I would be lying if I said that I had an Iceland budget when planning my trip. Besides the 8,000 ISK ($65 USD) that I exchanged and my credit card, I definitely winged it. Like everyone else, I heard that Reykjavík was really expensive, but I thought to myself, how expensive could it be – I work in New York City.
I guess I had to experience it first hand to really understand what everyone was talking about. Instead of feeling defeated by how expensive everything was, I challenged myself and found lots of affordable restaurants and things to do in Reykjavík.
Here are 8 things that you can do in Reykjavík that are not only fun but can cost less than $15 USD (1,835 ISK).
1. Go on a walking tour with CityWalk Reykjavik. CityWalk Reykjavik is a free two-hour historic tour. It offers a great introduction to the city and country and it was the first thing I did in Reykjavík. I loved that the guides were Icelandic history graduates and it was really cool learning about Iceland’s long history in a fun way. On the tour you will visit the most historic parts of town and at the end of the tour you can set your own price. Feel free to tip as much as you like because these guys (and gal) really deserve it. You can even tip your guide in any currency which is super convenient. Bonus: They send you a comprehensive city guide after your tour – talk about an incredible value!
2. Go to a local swimming pool. I skipped the Blue Lagoon and instead opted for a more local experience at Vesturbaejarlaug swimming pool (highly recommended by my CityWalk Reykjavik guide Eric). Less than a half an hour walk from the city center, 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. There was nothing to be shy about and it didn’t feel uncomfortable in any way. This was one of the most relaxing experiences I had in Iceland but I have to warn you, be prepared to run for your life when you’re getting out of the water.
3. Try Skyr (pronounced skeer). Not to be mistaken for yogurt, Skyr is a dairy product that you can only find in Iceland. I loved the light and smooth texture and I would suggest going to a local grocery store instead of ordering it at a restaurant to save some money. Try some unique flavors for less than 200 ISK ($2 USD).
4. Visit the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church. You can see the Hallgrimskirkja Church from just about anywhere in the city. Admission to the church is free but for 900 ISK ($8 USD) you can climb up to the top of the tower and see 360 degree views of Reykjavík, the harbor and snowy Mount Esja.
5. Wander the streets looking for street art. You can find street art all over Reykjavík, just look on the sides of the buildings. Each mural tells a story and makes a statement.
6. Take a scenic walk around Lake Tjornin. There are plenty of swans and ducks to feed at the lake so bring a loaf of bread and your camera. When you’re done, head over to the Reykjavík City Hall. On the main floor there is a huge 3D topographic map of Iceland that is really impressive.
7. Have a drink at the Loft Hostel. The Loft Hostel has as a really nice selection of Icelandic and Scandinavian beer on draught. If you are into ciders you have to try the Somersby Cider – it was my favorite! The Loft Hostel is also one of the cheapest bars in town and it’s a great place to meet locals, enjoy live music and catch awesome views of the surrounding neighborhood from the patio. Don’t forget that they offer a happy hour special between 4-8 p.m. everyday.
8. Strike a pose with the Solfar Sun Voyager. Along the waterfront, the Sun Voyager pays homage to the sun and the origins of Icelanders. Although it looks like a Viking ship, it’s actually a dream boat that is following the setting sun. I sat on the ledge for a while looking across the bay enjoying the cool breeze and view. The water was so blue and Mount Esja was so beautiful. In that moment everything was perfect.
Author: Danielle Desir
Danielle Desir is a Travel Finance Strategist that uses her financial background and knack for financial planning to empower those who want to travel afford travel and excel in their personal finances. She shares creative planning strategies, saving tips, cheap flight deals and even talks about her student loan repayment journey on her blog, The Thought Card. Her financial expertise has taken her across the globe to over 19 countries and 3 continents (and counting), all while paying off her student loans, saving for a house and working full-time.
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