Reykjavik on a budget: things to do in Reykjavik for less than $15 USD

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).

Skyr: Things to do in Iceland that cost less than $15 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.

Head over to Hallgrimskirkja Church for fantastic and affordable views of the city.

 

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.

Discover street art in Reykjavik. Things to do in Iceland that costs less than $15 including.

 

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.

Things to do in Iceland that cost less than $15 USD

 

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 hours 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 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?

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40 replies
  1. deahh says:

    The Reykjavik City Library in downtown also has great views, a free photography exhibit on the top floor, and offers weekly city “ghost” walking tours. Plus, a whole floor of vinyl records and a gorgeous listening station.

    Reply
  2. Janna C. says:

    it would be super awesome to visit iceland with an unlimited budget but for people like me who travels with a budget, this guide is super helpful! thanks for sharing!!

    Reply
  3. Vlad says:

    Great tips, Iceland is number one on my wishlist and I’m hoping to go soon. Actually, I’ve had Skyr in Norway and Sweden too, it was soooo good! Can’t wait to visit Iceland and eat it there too 😀

    Reply
  4. Blissmersion says:

    Thanks for the tips on the pools! I’ve looked into them for my so-far-in-the-future-it’s-not-planned trip to Iceland.

    I also think I’ve seen Skyr in the states. Maybe at Whole Foods?

    Reply
  5. Aimee Horgan says:

    Some great tips here, and glad to see there are lots of cheap options to to have fun in Iceland. Really want to go there soon, will save this for future reference.

    Reply
  6. Tamara Wilcox says:

    Great list of affordable options. I’ve seen the Skyr for sale in Sprouts stores in the United States. It’s very good! I love the idea of going to the top of the church for that incredible view! What a beautiful, rugged place!

    Reply
  7. Robert Doyle says:

    Loved this Danielle. I’ve known others that have gone to Iceland before but seeing, and reading about it here really convinced me to add it to the list of ‘definite’ places I want to see. Great photos too!

    Reply
  8. Lou says:

    Thank you for this great article!

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    Reply
  9. Anita Sane says:

    Great tips, thanks for sharing. I love walking tours. I remember visiting open air swimming pools as amazing experience. Happy travels!

    Reply
  10. Claire and Rosemary says:

    Glad you didn’t let the cost ruin you experience. This is a great list you’ve pulled on what to do on a budget. Did you like Reykjavik? Given the cost, is it worth visiting?

    Reply
    • Danielle Desir says:

      I didn’t like Reykjavik… I LOVED it! It is absolutely worth visiting. The food, the nightlife, nature, tons of museums to explore. There is something for everyone here. I would suggest if you are concerned about the cost spend less days, I spent 4 days.

      Reply
  11. Kevin Wagar says:

    I love all the local pools in Iceland! Such a great treat when you’re travelling and need a break. Reykjavik is such a cool city, you give some great tips on how to experience it on a budget!

    Reply
  12. Bailey K. says:

    I think visiting the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church. Thanks for all the recommendations – usually all I see about Reykjavik is the Blue Lagoon, so it’s good to see other things.

    Reply
  13. Rebecca Huxley says:

    The view from the top of the Hallgrimskirkja Church looks incredible! I also love street art a lot and did not know Reykjavik had much of that kind of thing, so I love that! I have spent a days wandering around Melbourne just looking at street art and taking pictures, a day well spent (: thanks for the tips!

    Reply
  14. Wander With Jo says:

    Iceland tops my list mostly because I want to see the Northern lights – Did you happen to see any? I need to probably skip the tour and do it on my own as I will be def on a budget. Great tips for Reykjavík here – I never thought I would skip the Blue Lagoon but now I want to do both. Plus walking around and exploring on your own is often one of the best things to do in a new place – and free – so, that’s one thing I rope into my journeys as well.

    Reply
    • Danielle Desir says:

      No I didn’t get to see the Northern Lights since I visited in Spring. Northern lights are best seen in the winter. I have no regrets skipping the Blue Lagoon, the local swimming pool was a really nice affordable alternative.

      Reply
  15. Tracy Chong says:

    Wow…! What a great list! I also heard that Iceland is expensive and I am keep thinking whether I should plan to go there one day or not as it’s on my wishlist. I think, I have some hope now. 😀

    Reply
  16. Rebecca says:

    Iceland looks absolutely beautiful. Love the views. Great tips for keeping things within a budget. There were cities we visited that everyone said was expensive but we always did pretty well, especially with food. We used to just split meals since they always serve way more than you can eat. Then you can splurge on some of the other things to do.

    Reply
  17. Chantell Collins says:

    I love all your budget tips!! I had heard how expensive Iceland can be and I think a lot of people will benefit from this! 🙂

    Reply
  18. Live Learn Venture says:

    Iceland is on my list for sure! I’ve always heard that the cost quickly adds up — so I will refer back to this post because these are helpful tips! Thank you 🙂

    Reply
  19. Nomadic Boys says:

    Loving that view from the top of Hallgrimskirkja – beautiful pic. Also clever idea for a post. This is all we keep hearing about the country – Iceland too expensive even for McDonalds to set up show there etc etc. It’s a country we badly want to visit 🙂

    Reply
  20. Patricia Steffy says:

    I have heard about how pricey Reykjavik can be, and it has made me hesitate. It’s nice to know that there are actually some great things to do there without spending a fortune. I’d love to head out on that CityWalk! Sounds like a fantastic way to see a lot of the city while getting insider info from the guides.

    Reply
  21. Amanda Williams says:

    I really enjoyed this post, having recently returned from Reykjavik. It was a fairly expensive city, but there are certainly budget options if you do your research well. You have come up with some great ideas here.

    Reply
  22. Grassroots Nomad says:

    Great tips! Europe can be so expensive so it is great to have a list that shows some of the more affordable activities!

    Reply

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