Looking for a packed 2-day Reykjavik itinerary?
This post is for you. I cover all the highlights of Iceland’s beautiful capital city, including what to see, what to eat, and where to stay.
I also share some of the recommendations from my trip, including why you shouldn’t try to visit the punk museum on a bank holiday and why the ryebread in Iceland is definitely worth trying. It tastes like cake!
Is Reykjavik worth visiting?
100% yes in my opinion!
Of course, a lot of people travel to Iceland to immerse themselves in the incredible scenery and to try and spot the northern lights, not to go on a city break. They might just pass through the city rather than stay.
But Reykjavik has a lot to offer. There are great museums, colourful street art, and some incredible buildings that look like they belong in a fantasy novel or film. I also enjoyed some AMAZING food there, including some of the best rye bread I’ve ever eaten. My 2-day Reykjavik itinerary covers the highlights reel, as well as a few interesting spots we discovered.
My advice? Don’t skip Reykjavik. We mixed up day trips with a couple of days exploring Iceland’s capital city to see what it’s all about.
Here’s a 2-day Reykjavik itinerary that will walk you through the main attractions as well as where to eat and where to stay. Let’s get started!
Are two days in Reykjavik enough?
Before we get into the details of my 2-day Reykjavik itinerary, let’s talk about how much time you need in the city.
The thing about Reykjavik is that it’s pretty compact. You can walk around on foot without needing to get a taxir or a bus. Although there are plenty of motorised scooters you can use to zip about the place.
And while there are lots of things to do, I think you can cover the headlners in two days no problem. Of course, there were plenty of things we missed but that’s a reason to come back another time, right?
I definitely think Iceland would be cool to visit in another season – during the depths of winter – so I would love to return.
How long is the perfect Iceland trip?
Well, it’s worth mentioning that I’ve kept this blog strictly about Reykjavik. The clue’s in the name. It’s a 2-day Reykjavik itinerary not a 2-day Iceland itinerary. Of course, there are plenty of day trips to do in Iceland.
If you want do do day trips too (which you definitely should) you need longer. I would say 3-4 days in Iceland is perfect. And of course if you want to spend longer that’s even better.
How do you get from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik?
It’s pretty easy. We were booked on an EasyJet holiday with our hotel and flights included. However, my sister didn’t book transfers so we had to figure out how to get to Reykjavik from Keflavik International Airport.
The airport in Iceland isn’t big. As you walk into arrivals you’ll see two desks that are selling bus tickets into the city centre.
There is a range of prices but basically, there are two options:
- A direct bus that drops you at the nearest drop-off to your hotel
- A bus where you have to change buses outside the city so that it can drop you at the drop off nearest to your hotel.
We went for the latter and it was fine. There was no having to hang about – we went from one large coach bus onto a smaller minibus with one other couple and were dropped outside our hotel. If it was the UK I just KNOW you’d be waiting for ages for the second bus.
If you’re planning to drive, you can also book a hire car at the airport.
2-day Reykjavik itinerary
Do a walking tour
One of the first things I always recommend doing when you visit a new place is a walking tour. It’s a great way to see the main headliners of the city and get some proper context to what you’re looking at – rather than simply wandering around on your own.
We booked our walking tour through Viator. It was called the Walk with a Viking Tour and it was a little pricier than most walking tours I’ve been on before – it came in at £36 each – but that’s Iceland for you.
It made us realise how pricey Iceland really is! The tour started at Ingolfur Square in Reykjavik and covered lots of different sights in the city, including Laugavegur, Tjornin, and the Harpa Concert Hall.
It was really interesting to hear more about the history of Iceland and to get a feel for what the people of Iceland are like. Plus, hearing about the naming conventions of Icelandic people was cool.
We also discovered various things that you just wouldn’t if you wandered around alone. For example, finding out where the best place to get Icelandic jumpers is – which is the Reykjavik fleamarket apparently.
And, additionally, finding out which shop it is on the colourful rainbow street that has the cat curled up on the table at the front.
Walk up Skolavordustigur Street (Rainbow Street)
Keep your 2-day Reykjavik itinerary rolling by strolling along Skolavordustigur, also known as the city’s famous Rainbow Street.
