The Best Things to Do in Reykjavik in Winter

Things To Do In Reykjavik In Winter

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, transforms into a winter wonderland during the colder months, offering a unique blend of cultural, natural, and festive experiences. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the best things to do in Reykjavik in winter, ensuring visitors can fully enjoy their stay in this enchanting city.

Best car rental in Iceland

City Sightseeing

Despite the short days, Reykjavik’s charm is not dimmed in winter. The city is ripe for exploration, brimming with a rich history and vibrant culture that beckons travelers from all corners of the globe. Whether you’re meandering through the snow-dusted streets or warming up in a cozy café, there’s an undeniable magic in the air. This enchanting atmosphere is further accentuated by the array of key attractions that the city has to offer. For those curious to uncover even more of this city’s treasures, diving into the expansive list of things to do in Reykjavik can reveal hidden gems and must-visit locales beyond the winter season.

View Of Reykjavik In Winter

Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center

A stunning example of modern architecture and a hub for cultural events, Harpa stands out with its geometric glass façade that mirrors the natural beauty of Iceland. Inside, visitors are treated to a world of cultural immersion, hosting everything from world-class concerts and operas to conferences and exhibitions. The building’s design ensures that each event is complemented by the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and the North Atlantic, making every visit unforgettable.

Hallgrimskirkja Church

This architectural masterpiece is Reykjavik’s tallest building, offering an unparalleled view of the city from its observation tower. Hallgrimskirkja’s design, inspired by the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape, is both a nod to the country’s natural beauty and a beacon of its Lutheran heritage. Visitors can climb the tower to witness the panoramic vistas of Reykjavik and its mountains beyond, making it a must-visit for photographers and sightseers alike.

Hallgrimskirkja Church In Winter

Austurvollur Square

Often considered the heart of Reykjavik, Austurvollur Square is a lively gathering place surrounded by some of the city’s most significant buildings, including the Icelandic Parliament and the old cathedral. During winter, the square transforms into a picturesque winter wonderland, complete with festive lights and decorations. It’s a perfect spot to experience the city’s vibrant café culture, with many establishments offering cozy interiors and warm Icelandic hospitality.

Reykjavik Old Harbor

Once the core of Iceland’s fishing industry, the Old Harbor is now a charming area known for its colorful buildings and maritime ambiance. It’s the primary departure point for whale watching and northern lights tours, offering visitors a chance to explore Iceland’s stunning natural phenomena. The harbor area is also home to excellent seafood restaurants, quirky shops, and the Maritime Museum, making it a bustling hub of activity and culture.

Reykjavik Old Harbor In Winter

Sun Voyager Sculpture

Situated along Reykjavik’s scenic waterfront, the Sun Voyager is a striking steel sculpture that represents a Viking longship. It is a dreamboat and an ode to the sun, symbolizing hope, freedom, and the spirit of exploration. Designed by Jón Gunnar Árnason, it’s one of Reykjavik’s most photographed landmarks, especially stunning at sunset or sunrise, when the sky and sea create a spectacular backdrop.


As Reykjavik’s main shopping street, Laugavegur is alive with a vibrant mix of boutiques, galleries, bars, and restaurants. This bustling thoroughfare offers a glimpse into the city’s fashion, featuring both international brands and local Icelandic design. The street is also known for its nightlife, with many bars and clubs playing live music, making it the perfect spot to end a day of exploration with a taste of Reykjavik’s contemporary culture.

Cultural and Museum Visits

Reykjavik’s museums and cultural institutions offer insight into Iceland’s rich heritage:

  • The Phallological Museum: A unique collection dedicated to the study of penology.
  • The Icelandic Punk Museum: Chronicles the history of punk and new wave in Iceland.
  • Perlan Museum: Offers a bird’s-eye view of Reykjavik and features the Wonders of Iceland Exhibition.
  • Kjarvalsstadir Art Museum: Part of the Reykjavik Art Museum, showcasing Icelandic art.

Outdoor Activities

Even in winter, Reykjavik’s outdoor activities remain accessible:

  • Swimming in Geothermal Pools: The Sky Lagoon offers a unique spa experience with its geothermal waters.
  • Exploring Parks: Visit Laugardalur for recreational activities, Hljomskalagardurinn for birdwatching, and Klambratun for its vast open space and playgrounds.

