Last Updated on November 24, 2022 by Suzy
We had so much to pack into our 5 night/4 day holiday to Iceland. This meant that we only had time for one day in Reykjavik. There is much more than a day worth of things to see and do in Iceland’s capital. This post rounds those things down to our top things for families.
If you are not already staying in Reykjavik chances are you might be visiting by car. If you are I can highly recommend a free car park down by the harbour that I found. Please follow this link for my recommendation. If you click on a link in this piece, we may earn affiliate revenue.
After we had parked we used the City Sightseeing bus to get around. It does only run every half an hour in the winter so we didn’t use it as much as we could have done, as we kept missing it! It is an expensive way to get around and we could have walked to what we wanted to see. It would have been useful for getting the bus out to Perlan but there is a free shuttle bus to take you there from near the Harpa concert hall. (same stop as the City Sightseeing bus)
Harpa Concert Hall
We started our day with a quick visit to the Harpa Concert Hall. There is a cafe down on the first floor which looks super posh but luckily our drinks there weren’t all that expensive. (for Iceland). It made a good pit stop for us after the 1-hour 45-minute drive to get there from where we were staying. It was also very busy traffic-wise getting into the centre as two-thirds of Iceland’s population lives in Reykjavik.
Harpa Concert Hall is located by the harbour and has a stunning mountainous and water backdrop. This is also where you will find the first stop for the City Sightseeing tour bus. There wasn’t much sun when we arrived but the glass of the concert hall is said to give off a great array of colours when the sun shines on it. It’s a lovely modern building and I was glad we stopped by.
Solfa Sun Voyager Sculpture
If you head to the far corner of the Harpa concert hall where the building almost meets the sea you will come to the tourist bus stops. Just a short walk past here you will spot the famous Solfa sun voyager sculpture.
This was on my list but because our view of it was obscured by about 20 coaches dropping school children off at Harpa we never spotted it so we never walked down to see it. Do not miss it on your visit to Reykjavik.
The Hallgrimskirkja church is a very famous landmark in Reykjavik. It is very imposing and like no church I have ever seen before. Because of all the photos, I’d seen of Reykjavik looking down from Hallgrimskirkja I assumed the church was high on a hill. It is actually up a hill but not a particularly steep or high one. The images I had been seeing were actually taken from the top of the church’s tower.
While it is free to visit the church you do have to pay to visit the top of the tower. You are taken to the top via a lift and then there are a few more steps to walk up before you arrive at some truly stunning views of Reykjavik.
At 74.5 metres high, it is the largest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in the country. It is visible from almost any part of the city. We paid 1000 ISK per adult to go up the tower and my son was free. (children under 7 are free, those aged 7-14 are a reduced rate). We spent quite a while at the top admiring all the different views. I was glad that we went to the top.
After visiting the church was stopped for some pizza and pasta at a wonderful Italian down the main street. We had planned on then getting the City sightseeing bus down to the harbour but we missed it by about one minute.
Why not do a spot of shopping for one of Iceland’s top souvenirs?
Because we missed our bus it meant we then needed to walk from the main centre down to the harbour and Whales of Iceland. It wasn’t too long a walk but we did spend most of the time wishing that we were on the sightseeing bus.
Whales of Iceland
Whales of Iceland is like most things in Iceland completely overpriced. While most of the natural wonders of Iceland are mostly free to visit the new, modern, tourist attractions aren’t. I’d seen Whales of Iceland advertised and as it was on the bus route I thought it would be somewhere worth visiting.
It was an amazing place but it was small and it was overpriced. My son, however, still talks about this place and how it was one of his favourite things to do in Iceland. He loved how he could touch, cuddle and kiss the whales.
Whales of Iceland is an exhibition of life-size replicas of whales. It is awe-inspiring as you really don’t appreciate the true greatness of these creatures until you are standing next to a life-size replica. You are encouraged to touch the whales and the blue lighting makes you feel like you have stepped into an ocean.
Plus there are realistic whale noises being played while you are there. They are all dangling from the ceiling which means that they move as you touch them. My son loved the killer whale for kids as they can climb on it and sit inside.
The price for Adults is around £22 and children are cheaper. Children (under 7) are free. We visited near the end of our holiday so we were used to expensive prices by now. It’s not to rip tourists off it’s how the Icelandic people live. Prices like these are normal to them.
We ran out of time during our visit to Reykjavik to have the time to visit Perlan. We had a long drive back and we wanted to get back for an early dinner. You may not have to do that so if you have time why not fit a visit to Perlan in? It looks to be a really amazing and hands-on museum. It is located just on the outskirts of the Capital. There is a free bus shuttle or you can park there. The city sightseeing bus also stops there.
At Perlan there is a planetarium with a film of the northern lights, a man-made ice cave (make sure you book a timed visit when you arrive), a 4-D show with earthquakes and more. It is not free to visit. Please check their website for prices and opening times before you visit.
You may also want to visit Laugardalslaug which is the city’s largest swimming pool.
Its facilities include a 50m outdoor pool, outdoor children’s pool and paddling pool, two waterslides, numerous hot tubs, a steam bath, and a mini-golf course.
As Reykjavik is located by the sea and has a harbour it is a great place to go on a whale-watching tour. There are many tours to choose from so please do your research. Some of the boats offer tours all year round.
You can tour the Golden Circle in Iceland in just one day from Reykjavik – find out more –
Golden Circle Iceland | One Day Self Drive Ultimate Itinerary. Another great day trip from Reykjavik is to visit the iconic Blue Lagoon – find out more – Blue Lagoon Iceland Review | Ultimate Bucket List Experience