You’ll probably have seen pictures of this famous street already and, just in case you were in any doubt that it’s a tourist hotspot, the clusters of people taking selfies will make it crystal clear. We even saw two people lying right down in the street to take a photo together.
So why is it rainbow-coloured? Well, it all stems from Reykjavik Pride, which was first hosted in the city in 1999. As part of the celebrations, Skolavordustigur was painted in rainbow colours. In 2019 the artwork was made permanent – which I think is a great decision. Too often amazing art like this is only temporary, why not have it there 365 days a year?
This vibrant and colourful street is lined with boutique shops, cosy cafes, and art galleries, but I can’t say I went in to many of them. I did feel like I went up and down this street about a hundred times over the five days I was here, so there are plenty of photo opps!
See Hallgrimskirkja church
You can’t visit Reykjavik without a visit to Hallgrimskirkja, the city’s most iconic landmark. To me, this looks like something out of Lord of the Rings.
The exterior is clad in light-coloured concrete, giving it a unique, ethereal and almost elvish appearance. It doesn’t exactly look like Minas Tirith but the pale stone that glints in the light certainly alludes to it.
The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrimur Petursson and its exterior is inspired by the hexagonal basalt columns found in Iceland’s volcanic landscapes. It’s stunning from the outside and you’ll probably give yourself a crick in the neck from craning up at it.
Once inside, you’ll be greeted by a serene and minimalist interior, that contrasts with the grandeur of the exterior. The church’s acoustics make it a popular venue for concerts and recitals, so if you’re lucky, you might catch a performance during your visit.
Like a good view? You can go up to the top of the church tower via an elevator or some stairs. However, there is an entrance fee so, of course, I won’t be covering that in my list of free things to do in Reykjavik.
From what I read, the views are pretty cool though. A 2-day Reykjavik itinerary wouldn’t be complete without stopping by.
Sun voyager statue
Another great free thing to do in Reykjavik is seeing the Sun Voyager statue. Standing proudly along Reykjavik’s waterfront, the Sun Voyager is a striking sculpture that has come to symbolise Iceland’s spirit of exploration and adventure.
Designed by Icelandic artist Jón Gunnar Árnason, you’ll find it located in the harbour area of the city. The Sun Voyager was unveiled in 1990 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the city of Reykjavik.
It was intended to pay tribute to the Norse seafarers who ventured into the unknown centuries ago. I’m definitely getting Lord of the Rings vibes again, just me? The sculpture does resemble a Viking long-ship but apparently, that’s not what it actually represents.
According to the artist, the Sun Voyager is an ode to the sun and symbolizes the promise of undiscovered territories and the dream of hope, progress, and freedom.
The statue is strategically positioned near the harbour, facing the open sea. When we were there but it was all gleaming and silvery in the sunshine and certainly conveyed that little bit of magic. Don’t miss it!
Harpa concert hall
I’m not one that’s usually too taken with architecture but I’ll make an exception for Harpa concert hall in my 2-day Reykjavik itinerary because of its shimmering, glinting, show-stopping glory.
Built in 2011, Harpa has welcomed renowned artists and performers from around the world. It’s home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera and world-famous musicians such as Björk, Sigur Rós and Cyndi Lauper have performed here. It also once held the annual world yo-yo competition! Not just all the high-brow opera stuff, then.
The building is mesmerizing. Its glass façade, comprised of numerous hexagonal panels, creates a kaleidoscope of colours that change with the light and weather conditions. It’s inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland – in other words, all the volcanic rock that forms the landscape of the country. It also looked a bit like dragon scales to me!
Inside it’s just as impressive. With all glass above you, it’s like you’re in the belly of the beast. I can’t tell you much else about what else is inside as I only nipped in to go to the bathroom, but there are shops, cafes, and restaurants where you can relax and soak in the ambience.
If you head up to the upper floors there are some sweet views of the harbour.
First off, Lake Tjornin in Reykjavik is no ordinary lake—it’s right in the centre of everything, which is unusual. But with its tranquil waters, surrounding greenery, and views of the surroundings, it’s the perfect place to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Interestingly, Lake Tjornin is that it’s not entirely natural. It was actually created as a reservoir in the early 19th century to provide a reliable source of water for the growing city. Today, it serves as a peaceful habitat for various bird species.
