Molten lava shows, geothermal baths and spectacular views of the northern lights are all quintessential Reykjavík experiences, and you don’t need to travel with a group to have an incredible time.
Population-wise, the city is minuscule by international standards — less than 150,000 people call Reykjavík home — but it punches above its weight in natural beauty, warmth (in atmosphere if not temperature) and quirkiness. Within the city limits, you’ll come across friendly people, Michelin-starred restaurants and lots of museums. There’s also an Elf School where you can learn the history behind Icelandic folklore (the $64 ticket price comes with tea, coffee and pancakes).
There’s a vibrant late-night scene here, too. The city is full of bars and nightclubs — many of which are clustered on the ultra-hip Laugavegur Street — and many restaurants stay open into the wee hours.
Reykjavík is recognized as one of the safest cities in the world, but if you’re traveling alone, Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, head of Visit Iceland, recommends experiencing the country’s natural wonders — like the Golden Circle and the Northern Lights — with the help of a local tour guide. Group tours are cheaper than private ones, and are a great way to make friends with other travelers.
Since there’s so much to see and do, careful planning is crucial. “Plan so you’ll have time to experience the most of Iceland,” Guðmundsdóttir says.
VISIT: Downtown Reykjavík, Sky Lagoon, National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavik Art Museum
SEE: Northern Lights bus tour, Golden Circle small group tour, Icelandic Lava Show
SHOP: nomad., Kolaportið flea market, Kirsuberjatréð (The Cherry Tree), Lucky Records
EAT: Grandi Mathöll, Dill, Skal
DRINK: Kiki Queer Bar, Brygjan Brewery, Vínstúkan Tíu sopar, Vedur