Reykjavik Old Harbor: What to See and Do

Reykjavik Old Harbor Views

Nestled in the northern part of Reykjavik’s historic centre, the Old Harbour stands as a testament to Iceland’s rich maritime heritage and its transformation into one of the liveliest neighbourhoods in the capital. This guide delves into the heart of the Old Harbour, offering insights and tips for travelers looking to explore this charming area of Reykjavik.

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Reykjavik Old Harbor Harpa Concert Hall

The Old Harbor in Reykjavik

The Old Harbour is not just a place; it’s an experience. With its traditional seafaring atmosphere, it offers a unique glimpse into authentic Icelandic culture. The area is renowned for its culinary scene, making it one of the best places to eat in Reykjavik. But it’s the blend of tourist attractions and the palpable sense of history that truly defines the Old Harbour.

Built between 1913 and 1917, the Old Harbor Reykjavik has blossomed over the last few years thanks to a boom in the area. Become a colorful spot with new and interesting places to visit. Not only are there beautiful views of Mount Esja across Faxa Bay, but it’s also a lovely place to go for a walk. The gorgeous, award-winning Harpa Concert Hall was inaugurated here in 2011 as well.

There are also many marine-related activities in the area. As the departure point for different cruises like whale watching excursions or puffin tours, this is likely an area that you’ll be visiting at some point. The Reykjavik Old Harbor is also home to the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina and Viking Maritime Museum. Let’s take a look at all there is to see and do around the newly-revitalized Old Harbor Reykjavik.

Old Reykjavik Harbor: Must-Visit Attractions

  • Harpa Concert Hall: A marvel of modern architecture, Harpa stands out with its stunning glass facade. Opened in 2011, it’s a cultural hub for music and arts. Even without attending a show, a visit to admire its design is a must.
  • Reykjavik Maritime Museum: Situated in a former fish freezing factory, this museum chronicles Iceland’s maritime history. The highlight is the Óðinn, a former coast guard ship, now open for tours.
  • Reykjavik Art Museum: Spread across three locations, with one by the harbour, it houses an impressive collection of Icelandic and international avant-garde art.
  • Saga Museum: Dive into the Viking sagas and early Icelandic settlements through detailed wax figures and sets. It’s a blend of history and mythology, offering a unique educational experience.
  • Minør: A nod to Iceland’s lack of a public railway system, this old steam locomotive symbolizes the historical industrial activities around the Old Harbour.

Iceland’s history is intricately connected to the sea. From the first Viking settlers all the way through the modern fishing industry, Iceland would not exist if it weren’t for generations of seafarers. Come discover the history of these fascinating tales Reykjavik Maritime Museum. You’ll discover how sailors both past and present survived the harsh Atlantic weather to build the great island nation we know today.

The museum is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. except on Mondays.

If you’re looking to dip your toe into some of Iceland famous natural elements, then look no further than the Cinema of Fire, Ice, and the Northern Lights. Here you’ll find nature and documentary films on the topics of Iceland’s famous volcanoes, glaciers, and the Northern Lights. The films are shown at Old Harbor Village number 2 and showcase eruptions as well as Vatnajökull National Park. There are also the films Birth of an Island and Chasing the Northern Lights for fellow science and geology nerds out there.

Reykjavik Old Harbor Northern Lights

Old Reykjavik Harbor offers both history and a chance to learn what makes the Land of Fire and Ice so special.

Old Harbor Reykjavik Restaurants

While visiting this part of the city, why not stop by one of the flavorful Old Harbor Reykjavik restaurants? Because it’s right next to the sea, you’ll find some of the city’s best seafood restaurants in this area. Kopar and Sægreifinn are extremely popular and have really high-quality food with a delicious and varied menu. Be sure to make a reservation to book your spot at one of these dining establishments.

It can also be quite romantic to have dinner overlooking the water, so when you’re with that special someone, ask for a table with a view. After your meal, you can walk hand-in-hand on a lovers’ stroll under the lights along the harbor. We may not be as romantic a city as Paris, but we still have our moments.

