the holiday season.
Since the pond isn’t an official ice skating location, you’ll need to bring your own ice skating gear. If you don’t have skates, you can also enjoy strolling across the frozen pond in street shoes and snapping photos of the city as you go.
For a more official ice skating option in Reykjavík, you can swing by Ingólfstorg Square. The Nova ice skating rink is situated in the middle of the plaza’s Christmas market. Even though the rink is a new addition to the city, it’s quickly become a hotspot for locals.
At this spot, you can enjoy gliding across the ice while listening to Christmas music and admiring the lights of the surrounding artisan’s stalls. The cost of skate rental and a helmet will cost you 1.190 ISK.
5. Join the Jólabókaflóðið
One of the many Icelandic Christmas traditions is the Jólabókaflóðið, a time when a large number of new books are published around the holidays. Locals then purchase the new books to give as gifts to family and friends for the holidays.
This holiday tradition dates all the way back to World War II when there were stringent restrictions on imported gifts. Paper wasn’t as strictly monitored, however, causing books to become a common Christmas gift. The tradition carried on into the modern era, and today almost every Icelander receives a book at Christmas.
If you visit any bookstore in Reykjavík during the holiday season, you’ll be able to find the latest books. You might even be lucky enough to find one of the authors doing a reading from their new work!
Take Part in the Top Christmas Activities in Reykjavík
With so many merry and bright Christmas activities in Reykjavík, you’re sure to experience some holiday magic when visiting Iceland in December. Whether you want to cozy up by the fireplace with a new book or skate your way across Tjörnin, you’re bound to fall in love with the winter season in Iceland.
Ready to get out and see what Reykjavík has to offer? Book a walking tour with Your Friend in Reykjavík to see the best of the city this holiday season!