I would be lying if I said that I had a preset travel budget when planning my trip to Iceland. Besides the 8,000 ISK ($65 USD) that I exchanged before my departure and credit card, I winged it. Like everyone else, I heard that Reykjavík was expensive, but I thought, how expensive could it be? Well let me tell you, Iceland is an expensive country, perhaps the most expensive destination I’ve traveled to so far (and I’ve visited twice). Well, maybe Oslo in Norway is actually 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 out 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 affordable things to do in Reykjavik on a budget.
Reykjavik On A Budget
10 Things To Do in Reykjavík For Under $15 USD
Go On A Walking Tour – Free
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.
Swim At A Local Swimming Pool – $8 USD
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!
Related: A Week In Iceland On $100 USD Budget
Try Skyr – $2 USD+
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).
Visit The Top of Hallgrimskirkja Church – $8 USD
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.
Wander The Streets Looking for Street Art – Free
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.
Scenic Walk Around Tjörnin – Free
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.
Have a Drink at Loft Hostel – Varies
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 Reykjavik on a budget.
Download the Reykjavik Appy Hour App
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.
Strike a Pose with the Solfar Sun Voyager – Free
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.
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.
What are YOUR favorite things to do in Reykjavik on a budget?
Danielle Desir is a financially savvy traveler, 5x author, and podcaster. She paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27, and has traveled to 27 countries. She refuses to let her financial responsibilities hold her back from living life on her terms. Listen to The Thought Card Podcast here.