Reykjavik Harbor Cruise

Of course, anywhere with a harbor or nearby body of water will offer some sort of cruise to get a better view of the city from afar. I highly recommend taking a Reykjavik harbor cruise not only for the views, but also for the related activities. The Old Harbour Reykjavik is a jumping-off point both puffin and whale watching tours. Both are seasonal activities that depend upon when these friendly creatures decide to grace us with their presence.

Puffin mating season usually occurs from early April through September. You can see colonies of tens of thousands of birds scattered around the island. Tour operators offer excursions that leave from the harbor to go see our feathered friends. There are usually daily departures with reasonable prices and it’s a really fun activity.

Whale watching is another big attraction in Iceland. these gentle beasts of the deep occupy our waters from April to October. You’ll get up close and personal and be able to see the different species of whales frolic and play. There might even be some humpback whales breaching or dolphins and porpoises swimming close to the boat.

A Reykjavik harbor cruise is a fun way to spend the day seeing some of our most special animals up close. And for those wishing to stay closer to land, you can also rent bikes and scooters from nearby operators.

Time For a Break: Ice Cream and Coffee

Once you’ve gotten your sea legs back or ridden through the city on wheels, it time to enjoy more of the harbor. And what better way to do that than to go get a nice sweet treat or warming cup of coffee? Depending on your mood you’ll either want to head to Kaffivagninn coffee shop or Valdís ice cream parlor.

Kaffivagninn Coffeehouse

This coffee house has been around since 1935, so it evokes a feeling of nostalgia for most Icelanders. Many of us were taken there as children by our parents and its cozy atmosphere is one steeped in history and charm. Enjoy their delicious menu of dark roasted coffee, which is some of the best in the city. They’ve even got a porch outside or you can enjoy some lovely views on warm summer days.

They’re open during the week from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on the weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Valdís Ice Cream Shop

Last but certainly not least is the Valdís ice cream shop. Iceland is known for having really great ice cream and this particular parlor is one of the best in the city. You can not only get a wide variety of ice cream flavors to make your mouth water but there are vegan-friendly options as well. They’ve got gelato, sorbet, and ice cream cones made from scratch.

Reykjavik Old Harbor Valdis Ice Cream

Creamy flavors, scrumptious toppings, and tasty dipping sauces will keep you coming back for more. Stop by any day of the week from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Beyond the Harbour

The Old Harbour serves as a gateway to exploring the broader wonders of Reykjavik. From the glass dome of the Perlan Museum with its exhibitions on Icelandic natural wonders to the Árbær Open Air Museum showcasing life in 19th and 20th century Iceland, the city is ripe with cultural and historical treasures.

Frequently Asked Questions about Old Harbour

What is the old harbor of Reykjavík?

The Old Harbour is a historic area in Reykjavik, known for its traditional seafaring atmosphere and as a hub for dining, museums, and maritime adventures. It’s a place where the past meets the present, offering visitors a unique glimpse into Icelandic culture.

Does Reykjavík have an old town?

Yes, Reykjavik does have an old town area, which includes the Old Harbour. This part of the city is characterized by its historic buildings, charming streets, and a vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit for anyone exploring the capital.

Can you see the northern lights from Reykjavik Harbour?

Yes, it is possible to see the Northern Lights from Reykjavik Harbour, especially during the winter months. The harbour’s location away from the city lights can offer clearer skies, making it a popular spot for aurora viewing.

What is special about Reykjavík?

Reykjavik is special for its blend of natural beauty, rich history, and modern culture. From its geothermal pools and vibrant arts scene to its historical sites and the warmth of its people, Reykjavik offers a unique experience that captures the essence of Iceland.

The Old Harbour in Reykjavik is more than just a destination; it’s a journey through Iceland’s maritime legacy, its cultural richness, and its natural wonders. Whether you’re whale watching, exploring museums, or simply soaking in the atmosphere, the Old Harbour offers a slice of Icelandic life that’s not to be missed. This guide aims to equip travelers with the knowledge and inspiration to explore this vibrant area of Reykjavik, ensuring a memorable experience in the heart of Iceland’s capital.

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