For travelers driving Iceland’s Ring Road, there are a few activity options for their first day after flying into Keflavík airport. Some visit the Blue Lagoon, which is only 20 minutes away from Keflavík. Others head straight to the Golden Circle to begin their adventure. We chose to spend a day in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavík to decompress from the long flight and ward off any jet lag. Reykjavík is a small and walkable city with around 123,00 inhabitants. In this self guided walking tour, I will provide a map, a downloadable GPX, and a detailed walking guide with photographs and information for the tour highlights.
*My walking tour hits all of the main highlights in Reykjavík for a total distance of 3.7 miles (6km). I will also include extra points of interest on the map that I did not visit.
To begin your self guided walking tour of Reykjavik, you’ll want to start close to the center of the city. For those planning on doing the Ring Road, you can find central parking, or book a centrally located hotel. Your other options are public transport or extending your walk.
The starting point and first stop for most visitors to Reykjavík is Hallgrímskirkja. Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church that stands 244ft(74.5m) tall, making it the largest church in Iceland. At first glance, this church didn’t strike me as much to look at. Reading up on it’s design, I began to see the importance of the design language. Architect Guðjón Samúelsson designed Hallgrímskirkja to resemble the basalt columns and trap rocks that are a part of Iceland’s most beautiful landscapes.
There is an elevator inside of Hallgrímskirkja that allows visitors to enjoy views from the top of the church tower. Tickets are 900kr. ($9 USD) per person, and can be purchased at the gift shop inside of the church. The views of Reykjavik from the top of Hallgrímskirkja are pretty spectacular.
After visiting Hallgrímskirkja, walk west to the next stop of Tjörnin. Tjörnin is a small lake located in Reykjavik. There is a nice walkway that runs along the lake.
Listasafn Islands National Gallery of Iceland
If you’re in the mood to see some art, make sure to check out the National Gallery of Iceland. This gallery is located right next to the lake of Tjörnin. This gallery features a lot of the artwork from famous Icelandic artists.
Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík
Located right next to the National Gallery is Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík. This church was established in 1899 with a congregation of around 600 members. Known as the Free Church of Reykjavik, this church arose as an objection to the national church’s position on certain doctrines.
Reykjavik City Hall
Walking north along Tjörnin, you’ll see a walkway to your left that leads to Reykjavik City Hall. City Hall houses the offices of the mayor and other executive positions in Reykjavik.
Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík
After leaving City Hall, continue north on Lækjargata St to Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík. This building is home to the oldest Community College in Reykjavik, having been established in 1056.
After leaving Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík, continue north on Lækjargata St and you’ll see Stjórnarráðið. This unassuming building is actually the office of the Prime Minister of Iceland.
Continue north on Lækjargata and you’ll pass by the Central Bank of Iceland. Across the street from the Central Bank, you’ll see the Harpa Concert Hall. This building is used concerts and conferences. There is a gift store and restaurants inside. Like Hallgrímskirkja, the architecture of Harpa was designed to embody the Icelandic landscape.
Sólfarið – Sun Voyager
After leaving Harpa behind, head east along the waterfront and you’ll see the Sólfarið Sun Voyager. This stainless steel sculpture was designed by Jón Gunnar Árnason. The Sun Voyager is a dream boat, designed as an ode to the sun.
After enjoying the sites of Reykjavik, head towards Laugavegur. This street shares it’s name with the most popular trek in Iceland. The two have nothing in common though, as the Laugavegur in Reykavik is known as the place for some of Iceland’s best shopping.
This concludes this walking tour. After shopping and/or eating on Laugavegur you can return to your accomodation or walk the city streets of Reykjavik. There is plenty to see and do, and sometimes it’s fun to just wander freely and without a destination when exploring a new city.