It’s no secret that Iceland can be a pricey destination. Luckily there are so many free things to do – even in the capital! Here are seven things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland for free. Make sure you experience them all when visit Reykjavik
1. Visit the free attractions in Reykjavik
Lots of Reykjavik’s main attractions are free to see and within a short walking distance to each other.
The stunning Harpa Concert Hall sits on Reykjavik’s sea wall, shimmering in prisms of light on a sunny day. Both the Icelandic Opera and the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra perform here and while you can catch a concert from time to time, the real star of the show is the building itself, made entirely out of glass. It’s completely free to pop in and see the interior, or just admire its beautiful exterior.
As perhaps the most famous landmark in Reykjavik, visitors can’t miss witnessing the stoic Hallgrímskirkja Church sitting atop its precipice, a small hill overlooking the town. It’s free to go inside the main church but you’ll need to pay for a ticket if you want to hike up the tower for beautiful views of the city.
Built as both an ode to the sun and as a resemblance to the boats that sail in and out of Reykjavik’s harbor, Sun Voyager is a sculpture that sits along the city’s waterfront. While many think that Solfarid, its name in Icelandic, was built to resemble a Viking ship, this wasn’t the original intention. Still, Sun Voyager makes for a wonderful photo op with the striking Mount Esja across the water.
The Harpa Concert Hall, Hallgrimskirkja church, and the Sun Voyager can be easily connected by a 25-minute walk.
2. Walk along the seashore and enjoy the view
Reykjavik is nestled on Iceland’s western coast with stunning views across the bay to the often snow-capped Mount Esja. A paved path runs along the city’s seashore and offers visitors a great place to enjoy the views and get in their steps along the way.
Several beautiful landmarks are located along the path including the striking Sun Voyager sculpture and the bright yellow Höfði Lighthouse. The entire path takes about an hour to walk and starts at the Skarfagarður Lighthouse, continuing 2.7 miles to the Harpa Concert Center.
You can also fuel up for your walk, or reward yourself for a job well done, at the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand which is perfectly situated a 5-minute walk from Harpa! Make sure you taste the Icelandic hot dog when you pass by. Even better, this might be the cheapest dining option in town.
3. Admire the swans and ducks at Tjörnin Pond
Located right in the heart of Reykavik’s city center, the Tjörnin Pond is a scenic spot to visit no matter the time of year. In summer, swans and ducks are seen lazily floating along the water’s edge while in winter many locals ice skate along its frozen surface. Colorful houses, sculptures (like Adonis and the Unknown Bureaucrat), and several landmarks like the Pavilion and the National Gallery of Iceland line its shore.
4. Join a Free walking tour in Reykjavik
Like many European cities, Reykjavik offers free walking tours. One of the best in the city is Citywalk which offers daily tours around town, highlighting the culture, history, and heritage of Reykjavik. This is a great way to get your bearings in the city and learn a bit more about its past and traditions along the way. Although completely free, donations are appreciated.
5. Go see the Northern light/midnight sun at Grótta Lighthouse for free!
At the tip of the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula, Grótta Lighthouse is a stunning spot to take a walk and enjoy Iceland’s plentiful nature, for instance, seeing the northern lights in Iceland Winter and the mid-night sun in Iceland summer. Surrounded by a nature reserve and bird habitat, this particular lighthouse was built in 1947.
Because this spot is a bit outside town and away from light pollution, it’s a good place to see the Northern Lights in winter or to simply enjoy the golden glow of the Midnight Sun in summer. Driving here is easy if you rent a car for your Iceland trip at less than a 10-minute drive. You can also walk here from downtown Reykjavik, although it takes around an hour, or take the public bus which is a 30-minute ride.
6. Visit the free art museum: Marshall House
Hidden away along Reykjavik’s harbor, the Marshall House is a free art museum in the Grandi neighborhood, traditionally an area for fishing. Several different exhibits are housed here including the Kling and Bang Gallery and the Living Art Museum which both feature contemporary art from both Icelandic and international artists.
While entrance to these collections is free, some special exhibits do require purchasing a ticket. If your stomach starts to growl while you’re admiring the art, pop into their restaurant, La Primavera, for a bite to eat or a drink at their bar.
photo from Visit Iceland
Great museums in Reykjavik that cost
If you’re a museum lover and willing to explore beyond the free offerings of Reykjavik, there are several remarkable museums that, while not free, are well worth the admission price. These museums provide a deeper dive into Iceland’s rich history, culture, and some unique aspects that are quintessentially Icelandic. Here’s a list of must-visit museums in Reykjavik for those who don’t mind spending a little to gain a lot in terms of experience and knowledge:
The Settlement Exhibition
This museum offers a unique glimpse into Reykjavik’s Viking Age history. It features an open excavation where visitors can see Viking ruins and learn about the city’s past through advanced digital technology. The exhibition is open every day from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Adults can visit for 2,740 ISK, while group bookings are also available.
photo from Visit Reykjavik
The National Museum of Iceland
Located at Sudurgata 41, this museum is the oldest in Iceland, celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2013. It provides an in-depth look into Icelandic history from the settlement to the present day, with interactive touch screens and audio guides enhancing the experience. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM, with guided tours in English available on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Admission is 2,500 ISK for adults, while children under 18 and people with disabilities can enter for free.
Whales of Iceland
This museum offers an immersive experience into the world of whales, complete with atmospheric blue lighting and whale sounds. Visitors can use virtual reality glasses to feel like they’re swimming alongside these magnificent creatures. The museum is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, and city cardholders receive a 30% discount on admission.
Reykjavik Maritime Museum
Dedicated to Iceland’s maritime history, this museum showcases the country’s seafaring heritage, including artifacts, model ships, and a Coast Guard vessel that survived the Cod Wars. Located in the Grandi area, it’s open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, and admission is free for city cardholders.
Perlan – Wonders of Iceland
While not a traditional museum, Perlan is a notable landmark in Reykjavik that offers exhibitions and experiences related to Icelandic nature, including an ice cave and a planetarium.
photo from Perlan tour
Árbær Open Air Museum
This museum takes you back to 19th and early 20th century Iceland, featuring a real-life village setup with historically dressed actors, traditional houses, and farm animals. It’s an engaging way to experience rural life in historical Iceland.
The Icelandic Punk Museum
Located centrally in Reykjavik, this unique museum is dedicated to the punk music scene in Iceland and is housed in a former public bathroom. It’s a small but fascinating look into a specific aspect of Iceland’s cultural history.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum
Known for its unique collection, this museum is dedicated to the study of penises and features over 200 specimens. It offers a quirky and amusing experience, complete with a café that serves thematic drinks.
Each of these museums offers a different aspect of Icelandic culture and history, providing visitors with a comprehensive understanding of the nation’s heritage and identity.
Photo from visit Reykjavik
7. Visit the Heiðmörk Nature Reserve
If you can’t get enough of the pristine nature that surrounds Reykjavik, head out to the Heiðmörk Nature Reserve. Tucked away on the outskirts of town, this vast public greenspace is a beautiful place to get your first taste of Iceland’s interesting geology. Visitors can explore the remnants of lava fields at Rauðhólar’s red rocks by hiking or biking along the idyllic Elliðavatn Lake. Many Icelanders come here to chop down their Christmas trees in December.
The best way to reach Heiðmörk Nature Reserve is by rental car, although there is also a public bus from Reykjavik.
photo from Viking tour
Overall, Reykjavik has a wonderful list of things to see and do that are free. No road trip through the country is complete without stopping in the capital. Book your rental car with Firefly Iceland Car Rentals for cheap rates and reliable vehicles and get started on your Icelandic road trip as soon as possible!