From viewing the Northern Lights to checking out one of Iceland’s glaciers, there’s tons to do in this winter wonderland. Below we gathered 10 ideas for things to do in Reykjavík in the winter.
See the Northern Lights in or Outside Reykjavík
A popular place for locals to catch the Northern Lights is by Grótta lighthouse in Seltjarnarnes in the capital area (5 km from downtown), where there is less light pollution from the city lights. If you want to view the lights properly in peace away from the city, you can book a Northern lights tour.
Visit Reykjavík Museums
With Reykjavík City Card, you get access to many of the best museums in Reykjavík among other things like access to public pools. The National Museum of Iceland was established in 1863 and shows objects from Icelandic cultural history. The Settlement Exhibition uncovers the Viking Age in Reykjavík, while the Reykjavík Maritime Museum explores Iceland’s dramatic relationship with the sea.
Go “Swimming” in One of the Geothermal Pools
Wintertime is a great time to enjoy the geothermal pools in Reykjavík, they are never more appreciated than when there is frost and snow outside. The swimming pools are sometimes referred to as the town squares for Icelanders, since they are the place where people come together to socialize, relax, and exercise. What more do you need? Vesturbæjarlaug in Vesturbær has frequently been mentioned as the best pool in Reykjavík. It is within walking distance to downtown and has the best hot tub, a large one in the back corner where you will frequently see people socializing and relaxing. The steam bath is also great and the pool itself is nice although it’s small (five 25 meters long lanes). Most people seem to only come there for the hot tub though. If you are a morning person, try showing up around opening time (6:30 to 7ish on weekdays) when you can see a local club called Vinir Dóra (e. Dóri’s Friends) doing Müller exercises, singing and more, all according to their daily routine. They will show up there early in the morning on weekdays no matter the weather. -10 degrees? No problem. They have been doing this for many years and rumour has it that their morning routine is a key factor in maintaining the health and well-being of the members.
Visit Sky Lagoon
Sky Lagoon is located in Kópavogur in the capital area on the edge of a ness called Kársnes. You can soak in the thermal spa while looking out at the North Atlantic Ocean. If you are lucky, you might see the Northern Lights from there. Sky Lagoon has a 7-step ritual that you can follow:
- Slow down and relax in the lagoon
- Cool down with the cold plunge
- Relax in the sauna, enjoying the view
- Refresh in a cold mist
- Try the Sky Body Scrub
- Enter the steam room
- Shower and relax in the lagoon
Go on a Day Tour from Reykjavík
Take a look at the most popular winter day tours from Reykjavík, including super jeep & snowmobiling, glacier caves and a tour of the South Coast.
The Pearl Tour includes a guided super jeep tour and one hour on a snowmobile. Pick-up from hotels/guesthouses and various bus stops in Reykjavík is also included. The first stop is Þingvellir National Park, one of Iceland’s most historical sites and the home of its first parliament. Next stop is Geysir Hot Spring and third stop is Gullfoss (“the Golden Waterfall). And last, but certainly not least, is a breathtaking snowmobile tour on Langjökull, Europe’s second-largest glacier.
Enjoying Langjökull is not only possible on a snowmobile- another possibility is from its inside by going on a full-day Ice Cave Tour. The meeting point is the BSI Bus Terminal in downtown Reykjavík before heading towards Langjökull on a comfortable coach. The drive is scenic and the bus will stop at Hraunfossar waterfalls on the way. From there, you will head to Langjökull, where special glacier vehicles will be used to take you up the glacier and to the ice caves. You will get the chance to enjoy the view on the glacier before heading into it. The walk takes around an hour and experienced English-speaking guides will take care of you.
Go Ice Skating in Reykjavík
When there is enough frost, the pond downtown freezes over and becomes a popular ice skating facility. There are also two indoor ice skating facilities where you can rent skates. Skautahöllin has a 1,800 square meters ice rink and is located in Laugardalur valley, 3.5 km from downtown Reykjavík. Egilshöll is located on the outskirts of Reykjavík and it takes around half an hour to reach by bus no. 6 from downtown. Egilshöll also has a cinema and a bowling alley.
See a Film at Bíó Paradís
Bíó Paradís (The Paradise Cinema) screens films from around the world, which sets it apart from the other cinemas which mostly show mainstream Hollywood films. Along with new films and film festivals, classics are also screened from time to time.
Pub Crawl Downtown Reykjavík
Reykjavík is known for its nightlife and there is a variety of bars and restaurants you can try out. Kaldi bar offers a variety of local brews from the Kaldi brewery in North Iceland. BrewDog Reykjavík was labelled The Best Craft Bar by Reykjavik Grapevine magazine in 2020. Session Craft Bar offers 17 beers on tap, from IPAs to sour, stouts and red ale. Get more ideas from our guide to the best brewery tours in Iceland.
Go on an ATV Tour on the Outskirts of Reykjavík
In the mountains on the edge of Reykjavík, you can go on an off-road ATV tour. At first, you will drive on asphalt, followed by gravel roads and then mountain tracks, rocky paths, steep slopes and crossing a river. Your destinations are two mountain tops where we will stop to enjoy the stunning views across the whole capital area, Reykjanes peninsula, Viðey island and even the glacier Snæfellsjökull if weather conditions permit.
Grab a bite at Pósthús Food Hall & Bar
The main post office in Reykjavík used to be located in a beautiful old building downtown. With less and less snail mail being sent every year, the post office was closed a few years ago. But now the building has got a new life and probably never had as lively of an atmosphere as it now has with Pósthús Food Hall. Icelanders are known to be herd animals and since the first food hall in Reykjavík was opened in 2017, they have popped up almost everywhere, so the competition is fierce. We think that Pósthús is the best food hall in Reykjavík these days.