Icelanders love to talk about the weather. This is probably because it has such a huge impact on our daily lives. We’ve braved massive amounts of snowfall, hurricane force winds, and torrential downpours more times than we care to count. This extreme weather is simply par for the course of living on such a small, stormy Island. While it’s not always so harsh, there are definitely days when it feels like rain, sleet, and snow are conspiring to ruin your Iceland vacation. So what do you do when conditions turn to less than favorable and it’s time to head indoors? Let’s take a look at some rainy day activities in Reykjavik and what to do during bad weather and Iceland for when the forecast is looking a bit bleak.

Icy, stormy weather in Reykjavik

When it’s cold and rainy outside, most people’s first instinct is to stay inside and take part in some indoor activities. It’s always tempting to escape the bad weather by getting cozy under a warm blanket near the fireplace and read a good book or binge on Netflix. But you can do that at home! Reykjavik and other places in Iceland have plenty of museums, cafés, and other places with cultural activities where you can ride out the storm. Seek shelter in one of these bad weather hotspots.

Things To Do in Reykjavik When it Rains or Snows

Not all of Iceland’s weather problems come from polar lows or Arctic depressions. Yes, it gets cold. But the more common is simply that it rains a lot or there’s a snowy whiteout. We experience a lot of precipitation. So in addition to have a good rain jacket and pair of waterproof boots, it’s also important to have a backup plan in the case of rain or heavy snow. Instead of wandering the shops of Laugavegur street, maybe try these other activities.

The Perlan Museum

This museum has an impressive glacier and ice cave exhibition which is open every day from 9 am to 7 pm. You’ll learn about glaciers and their history as well as the impact of global warming and how it will cause the glaciers to eventually disappear. There’s also a man-man ice tunnel that is a must-do. The Perlan observatory is famous for its view and even on rainy days you can still get a nice bird’s eye view of Reykjavik.

Snow covering Reykjavik's Perlan Observatory deck

Explore Iceland’s Viking History

The are multiple Viking-related sights scattered around Reykjavik. Perhaps the two most important are the Saga Museum and the Settlement Exhibition, both of which allow you to step into the Viking Age. The National Museum also houses a large collection of artifacts in the country’s history.  you’ll find everything from tools and furniture two swords, drinking horns, statues of Norse gods and even a Viking ship. They’re open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and have a café where you can grab lunch, a drink, a snack, or coffee and cake.

Aurora Reykjavík

When skies are overcast (or if you’re visiting in the summer) you won’t be able to visit Iceland’s famed Northern Lights. The next best thing is the breathtaking Northern Lights displays and movie they have. Not only can you get some cool information and souvenirs related to the Northern Lights, but they also hand out free coffee.

Enjoy Iceland’s Coffee Culture

One of the most wonderful things about living in a country where people spend a lot of time indoors is that we’ve cultivated the art of the indoor activity. And with tons of bakeries and coffee houses choose from, the smell of freshly roasted java or Icelandic pastries straight out of the oven will waft over you as soon as you walk in the door. Bring a friend and have a lovely afternoon chat or come alone and soak up the atmosphere. We have an expression in Iceland; sometimes there are days when it’s “window weather” (gluggaveður) outside. These days may look nice but really they are too cold to do anything. They are perfect for curling up in a nice comfy chair in a café and admiring the street (from a safe, warm distance of course).

What NOT to Do During a Storm in Iceland

While most Icelanders (and tourists) simply dress for the weather and go about their day, there are times when it’s best to stay put. If you search “crazy wind in Iceland” videos on YouTube, you’ll find clips of people being blown off their bikes, rocks flying, and large semis being blown off the road. Sometimes it really is best to just stay inside.

Snowy road conditions in Iceland during a storm

It goes without saying that you should absolutely NEVER drive during a storm in Iceland. Windstorms and snowstorms are generally dangerous and can be deadly.  Mother Nature is quite powerful and her full wrath is on display here in Iceland. I can’t stress this enough: ALWAYS check the weather forecast before you head out. It could save your life. If for some reason you find yourself caught driving in a storm or worsening weather conditions, don’t be afraid to turn back or pull off onto the side of the road and put your hazard lights on.

Being overconfident about your driving skills is the surest way to get into a bad situation quickly in Iceland. Always check the weather forecast at www.en.vedur.is and the status of the country’s roads at www.road.is. Practice precaution and lead with good sense.

What to Do in Bad Weather in Reykjavik

Don’t let bad weather in Iceland get you down or interrupt your travel plans. There’s always something to do, you just need to know where to look. You won’t always be guaranteed sunny weather in Reykjavik, but you’ll definitely have a good time, no matter what you do!

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