There are plenty of ways to get around for a little Reykjavik sightseeing these days. You can rent a car, take a taxi, use the Strætó public bus system, take an electric scooter, or of course just explore the city by foot. But another option, perhaps familiar to seasoned travellers in other countries, is the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off, operated by Reykjavík Excursions.
The tour runs daily all year round, and stops at 16 popular destinations around the city. Along the way you can listen to audio commentary in 8 languages thanks to their complimentary earphones. But there are so many stops – which ones do you choose? In order to make your choice a little easier, we’ve narrowed down our top 5 favorite stops on the Hop On Hop Off bus around Reykjavik.
Maybe we’re biased about this one, because this is where we call home! The Old Harbour as we know it today was largely built in the early 1900s, and for more than a century its primary purpose has mainly been to service fishing vessels. But in recent years the area has been completely transformed into a hip and bustling place. Cafés like Reykjavik Röst, restaurants, shopping, and plenty of whale watching and northern lights boat tour departures make it lively. Plus, you can’t beat the views over Kollafjörður and Mount Esja – the perfect backdrop to a city stroll when doing Reykjavik sightseeing!
This stop drops you off right in the heart of Grandi, Reykjavik’s trendy harbour district. Whales of Iceland, Europe’s largest whale museum, is not to be missed for any nature lover. This unique museum features life-sized models of 23 different types of whales, an accompanying audio guide with an impressive selection of 16 languages, interactive exhibits, a fabulous documentary theatre, and more. And just around the corner is FlyOver Iceland, an amazing virtual experience ride that allows you to, well, fly over Iceland! Plus, new for winter 2022 is the Lava Show, just a few doors down. It allows you to experience real lava in a safe and controlled indoor environment, totally unique in the world.
Perlan is a beautiful building with a large glass dome built atop six water tanks. Each tank can hold up to 4 million liters of hot water for Reykjavik residents. But it also houses several exhibitions, one of which features an actual indoor ice cave. Don’t skip the coats they give out before you go in – you’ll need it, as they built the ice cave using over 350 tons of snow from Icelandic mountains! There’s also a new, state-of-the-art planetarium which shows beautiful footage of the northern lights in an exclusive show called Áróra. And don’t forget about the observation deck, which features some of the best views anywhere in city. Perfect for planning the rest of your Reykjavik sightseeing!
Speaking of views, we can’t have a list of the top 5 stops without Hallgrímskirkja. This Lutheran church is the largest church in Iceland, at nearly 75 meters tall. It took 41 years to build it, with construction completed in 1986. The church gets its name from the famous Icelandic poet Hallgrímur Pétursson. Its beautiful architecture is meant to evoke the basalt columns which can be found throughout Iceland. Like Perlan, there is also an observation deck here that’s not to be missed, as it provides incredible views over the downtown area. This area also serves as a great launching point for your Reykjavik sightseeing and exploration, with loads of restaurants, shopping, cafés, bars, and much more. Definitely make this one of your stops!
If you only have time for one history museum while you’re in Iceland, make it this one. This museum’s amazing collection stretches across more than 1000 years of local history, and is highlighted by the permanent exhibition “Making of a Nation”. It also happens to be located right next door to the University of Iceland, the country’s oldest and largest institution of higher learning. A stroll through the campus (and attached wetlands) provides for a unique perspective on the world’s most northerly capital city.
These are just some recommendations on where to stop – but all of the stops are worth visiting, if you find the time of course. No matter where you visit during your Reykjavik sightseeing, you’re sure to go back home with memorable experiences of our unique little city!
Written by Jonathan Rempel.