Reykjavik

There is a lot to do in Reykjavík, despite being a small city. There is a vibrant music scene with concerts most evenings in the centre of the city. For theatre enthusiasts the city boasts two main theatres staging around 10 plays a year each, both domestic and foreign, as well as a number of smaller theatre groups specialising in different kinds of modern theatre.

There are a number of opportunities to experience at least a bit of Icelandic nature without leaving the city itself, and outdoors activities in the immediate vicinity of the city are easy to find. And no visit to Reykjavík would be complete without going to at least one of the geothermal pools.

For more information about tours and attractions, it may be a good idea to pay a visit to the Tourist Information Centre (http://visitreykjavik.is/) located in a beautifully renovated old building by Ingólfstorg.

There's not much in way of employment opportunities in Reykjavík at the moment. Since the economic collapse of 2008, unemployment has risen to around 8% and unless you have special skills you're likely to be at a disadvantage as a foreigner in a job hunt. Additionally, it's extremely difficult for non-EEA citizens to get a visa unless they already have a job. If you are an EEA citizen, however, you can head over to Eures (http://www.eures.is/english), a database of jobs advertised in the entire EEA. In Iceland it's run by the Directorate of Labour Vinnumálastofnun (http://english.vinnumalas...) who may also be able to offer you further advice. If you're from one of the other Nordic countries and are aged between 18 and 28, you may be able to take use of the Nordjobb summer job program (http://www.nordjobb.net), funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Being the main population centre of the country, Reykjavík is also the location of most of Iceland's education institutions. Close to the city centre is the University of Iceland (http://www.hi.is/en), which offers courses in Icelandic as a second language. Most degree programmes are in Icelandic, but there are some specialised postgraduate degrees available relating to sustainable development and to medieval manuscripts taught in English.

Reykjavík University (http://en.ru.is), originally founded as a business school under the auspices of the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce, has evolved into an institution offering a wide range of degrees in the fields of business, law, computer science and engineering, with a higher number of English-language programmes than the University of Iceland.

At pre-higher education levels, Menntaskólinn við Hamrahlíð Hamrahlíð College offers an IB programme in English (http://www.mh.is/ib). Several smaller schools offer Icelandic language courses for foreigners, including Mímir (http://mimir.is/index.php...) and IceSchool (http://www.icetrans.is).

Geothermal swimming pools

geothermal swimming pools
Vesturbæjarlaug
Hofsvallagata, 107 Reykjavik
+354 411 5150
Weekdays: 6:30am - 10pm, Weekends: 8am - 8pm
Located a few minutes from Hotel Saga and the University of Iceland

The city's oldest outdoor pool. Located in a residential area but within a walking distance of the city center.

geothermal swimming pools
 

Outdoor geothermal swimming pools are an important part of Icelandic culture and a visit to them is a great way to relax with Icelanders. In fact it is not stretching the truth too far to suggest that because drinking is so expensive the hot-pots at these pools serve the same role that pubs and bars do in the rest of Europe.

geothermal swimming pools
Laugardalslaug
Sundlaugarveg
+354 411 5100
600 ISK
Weekdays: 6:30am - 10:30pm, Weekends: 8am - 10pm
In the same complex as the National Stadium. Near campsite and youth hostel

The city's largest pool with extensive facilities, situated in Laugardalur Valley east of the city centre. It has two large pools for swimming, several hot-pots, a seawater bath, a steam bath, and water slide. It is a well-used large complex that is starting to show its age a little but it is still the best option in the city. Currently undergoing quite a lot of renovation work, but the pool remains open.

geothermal swimming pools
Árbæjarlaug
Fylkisvegur, 110 Reykjavík
+354 411 5200
350 ISK
Weekdays: 6:30am - 10:30pm, Weekends summer: 8am - 10pm, winter: 8am - 8:30pm

A brand new complex on the outskirts of the city, it has nice views over the city centre and is a nice place to watch the sunset. There is an indoor and outdoor pool, a waterslide, several hot-pots and a steam bath. This is a favourite with families and is perhaps the nicest of the city's pools. Buses run here from central Reykjavik.

geothermal swimming pools
Sundhöllin
Baronsstígur, 101 Reykjavik
+354 411 5350
Weekdays: 6:30am - 9pm, Weekends: 8am - 7pm
Located a few minutes from Hallgrimskirkja

