Greater Reykjavík Area Sightseeing Tour
Reykjavik and around Sightseeing tour
On this tour you will visit various significant places in the Reykjavík capital and its vicinity.
In Reykjavik we'll visit Perlan, where you'll have an amazing view of the city. You'll see Hofdi, where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in 1986 (set to be featured in a film starring Michael Douglas), Hallgrimskirkja church, towering over the city from Skolavorduhaed hill, the university campus and the beautiful old center, including the parliament house and the town hall, set by the pond.
Make the most of our beautiful capital city. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: All year
- Duration: 3 hours
- Activities: Sightseeing
- Difficulty: Easy
- Highlights: Reykjavík,
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the northernmost capital of a sovereign state in the world.
Despite a small population (120.000 and more than 200.000 in the Greater Reykjavik area), it is a vibrant city that draws an ever increasing number of visitors. It is the financial, cultural and governmental centre of Iceland. It also has a reputation of being one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world.
The city of Reykjavik is located in southwest Iceland by the creek of the same name. Throughout the ages, the landscape has been shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the area is geothermal. Much of the current city area area was subglacial during the Ice Age, with the glacier reaching as far as the Álftanes peninsula, while other areas lay under the sea. After the end of the ice age the land rose as the glaciers drifted away, and it began to take on its present form.
The coastline of Reykjavik is set with peninsulas, coves, straights and islands, most notably the island of Videy, and seabirds and whales frequent the shores. The mountain ring as seen from the shore is particularly beautiful. Mount Esja is the highest mountain in the vicinity of Reykjavik and lends its distinct feature to the whole area. This majestic mountain is also highly popular for climbing. Other notable mountains that can be seen from the seaside are Akrafjall and Skardsheidi and on clear days one may even see as far to the legendary Snaefellsjokull glacier, at the end of the Snafellsnes peninsula.
The largest river to run through the city is Ellidaa in Ellidaardalur valley, which is also one of Iceland‘s best rivers for salmon fishing.
There are no trains or trams in Iceland, but most people travel by car. The city also operates a bus system. There are two major harbours in town, the old harbour in the centre and Sundahofn in the east. The domestic Reykjavik Airport is located at Vatnsmyrin, not far from the city centre and close to Oskjuhlid and Perlan. The international Keflavik Airport at Midnesheidi heath then lies around 50 km from the city. Cars, jeeps and bicycles can be readily rented in the city and many organized tours are also being offered.
What to See & Do in Reykjavik
The local arts scene is strong in Iceland, with both annual events and single ones, many of whom have hit the international stage. For the annual ones please check our articles Best Annual Events in Iceland and the Top Ten Festivals in Iceland. Major events taking place in Reykjavik include the Iceland Airwaves, Gay Pride, RIFF (The Reykjavik International Film Festival), The Reykjavik Literature Festival, Cultural Night, the Reykjavik Arts Festival, Food & Fun, the Reykjavik Fashion Festival and the Sónar music festival.
Among famous people from Reykjavik are artists Bjork Gudmundsdottir, Sigur Ros, writers Halldor Laxness (born in Laugavegur) and Arnaldur Indridason and mayor Jon Gnarr. For more well-known and fairly-well known Icelanders, check our article on the subject.
You might also want to check our article on some of the many things to see and do in Reykjavik, such as visiting the city‘s many museums, exhibitions and galleries, checking out live music, visiting the Harpa music hall or the theatres, visiting the lighthouse at Grotta, the main shopping street of Laugavegur, visiting the old harbour and the flea market, going on a bird- and whale watching tour or visiting Videy island. We also have a top ten list of things to do.
Make sure to visit the public square of Austurvollur, one of the city‘s most popular gathering places, where you‘ll also find the national parliament, Althingi, the state church a statue of independence hero Jon Sigurdson, as well as cafés, bars and restaurants. Austurvollur was central in the 2008 protests, along with Laekjargata, home to the House of Government. You are also not likely to miss the great church of Hallgrimskirkja that towers over the city from the hill of Skolavorduholt, wherefrom you‘ll get a great view of the city.
Try a walk by the city pond, greet the many birds that frequent the area and visit the city hall, stationed by its banks. The Hljomaskalagardur is a beautiful park that lies by the pond, it ideal for a nice walk and sometimes concerts get held there. Further off is the campus of the university of Iceland, the Nordic house and the Vatnsmyri wetland, a particularly pleasant place, but be mindful of not disturbing the wildlife there and keep to the pathways.
For a nice swim on a warm day, we particularly recommend Nautholsvik beach.
Visit the Laugardalur valley, home to one of the city‘s best swimming pools, as well as the Asmundarsafn gallery, a beautiful botanical garden and a domestic zoo. A walk by the Aegissida beach, with it‘s old fishing sheds, in the west part of Reykjavik also holds a particular charm. The aforementioned Elllidaardalur valley is also a popular resort.
