in One Day

These days, Iceland's capital city is a very popular stopover location for flights headed to Europe. Airlines like Iceland Air and WOW offer free stopovers of up to 7 days, but if you don't have that much vacation time to spare, I want to show you how you can see the best of Reykjavik in a single day. There is certainly a lot to see, so prepare for a whirlwind tour!

stop #1: Coffee & Breakfast

Chances are your flight will land in Reykjavik early in the morning and, if you're anything like me, you won't have had the most restful sleep on the plane. You're going to have to power through though, because you only have one day to see this whole city! Before you leave the airport, swing by Joe & the Juice to grab a coffee, smoothie, and/or sandwich to fuel up. Then board the bus (book your ticket in advance) and head towards downtown Reykjavik. 

Stop #2: Kex Hostel

Kex Hostel has to be one of my favorite accommodations at which I have stayed. The building is an old biscuit factory with an industrial and trendy feel. As with some hostels, you can stay in a private room if you prefer (with shared bathroom - many of them, just down the hall). The industrial design carries over to the rooms, yet they still feel perfectly cozy. There are a variety of common areas of which my favorite is the bar/lounge with a comfy red leather couch next to a window and massive bookshelf. Kex has a "multifunctional hall" which often hosts concerts and the like, there is a salon/barbershop, and they have full-service tour guides to plan and lead you on Icelandic expeditions straight from their door. I know you only have 24 hours this visit, but there is so much to take advantage of at this place! Also, the breakfast is divine. But we will get there later.

I strayed slightly off-topic, but I just really like this place, if you couldn't tell. The point of this section was really to say - if you spend your one night at Kex, they will store your luggage for you if it's too early to check in and you want to go out and explore right away. 


Stop #3: Sun Voyager

Across the street from Kex, towards the harbor, is a unique statue. The Sun Voyager is a steel sculpture created by Jón Gunnar Arnason. It appears to be a Viking ship, but is actually described as a dream boat and an ode to the sun. Beyond the boat, you see the ocean and the distant mountains. This serves as a beautiful introduction to Reykjavik.


Stop #4: Harpa 

Harpa is a concert hall and conference center and is a landmark in the city, most likely not only because of the events it hosts, but also due to its distinct architecture. The building's facade is made up of colored rectangles of glass, meant to bear a resemblance to the basalt landscapes of Iceland. Head inside and take a walk around - it is even more beautiful from the inside.


Stop #5: Lunch at Kaffi Vinyl

While it has been on my to-try list for a while, I have not yet visited Kaffi Vinyl. However, I've read so many good reviews that I am going to recommend it for lunch (my favorite café in the city closed earlier this year, so I'll be trying this one first on my next visit). It's a vegan café with a variety of tasty-looking food options as well as coffee, beer, and vinyl records! 

Stop #6: Hallgrimskirkja

Hallgrimskirkja is a giant church in the center of Reykjavik. It is impressive on both the outside and inside. The sanctuary is free to enter, however, if you'd like to go up to the tower at the top, you must purchase a ticket. Tickets cost between $9-10 (USD) and you will get a fantastic perspective of the colorful city from above. Do be aware of the church's opening hours that change by the day and season. Don't miss the Leif Eriksson statue out front.


Stop #7: Shopping & Exploring

From the church, stroll down Laugavegur and the surrounding streets, the city's main shopping area. Even if you don't intend to buy anything, it's always fun to take a look. The streets themselves are also a sight; there is quite a bit of animated street art to enjoy.


Stop #8: Mikkeller & Friends

I have a deep love for craft beer and one of my favorite breweries of all time is Mikkeller. Originally out of Denmark, they have greatly expanded in the past few years to include locations all over the world. Thankfully, they decided to have a tasting room in Iceland, called Mikkeller & Friends. Consume delicious brews and admire the fun and vibrant artwork of Keith Shore, the artist behind the Mikkeller brand.


Stop #9: Dinner at Hverfisgata 12

Stay in the building and head downstairs where you will find Hverfisgata 12, a restaurant and bar serving up mouthwatering pizza and more. They also have a selection of Icelandic beers if you are inclined to sip something brewed locally.

Stop #10: Kex Hostel

If you want to go out on the town, Reykjavik is known to have a bustling late night scene. If you are ready to chill, head on back to the hostel where you can catch a concert if they are hosting one that evening or just lounge a bit before hitting the hay. In the morning, I hope your flight out isn't too early, because you don't want to miss the breakfast buffet! It's without a doubt the freshest hotel buffet I have encountered, offering freshly baked bread with local jams and cheeses, eggs, yogurt, porridge, fruits, vegetables, and more. It's a delightful way to end your 24 hours in Reykjavik. Now head off back to the airport and onto whatever adventure is next!


If you're fortunate enough to have more than one day in Iceland, click HERE to see my other Iceland guides!