Reykjavik, Iceland Destination Guide
Know before you go
- Weather: The weather can change at any minute. If you are driving anytime outside of summer, pay attention to the roads and listen when warnings are announced. When in doubt ask your hotel desk manager what they think.
- Temperatures: Winters average in the 20s/30s, while summers average in the 50s/60s. No matter when you travel you will want layers and a warm coat. Nights will be chilly and you never know when the wind will start blowing.
- Language: The Icelandic language is very close to Danish, but there are many differences. Most people in Reykjavik speak English, but you may have trouble if you decide to tour the island on your own and head to smaller towns.
Words to know
- Hello: Halló. (Hah-low)
- Good-bye: Bless. (Bless; often said twice, “Bless bless”.)
- Please: Gjörðu svo vel, (to one person). (Gyer-dhu svo vel.)
- Thank you: Þakka þér fyrir. (Thah-ka thyer fi-rir.)
- Do you speak English? : Talarðu ensku? (Ta-lar-dhu en-sku?)
- Yes: Já. (Yaw.)
- No: Nei. (Nay.)
- Milk: mjólk
- Yogurt: just ask for Skyr. Best yogurt around.
- Chocolate: súkkulaði
- For more phrases check out the Icelandic WikiTravel Phrasebook
- Plug adapters: Type C
- Converters are must if you are bringing a hairdryer, curling iron or flat iron from the states that is not dual voltage
- Warm layers: thermals, waterproof parka, gloves, hat, and scarf
- Umbrella if it rains
- Warm snow boots (your rain boots will not keep your toes warm. Snow or hiking boots are your best bet)
- TinyIceland.com: a local blogger who is sharing the beauty of her country with the world
- Iceland Air: This airline is packed with information to get you to the country, including great package rates that may beat prices if you booked on your own.
- Photo tips for capturing the Northern Lights via Wandering Educators
- Behind the scenes look of Wrath of God, starring Gerard Butler, and filmed in Iceland
- Great footage from Iceland was included in the Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller.
Iceland Krona (1 krona = $0.01): The easiest way to figure out currency on the go is to add a decimal 2 digits to the left (ex. 5000 kronas becomes $50.00)
Flying to Iceland
- Iceland Air flies direct to Reykjavik from Boston, Denver, Newark, Newark, New York (JFK) and Seattle.
- WOW Airlines from Europe flies into Reykjavik airport
- City Center Hotels: These hotels are located in the heart of Reykjavik and walking distance to restaurants and most attractions you will want to see in town. Rooms are comfortable, but may not be posh. Staff is extremely friendly.
- Best Western Hotel Reykjavik: located in the center of town and easy walking distance to anything you may need.
- Hilton Reykjavik Nordica: A property with stunning views, this hotel is not within walking distance of town. You will need a car to explore.
- FlyBus: If you are taking a bunch of tours and/or won’t need a car while on the island book a seat on FlyBus to get you to and from the airport.
- Rent a car: Hertz, Budget, Sixt and Avis are all available at the airport and some are available at the FlyBus transfer terminal
- Take a guided tour: Reykjavik Excursions or Grayline offer a variety of tours to many of Iceland’s must-see sights
- Local delicacies: whale, puffin, fermented shark, smoked salmon, smoked lamb, rye bread, hot dogs and Skyr yogurt
- Easy kid options: crepes, Italian, pizza, soup
- Cheap meals: Hot dogs (under $4 each) or crepes (under $10 each)
- 10-11: a small grocery store that is open 24 hours a day. Grab a snack after your Northern Lights tour, load up on milk and yogurt for the kids, and pick up some chocolate to take home.
- Eldur & Is: Just off the main drag, this ice cream and crepe shop was an easy stop for our family when bellies were empty and nap time or bed time was quickly approaching. It was a cheap place to grab a meal that we knew the kids would eat.
- Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur: If the taxi driver is pulling up for a hot dog during his afternoon break and all the club kids at are stopping 2 a.m. than you know this is the hot dog stand to be at. This is the cheapest meal you will find in the city, unless you can live off of Skyr yogurt, which really isn’t a bad way to live either.
- Sakebarinn: One of the few sushi places in town. Prices are standard for Icelandic fair (meaning they are high for back home), but the quality is decent and you will find some very interesting maki rolls on the menu.
- Svarta Kaffi: This is a great spot to stop for a pint, soup in a bread bowl, salad and/or a ham sandwich. Located on the main drag through town, there are two soup options a day and you are welcome to take a peek (and sniff) of each before you decide. Staff is quick, friendly and doesn’t bat an eye when you show up with your two wet kids.
- Italia: Decent Italian food at moderate prices. Reservations may be necessary on Friday and Saturday night if you want to eat after 7 p.m., but they will still try to accommodate you if you show up. A great place to load up on carbs on your first day in town and grab a cappuccino at night to stay awake for the Northern Lights tour.
Things to do with kids
- Swim: Take the kids to one of the thermal pools (18 to choose from) around Reykjavik
- Walk: walk around town looking for statues, street art and a hot dog stand to grab a snack while you explore the city.
- Hallgrimskirkja: Take the elevator (fee) to the top of the church tower for a 360 degree view of Reykjavik
- Reykjavik Zoo and Family Park: Not within walking distance, but you can take a bus out to this family attraction. The zoo is home to several native creatures, while the family park offers various rides. Make sure you check the ride schedule; many are only offered seasonally.
- Tour the Old Harbour and Waterfront: Do a nautical scavenger hunt as you check out the boats along the harbor, visit the Northern Lights Museum (Aurora Reykjavik), and say hello to the fishermen.
- Parks: There are several parks littered throughout the city. Pick one to feed the ducks, play on the playground or skip around the incredible public art sculptures on display.
- Blue Lagoon: Although there are many tourists, this is a fun place to splash around with you kids, let your sore muscles soak and enjoy a morning or afternoon in the warm healing waters that Iceland is known for.
- Golden Circle Tour: This is the perfect tour for families who are short on time, but want to see some of the natural beauty of the country. Most tours will include the Geysir and Gullfoss waterfall. The third stop on your trip may be Thingviller or one of the geothermal spas.
- Northern Lights Tour: Not exactly a day trip, this night tour will try to get you up close with the Northern Lights. Tours are offered on a boat or on a bus. After watching several people get seasick, I recommend you take the bus. Just remember that no tour can guarantee that you will see the lights. They are all at the whim of Mother Nature, even when conditions seem perfect. Book with a tour company who offers a free rebooking if you miss the lights on your first trip out.