The city's oldest and only indoor pool with outdoor hot-pots, located in the city centre. Has a more municipal feel than the other pools, but has a very central location.

geothermal swimming pools
Nautholsvík Thermal Beach
+354 511 6630
10:00 to 20:00 from 15th May until 15th September
To the south of the domestic airport

Here you can swim in the Atlantic, because they pipe hot water into the ocean. A beach of golden sand has been created and a “pool” has been enclosed nearby, where the water temperature is about 20ºC. There are several hot-pots. Refreshments and various services are available at the beach. Swimming in the Atlantic ocean is also possible during winter, and some would say more fun. The ocean is -2 up to 3 ºC, which makes for an interesting experience. The hot tub, steam bath and other facilities are operated during winter.

geothermal swimming pools
 

It is possible to rent swimsuits and towels at all the pools. As Icelandic pools have very minimal amounts of chemicals in them it is very important to shower thoroughly naked beforehand, and pay attention to the notices and posters that highlight hygiene issues.

Get in touch with nature

get in touch with nature
Whale watching
Ísland
Around 7000-8000 kr., often half price for children
most ships sail from Ægisgarður in the old harbour

With the exception of Húsavík in the north, Reykjavík is actually one of the very best places to go whale watching in Iceland. Whales frequently come into Faxaflói, the large bay which Reykjavík sits by and on a typical trip of around 3 hours you can almost be guaranteed to see at least some minke whales and possibly even a humpback. The companies offering whale watching mostly occupy a small area in the old harbour called Ægisgarður, close to the whaling ships. All sail out to the same bay but since conditions there change make sure you are on a good ship.

get in touch with nature
See the northern lights
Ísland

Reykjavik and surrounding area is great for seeing the northern lights. The lights show up in the winter time and are most likely to be seen in Sept-Oct and Feb-March. After 8pm to maybe 2-3am in the morning is the time period they most likely show up but it all depends on things like clouds, how dark, if there is solar storm hitting earth etc.

get in touch with nature
 

If you want to experience some of Iceland's nature but don't have time to leave the capital for too long, don't worry, you have several options to get a good feel for nature and the countryside without actually leaving the city.

get in touch with nature
Horse riding

One of the most popular tourist activities in Iceland due to the special nature of the Icelandic Horse. Although by definition more of a rural activity, there are several companies offering riding tours on the outskirts of Reykjavík, this can be a good option for those not planning on travelling far from the city.

get in touch with nature
Hiking

The immediate vicinity of Reykjavík offers some good hiking opportunities. By far the most popular among these is Esjan, the mountain that dominates the view to the north from much of the capital and is accessible by bus nr. 57 routes change, so ask beforehand. It's a relatively easy hike although there is a steep patch early on and at the tops there are some cliffs to climb. You can estimate 4-5 hours to get to the top and back again, although experienced walkers will be quicker. To get there, you need to take bus 57. Sometimes it leaves from the long-distance bus station in Reykjavik BSÍ, other times from a station called Mjódd accessible by bus 3, 11, 12, etc from downtown or you can take it from Mósfellsbær station is called Háholt - you get to Mósfellsbær on bus 15 from Reykjavik. Ask the driver where to get off for climbing Esja. To get back from Esja to Reykjavik, try asking for a ride at the parking lot, or take the bus back. 57 does not pass very often so make sure you take note of the timetable. Another popular place to experience nature is Heiðmörk (http://www.heidmork.is/), a green belt to the southeast of the capital. Heiðmörk mostly flat and there are many paths criss-crossing the area, but getting there may be difficult without a car.

get in touch with nature
Reykjavík Domestic Animal Zoo
Hafrafell v/ Engjaveg
+354 57 57 800
Admission: Adults (12 years +): 450 ISK, Children (Under 4 years): Free, Children (4 - 12): 350 ISK
in Laugardalur

This small zoo, in the middle of Reykjavík, is a place where city children can come and get in touch with some of the farming heritage of the country, with most species of domestic animals found in Iceland represented. They also have some non-domestic animals including reindeer and seals.

