An Icelander´s disclaimer: As a true Icelander, I am very proud of my country. After living abroad, I love it even more. However, I am from the north of Iceland and therefore think it is the best part of the country. So if you are staying in Iceland for long enough, drive the ring road and see all the different places, there is so much more to see than Reykjavík!
So, as this is a bad yogi’s CITY guide to Reykjavík, I think it is fitting to start with the fact that to most of you people, Reykjavík is probably way too small to be called a city. We are talking about 123 thousand people in Reykjavík, and 216 thousand people in the capital area as a whole. But it’s still our capital and to us Icelanders it’s big enough.
So what to do in our beautiful city?
Where to do yoga?
In Reykjavík, there are plenty of places to do yoga, but only a few offer classes in English. I consider yoga to be an international language, and taking a class in Icelandic would definitely be an interesting experience. Here are a few options:
Reykjavík Yoga runs lovely 90 minute Vinyasa classes (in English) in a dance studio every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. There you are guaranteed to have an energizing and refreshing class, as well as understanding every single word.
Sólir is the hot yoga studio in Reykjavík, so if hot yoga is your jam this is the place to go. They offer a lot of different classes and workshops as well, but they mostly teach in Icelandic, which would add an extra challenge for you.
Jógastúdíó is a cute little yoga studio offering classes in Hatha, Vinyasa and Yoga Nidra. Those classes are in Icelandic and slightly more easy going then the other two places, if you want to take it a bit easier.
Loft Hostel offers free yoga classes at noon on Sundays (yeah, we love free yoga!) that are suitable for all. They ask you to bring your own mat, but they still have a few extra ones. These classes are in English.
Pop up Yoga Reykjavík is offering free outdoor yoga classes all over the city in the summer. They have some extra mats and teach mostly in Icelandic, but if you want to try any classes in Icelandic you should try this one.
This is only to name a few and I also encourage you to hit up your own yoga in a park, on the beach or somewhere in Iceland’s beautiful nature.
Where to go swimming?
This is of course what you should do after your yoga class! There is a swimming pool in almost every single town in Iceland, and if the place doesn’t have a swimming pool it is barely a town. Compared to our population we have a crazy amount of swimming pools, and you cannot come to Iceland without trying at least one of them. They are mostly outdoors, heated with geothermal water and open all year round. And we even have a special hot tub culture, so check this guide out!
And if you get so lucky to travel to my part of the country, Hofsós has the most beautiful swimming pool in Iceland, both on those summer nights when the sun never sets and those winter nights with the stars (and if you are lucky, northern lights).
Where to eat?
All this yoga and swimming is sure to get your hungry. In Iceland there is plenty of different places to eat, and I could quite easily make this article just about food. I will therefore just name a few of my favourites.
If you are looking for something tasty, quick and cheap (compared to other places in Iceland) I will recommend Lemon, Ginger or Local. All nice, healthy places, Lemon offers delicious juices and sandwiches, Ginger has the best chicken and sweet potatoes and Local brags about making the best salad there is.
If you want something slightly juicier we pride ourselves of nice tasting hamburgers. Lebowski offers great burgers with a milkshake, Tommi’s burger joint is the place to get burgers Icelandic style, and Hamborgarafabrikkan (good luck pronouncing that!) is a little fancier hamburger place (and the burgers are shaped like a square!). For just the juicy fries, check out Reykjavík Chips. And for delicious pizza check out Eldsmiðjan. My favourite pizza there is Primavera, not very vegan but very delicious – bacon (yes!), green apples, spinach and maple syrup. Hverfisgata 12 is also very nice.
Gló is the place for vegans, offering nice healthy meals and delicious desserts.
For something fancier (another word for very delicious and more expensive) check out Tapas barinn, Grillmarkaðurinn (specializing in great meat), Fiskmarkaðurinn (specializing in amazing fish), Lækjarbrekka ( it’s like saing “like rebecca” really fast) and Dill (the first and only restaurant with a Michelin star in Iceland, so maybe you need to book your table now!).