Speaking of birds, Lake Tjornin is renowned for its vibrant birdlife. From graceful swans and elegant geese to cute little ducks, you’ll find an array of feathered friends gracing the lake’s surface. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see locals and tourists alike strolling around the lake, armed with bags of bread to feed these friendly feathered residents.
During the winter months, Lake Tjornin often freezes over, transforming into an enchanting ice-skating paradise. Locals and visitors lace up their skates and glide across the frozen surface, creating a lively and festive atmosphere.
Whether you’re looking to appreciate nature or simply enjoy a peaceful moment, a visit to Lake Tjornin is a must-do in Reykjavik.
If you’re looking for a vibrant and eclectic street to explore in Reykjavik, look no further than Laugavegur. This lively and bustling street is the city’s main shopping and cultural hub and is lined with shops, cafes, restaurants, and some rather cool street art.
As you walk along the street, you’ll see all the colourful and imaginative murals that adorn the buildings. From stunning portraits to abstract designs, the street art is cool AF and adds a unique charm and character to the area. Make sure you take lots of pics!
Laugavegur is also a shopper’s paradise. The street is lined with boutiques, design stores, and souvenir shops. Whether you’re in search of trendy clothing, Icelandic wool products, or unique handmade crafts, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye. I can’t say I bought anything but I did have a browse some of the souvenirs – puffins are popular!
The street is dotted with numerous cafes, restaurants, and bakeries, offering a wide range of delectable treats. We didn’t really eat out much but there were a lot of places that really did tempt me to bust the budget.
We stood outside and admired the menu from the outside, before retreating to the hotel room with a slice of pizza from the 7-11. Whatever your travel style, a stroll along Laugavegur is a must in Reykjavik.
Go to Grotta lighthouse
This location is a little outside of Reykjavik but it’s well worth the trip.
In fact, we only ended up going after our planned trip to the punk museum in Reykjavik was abruptly cancelled when we realised it was a bank holiday and it was closed. Disaster! Not to worry, we went back to our research and decided to visit Grotta Lighthouse instead.
Also known as Grottafyr Lighthouse, is one of the oldest lighthouses in Iceland. It was first built in 1897 and served as an important navigational aid for ships entering the Faxaflói Bay. Situated on the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula, at the westernmost tip of Reykjavik, it’s near the town of Seltjarnarnes and is surrounded by a nature reserve.
If you want serene and calm, this is it. The time we spent on the beach next to it was so peaceful and restorative. One thing to note is that the lighthouse is only accessible at low tide. It’s located on a small islet that is accessible via a causeway during low tide.
Visitors can walk across the sandy pathway to reach the lighthouse, however, it was closed when we were there.
A final note – you can either get a taxi, get the bus, or walk to Grotta lighthouse. We opted to catch the bus there and then walk back, so it was a bit of an adventure. However, it did mean we got to see some amazing street art on the way home – see below.
Admire the street art
The colourful street art in Laugavegur is pretty easy to locate.
However, there’s some other street art that I wanted to include in my 2-day Reykjavik itinerary that’s a little more off the grid. One of my favourite art pieces was this enormous piece emblazoned on the side of the house. And once I learned the story behind it I loved it even more.
We stumbled on it by chance on the long walk back into town after our visit to Grotta lighthouse. It was a very long, boring walk back so seeing this jee-ed us up a little.
The painting was done by an Australian graffiti artist called Guido Van Helten. He used to be a graffiti artist and got in too much trouble for it, his words, and ended up studying visual art at university.
He was commissioned to create three large-scale murals on the ‘Loftkastalinn’ building in the harbour area of Reykjavik. The painting I saw came about when Guido knocked on the door of the house and asked if he could paint over the old graffiti at the bottom.
The homeowner was taken by his work and fetched a portrait of her grandfather, which is what you see on the side of the house. Apparently, the owner said that the portrait is “part of the building now.”
Eat at the famous hot dog stand
The hotdog stand in downtown Reykjavik probably looks quite unassuming, but it has quite a history. Its connection to former US President Bill Clinton makes it one of the most famous places to visit in Reykjavik – even the Kardashian’s went here during a trip to Iceland.
Back in 2004, President Clinton made a stop at this hot dog stand, simply known as “Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur” or ‘The Best Hot Dogs in Town’ during a trip for a UNICEF conference. It wasn’t a planned visit or photo opp. I read that the woman who owned the stand hollered at him to come over and try and hot dog and, well, he did!
