If there is one thing we love about IcelandAir, it’s their FREE layover! Doesn’t matter how long you want to stop for, as long as you are flying IcelandAir to and from Europe, your layover in the country won’t cost you anything extra (with respect to airfare that is). Reykjavik is a small capital city, which means in a short period of time you can cover quite a lot of ground. Here is our ultimate guide for both a short and long layover in Reykjavik.
Iceland doesn’t use Euros, so be sure to withdraw cash from the ATM at the airport or exchange currency to the local Icelandic Krona (ISK).
Upon arrival, store your luggage/carry on at the airport so you can get around the city easily.
The storage is located 500 meters from the departure side of the airport, between Enterprise and Avis car rentals.
15 May – 1 September: 24 hours
2 September – 31 October: 5:00 – 24:00
1 November – 15 May: 5:00 – 18:00
Normal Luggage: 8€/day (for the first week and 3€/day after that)
Odd-size luggage: 10€/day (for the first week and 5€/dayafter that)
For more information, visit https://www.luggagestorage.is.
Hop on the FlyBus.
FlyBus is the easiest way to commute between city center, blue lagoon and airport. You can purchase your ticket in advance or upon arrival.
The bus is equipped with WiFi, takes approximately 45 minutes to downtown and 20 minutes to the Blue Lagoon.
Visit https://www.re.is/flybus for schedule and rates.
average time spent: 2 hours
We always recommend going to the Blue Lagoon as either your first or last activity of the day. First, so you can unwind, be there before it gets uber crowded (and it DOES get uber crowded) and freshen up before hitting the city center. Alternatively, you can do it last as a way to unwind from having seen the sights and relax before heading back to the airport. Depending on what time of the year you are visiting and whether sunlight will be sparse or not, we recommend your first visit to the Blue Lagoon be during sunlight hours. There’s just something so wonderful about taking in the lava all around you and enjoying the lagoon as the sun shines down on you. We’ve been there before sunrise and watched it come over the horizon; it gives you a sense of awakening.
We have been to the Blue Lagoon both at the beginning of the day and the end, we personally recommend visiting in the morning. The lack of crowd allows for much better photography and peace.
Be sure to book your tickets in advance as tickets do get sold out. When booking your tickets online, you’ll be able to choose transportation as an added feature, as well as make reservations for the restaurant and in-water massages.
1 January – 25 May: 8:00 – 22:00
26 May – 29 June: 7:00 – 23:00
30 June – 20 August: 7:00 – 00:00
21 August – 1 October: 8:00 – 22:00
2 October – 31 December: 8:00 – 20:00
Standard: 5400 ISK
Comfort: 7400 ISK
Premium: 95000 ISK
Luxury: 53000 ISK (for 2 guests)
Here’s our take on a few Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Blue Lagoon overpriced? It is pricey.
Is the Blue Lagoon touristy? Tourists are the primary customers here.
Should I skip the Blue Lagoon? Our advice, No. The Eiffel Tower is also considered touristy, doesn’t mean you skip it on a trip to Paris. Get what we’re saying?
The Blue Lagoon is a beautiful experience and an absolute must (at least on your first and for us, every visit to Iceland).
Hop on the Fly Bus.
Once you’ve spent the desired amount of time relaxing at the Blue Lagoon, hop on the next bus out to downtown. The ride is picturesque and the bus is equipped with WiFi and power outlets. It’s about a 30 minute or so ride, sufficient time to recharge your essentials. You have the option of getting off at the main bus stop or any of the hotels the other passengers are getting off at.
Don’t get off at the bus stop, or the Hilton Nordic; both are further than the main sights and will require a bit of walking. Instead, consider getting off at a more central hotel like Centerhotel Klopp, Centerhotel Plaza, Radisson Blu 1919 or thereabouts. If you’re thinking of doing one of the FREE walking tours (see below), then get off closest to their meeting spot. The bus driver won’t ask to see your hotel reservation, so request to get off wherever you want.
