Rainy days in Reykjavík
Reykjavík’s weather is notoriously unpleasant. So let’s say you make it to the city only to discover the weather is terrible: rainy, stormy, snowy, icy, or in some cases all of the above. What can you do to still enjoy your time in Reykjavík without feeling miserable outdoors? Don’t worry, we have you covered!
The City Card
The first thing we recommend is to get your hands on the Reykjavík City Card. These magic cards are sold at a flat price for 24, 48, or 72 hours. They are worth the price at the best of times, but their value skyrockets when the weather is bad. With the City Card, you get access to each of the five locations of the Reykjavík City Museum, all 3 of the Reykjavík Art Museum locations, the National Gallery of Iceland, the National Museum of Iceland, and even more museums! If you’re already going to get wet, why not jump into one of the city’s geothermal pools? The City Card gets you into those, too! Worried about getting around to all of these places in the wind and rain? Well, good news: the City Card allows you to ride the city buses for free! If you’re going to spend the day(s) indoors, the City Card is a must-have.
Museums in Reykjavík
Reykjavík is a veritable feast of cultural treats. Whether it’s art, history or science you’re after, the museums in this small Nordic city offer an array of interesting and diverse exhibitions year-round, guaranteed to pique your interest. The Reykjavík Art Museum has three locations: Hafnarhús, Kjarvalsstaðir, and Ásmundarsafn. The Reykjavík City Museum has five: Árbær Open Air Museum, The Maritime Museum, The Museum of Photography, The Settlement Exhibition, and Viðey Island. You can also get lost in Icelandic history at the National Museum or experience more Icelandic art at the National Gallery. And that’s not even getting into Reykjavík’s niche museums, such as the Whale Museum or the Penis Museum. Seriously, there is a lot to see!
If it is indeed rainy or stormy outside, your chances of seeing the northern lights (between September and April) are extremely low. But for those eager to see the aurora, there is a silver lining in the grey clouds above the city: Aurora Reykjavík. This exhibition contains everything you ever wanted to know about the northern lights. From other cultures’ myths to the exact science behind what you are seeing to virtual reality, Aurora Reykjavík has it all. The 40-minute time-lapse video of the northern lights inside a dark cinema is the perfect recipe for bad weather.
On a good day, we recommend taking a stroll through the wooded area of Öskjuhlíð. But it can get awfully muddy from the rain. So we suggest you instead head to the top of the hill to visit Perlan, an interactive museum about Iceland’s wildlife and nature. There you will find excellent exhibitions on Iceland’s volcanoes and glaciers, learn about the different bird and fish species, and appreciate the country’s rocks and minerals. You can even walk through a man-made ice cave! On the top floor is a revolving restaurant and café with an excellent view of the city.
It’s hard to explain why Icelanders have such a deep love for coffee, considering it doesn’t grow anywhere near this island. Maybe it has something to do with those long dark winter mornings, but whatever the reason, the sheer quantity of cafés in downtown Reykjavík is proof positive of Icelanders’ affection for the black stuff. The cafés range from small holes-in-the- wall with takeaway coffee to places with plush couches on which you could stay sitting comfortably for several hours. Some of our favourite places include Reykjavík Roasters, Café Babalú, Kaffihús Vesturbæjar, and Mokka Kaffi.
You may think that it sounds strange to go for a swim in the rain, but swimming in Iceland is particularly enjoyable in bad weather. Thanks to the geothermal heat, you’ll be nice and toasty in the hot tubs, chatting with the locals, while the rain offers a welcome, cooling contrast. However, if you are stubborn and determined to avoid the rain, Sundhöllin has an indoor swimming pool!
Bíó Paradís keeps up an ambitious schedule of internationally acclaimed movies from all over the world. It hosts several film festivals and airs Icelandic movies with English subtitles all year round. It’s also the only cinema in downtown Reykjavík and a great place to keep dry and out of the waterworld outside. Not only is it a great place to watch great movies, it also has a place to sit down, and get some coffee or a beer, before or after the movie. While during the week the cinema typically shows arthouse films, on the weekends you can usually catch a classic film from Iceland, Germany, the U.S., and many more!
Eat and Drink!
Let’s face it: it also rains at night, too. If you don’t want to hole up in your hotel or hostel, there are many great restaurants, pubs, and bars to visit all over Reykjavík. You can treat yourself to high-end Icelandic cuisine at restaurants like Dill or simply warm up with the Icelandic meat soup at Café Loki. Reykjavík’s many food halls are the perfect spot to try a little of everything. And whether you’re a cocktail person, a wine connoisseur, or a craft beer enthusiast, Reykjavík has you covered.
Of course, Iceland is much more enjoyable outdoors in nature. But Reykjavík has a lot to offer when the weather isn’t cooperating and you want a roof over your head!