Ohh and yeah, it appears that we have the best hot dogs in the world!
Side note: Icelandic water is the best water in the world (I’m totally objective about that) – you can drink the water from all taps, so please do not spend your money on bottled water.
Where to have ice cream?
Dessert is important! And yes, that is a separate category. After all, there is a reason our country is named Iceland! Icelanders love ice cream, and having ice cream has absolutely nothing to do with the weather. In Iceland it would be totally acceptable to drive through a snow storm only to go buy ice cream. And as I describe myself as an ice cream loving yogi, here are the ice cream stores you should try out:
Vesturbæjarís offers what we call “cold ice cream” (not that it makes much sense) which is made from milk instead of cream. There you should definitely get a Þeytingur, which is ice cream and candy mixed together. This ice cream shop is at a few places around the capital, so you should be able to find one close to you.
Valdís has the most delicious ice cream in cones, so many different kinds and vegan options! My favourite is Turkish pepper ice cream, but that is a very Icelandic choice. You can always taste and get what you like best. And they have vegan options!
Huppa offers amazing Bragðarefur (the same as Þeytingur, just a different word used) with mixtures of candy and fruits. They also have delicious shakes, and you can choose between the cold, milk ice cream or the creamy one.
And if you do not quite love ice cream as much as me, and are just going to pick one, Joylato it
is! They freeze the ice cream as you order it with liquid nitrogen, so you know exactly what is going into your ice cream, and it’s super cool! Also, you can choose between cow’s or coconut milk, making it vegan. The salty caramel cow’s milk one is to die for!
Also, we are very proud of our candy, so check out Appolo liquorice, Nói Siríus chocolate, and our absolute favourite thing, mixing together liquorice and chocolate. You can find a wide variety in our grocery stores.
And last but not least (this one was literally edited in, because I had to share this!) is Skúbb. It´s a newly opened ice cream store and a little bit away from the city centre. Their ice cream is made from scratch, with fresh ingredients, no preservatives, and organic milk. And they also offer vegan options, either sorbets or ice cream made from almond milk. I just had a chocolate mint ice cream there and I could literally taste the fresh mint leaves!
So, I think I proved why I call myself an ice cream loving yogi! Just call me when you are here and we can go get ice cream together :p
Where to enjoy Icelandic culture?
One of my favourite things about Reykjavík is all the colourful houses in the city centre, as well as the graffiti that covers many of the old concrete houses. I therefore encourage you to enjoy the graffiti and appreciate the humour that is hidden all around. And of course take some yoga pics!
Laugavegur is the main shopping street, and walking down that street you can be sure to find other tourists, as well as a few shops selling statues and stuffed animals, with a polar bear by the front door (even though polar bears do not live in Iceland). Along with your souvenirs, you can be sure to find a lot of beautiful Icelandic design, both jewellery and clothing.
Then you have our culture house, Harpan, which is an interesting building, Hallgrímskirkja is a beautiful church (and the same with the churches as the swimming pools, you can find them everywhere) and Kolaportið is our flee market, open during the weekend.
This is just the tip of the ice berg of things to see, so for this one Google is your friend!
How to enjoy Iceland?
Even though this is a city guide, it is safe to say that most people come to Iceland for the nature. So make sure to leave the city and go and see some of our beautiful waterfalls and glaciers.
So I will simply say this, do be careful. Please know how to drive before renting a car, care for our nature and be cautious. Enjoy your time, and as much as possible, get to know our culture and our language.
If you want to be able to “speak” Icelandic, check out the three words you need to know to take part in any conversation!
And if you want some very useful tips about Iceland, check out this video.
Thank you for visiting my country. I hope you have a wonderful time in Iceland.
P.S. Love this series? Be sure to check out all our city guides and our interactive map of our writers’ favorite spots!