April is all about kids in Iceland’s capital. It’s the month when the Reykjavík Children’s Culture Festival takes place, and the city plays host to over 150 child-centric performances, workshops, exhibitions, tangible experiences and special events. If you’re in Reykjavík from April 5 to 10, be sure to check it out. But, if your trip falls on other dates, don’t pout; Reyjavík is an amazing place to travel with kids at any time.
Here are a few of our favourite things to do with kids in Reykjavík.
Soak up some culture
We’re of the opinion that you’re never too young for museums. Reykjavík has a lot to choose from, but those that we’ve found to be most kid-approved have an interactive element or two.
The Maritime Museum will teach the whole family about Iceland’s fishing tradition from the olden days to modern times while allowing kids to dress up like fishers, go on a scavenger hunt through the exhibit, and try their hand stacking crates of fish with a forklift.
The Settlement Exhibition Reykjavík 871±2 is another family favourite. Built around the remains of a Viking longhouse excavated smack-dab in the middle of Reykjavík, the museum tells the story of Reyjavík’s settlement (in the year 871, give or take a couple of years) with interactive screens to learn more about the rocky remains in the whole things centres around. There’s also a room where kids can dress as Viking settlers and play old games.
Also great for families travelling with younger members are the Árbær Open Air Museum, with its turf houses and olden-day charm, and the National Museum of Iceland, which has a room for families to enjoy.
Meet the ducks
Reykjavík’s central pond, Tjörnin, is home to a healthy population of ducks, geese and swans, in part thanks to its proximity to Vatnsmýri, a protected wetland and bird sanctuary, to the south. A stroll around the pond is a great way to spot the pairs of ducks floating around and doing their thing.
Feeding bread to the ducks is frowned upon – and not allowed at all over the summer when ducklings arrive – but if you happen to have frozen peas or birdseed in your pocket, feel free to toss that for your new beaked buddies.
Expect to see mallards, gadwall, greater scaup, tufted ducks and teal, plus greylag geese and swans. There’s also a sign on the north end of the pond (by City Hall) with descriptions of some birds you might spot.
Go for a dip
Iceland’s thermal pools are suitable for swimming laps and lounging around in, but they’re also tons of fun for kids. Many locations have kids pools with fountains and slides for the littlest ones, and bigger kids will get a thrill out of the bigger slides with their twists and turns.
Just remember to shower with soap before suiting up and jumping in.
Ride a horse
Even if you’re not a family of avid equestrians, you can enjoy a day on horseback in Iceland. Icelandic horses are known for their calm and friendly nature, making them perfect for inexperienced adults or children to ride – plus, they’re shorter than horses you find in other parts of the world, so climbing into the saddle is less intimidating an experience.
Always check the minimum age requirements before booking a riding tour, but some will welcome kids as young as 7-years old. It’ll be an unforgettable experience for kids of all ages.
Hit the high seas
Introduce your kids to whales while in Iceland. Several whale-watching tours depart from Reykjavík’s old harbour year-round, taking you out on Faxaflói Bay or a chance to spot humpback whales, minke whales, white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises.
There’s a real thrill in the hunt, and the excitement onboard goes through the roof at the sight of a humpback’s mighty fluke slapping the water. Go later in the spring or during the summer to also see puffins, which are not the most graceful of birds – kids and adults will get a laugh as they crash land on the water’s surface.
Kids that don’t have the patience (or the stomach) for a three-hour tour might opt for a visit to Whales of Iceland, where they can come face to face with the true scale of the gentle giants of the sea, learn about whales and play on the orca-themed climbing structure.
Go inside a glacier
For an activity that your kids will be ooh-ing and ahh-in over long after you’ve departed Iceland, take them inside a glacier. A tour atop Langjökull glacier and into a man-made tunnel dug into it a few years back is a suitable adventure for the whole family. Those travelling with adventurous kids 6-years or older can also tour the natural ice cave in Katlajökull’s glacial tongue, part of the glacier covering the mighty Katla volcano.
Don’t feel like schlepping to an actual glacier? Perlan has brought the ice cave experience to Reykjavík. Head to the glass-domed building atop Öskjuhlíð to visit Perlan’s Ice Cave and Glacier Exploratorium, the world’s first indoor ice cave. There’s also an ice cream parlour and cafe at Perlan, which you definitely won’t find atop a natural glacier.
If it’s a nice day to spend outdoors, there are few better places to be than in Reykjavíl’s Laugardalur neighbourhood. Take the kids to the Reykjavík Family Park and Zoo to meet Icelandic farm animals, plus foxes, seals and reindeer. Let them run wild and jump on the air trampoline in the park’s expansive play area, and then wind down with a stroll through Reykjavík’s Botanic Garden. It’ll be a day well spent just outside the city centre.
If you’re spending a day or two exploring Reykjavík’s museums and swimming pools, consider buying the Reykjavík City Card. Available for 24hr, 48hr, and 72hr periods for kids and adults, it gives you access to museums, swimming pools, public transport, and more at one low price.