Another place that offers one of the city‘s best (and free) views is Perlan, up in Oskjuhlid hill. The hill itself is a popular resort, with over 176.000 trees and great opportunities for walking and cycling.
Travel to Alftanes to see the president‘s house at Bessastadir, which is also a historical site in it‘s own right, having been the educational centre of Iceland for centuries. Nearby is a beautiful lava field, Galgahraun, well worth a visit, though there is currently an environmental struggle going on as to it‘s future state.
The city is furthermore a short drive from many of Iceland‘s major attractions, most famously the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. In close vicinity you‘ll also find the Heidmork preservation area, a favourite pastime resort of the people of Reykjavik, as well as the Blue Mountains, one of Iceland‘s most beloved skiing venues.
Check our Best of Reykjavik guide further for tips on the best cheap things to do in Reykjavik, some of the best restaurants in the city, happy hours, the top ten value places to eat and our two articles on the famous Reykjavik nightlife; Nightlife in Reykjavik and Nightlife and mating.
Finally, we‘d like to stress that these are only some suggestions of the many things you might check out in Reykjavik. Whatever you choose to do, we hope you‘ll be able to make the most of your visit and we wish you a pleasant stay in our capital.Hallgrimskirkja,
Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church, located on top of hill Skólavörðuhæð in the centre of Reykjavík. At 74,5 metres tall, it is the largest church in Iceland, and its tower offers a spectacular panoramic view over the city.
History and design
The church was designed by one of Iceland’s most renowned architects, Guðjón Samúelsson, who is said to have sought inspiration for his expressionistic design from elements of the Icelandic nature. These include glaciers, mountains and trap rocks, such as the hexagonal basalt columns that surround the waterfall Svartifoss in Skaftafell National Park.
The church took 41 years to build, with construction starting in 1945 and finishing in 1986. The leaders of the Church of Iceland wanted a building that would tower over the Catholic church of Landakotskirkja, also designed by Samúelsson. The large pipe organ inside Hallgrímskirkja, consisting of over 5000 pipes, was built by German Johannes Klais of Bonn and its construction was completed in December 1992.
Outside the church stands its predecessor; a statue of Leifur Eiríksson by American sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder. The statue was a gift from the United States in 1930, on the millennial anniversary of Iceland’s first legislative body Alþingi, founded in Þingvellir in 930 AD. Leifur Eiríksson was a Norse explorer from Iceland who discovered the continent of North America in the year 1000, more than half a century before Christopher Columbus.
The church’s namesake is Icelandic priest Hallgrímur Pétursson, a 17th-century poet and author of The Passion Hymns (Passíusálmar). The hymns are a vital part of Icelandic religious tradition and a stable of local literature, having been reprinted over 75 times since their original publishing in 1666.
The tower of the church is each day visited by hundreds of spectators who seek to enjoy its sweeping view of the capital. The observation tower can be accessed via a lift. Hallgrímskirkja counts as the most iconic landmark of the city of Reykjavík and is visible throughout most of the capital. It serves as a focal meeting point for several cultural events, for example, an annual gathering for watching the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.Perlan,
Perlan ('The Pearl') is a museum and rotating glass dome built on top of six water tanks that together store 24 million litres of Reykjavík's hot water. Surrounded by trees, Perlan stands on top of Öskjuhlíð Hill and is one of the capital's most distinctive landmarks.
History & Construction
The building was originally designed by architect Ingimundur Sveinsson and in 1991, the hot water storage tanks that had stood on top of Öskjuhlíð since the mid-20th-century were updated when the hemispherical glass dome structure was added on top. The project was largely curated by politician Davíð Oddsson, during his term as mayor of Reykjavík.
One of the six water tanks does not store any water. From 2002-2014 it housed a Viking-history museum, but currently, the tank envelopes an exhibition called 'Jöklar og Íshellar' ('The Glacier Exhibition of Iceland') which showcases Iceland's glaciers and ice caves. An adult ticket to the exhibition costs 2,900 ISK and includes complimentary entrance to the viewing platform.
At night, the water tanks are lit up by floodlights that illuminate the construction for all of the city to see. On top of the dome is a rotating light which serves to signal the aeroplanes that fly to and from the nearby Reykjavík Domestic Airport.
Museum & Sightseeing
The very first Glacier Exhibition of Iceland opened in Perlan in July 2017. The project features a replica of an ice tunnel, where visitors are offered a glance into the past, present and future of the Icelandic glaciers.
