While researching, I heard that Reykjavík was expensive, but I thought, how expensive could it be? Well let me tell you, Iceland is expensive, perhaps one of the most expensive destination I’ve visited to so far (and I’ve visited three times). Well, maybe Norway, Oslo in particular, is more expensive. Nevertheless, according to the Backpacker Index which ranks 136 cities around the world from cheapest to most expensive, Reykjavík ranked #135 in 2017, second to Zürich, Switzerland. It’s super expensive to book a hostel, eat at a restaurant or rent a car in Iceland. But instead of feeling defeated by the high costs, I rose to the occasion. I found lots of free things to do in Reykjavík. On this list I’ve also included cheap things to do in Reykjavík too.
Free Things To Do In Reykjavík, Iceland
Go on a walking tour
The free walking tour with CityWalk Reykjavik was one of the first things I did when I arrived in Reykjavík. This two-hour historic tour offers a great introduction to the capital city and Icelandic culture. The insightful guides are Icelandic history graduates and high school teachers. The tour was fun and engaging.
During the tour, visit the most historic parts of downtown Reykjavík including Arnarhóll and Fógetagarður Square.
At the end of the tour, set your own price. Tip what you feel the tour was worth – these guys deserve it. You can even tip in any currency you like which is super convenient!
Bonus Tip: CityWalk Reykjavik sends you a comprehensive city guide after your tour. Many of the suggestions include free things to do in Reykjavik on a budget.
Visit historical monuments
Unless you’re touring Reykjavík with a knowledgeable local or historian, it’s easy to miss the less popular historical sights but Reykjavík is studded with all types of monuments that commemorate founders, leaders and important events in Iceland.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Arnarholl Hill & Statue of Ingolfur Arnarson commemorates the first permanent Scandinavian settlers in Iceland.
- Statue of Leif Eriksson in front of the Hallgrimskirkja Church honors Leif Eriksson, the first European to explore the North Americas.
- Vikurgardur or Fógetagarður Square is now a public space but it was formerly the home of the old Reykjavík Church and the site of Reykjavík’s oldest cemetery.
For the complete list, check out the historic spots in Reykjavik that you probably don’t know about.
Spot street art and wall murals
You can find street art all over Reykjavík, just look on the sides of the buildings. Each mural tells a story and makes a bold statement.
Take a scenic walk around the lake
There are plenty of swans and ducks to admire at Tjörnin so bring your camera. When you’re done, head over to the Reykjavík City Hall. On the main floor, there is an impressive 3D topographic map of Iceland.
Sunset at Solfar Sun Voyager
As you enjoy the cool breeze, marvel at the rainbows and a gorgeous view of snowy Mount Esja and snap photos with this iconic Icelandic landmark.
Cheap Things To Do
1. Swim at local swimming pools
Highly recommended by Eric (Eiríkur) from CityWalk Reykjavik, I skipped the Blue Lagoon and instead chose a more local bathing experience at Vesturbaejarlaug swimming pool. For more options, check out some of the other affordable swimming pools and hot springs in Iceland.
Less than a half an hour walk from the city center, at Vesturbaejarlaug, I enjoyed hot tubs and steam baths alongside locals for 900 ISK ($8 USD).
Before entering the pool I had to shower naked (in front of the other female patrons) but it was totally fine. No need to be shy. I did not feel uncomfortable in any way.
In fact, bathing at Vesturbaejarlaug was one of the most relaxing experiences I had in Iceland. Nevertheless, I have to warn you, be ready to run for your life when getting out of the water!
Along the waterfront, visit the Sun Voyager which pays homage to the first Icelanders. Although it looks like a Viking ship, it’s actually a dreamboat following the setting sun.
For more ideas on ways you can explore Iceland on the cheap, read how Natasha spent seven days in Iceland and spent only $100.
2. Try all types of Skyr flavors
Not to be mistaken for yogurt, Skyr (pronounced skeer) is a dairy product made in Iceland. I loved the light and smooth texture. To save money, I suggest heading to the local grocery store instead of ordering Skyr at a restaurant.
Try unique flavors for 200 ISK ($2 USD).
Wondering how much other snacks and food costs in Iceland, here’s a full breakdown.
3. Climb to the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church
You can see the Hallgrimskirkja Church from just about anywhere in Reykjavík.
Admission to the church is free but for 900 ISK ($8 USD), climb to the top of the tower and see 360-degree views of Reykjavík, the harbor, and Mount Esja.
4. Discounted drinks at Happy Hour
The Loft Hostel is a great place to meet locals, enjoy live music or take in awesome views of the neighborhood from the patio. They also have Icelandic and Scandinavian beers on tap. If you are into ciders, try the Somersby Cider.
Happy hour starts at 4 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m daily.
Although alcohol is expensive in Iceland, taking advantage of happy hour specials is a great way to experience Reykjavík on a budget.
Helpful Tip: Speaking of happy hour, download the Reykjavik Appy Hour app and discover all of the happy hour specials happening throughout Reykjavík in real-time.
The app displays the establishment’s description, the happy hour duration and prices for drinks.
Looking for more ways to save money in Iceland? Listen to this episode for ideas on how you can do Iceland on a budget.
What are YOUR favorite free things to do in Reykjavík?
Danielle Desir Corbett paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27, and has traveled to 27 countries, including her favorites, Iceland, China, and Bermuda. Go here to learn Danielle’s incredible story, from struggling financially and in debt to finding creative ways to earn more and live on her terms. Listen to The Thought Card Podcast, where Danielle shares how you can creatively travel more and build wealth regardless of your current financial situation. Reach out to Danielle by contacting: thethoughtcard (at) gmail (dot) com.