To give you the most unique and exciting travel experiences, the Utrip team curates each destination with a combination of human expertise and artificial intelligence. We’ve done the heavy lifting and sorted through thousands of activities, restaurants, and nightlife so that you don’t have to. Our Refined & Enhanced destinations include original content and local recommendations, providing a special touch so that you can plan your perfect trip. Learn more about the Utrip process.
Its history is written in epic Viking sagas. It’s powered by volcanic activity. Its the capital of a country that straddles two continents. Its normal culture involves bathing in water heated by geothermal power. Reykjavik shines through its long winters with colorful ease, and celebrates its midnight sun summers with boundless energy. The city began as a sleepy trading post in the 19th century per a decree of the Danish Crown. The country didn’t gain full sovereign status from Denmark until 1918 after a century of nationalism formed a strong identity for the city and nation. Now, it’s an international player with a rising economy based around the new and old - fishing, aluminum smelting, and tourism. Although no longer a major player, wool production is still a major part of Icelandic culture and many shops throughout the city feature homespun sweaters and accessories. Reykjavik’s charm and quirkiness completely eradicate experiential limitations placed on it by its small physical stature.
The city sits on a peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic, so it’s not surprising that the major cuisine of the country is fish-based. One of the best places to sample traditional cuisine in the city is Fiskmarkadurinn, or Fish Market in English. Besides fishing, the physical and cultural proximity to water is reflected in one the city’s most prominent sculptures, the Solfar, or Sun Voyager, a piece that represents journeys, an inextricable connection to nature, and the strength of the vikings who settled the island. Reykjavik’s design portfolio doesn’t end with Solfar: Hallgrimskirkja towers above the city in its striated magnificence, and Harpa anchors the city’s narrow streets down at the waterfront. Hallgrimskirkja is the main Lutheran church of the city, started in 1946 and completed in 1986, designed to reflect the stark yet stunning landscape of Iceland; climb its tower to get one of the best views of the city. Harpa is a concert hall that hosts a symphony orchestra and opera company among other events and performances inside an exterior that exudes modern geometric opulence. In between, colorful rooftops and facades entertain the eye.
What makes Reykjavik truly unique, however, is the geothermal power that keeps its lights on and heats public and private spaces when the days grow short. The happy, seemingly accidental, effluence from this power source is pumped into pools across the city for the public to enjoy — that’s right, naturally heated public pools are practically on every block, including the world renowned Blue Lagoon. If you want to double dip in history and relaxation, Sundhöllin is the oldest public bath house in the country, serving relaxation since 1937. If you’re looking for a place to soak that feels natural, then hit up the Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach and get some sand and sun. Don’t even break a sweat about cleanliness, Icelandic bathing culture mandates that everyone must shower completely before entering any public bathing facility. When you’re done relaxing, hit up a bar and party with the locals until the wee hours of the morning at such locales like Kaffibarinn and Bravo.
Reykjavik means “Smoky Bay” when translated. It’s indicative of the towers of steam that used to rise from the hot springs in the area. Although the hot springs and their steam have been contained, it’s positively crystal clear why your next destination should be Reykjavik.