Tours and Adventures

Reykjavik serves as a base for several tours that explore the natural beauty of Iceland:

Northern Lights Tours

Venturing outside Reykjavik offers the unparalleled opportunity to witness the mesmerizing aurora borealis, a natural light display that fills the sky with vibrant colors. These tours are expertly guided, taking advantage of Iceland’s unique geographical location for the best viewing chances. Tour operators often provide insights into the science and folklore surrounding the Northern Lights, making for an educational as well as a breathtaking experience. Dress warmly and be prepared for one of nature’s most spectacular shows, best viewed away from city lights.

Northern Lights In Iceland

Whale Watching Tours

Iceland’s waters are teeming with marine life, making Reykjavik a prime location for whale watching tours. These excursions offer the chance to see whales, dolphins, and sometimes even puffins in their natural habitat. With experienced guides, visitors can learn about the diverse species of the North Atlantic Ocean. The tours vary from large boats with indoor viewing areas to more intimate zodiacs that offer a closer encounter with these magnificent creatures, providing an unforgettable experience for wildlife enthusiasts.

Helicopter Tours

For a bird’s-eye view of Reykjavik and the stunning Icelandic landscape, helicopter tours are an unbeatable adventure. These tours not only provide panoramic views of the city’s colorful rooftops but also include mountaintop landings where the vastness of Iceland’s natural beauty can be truly appreciated. From volcanic craters to sprawling glaciers, these tours offer a unique perspective on Iceland’s diverse geography, making it a once-in-a-lifetime experience for thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike.

Day Trips from Reykjavik

Reykjavik serves as the perfect base for exploring some of Iceland’s most iconic attractions. The Golden Circle tour takes you to the stunning Gullfoss waterfall, the geothermal area of Geysir, and Thingvellir National Park, a site of geological wonder and historical significance.

The South Coast is famed for its black sand beaches, majestic waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, and the picturesque village of Vik. Lastly, the Blue Lagoon offers a luxurious spa experience in geothermal waters, rich in minerals and surrounded by lava fields, making these day trips essential for any visitor looking to experience the diversity of Iceland’s landscapes.

Understanding the unique Iceland daylight hours by month is crucial for planning your trip, as it greatly affects the type of activities available and the overall experience of your visit. Whether you’re chasing the midnight sun or the mystical northern lights, a little knowledge on this topic can go a long way in maximizing your enjoyment of Iceland’s natural beauty and outdoor adventures.

Festive Activities

Winter is a festive season in Reykjavik, with Christmas markets and decorations lighting up the city:

  • Christmas Markets: Browse for local crafts and gifts.
  • Christmas Walking Tours: Learn about Icelandic Christmas traditions.

Indoor Activities for Bad Weather

Reykjavik’s culinary scene and shopping options provide perfect indoor activities:

  • Dining Out: Sample local Icelandic cuisine at Reykjavik’s best restaurants.
  • Bar Hopping: Explore the city’s vibrant nightlife and craft beer scene.
  • Shopping: Visit Laugavegur, Kolaportid flea market, and Kringlan shopping mall for a variety of shopping experiences.

Answering common questions about Reykjavik in winter

Is Reykjavik worth visiting in winter?

Absolutely! Reykjavik offers a unique blend of cultural and natural attractions that are especially magical in the winter months.

Is winter a bad time to visit Iceland?

Not at all. While the weather can be cold and daylight hours shorter, winter is an excellent time to experience the northern lights, enjoy winter sports, and explore Iceland’s stunning landscapes with fewer crowds.

Can you see northern lights in Reykjavik in December?

Yes, December is a great time to see the northern lights, although you may need to venture outside the city for the best views due to light pollution.

Is it worth it to go to Iceland in December?

Definitely. December in Iceland offers the chance to experience unique winter landscapes, festive activities, and the possibility of witnessing the northern lights.

Reykjavik in winter is a destination like no other, offering visitors a wide range of activities and experiences that showcase the beauty and culture of Iceland. Whether you’re exploring the city’s sights, embarking on a tour to see the northern lights, or soaking in a geothermal pool, Reykjavik in winter is sure to provide an unforgettable experience.

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