Music and theatre

music and theatre
Nordic House
Sturlugata 5
+354 551 7030
exhibition space open Tue-Sun 12-17, irregular opening hours for other events but the building is generally open during office hours
in Vatnsmýri, south of Tjörnin

A cultural centre located in Vatnsmýri, just south of the city centre. Art exhibitions, concerts, poetry readings and other cultural events frequently take place here.

music and theatre
 

Reykjavík has a remarkably active cultural scene for a city of its size. There are a number of art galleries, theaters and concert venues. Some of these are listed below, but many of the places mentioned in the “drink” section below also frequently host concerts. There are no dedicated literary locations listed here, but for book readings it may be best to visit book stores and libraries and ask the staff what's coming up.

music and theatre
Harpa
Austurbakki 2
+354 528 5050 for tickets
just east of the old harbour

Harpa concert hall and conference centerThe new home of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and regularly host to other acts as well. Delayed by the economic collapse, this building was under construction for several years before finally opening in May 2011. This marked the end of a long wait for the symphony orchestra, who had been using a cinema as their main venue the last 50 years. Today the symphony plays a concert every Thursday evening from September through June although often at other times as well, but the building is rarely empty at other times with Iceland's lively music scene having embraced this new location.

music and theatre
National Theatre of Iceland
Hverfisgata 19
+354 551 1200 for tickets

A theatre in the centre of Reykjavík, in many ways the focal point of Icelandic theatre. The repertoire is a mix of Icelandic and international plays, both new and old.

music and theatre
Reykjavík City Theatre
Listabraut 3
+354 568 8000 for tickets
adjecent to Kringlan shopping mall

Like the national theatre, the city theatre puts on a mix of new Icelandic plays and highlights of international theatre.

music and theatre
Vesturport
Tjarnarbíó, Tjarnargata 12
on the west bank of Tjörnin

This experimental theatre group has toured the world and won many prizes for its daring productions which include Romeo and Juliet, Woyczek and others. They have also made films including the acclaimed Children and Parents, in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

Festivals

festivals
Culture Night
Ísland
Third saturday of August

This is the biggest date in the cultural calendar of Reykjavík. What started out in 1996 as only an evening celebration today starts already in the morning with the Reykjavík Marathon. The day progresses with ever more cultural activities, most of them free, in central Reykjavík and culminates in several huge concerts and a fireworks show by the harbour. Attendance is usually around 100,000 or half of the population of the city.

festivals
 

At least three times a year, Reykjavík comes out to celebrate.

festivals
Gay Pride
Early August

Icelanders are proud of their LGBT community, and every August they show it with one of the biggest annual festivals in Reykjavík. Typically a parade will wind its way through the city with floats of varying degrees of outrageousness. It then ends at Arnarhóll with a large outdoors concert. Gay bars and bars that normally don't self-identify as gay alike tend to be very full this evening. In the preceding days there are various events celebrating LGBT culture.

festivals
National Day

It may come as a surprise, but the National Day celebrations on June 17th every year are probably the smallest of the three festivals mentioned here. Nonetheless, it is a public holiday day of festivities in the city where people especially families with children celebrate the date Iceland was declared a republic in 1944. The date itself was selected because it is the birthday of the Icelandic independence hero Jón Sigurðsson.

festivals
 

The city also annually hosts a music festival and an international film festival, both take place over several days in the city centre.

festivals
Iceland Airwaves
Last weekend in October

A music festival held in pubs, bars and clubs in downtown Reykjavík. It literally takes over the city for a few days in October. Airwaves prides itself of frequently having artists on the line-up that are just about to make it and become world famous, before you've ever heard of them. They usually have a wide selection of both Icelandic and international acts, but keep the "big names" to a minimum. Book early, in 2011 the tickets sold up 5 weeks in advance.

festivals
Reykjavík International Film Festival
Late September

Several days of excellent cinema. Screenings of most Icelandic productions of the last year, short and feature length as well as documentaries, and the best of what's happening around the world. The main prize, the Golden Puffin, is awarded in a category called "New Visions" which is limited to directors' first or second films.

festivals
 

The city also annually hosts an arts festival that takes place over several days in the city centre.

festivals
Reykjavík Arts Festival

This festival is said to be one of Northern Europe’s oldest and most esteemed arts festivals. Celebrated each year in May.