Family activities in Reykjavik - Swimming pools

10 great family activities in Reykjavik

10 great family activities in Reykjavik

You may have heard rumours about the vibrant nightlife in Reykjavik, and perhaps you thought to yourself that this is only a place for party people. Well, you would be wrong. Iceland’s capital is a great place for a trip with your loved ones and little ones. We gathered a list of ten great family activities in Reykjavik. We’re certain that after trying out one or more of these, you won’t hear those dreaded words from your child: “I’m bored”.


#1 Puffin watching – Parrot divers? Sea clowns? Little friars?

Now that I have your interest, let me introduce Atlantic puffins to you. If you go on a puffin tour with us (between May and August) you will find the answer to why these animals have all these weird names in different languages. They might be smaller than what you expected – also they are not penguins! But what they lack in size, they make up with their amazing flying and diving abilities. That combined with their delightful character will not leave you or your child unmoved. We are fortunate enough to have the ability to see these amazing birds just outside of the Old Harbour!

Family activities in Reykjavik - Puffin watching

Two puffins debate the weather close to Reykjavik


#2 Horseback riding – “They are horses, not ponies!”

Very few things are as magical for a child as travelling on a fuzzy fur animal that is big as a giant in their eyes. Well, maybe not the Icelandic horses since they are rather small for horses (they are still not ponies). Speaking of the oddities of these horses, did you know that other breeds have 3 gaits while the Icelandic horses have 5? Horseback riding will certainly be a family activity that everyone can enjoy together. As you ride through breathtaking nature you get to experience a fraction of how the people in the olden times lived on this island. We recommend Íshestar, which is the industry leader in animal welfare and animal treatment. And don’t forget it’s possible to combine horseback riding with whale watching or northern lights hunting!

Family activities in Reykjavik - Horseback riding

Riding through Icelandic lava fields on a beautiful day


#3 Whale watching – Nurture the love for nature with an authentic wildlife encounter

One of my favourite moments as a whale watching guide was when a little girl dropped her jaw upon seeing a humpback whale just next to the boat and shouted: “This is the best day of my life!” Seeing the giants of the deep with your own eyes can indeed be a life-changing experience for the young and the old. So why not venture on a marine adventure with your family and have a good old fashioned “who spots the whale first” competition on one of our large family friendly boats? It’ll be one of the most memorable family activities in Reykjavik.

Family activities in Reykjavik - Whale watching

Whale watching is a memorable experience for a traveler of any age


#4 Whales of Iceland museum – A different perspective on these magnificent creatures

To consolidate the family’s knowledge about our marine mammal friends, go to the Whales of Iceland Museum. You’ll see life-sized whales and dolphin models and learn more about them with excellent audio guides and a guided tour as well. There is also a children’s playground on site where they can draw colouring books, take a whale quiz and crawl inside a wooden orca. The museum is also one of our favourite family activities in Reykjavik that are perfect for rainy days!


#5 “Ísbíltúr” – Going on the icecream drive

Ok, so if your native language is not of Germanic origin you might have trouble deciphering what “ísbíltúr” might be. We are talking about icecream here, icecream in a car, icecream in a car while driving around! Indeed, the icecream drive is one of the favourite pastime activities in the country, no matter what season it is. Grab a scoop of your favourite flavour or try “bragðarefur” – soft ice-cream with several toppings of your choice, all blended together. Get back in your car and drive around until your family finishes their tasty treats. Everyone has their own version of this custom, with a different selection of icecream shops and driving routes. You can try the shop called “Ísbúð Vesturbæjar”, or “Valdís” in the Grandi area. Your truly prefers to go to “Huppa” and then drive to the lighthouse of Grótta to watch sunset. Whatever your choice is, you can’t go wrong if the family is having a good time.


#6 Reykjavik Park and Zoo

Considering that the original name of the Reykjavik Park and Zoo is “the family park” it naturally made the list. Maybe you come from a big city and the kids don’t have a lot of opportunities to meet real domestic animals? Now here is your chance to do just that. Rekindle your own wonder through your child’s eyes as they get excited by seeing a cow, sheep, chicken, or even other more exotic animals, such as the mink, seal, Arctic fox and reindeer. Fun fact: the only native land mammal in Iceland is the fox).  The other section of the park is an amusement park for the little ones. They can ride in kiddie cars, trains, boats and carrousels. And do lots of jumping around!

Family activities in Reykjavik - Reykjavik Park and Zoo

A sleeping Arctic fox with its fluffy tail wrapped around itself


#7 Skating or skiing

Just next to the Reykjavik Park and Zoo is Reykjavik’s main skating rink, Skautahöllin Laugardal. It’s a fun place that’s always icy, even when the outside is not. Believe us, it happens! Our favourite moment is when they dim the lights, put on some disco lighting and turn up the music a bit. That’s a chance for the older ones and the parents to forget time and place and just have fun! No preparation is needed, except maybe putting on some warm clothes. You can rent the skates and helmets on the spot, and there’s supportive equipment for anyone without a sure footing on the ice. If you’re in Reykjavik in winter, there’s a great skiing resort within minutes from downtown Reykjavik. Ski resort Bláfjöll offers several slopes of different difficulties, as well as cross-country skiing tracks. You can also rent anything you might need there. Why not start the day with a walk and breakfast downtown, followed by skiing or snowboarding, and then ending the day melting away in hot jacuzzi?!


#8 Swimming pools – Swim like a dolphin, chill like a seal

With 121 swimming pools in a country of 370,000 inhabitants, we take our swimming pools seriously. Right, maybe not THAT seriously. But seriously enough that we want to access them anywhere in the country, any time of year! And with lots of hot water too! There will usually be several pools with different temperatures and different functions. So you can relax at 37°C while your kids play in the shallow pool for children. One swimming pool that could be of special interest is Laugardalslaug where you can find a massive waterslide! (It’s also just next to the Reykjavik Park and Zoo and the skating rink.) Don’t worry, it is perfectly normal for you as an adult to join them! After all, it is moments like these that remind us that we are all still kids inside. As far as family activities in Reykjavik go, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Family activities in Reykjavik - Swimming pools

Laugardalslaug swimming pool has a big waterslide and many different pools


#9 Perlan – Education meets fun

This domed palace-like structure overlooking the city houses a world of knowledge and immersion. Perlan is a great stop to learn about Icelandic geology, history, glaciology, flora and fauna, all through fun and interactive features. I would like to emphasize the artificial ice cave tour that might be a fun little thing to do with the little ones, especially if you start a snow-ball fight in there. Another thing that is worth checking out is the northern lights show in the planetarium that will leave you wanting more. If you weren’t into it before, you’ll probably want to see the lights with your own eyes afterwards!


#10 Feed the ducks at Tjörnin

With 388 bird species in Iceland, it is truly a birdwatchers paradise. Being a birder myself I can think of no better incentive for your child to start loving birds than to take them to the city pond known as Tjörnin (Bus stop #2 is right next to it). Depending on the season, you’ll see different species of birds. Also, in the wintertime this pond is often frozen, and sometimes frozen hard enough to walk or skate on! Some of the regular inhabitants that your little ones will be happy to see and feed are eider ducks, whooper swans, greyleg geese, Eurasian wigeons and common teals. Keep in mind that bread and crackers are not suitable for them. Cracked corn, oats, rice, birdseed, frozen peas, chopped lettuce, or sliced grapes are a much better alternative. If you happen to come in the summer, you can spot the Arctic terns that nest on a tiny inlet in the pond called Þorfinnstjörn.


Written by Lucas Heinrich.