Reykjavik is the starting point for most Iceland adventures. All too often though, people are on their way before really taking the time to see the city. That’s a big mistake. If you don’t spend at least a couple days in Reykjavik, you’re missing out. Reykjavik may be small and a bit quaint for a capital city, but it is full of interesting places and unique exhibits if you take the time to look around. Really, how many places were settled by actual vikings? There’s no way for this city not to be amazing with stories like that!
On my stopover in Iceland, I spent a couple of days just exploring Reykjavik. On the first day I went on the City Walk, an excellent free walking tour put on by locals, and walked around to see some of the city’s iconic landmarks. My second day in the city, I purchased the Reykjavik City Card. A day using the City Card turned out to be a great way to experience Reykjavik.
Reykjavik is pretty under-appreictaed in the travel sphere these days, in my opinion. On a sunny day, it’s an absolutely beautiful city and even when the clouds roll over, it’s got some of the most interesting history around. If you’re yearning for Iceland history and culture, read on to learn more about the Reykjavik City Card!
Reykjavik City Card: What’s Included and How It Works
The Reykjavik City Card gets you a combination of free admission to many museums, pools, and attractions. You also have access to great discounts at restaurants and on various services, and you can make the most of it all with free busing around the city for day. The are 14 museums / exhibits available on the pass, and 7 local pools. Reykjavik is a small city, so moving between attractions does not take long. With a plan, you can cover a lot in a day!
Find the full list of what’s included and what discounts are available here.
The are multiple places to buy a Reykjavik City Card, including many hotels and Reykjavik City Hall. Once you have a card, all you have to do is show it at the attractions you want access to, or on the city bus. Buy a card that is valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours depending on how much you want to see. You don’t need to order ahead or book any attractions in advance, so just pick one up when you’re in Reykjavik.
The Perfect One-Day Reykjavik City Card Itinerary
While I was in Reykjavik, I purchased a one day city pass. My itinerary was based on recommendations from my Airbnb host, and the tour guide from the Reykjavik Free Walking Tour on my first day in the city. Overall, I was able to use my pass for 4 attractions, and use the free busing. Here’s the itinerary that I followed that day!
1. National Museum of Iceland
Begin your day at the National Museum of Iceland. This museum is massive, and it brings you from the beginning of Iceland’s history right up to the present day. There are hundreds of interesting artifacts. The permanent exhibit, Making of a Nation, is the one that I most recommend seeing. It takes you on a journey through Iceland’s history, learning about how settlers first came to Iceland and what life was like for them. The exhibit contains 2,000 objects and a combination of text, audio, and video.
The museum opens at 10AM, and I recommend about 1.5-2 hours here. If you’re really enjoying it, you can absolutely spend longer. There’s no shortage of things to see here! If you’ve got the explore jitters like me and want to keep moving though, 2 hours is plenty of time to get really familiar with Iceland’s history and see some really interesting artifacts.
The National Museum of Iceland is only 700 m / 0.5mile walk from City Hall, along the edge of Tjörnin pond. The locals just called it “The Pond,” and you can’t miss it when you’re exploring downtown Reykjavik.
Reykjavik Travel Tip: The University of Iceland is right next to the National Museum of Iceland. Their cafeteria has the cheapest hot lunch you’ll find in Reykjavik, so stop in when you’re done at the museum.
2. The Settlement Exhibition
The next stop on your Reykjavik City Card adventure is the Settlement Exhibition. One of the most unique things you will see in Reykjavik, this museum was build around a archeological site. Construction was under way for a different project when the remnants of a long house, estimated to have been built in the year 871, were discovered. Construction halted and the site was preserved and studied by archaeologists. The city then decided to build a museum around it.
Now, you can go in and see the long house (or at least what’s left of it!) for yourself. Don’t expect to find a full standing house, but it is still very cool to see the base of the house, the layout and structure. Videos and simulations along the walls help you visualize what the house would have been like when it was in use over a thousand years ago.
The Settlement Exhibition doesn’t take long, plan for about 45-60 minutes here. This will also put you in Reykjavik’s downtown, a great place to pick up Iceland souvenirs.
3. Ferry to Videy Island
If you’ve got a nice day, take the ferry to Videy Island and have a look around. On the ferry ride over you have a beautiful view of the Harpa from the water, and great views of Reykjavik from the island.
On Videy Island, there’s a lot to find. The oldest Church in Iceland is there, and Videy House was the first building in the country. Other things to look for included the Imagine Peace Tower, a work of art by Yoko Ono, a shipwreck, inscribed stones, and an area called “Thor’s Headland.” There is also a protected bird area on the island, and you might be lucky enough to spot some puffins depending on what time of year you’re visiting!
Make your way to Videy island anytime. The last ferry back leaves at 6:30PM, make sure you’re on it! Got a not so great weather day? Check out the Maritime Museums, or one the Art Museums available on the City Card.
When you get back on land, use your Reykjavik City Card to score a discount on dinner (or check out this list of cheap places to eat in Reykjavik).
4. Reykjavik Thermal Pools
The last item of the day is a soak in one of Reykjavik’s many thermal pools. There’s no shortage of quality, naturally heated water in the city so take you pick. I went to Vestubaejarlaug, a favourite for the locals. Wherever you’re staying, there will be a pool within walking distance. The thermal pools are the main after work hang out for the locals. Places like the Blue Lagoon and other more photogenic and tourist-oriented locations are a lot of fun. I had a great time at the Blue Lagoon, and highly recommend it, but these aren’t really the pools that residents of Reykjavik use themselves. The Reykjavik city pools on the other hand, are packed with locals every evening.
