Some questions about Iceland are more common than others and come up time and time again. Here we go through the top questions that people ask us at the info centres, on Google and Facebook and answer them the best we can. Don’t find the answer to your question below? The on-site search (search box on the top right) might help. If not, drop us a line on Facebook, by email or drop by at our Reykjavik tourist information centres.
- How much is food and drink in Iceland? What is the cost of a meal in restaurants?
- What are the top things to do in Iceland?
- Where can I find activities and events?
- What is there to see at the Golden Circle and the South Coast?
- What to pack and what to wear in Iceland?
- How to get around Iceland?
- How to take the bus in Reykjavík?
- I really need to pee. Where can I find a restroom?
- When can I see the northern lights?
- Which geothermal lagoons and spas are there?
- Can I camp anywhere in Iceland?
- Why is Iceland so expensive?
- How to use the electric scooters in Reykjavík?
- What are the best places to watch sport games in Reykjavík?
- What can you tell me about funny Icelandic names?
- What are the best spots to watch the sunset in Reykjavík?
- Where can I exchange money in Reykjavík?
- Where can I go hiking near Reykjavík and in other parts of Iceland?
Food in Iceland
Reykjavík has many great restaurants, but budget-conscious travellers may prefer to make their own meals while travelling. In our guide to food and drink prices in Iceland, we look at the grocery prices for common items such as a loaf of bread, whole milk, coffee, fruits and vegetables and eggs. But when you’re looking for a relaxing and memorable night out in Reykjavík, we’ve got you covered, too! In our guide to meal prices in Iceland, we cover prices in restaurants with examples from a few of the most popular restaurants in Reykjavík. We provide examples from the categories fast food, casual dining, fine dining and traditional Icelandic cuisine. If you want to save some money on food, check out the supermarkets in Iceland.
Since 2017, Iceland has seen a veritable explosion of food halls. Food halls are a great place to go with friends and family, because everyone can have their own choice as to what to eat. But the variety and choice that make food halls so fun can also make it hard to know which one to choose! Learn more about what they have to offer, and which one is our favourite in our guide to food halls in Reykjavík. Brunch is always popular, so it’s nice to have a clue about what the best brunch spots in Reykjavík are.
If you want a quick bite or snack, we might be able to interest you with our coverage of six Icelandic snacks, liquorice coated with chocolate, harðfiskur (dried fish), flat bread with smoked lamb slices, orange soda (Appelsín) and matarkex (literally: food biscuits, not as nutritious as the name suggests though). We also have skyr in this category, that nowadays is available almost everywhere from Germany and Portugal to the United States. Skyr, however, is not a protected term, and much of what is sold abroad as skyr is actually a form of yoghurt. If you want the original skyr experience, then you still have to come to Iceland!
In the bread and pastry industry, there has been a revival in the past 10-15 years, probably helped by the increased number of tourists in Iceland. Our guide to the best bakeries in Reykjavík will tell you all you need to know about the bakery scene. Icelanders have always been famous for their sweet tooth, making many of Iceland’s bakeries a great place to treat yourself to something traditional, or else something new and exciting! Two of the most popular bakeries have been there forever almost though, but six have opened during the revival.
Things to Do in Iceland
To begin with, you could look at the great range of day tours and activities on offer from Reykjavík and around Iceland. Among the most popular tours are:
- The Pearl Tour with the Golden Circle Super Jeep Tour & Snowmobiling
- Snæfellsnes Peninsula in a small group tour with home-cooked meal included
- Into the Glacier – From Reykjavík
The first stop of the Pearl Tour is Þingvellir national park, probably Iceland’s most significant historical site and home to our first parliament. Next stop is Geysir geothermal area with its world-famous hot spring. To complete the Golden Circle, you will be taken to Gullfoss, which translates to the Golden waterfall. But the adventure is just beginning, and after your trip around this scenic region of Iceland, you’ll be taken on a one-hour snowmobile tour on Langjökull, Europe’s second-largest glacier.
Snæfellsnes (aka senselessness by autocorrect) has been underrated for many years, as it is more spectacular than the most popular Icelandic tourist region of the Golden Circle (of course depending on who you ask though). Often called “Iceland in miniature,” a trip to the Snæfellsnes peninsula is like a “best hits” compilation of Iceland, where you’ll see everything from lunar landscapes, volcanic vistas around the majestic Snæfellsjökull glacier, black sand beaches, waterfalls, bird cliffs, and more! The volcano below it is thought to have mystical powers and took centre stage in the sci-fi novel Journey to the Centre of the Earh by Jules Verne. Craters, lava fields hidden coves and strange rock formations await you in Snæfellsnes. And did we mention that this region of Iceland is also home to Kirkjufell (see article cover photo), one of the most popular mountains in Iceland?
