Iceland is known as the Land of Ice and Fire, boasting fascinating folklore and incredible natural scenery. Its capital city of Reykjavik is no exception; its name translates to Bay of Smokes and harkens back to a time of Vikings, myths, and lore. But we don’t just dwell in the past here in Iceland!
Modern-day Reykjavik is full of awe-inspiring artwork, cozy cafes, museums, and culture. In this blog, we will discuss the best things to see in Reykjavik, but we’ve also written extensively about all the wonderful things to do in Reykjavik so you can delve deeper into any of the topics mentioned below.
Best Things to See in Reykjavik
See the Stunning IG-Friendly Rainbow Street
Did you know that Iceland is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries globally? Back in 1996, Iceland was the fourth country in the world to provide legal recognition for same-sex couples.
Iceland was also the first country to have an openly LGBTQ+ head of government, the former prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.
There’s no better example of Iceland’s declaration of support for LGBTQ+ rights than its Rainbow Street in Reykjavik (also known as Skólavörðustígur Street).
Each year in Iceland, residents of Skólavörðustígur Street would gather to paint the rainbow outside their houses to honor Pride month. The rainbow was made permanent in 2019.
This gesture shows off Iceland’s wonderful, welcoming, and collaborative community. We’ve also written an informative blog on visiting Iceland as an LGBTQIA+ person, so make sure you check that out!
Rainbow Street is one of the most famous streets in Reykjavik for tourists. On either side of this giant rainbow are independent coffee shops, clothing stores, and souvenir shops for you to enjoy. The expert local guides of Your Friend in Reykjavik always use the backdrop of the Rainbow Street and Hallgrimskirkja Church for a photo of our friends who join our Walk With a Viking – Reykjavik City Walk.
Don’t forget to check out our blog on the best cafes in Reykjavik so you can feel like a local!
Getting a Bird’s-eye View at Hallgrimskirkja
If you follow Rainbow Street to the end, you’ll find yourself at the Hallgrimskirkja church. This Parish Church in Reykjavik is known for its unique curved spire and side wings.
The Hallfrimskirkja church is one of the tallest structures in Iceland and took an astonishing 41 years to build. It’s an integral part of the identity of Reykjavik.
The beauty doesn’t stop there; make sure to head into the church to get a view like no other. Then, head up to the observation tower and get a panorama of Reykjavik and the mountains.
Want to learn more about this fascinating structure? Check out our blog Hallgrimskirkja a tribute to all that is Iceland.
Are you interested in getting an introduction to Reykjavik? Please take a look at our Private Walk with a Viking Tour to learn more about the history of Iceland’s capital.
Check Out the Reykjavik Art Scene
It’s no surprise that Iceland inspires artists the world over. Iceland is an epicenter for art with its dramatic mountains, shimmering bodies of water, and magical Northern Lights. If you’re into art, make sure to check out the following art hubs in Reykjavik.
The Sun Voyager Sculpture
Located on the shore of Reykjavik, this impressive structure symbolizes a dreamboat and represents an ode to the sun. The Sun Voyager promotes a message of hope, progress, and freedom.
Incredibly popular with tourists and locals alike, many pose for a photo next to it with the imposing Mount Esja behind.
Make sure to get a photo just as the sun is setting!
We feel this sculpture captures the Icelandic spirit perfectly… check out our Solfarid The Sun Voyager blog to hear us gush more about this incredible installation.
Imagine Peace Tower by Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono is one of the countless artists inspired by Iceland. The Imagine Peace Tower is a memorial to her late husband, John Lennon.
The Imagine Peace Tower comprises 15 searchlights with prisms that act as mirrors; this results in a breathtaking light beam shooting 4000m up into the sky.
Beneath the beam of light is a stone monument. The phrase “Imagine Peace” encircles the memorial in various languages.
Want to know where you can catch a glimpse of this light beam? You don’t have to work hard to spot it as the blue light is visible from anywhere in the city.
You can actually take a boat out to Viðey Island, where you can view this beautiful artwork up close.
Reykjavik’s street art is a sight to behold. Since the 1990s, new street art pieces have popped up all over the city, including everything from urban graffiti to planned murals.
Make sure to Visit “Ode to Mother” on Laugavegur, Iceland’s main shopping street. This eclectic art piece envelops a whole building and draws your attention to it immediately.
Visit Reykjavik’s Museums!
When you visit a country like Iceland, a land with ice-capped volcanoes, waterfalls, and unique cultural heritage, you must visit their museums to learn from the Icelanders themselves.
Whales of Iceland
Visit a museum dedicated to some of Iceland’s other residents: whales. Reykjavik has the largest Whale Museum in Europe.
Come face-to-face with 23 life-sized models of whale species that exist in these frosty Icelandic waters.
Make sure not to miss a virtual reality experience designed to help us gain a unique perspective of these stunning creatures.
Ready to check this out for yourself? Get all the details and book your tickets for the Whales of Iceland Exhibition.
National Museum of Iceland
Let yourself travel back to the early settlement era in Iceland’s history at the National Museum of Iceland.
This museum is a must-visit when in Reykjavik to look back at Iceland’s history.
Check out the Valþjófsstaður door, a priceless 13th-century door. Then, take in a famous tale of a knight and dragon carved into the wood.
The Culture House
The Culture House is part of the National Museum in Iceland but deserves recognition in its own right. It was built in 1906 and is considered the most beautiful building in Iceland.
Check out its main exhibit called Points of View, detailing a visual journey through Iceland’s past and present.
We hope you check out all of our recommended things to see in Reykjavik. There’s something for everyone in this buzzing city, and we hope you enjoy your visit to the Bay of Smokes.
Are you interested in learning more about the folklore of Iceland? Elves play an essential role in Icelandic culture; find out why on our Reykjavik Folklore Tours.