Free Walking Tour.
average time spent: 1.5-2 hours
Free walking tours are popular in most European cities, we’ve done quite a few of them and they never disappoint! Reykjavik is no different. Walking tours always provide a different and more thorough perspective to the city than you would otherwise get on your own. With 12 hours or less on hand, we strongly recommend doing one of the two free walking tours provided by CityWalk (120 min) or Free Walking Tour Reykjavik (80-90 min). Both tours are offered a few times a day and are highly rated by customers on TripAdvisor. So either way, you can’t go wrong!
If however, the walking tour timings do not work out for you, feel free to follow our Do-It-Yourself guide. Central Reykjavik is small enough that you can walk it in any order you’d like, below is one of our suggested paths.
average time spent: 1 hour
Make your way to the tallest structure in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja (you can see it almost from anywhere in town). The church is a national monument, dedicated Hallgrímur Pétursson, a renowned religious poet of Iceland. It took 41 years to complete the church (1945-1986).
Designed by Architect Gudjon Samuelsson, the church was said to have resembled Iceland’s landscapes (trap rocks, mountains and glaciers). While the church itself is lovely, and you should definitely visit it (free), it is the view from the top of the tower that is the true gem. The 360º view will give you true appreciation for this coastal city.
Only go up if it’s a clear day (fee required).
May – September: 9:00 – 21:00 (tower closes at 20:30)
October – April: 9:00 – 17:00 (tower closes at 16:30)
The tower is closed on Sundays from 10:30 – 12:15 for mass.
Adult: 900 ISK
Children (ages 7 – 14): 100 ISK
As you walk down any of the streets leading from the church towards downtown (you will walk down a slight decline), you will pass plenty of restaurants to grab a bite to eat and shops to browse and pick up some local goodies. But don’t linger too long here, just yet. We’ll come back a bit later to explore this area. Instead, continue to make your way to one of the several prominent museums to learn a bit more about this city and country’s past.
average time spent: 1 hour/museum
There are approximately nine museums in the heart of the city center and they are each quite different from one another, which means at least one is bound to peak your interest. Below we listed our top five, even with 12 hours on hand, you can quickly squeeze one of these in.
Reykjavik Art Museum
For art lovers, the Reykjavik Art Museum offers three different structures, Hafnarhus, Kjarvalsstaðir, and Asmundarasafn. Hafnarhús, offers a progressive exhibition program with local and international contemporary artists. Kjarvalsstaðir houses the works of one of Iceland’s most influential and recognised artists, Jóhannes S. Kjarval. Asmundarasafn houses Ásmundur Sveinsson’s famous sculptures in the outside garden while the inside offers a stand alone work of art offering an unique experience, inspired by vernacular Mediterranean architecture.
Hafnarhus: 10:00 – 17:00
Kjarvalsstaðir: 10:00 – 17:00 | 10:00 – 22:00 (Thursday)
Asmundarasafn: 10:00 – 17:00 (May – September) | 13:00–17:00 (October – April)
Adult: 1600 ISK
Students: 1000 ISK
Children (under 18) and Seniors (ages 67+): Free
Ticket is valid for 24 hours for Hafnarhús, Kjarvalsstaðir and Ásmundur.
Whales of Iceland
If you love whales, this is a really unique museum to pop into. Whales of Iceland, Marine Research Institute of Iceland and Elding, a family-run whale watching company, have worked together to create one of the most powerful whale research and education programs in Iceland. The museum consists of 23 man-made life size models of the various whale species found in Icelandic waters throughout its natural history.
Daily: 10:00 – 17:00 (closed on Christmas)
Adult: 2900 ISK
Families (two adults and two children): 5800 ISK
Children (ages 7-15): 1500 ISK
Children (under 7): Free
For history buffs, the National Museum of Iceland’s Making of a Nation – Heritage and History is the perfect (permanent) exhibition to visit. It provides insight into the history of the Icelandic nation from the settlement to the present day. The exhibition is conceived as a journey through time, beginning with the ship used by medieval settlers to cross the ocean, and ends with the modern airport, the Icelanders’ gateway to the world.
