If you’re in Iceland over the holidays, there are tons of events and activities to choose from. Do you find it a bit overwhelming and are you looking for suggestions on what to do this Christmas in Iceland? Then read this article.
Go to the pool
Swimming in Iceland is a unique experience. Calling Iceland a swimmer’s paradise might sound like a contradiction in terms of some people, but, due to the abundance of geothermal water, swimming is one of the most popular pastimes on this Arctic island. Nothing beats soaking in a hot tub in the winter darkness with steam wafting up from the geothermally-heated water and stars twinkling above.
Hot tubs are a place to relax, soothe aching muscles after working out, and last but not least, to socialise. Sure, it can take a bit of effort to run out into the cold, wearing only your swimsuit, but once you’re immersed in that silky warm water, it is completely worth it.
Ice skating is a fun winter activity, and Reykjavík offers a couple of good options for those looking to show off their skills. Whether at a large indoor skating rink or a small outside rink next to a cosy Christmas market, ice skating is a fun activity for visitors and locals of all ages.
There are three ice rinks in the Capital Area. You can go to Skautahöllin (Skating Hall) in Laugardalur, or the sports and recreation complex Egilshöll in Grafarvogur for large inside rinks. For an outside rink, head to Ingólfstorg square in December, where a cosy ice rink is set up next to a small Christmas market. From time to time, there is a fourth ice rink, when downtown lake Tjörnin freezes over.
Visit a Christmas market
Reykjavík is a wonderful city to visit during Christmastime. Even though December is one of the darkest months in Iceland, the city lights up with Christmas lights, and you can see Christmas decorations everywhere. As a bonus, there are a couple of cosy Christmas markets in and close to Reykjavík you can visit until the end of December.
In downtown Reykjavík, a small Christmas market is set up on Ingólfstorg square, next to a small ice rink. Hafnarfjörður, one of Reykjavík’s neighbouring towns, turns into a lovely Christmas village where street vendors sell handcrafted items, Icelandic delicacies, and hot drinks. Head to Heiðmörk Nature Reserve for a cosy market with bonfires and live music.
Go to a Christmas concert
There are tons of Christmas concerts you can attend all through December. For instance, Norwegian soprano Sissel will come to Iceland for the third consecutive year to perform a Christmas concert series in Eldborg hall of Harpa Concert Hall on December 19. She is known for singing the Olympic Hymn at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1994 Winter Olympics.
Attend a Christmas buffet
One of the unshakable traditions of Advent in Iceland is the Christmas buffet. Most restaurants offer them, and almost everyone will partake at least once during Advent. These are lavish affairs typically containing dozens of dishes, different types of herring, smoked and cured salmon, reindeer pâté, and much, much more … and that’s just the cold dishes. Hot dishes will normally include the ubiquitous smoked lamb, roast pork with rind, rack of ham, turkey, and more. And we did not even mention the stacked dessert buffet.
Visit a museum
When it’s snowing outside, it’s nice to spend time inside, and visiting a museum or two is the best way to warm up on a cold winter’s day. Reykjavík’s history reaches more than a thousand years back, and the city has a rich cultural heritage. What better way is there to learn more about Icelandic culture than visiting the museums scattered throughout the city centre?
Some museums have a special Advent programme, like Árbær Open Air Museum. Christmas activities take place in every corner of the museum. Singing Christmas carols, dancing around the Christmas tree, and visits from the Yule Lads are just a couple of examples. Many special activities will be organised, like making traditional Icelandic Christmas decorations, decorating laufabrauð (a crispy, deep-fried cracker), candle making, wood whittling, spinning yarn, and knitting.
It will also be possible to taste hangikjöt (smoked lamb) and fermented skate. The National Museum of Iceland also has an annual Advent programme, starting the first weekend of December. Between December 12-24 the Yule Lads pay a visit to the museum at 11:00 after they finish their work of putting gifts in kids’ shoes.