The Into the Glacier tour allows you to enjoy Iceland’s second largest glacier from the inside and outside. The walk into the glacier takes around an hour but before that you will enjoy a ride on the glacier in a modified vehicle after having seen Hraunfossar waterfalls on the way from Reykjavík.
Where can I find activities and events? If you are looking for events in the city, be sure to check out our Reykjavík Events page for everything from concerts, art exhibits, comedy shows, and more. For activities and tours, you can find what you need here.
What is there to see at the South Coast? Things to see include Seljalandsfoss (the waterfall you can walk behind) and the town of Vík, from where you can see the famous rock formation by the coast, called Reynisdrangar. The Black Sand Beach (Reynisfjara is its actual name) is also a popular attraction on the south coast and so is Skaftafell national park, famous for its columnar basalt waterfall.
Much like the sheep that populate the island, Icelanders like to travel in flocks. Same goes for geothermal spas. The Blue Lagoon was first, and it took a while for the trend to start since it opened in 1992 but now everyone and their grandma seem to be opening one. East, West, North, South, no matter where you go in Iceland you can find a geothermal spa, nice places to wind down after extensive travelling.
Many people ask about hiking options, these are some of our articles on that topic:
- Hiking in Mountains near Reykjavík
- Hiking Trails Around Reykjavík
- Hiking Trails in Reykjavík
- Hiking With Your Kids
- Hiking in Þórsmörk
Getting Around Iceland
How to take the bus in Reykjavík? The bus schedule is available on straeto.is and people pay for the bus through an app called Klappið. Driving in Iceland can be tricky, especially in winter. There are no speedways and the highest maximum speed you can find is 90 km/hour. Don’t be surprised if the police pull you over for speeding in even the most remote areas, been there, done that (in the highland desert of Möðrudalsöræfi, where the police suddenly popped out to stop me like elves from under a stone). Watch out for speed blindness (as was the case in my example), which can easily occur on straight roads where you feel alone in the world with no other car in sight. It’s also worth mentioning that on many rural roads you can find speed cameras. Of course, driving the speed limit isn’t just to avoid getting a ticket: Icelandic roads can be dangerous, and it’s important to stay safe! Learn more about what to keep in mind when driving in Iceland here. We have also covered common mistakes when driving in Iceland.
Can I camp anywhere in Iceland? No way, find a camp site.
In downtown Reykjavík, driving can be difficult due to restrictions and limited parking options. Walking or using an electric scooter will be more convenient in many cases. How do I rent an electric scooter in Reykjavík?
What to pack and what to wear in Iceland? It depends on the season, what you are planning to do and how long you are staying but we have gathered guidelines on what to pack for winter and summer. If you want to pack light, information on laundry facilities in Reykjavík may come in handy.
Why is Iceland so expensive? The short answer is a small market with oligopoly, geographical isolation and high import tolls. The long and detailed answer you can find on Iceland Review.
Another popular question is where to find public restrooms. You can find them at the swimming pools, libraries and as stand-alones downtown. More details on that here.
What are the best places to watch sport games in Reykjavík? Downtown, popular options include American Bar, The English Pub and Reykjavík Sportbar. But the biggest sport bars are not downtown. Venues to watch local games include Laugardalsvöllur and Laugardalshöll.
What are the best spots to watch the sunset in Reykjavík? Grótta lighthouse is only 5 km from downtown Reykjavík and ever popular to watch the sunset. Other spots include Ægisíða in Vesturbær and Seljahverfi in the suburb of Breiðholt.
Where can I exchange money in Reykjavík? You can pay with card pretty much everywhere in Iceland but if you want to exchange money, you can also do that.
Culture, Language and Society
What can you tell me about Icelandic names? Family names as last names are the exception in Iceland, most people are referred to as the son or daughter of their father. My father is Magnús and therefore I am Magnússon. Because Icelandic grammar requires personal names to inflect like nouns, we also have a naming committee to decide whether new names can be used.
The language is one of the smallest in the world and has many metaphors. A hint of these can be found in these six innocent sounding Icelandic phrases (with surprisingly violent meanings) and in these seven ominous sounding Icelandic phrases (with surprisingly innocent meanings).
In terms of culture and society, a surprise for some visitors is to find out that we eat a lot of ice cream, no matter the weather or temperature. Once a year, some of us will also eat fermented shark, sheep heads and ram’s testicles. Our town squares are the geothermal swimming pools.
Do you have other questions? Ask in the What’s On Facebook group or drop by at our tourist information centres in Reykjavík.