When visiting the thermal pools, there are a few things you should know. It’s a good idea to bring your own lock, and a pair of flip flops for walking too and from the shower. Everyone is expected to shower without your bathing suit on before entering the pool. When the leaving pool, be sure to dry off completely so as not to track water in to the change rooms.
Is The Reykjavik City Card worth it?
Now that you’ve got an amazing itinerary, if I may say so myself, you might wondering about the value of the Reykjavik City Card. It’s actually a really good deal if you follow this itinerary. I was impressed when I figured it out! The cost of the one day itinerary in this post without the city pass is 6,050 ISK ( ~ $60-65 USD). That’s not including the added bonus of a bus pass for the day. The 24 hour Reykjavik City Card… only 3,700 ISK ( ~ $35 USD). Prices correct as of 2018.
It works out to almost half the price for one day, and as for the activities available, it’s a great way to see Reykjavik. There’s not much that’s not on the card, either with free access or a discount.
Have you been to Iceland yet, and did you spend time in Reykjavik? If not, are you planning to go sometime soon? Let me know below!
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43 Replies to “Exploring Reykjavik: The Perfect 24 Hour Reykjavik City Card Itinerary”
Great tips! I didn’t even know there was a city pass when I visited earlier this year. It looks like it would’ve been worthwhile though. I’d like to do another visit there as a stopover sometime, so I’ll have to remember this.
That’s a great idea! It was really great value and the artefacts / archeological sites it lets you see are super cool.
Love the tips! I love city pass since they are always offering so much! 🙂
Yes! City Passes are awesome value, and let’s you see things you may have missed otherwise.
I’ve been to Iceland but I didn’t know about the city pass! It sounds like a great deal and I’ll definitely keep it in mind when I go back!
Yes it’s not super well known from what I’ve heard, it’s great though!
Reykjavik is such a cute and fun little city! I’ve been twice now, both times in winter, but would love to see it during the summer months as well. I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen much specific around the city (mostly just wandering and photos). Having already been to the Blue Lagoon I’d love to visit one of the city’s thermal pools as well!
I loved the Blue Lagoon! The local pools are a very different feel and it’s neat to have done both.
I am planning to visit. Hope to see lights. Cool itinerary
Wish I had seen lights, wasn’t there at quite the right time… So will just have to go back! Have fun!
Have always been considering city passes, but never really got to actually using them. Now after reading this post on Reykjavik, it seems like a great idea.
I love City Passes! Have used them in a few places now and they’re always a great way to see the city.
Love the idea of a City pass. Iceland is my dream destination and will land up there some day.
Definitely! Iceland is wonderful, I hope you get there soon.
Simply love iceland – it’s just peaceful, quiet and full of charm.
I miss being there and hope to visit again soon!
It’s really wonderful there! I would love to go again too
Totally love your itinerary. Iceland is always on top of my list. Wish to go there soon !
Do it! Great place, and so unique!
I went to Reykjavik but only for a day, so I didnt have much time to do all the things I wanted 🙁 looks like I missed out!
Ohhhh no, well, I guess you’ll have to go back! ?
I didn’t know Reykjavik has a City Pass! It is a great deal for people who want to visit many different museums and attractions in a short time!
It really is! It seems a lot of people didn’t know about it, but it’s a great option
Nearly cuts the cost in half! I didn’t know about the city pass when in Reykjavik, but my aunt and I wandered aimlessly throughout the city with no plan at all haha. Just stores, coffee shops, and restaurants! Seeing Videy island would have been pretty cool though!
That’s so fun! I love just wandering and seeing what you find too.
i would love to go to Iceland! love the idea of just popping over to the local thermal pool instead of the pub after work! we’d definitely consider the city pass too!
It’s so nice! It’s very standard in Iceland so it’s a great way to see what the locals really do!
I didn’t get the city pass when I was there as I didn’t know about it! But next time…. And there will be a next time
There’s always a next time for Iceland 😉
I have read a lot of posts about Iceland lately, but this is the first I’ve read about Reykjavik, one of my favorite cities. We spend a week many years ago, and it’s funny, but what I remember most was all the record stores and the fact that parents would leave their babies inside their strollers outside of the store when they went shopping. Does that still happen? It was a very weird phenomenon.
I loved Reykjavik too. I didn’t see it happen but I’ve read that it does, in other Northern European countries as well!
I would love to go back to Iceland and take advantage of the Rej card to do all the things you did. I could really enjoy seeing more of the capital city. We didn’t spend enough time there last time.
There’s so much to see in Iceland! Worth a trip back to spend time in Reykjavik 🙂
Wow this is such a great idea! The pass allows you to pack so much in! Iceland is high up on our bucket list and this itinerary sounds fantastic!
Get there ASAP, Iceland is amazing!
I loved Reykjavik and had a great time when I visited. I also went to the Museum which was a great place to visit. I didn’t go to the Island but being there in March it was a bit cold to be doing a lot of walking around outside. I went to the Blue Lagoon but also experienced a local pool which was nice to hang out in when it was snowing too!!
Ohhhh that would have been stunning in the snow, what a beautiful experience!
We were in Reykjavik for just a day from the cruise ship and their city excursion was nothing like this!
Oh that’s too bad! Just another reason to visit again, then!
Perfect timing, we will be there in a week and a half! Thanks for the tips!
You’re going to love it! Have fun
I can’t find which restaurants offer discounts on the Rekyavik City Card (or what the discounts are)..the main site doesn’t give those details, at least I couldn’t find on the site, any tips?
Hi there! Here’s a list of the restaurants on the pass (scroll down, it’s at the bottom of the page) https://visitreykjavik.is/wine-dine-reykjavik
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