Further plans for the site are to create a grand-scale museum of natural wonders, with several ambitious nature exhibitions expected to open in the coming year. These include Iceland’s first planetarium, which will make use of the 360° dome to offer an immersive experience of the stars of the night sky. Additionally, exhibitions called 'Land, Coast, Ocean' and 'Northern Lights' are set to open in 2018.
Currently, the observation deck on top of Perlan offers an impressive and panoramic view of the city and its surroundings, with Adult tickets available for 490 ISK. The venue is one of the best spots to see the city, but it is quite difficult to reach from central Reykjavík without a car. Another option is the hop-on City Sightseeing bus that goes between all the major sights of Reykjavík.
- Press here to Purchase a Ticket for the Hop on - Hop off Sightseeing Bus
- Press here to access the Cheapest Market Place for Rental Cars in Iceland
On the fourth and fifth floors of the building, the dome itself hosts the restaurant Út í bláinn, the café Kaffitár and the gift shop Rammagerðin. Outside the entrance, there is a man-made geyser, Strokkur, named after its real-life counterpart in the geothermal valley of Haukadalur.
The surrounding woodland of Öskjuhlíð boasts of several scenic hiking trails and cycling routes, along with the remains of multiple military bunkers that were built by the US army during its WWII occupation in Iceland.
- Visit the real geysers on these Golden Circle Tours.
- Check out our collection of Glacier Tours, as well as Ice Cave and Ice Tunnel Tours '
Nautholsvik beach is a highly popular resort, located southwest of Oskjuhlid in Reykjavik.
Nautholsvik offers great opportunites for for sunbathing, swimming and sea sport in the geothermically heated water.Höfði,
Hofdi is a building in north Reykjavik, most famous for being the meeting point of then-presidents Ronald Reagan of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union in 1986.
Hofdi is also notable as the former residence of Icelandic poet and entrepreneur Einar Benediktsson. Since 1958 it has been used for formal receptions and festive occasions. The house is rumoured to be haunted.
A Hollywood film is now being made about the meeting of the Soviet and US leaders, starring Michael Douglas and called Reykjavik.Sun Voyager
The Sun Voyager (Sólfarið) is a large steel sculpture of a ship, located at Sæbraut by the seaside of central Reykjavík. The work is one of the most visited sights in the capital, where people gather daily to gaze at the sun reflecting in the stainless steel of this remarkable monument.
The sculpture serves as an ode to the sun where it gracefully faces north across Faxaflói Bay. A popular misconception is that the Sun Voyager represents a Viking Ship. However, that is not quite the case. According to the sculptor’s vision, the piece rather accounts for a vessel of dreams; a premonition of the promise land, a plight for hope, pursuit, progress and freedom.
The sculptor is Jón Gunnar Árnason, who described his vision as one of the possible origins of the Icelandic people. When Jón visited the island of Bockholm in Finland, he claimed to have experienced an uncanny feeling that he’d been there before, many centuries ago.
The story goes that as ancient explorers from the centre of the known world set out to the four different cardinal directions, some set out towards the rising sun and made port at Mongolia. There, they settled down, until discovering the scribes of the explorers from the original journey who had ventured out west. With the discovery of another fatherland, the people yet again set sail, but this time they headed back towards the setting sun. After having followed the sun for years, they eventually ended up on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
When Jón was looking out to sea from Bockholm, he envisioned a vessel of dreams that would take him the rest of the way home; to the newfound promise land of the setting sun. He carved his vision into a granite rock by the sea, and thus the sun ship was born in his mind.
- Learn more about the origins of the Icelandic people here: Where did Icelanders come from?
- Get acquainted with the whales of Faxafló Bay on this Whale Watching Tour from Reykjavík.
As the city of Reykjavík celebrated its 200-year anniversary in 1986, the town council of Vesturbær held a competition for works of exterior art. The Sun Voyager was deemed as the winner, and an aluminium prototype was donated to the city of Reykjavík. In August 1990, shortly after the death of Jón Gunnar, the final piece was revealed at its current location by Sæbraut.
The site of the sculpture was considerably disputed. Many have pointed out the fallacy in the ship’s mast facing north, as opposed to west; to adhere to the original concept behind the artist’s vision. Jón originally wanted the ship to be situated in the western part of Reykjavík, or by the coastline of Ánanaust. Eventually, and with the artist’s consent, the small headland on Sæbraut got chosen. Although the headland has no name, the artist comically referred to it as Jónsnes—or Jón’s Peninsula.
- Visit the Sun Voyager and other Reykjavík Landmarks on this walking tour with a local guide.
- See a full list of Reykjavík Tours here, for exciting adventures that set out from the capital.
Below, you can see a time-lapse video of a day in the life of the Sun Voyager sculpture.
Pickup time : 12:30
Free WiFi on bus
Pick up is up to 30 minutes before departure
Meals and beverages
What to bring:
Clothes according to weather