Daily: 10:00 – 17:00
One ticket is good for both the museum and the culture house.
Adults: 2000 ISK
Children (under 18): Free
Seniors (ages 67+ and students): 1000 ISK
The Saga Museum
For design lovers and anyone seeking an unique perspective into Iceland’s history, the Saga Museum is a must see. The museum is filled with full scale and lifelike silicone figures, all related accessories, and scenery design to depict the country’s past and its historic legends. Incredible efforts have been put into the high level of detail and realism of the figures, reproduction of clothing, tools, jewelry, weapons and other props to bring to life the significant historical events as well as scenes of everyday human endeavor.
Daily: 10:00 – 18:00
Adults: 2100 ISK
Students/Disabled/Seniors: 1600 ISK
Children: 800 ISK
For the sea lover, the Reykjavík Maritime Museum has a wonderful experience to offer. Located by the old harbor, in a building that was once built as a fish freezing plant, the museum offers guided tour of the former Coast Guard Vessel Óðinn. The main purpose of the museum, however, is to collect items and accounts that tell the story of how fishery was the main source of settlement growth in Reykjavik and nearby Hafnarfjörður.
Daily: 10:00 – 17:00 (guided tours on coast guard vessel available daily at 13:00, 14:00 & 15:00)
Adults: 1600 ISK
Children/Disabled/Seniors (ages 67+): Free
Guided Tour: 1300 ISK
Combination: 2400 ISK
Students (with student card): 900 ISK (museum), 900 ISK (tour), 1700 ISK (combination)
average time spent: 30 minutes
By now you must be hungry and although you can go back to the streets leading up to the church, we really recommend heading over to Icelandic Fish and Chips instead. It’s sort of a Reykjavik staple and it is delicious! You choose your fish (they get it fresh every morning), side dish, sauces and voila! All ingredients are organic and/or local, so you’re eating the best of the best.
If you are in the mood for something non Icelandic, then we recommend Nepalese Kitchen for some delicious South Asian cuisine (first one in Iceland) or Meze Restaurant for some decadent Turkish cuisine.
average time spent: 2 hours
Since you’re already close to the harbor, why not go on a whale watching tour? This is a year-round activity in Reykjavik, which is why we highly recommend it if you have the time to spare (3 hours for a classic tour, 2 hours for an express). There are several companies that operate whale watching tours several times throughout the day and they all meet at the Old Harbor.
Elding | Special Tours | Whale Safari | Ambassador
If you plan on going on a whale watching tour, make reservations in advance. This will allow you to plan out the rest of your time in Reykjavik efficiently.
average time spent: 1.5 hours
Alternately, if you’ve done plenty of whale watching or are more interested in birds, check out a puffin watching tour. The Atlantic Puffin travels to land in the summer months to nest and Iceland has the largest colony of Atlantic puffins in the world. This is not a year-round activity, and only run during the months of April/May through August. The tours are 1-1.5 hours and provided by several tour companies. Following are some of the main ones:
Elding | Special Tours | Mr. Puffins | Extreme Iceland
Public Hot Springs.
average time spent: 1.5 hours
Although not a substitute for the Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik has tons of public outdoor pools which are worth visiting if you a. don’t have time for the Blue Lagoon or b. don’t want to spend the money it costs to visit the Blue Lagoon. Here are a few much cheaper and less touristy alternatives:
Laugardalslaug | Sundhöllin | Vesturbæjarlaug | Árbæjarlaug
Be aware that before you can go into the pool, you’ll be expected to shower, naked. This can be awkward if this is your first time, but believe us when we say that NO ONE looks at you! The Icelanders are so comfortable going through the process that by association, you too become less self conscious about it.
average time spent: 1 hour
There are plenty of authentic souvenir stores that sell made in Iceland goods right in the heart of Reykjavik. This is an expensive country, so it’s only natural that any products made here will be reflective of that. But if there is one thing we stand by when shopping on travel, it’s to always buy local. From beautiful wool products (blankets, clothing, and accessories) to local food/snacks to lava rock jewelries, there are plenty of items and price ranges to choose from.