The hot dogs typically come with a unique combination of condiments, including crispy fried onions, raw onions, ketchup, and a remoulade sauce, but he requested mustard only. He enjoyed it so much that he proclaimed it to be the best hot dog he ever had.
The legacy of that one impromptu pitstop is still visible today and many travellers make it a point to visit this legendary spot while exploring Reykjavik. I wasn’t going to miss out, and luckily the queue wasn’t too long.
The hot was actually really good – something about the sauce just makes it sing. It was one of the best things I ate during this trip!
Go on a puffin cruise
What’s a city break without some form of water-based activity?
First thing on the agenda of my 2-day Reykjavik itinerary is this – the puffin cruise that you can do from the harbour! These cute little puffins are like the rockstars of the avian world and hundreds of them flock to an island just a quick 15-minute cruise away from the capital.
OK, here’s the scoop. When we did the puffin cruise, it was pretty early in the season – around early May. So we didn’t exactly see puffins by the hundreds. In fact, I probably only saw a handful.
But, but, but… I imagine there are a lot more later on in the season. If you have a proper camera, this is your time to shine – although they do have binoculars on board.
Either way, cruising out on the water in the sunshine was simply blissful. I felt so lucky that the weather was so lovely – normally on any boat trip on the open water it’s absolutely freezing!
So, if you’re up for some birdwatching fun, along with nice views and a relaxing boat ride, , hop on the puffin cruise from Reykjavik.
Visit Laundromat Cafe
After we booked the puffin tour we had a spare hour or so before the tour began, so we went on the hunt for a café to hang out in for a little while.
I clicked on the Laundromat Café website which is full of laundry machines that you have to click to view their menu. The café offers a fully functioning laundry service and people bring their washing to get done while they stop off for a coffee. I
t was based on a café in Denmark with the concept being brought over to Iceland and Laundromat Café opening in 2011. It’s a cool idea, as well as being valuable intel if you’re in Reykjavik for a bit longer than two days.
The inside is homey and eclectic. There are shelves with books lined up in colour-coordinating order at the front counter. There are maps all over the walls. At the back, there are loads of gold-framed pictures of other laundromats all around the world. Along with fringed table lamps and red leather diner seats, it’s this big mish-mash of stuff.
Anyway, I was on the hunt for a hot chocolate and Laundromat Café 100% delivered on it. The service was great, the staff were really friendly and the hot chocolate I ordered was rich, really chocolatey and delicious – and they even had non-dairy milk to go with it.
Visit the Icelandic Punk Museum
Ah, the Iceland Punk Museum! A 2-day Reykjavik itinerary would not be complete without a stop at the punk museum. As soon I as heard about this place it was on the list of things to do.
Devastatingly, I didn’t actually get a chance to go when we were there because on the day we decided to go it was a bank holiday (Labour Day) and it was closed – I was SO gutted!
The thing that piqued my interest is the fact that the museum is located in some old public toilets in downtown Reykjavik. I don’t know why but that seems like the perfect location for a museum about a counter-culture movement – a bit of an F you to all your regular fancy museum buildings.
Another fact is that it was opened by John Lydon, otherwise known as Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols – one of the most iconic punk bands in history. The museum chronicles the rise of the Icelandic punk movement in the 1980s. You’ll find yourself immersed in a punk paradise that pays homage to the Icelandic punk scene.
From what I’ve read, the walls are adorned with posters, photographs, and all sorts of memorabilia that capture the rebellious essence of punk rock. It’s like a time capsule of punk history, showcasing the influential bands, the DIY ethos, and the iconic moments that defined the movement. I
really wish I could have visited – don’t be me, go!
Eat at Caffe Loki
This was a recommendation by the tour guide on our walking tour.
Loki’s is known for selling traditional Icelandic food and it’s also located directly opposite the Hallgrimskirkja church, meaning you’ll get some amazing views of the church as you eat. We purposely headed upstairs and chose a window seat for this purpose.
I’d already had a look at the menu and knew exactly what I wanted to have. Gratinated mashed fish with rye bread and salad – basically white fish covered in melted cheese. It came out in this huge bowl with tons of gooey cheese and it was just delicious.
Rye bread in Iceland was also revelatory. I’ve eaten rye bread during various health kicks in the past and I’ve never been a huge fan. It’s always seemed dense and dry – a real disappointment compared to regular bread. Well, not here. The rye bread was light and sweet and almost cake-like. It kind of reminded me of Soreen bread that you get.
They also have rye bread ice cream for dessert here which I really wanted to try. It was highly recommended by the tour guide – but alas I was absolutely stuffed so I declined.
All in all, I’d describe Loki’s is a friendly, no-frills kind of place where you can enjoy a taste of traditional Icelandic food. It wasn’t exactly fancy, but I really enjoyed the food.
What else is there to do in Iceland?
Golden Circle tour
The Golden Circle tour is one of the most popular tours in Iceland and will enable you to see all of its biggest headliners, all in one day.
I’m talking Gullfoss waterfall, Thingvellier National Park, Geysir hot spring area, Kerid Crater, and lots more. Every time we got off the bus there was something else incredible to see. An enormous waterfall, a stunning landscape, a giant crater carved out of the earth… it’s just bam, bam, bam.
It was wonderful to see Iceland in all its barren, bare-faced beauty. The Golden Circle tour is a top-notch bucket list experience, IMO.
- Read my blog on the Golden Circle tour
Visit the Blue Lagoon
Some people drag the Blue Lagoon. It’s too expensive, it’s too touristy, there are less etc. However, I really enjoyed it. We did it as part of the Golden Circle tour but you can also book it independently.
For me, it was the perfect way to relax and unwind at the end of the day! I will concede that the prices are exorbitant. However, by this time I’d made peace with the fact that Iceland is just expensive. You can’t do anything about it, so I just sucked it up and was broke for the rest of the month when I got back. What you gonna do?
Anyway, the Blue Lagoon was quite lovely in the late afternoon sunshine. I didn’t even get the eggy sulphur smell everyone talks about. We floated around in the water, took photos, and then headed to the bar to get our free drink. I opted for a sparkling rose wine, which was lovely.
After that, we got our free facemask and floated around some more. And then it was time to get changed and head back to the bus. All in all, I can’t think of a better way to round off a busy day of sightseeing!
Visit an ice cave
This was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done – visiting Katla ice cave!
The pictures of the ice cave looked incredible but the reason we picked it was because we needed to be picked up from Reykjavik, which this tour does. It’s a long drive to get there but we got to stop off at some lovely waterfalls on the way there and back.
You then get into a giant super jeep and drive across the ice to get to the ice cave. Hold onto your hats because it’s one of the bumpiest rides I’ve ever been on – one to avoid after a big lunch! After what seems a really long time you finally arrive at the cave.
To be able to walk through this cave in the middle of nowhere was surreal. We picked our way across one by one with only a rope bridge to hang onto, marvelling at the beauty of the glacier at every step.
I would highly recommend doing an ice cave tour in Iceland!
Where to stay in Iceland
We stayed at an amazing hotel – Centre Hotel Laugavegur.
It’s right in the centre of Reykjavik and as soon as you walk in you can just feel your shoulders relax. At least mine’s did. There’s a fireplace on the right of the door as well as lots of cosy-looking seats to sit down in. Everything is done in a contemporary Scandi style, which I love.
They also upgraded us when we arrived because our room wasn’t ready, and this meant we got a balcony – which was awesome! The room was everything we needed – cosy bed, lovely warm shower, and I particularly loved the cheerful canary yellow wall.
The other thing I want to mention about this hotel is the breakfast. It was so good. I had granola, jam, yoghurt, and banana halves assembled in a bowl every morning. Plus, there was fresh orange juice, coffee, and cooked breakfast items. The scrambled eggs are really good here.
We didn’t get to go as many times as we wanted because our flight back was super early, so we had to miss our last breakfast. Well, I was gutted. I really wanted one more go here!
There’s also a dinner restaurant here although we didn’t get a chance to go. But either way, I loved this hotel and would definitely go back.
More blogs about Iceland
If you enjoyed this 2-day Reykjavik itinerary blog you may also like these…
- The Golden Circle tour in Iceland: a complete guide
- Awesome and free things to do in Reykjavik
- What to pack for Iceland in spring
- Iceland in spring: what to expect