Check out Laugavegur and Skólavödustígur streets for great shopping options.
Love books? Check out Eymundsson, Iceland’s oldest and largest bookstore. We’ve spent hours here during some of our visits, so for a bookworm, this is a lovely stop in the city.
Leaving shopping till towards the end of your day so that you don’t have to carry bags around all day. Keep in mind, most stores are open from 9:00-18:00.
average time spent: 30 minutes
Before we head to our last stop, take a quick detour to check out Reykjavik’s natural pond/lake, Tjornin. It is a pit stop for nearly 50 species of water birds, including the Arctic tern, Eider, Gadwall and Greylag goose. It’s also home to ducks and swans. We do not know much about birds, but for an enthusiast, this is likely a great place to observe nature do its thing and of course, photograph!
Solfar (The Sun Voyager).
average time spent: 30 minutes
The Solfar, sculpture by Jon Gunnar Arnason, is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun (although it immediately will remind you of a viking ship). This is a great place to end your trip before heading back to the airport. You can watch a great sunset and let the full day of activities soak in, and bid see you later to Reykjavik because once you get a taste of Iceland, it is guaranteed that you will return, especially to see the rest of the country.
If this is a repeat visit/long layover to Reykjavik, you may want to consider one of the following three excursions. While all of them can be done on your own by renting a car, with a short time on hand, it is more convenient to just hop on a tour instead. We don’t always advocate group tours but there are exceptions to the rule and layovers are sometimes one of them.
average time spent: 7 hours
The Golden Circle (a tourist term) makes three key stops: Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal area in Haukadalur, for the Geysir and Strokkur geysirs. It also includes stop at the Kerið volcanic crater (pictured above). Þingvellir National Park is an UNESCO World Heritage site because the oldest parliament in the world was first assembled here in 930 AD. The Silfra fissure in the park is an excellent, unique and popular place to go scuba diving! It has the clearest water on earth and is actually a crack between the North American and Eurasian continents!
If you want to go diving or snorkeling and do the Golden Circle, be sure to book a combination tour like this tour.
average time spent: 10 hours
A little over 2 hours south of Reykjavik is Iceland’s southernmost village of Vik. It’s the warmest place in Iceland year round so perfect to visit despite which time of the year you are in Iceland. Most famous for its black sand beach and the haunting abandoned air plane on Sólheimasandur Beach, Vik offers some incredibly activities. In fact, if you only have time for one thrilling experience in Iceland, perhaps consider paragliding in Vik! Most tour companies include Vik as part of the southern coast tour (10-11 hours) which includes some iconic waterfalls, glaciers and even glacier hikes (specialized tours).
average time spent: 4 hours
If you have an overnight layover and are visiting during the winter months (late August to April), you will definitely want to book a Northern Lights tour. They tend to begin at 20:00/21:00 and can last from anywhere between 3-5 hours depending on the tour. Since this is a natural phenomenon and sighting cannot be guaranteed, most tour companies will allow you to join again, free of charge. However, on a layover trip, the chances of being able to go another day is unlikely. Therefore, you need to weigh your options with respect to the cost and the risk of not being able to see it.
Now that you’ve had a full day in and/or around town, it’s time to head back to the airport. Walk over to the main bus station and catch the next FlyBus!
Obviously, everything we mentioned above is not doable in a 12 hour period, especially if you choose to do more than 1 museum, or some of the tours, or add a visit to the local public hot springs/pools. But a combination of several of the things can be done in a 12 hour period. It all depends on your interests and how long you spend at each place.
We hope you found the information above to be helpful and useful in planning a fun and enjoyable layover in Reykjavik.
We love this city and we are certain that you will too!
Happy and Safe Travels!