The capital city of Iceland may be much smaller than most capital cities, but don’t let the small size fool you, the area is packed full of fun activities for the whole family. From exploring the colorful streets of downtown to enjoy the nature surrounding the city, spending a few days in Reykjavik with your family is a great addition to any Iceland itinerary.
There truly is an activity for all interests and ages in Reykjavik. To help kick start your planning for your time in the city here are 15 activities that are great for families to do in Reykjavik.
1. Go to Top of Hallgrímskirkja for spectacular views
A great activity to kick off your time in Reykjavik, head to the top of Hallgrímskirkja to take in some of the best views over Reykjavik. At 74.5 meters high, the famous church Hallgrímskirkja is both the tallest church in Iceland, and one of the tallest towers in the country, so you know there is going to be some great views at the top.
2. Take a Guided Walking Tour
If your family is a group that enjoys learning fun facts about the cities you are visiting a walking tour is a great activity for you to do in Reykjavik. This walking tour will take you all over the city over a two hour period during which you will learn all kinds of fun facts and history about Iceland and the settlement of Reykjavik.
A great way to combine education and fun, all while getting better acquainted with the city at the same time!
3. Walk Around Tjörnin
A short walk or drive around downtown Reykjavik and you will notice the lovely large pond located in the middle of the city. This large pond is called Tjörnin and it is a great place to spend some time walking the pathways, saying hello to the ducks, playing on the playgrounds, or even just relaxing on one of the benches to enjoy the view.
With a range of playground equipment and activities in this area it is a very family-friendly spot for all the children in your group. An added bonus, the charming houses and buildings surrounding the pond, they add to the beautiful scenery and make this location a great spot for some family pictures.
4. Have a Fun Beach Day at Nauthólsvík
Nauthólsvík is a man-made geothermal beach in Reykjavik that is the perfect place to visit on a sunny day. The beach has a playground nearby, a small pool built along the shore that is pumped with warmer water, and lots of space for the little ones to run around and play.
There is also a hot pool at the beach so if it is a cooler weather day you can still have a beach day while enjoying the beach and ocean views from the comforts of the beachside hot tub.
5. Visit the Wonderful Harpa
One of the most interesting structures in the city, the Harpa's glass facade is a sight to be seen!
By day Harpa sparkles with reflecting light, and by night Harpa is lit up with dancing lights. Harpa is the city’s concert hall, so if you are looking for any cultural events to take the family to while in Reykjavik be sure to check the calendar of events at Harpa.
Just a short wander around the building will make for a fun adventure for your family! Everyone in the group will get a kick out of taking pictures in the reflections of the unique glass architecture, and the views over the water and the city are a sight to be seen!
6. Get Cozy in an Icelandic Cafe
Embrace the Scandvian hygge culture with a visit to one of the many cozy cafes you will find along the streets in downtown Reykjavik. One thing Icelanders don’t mess around with is their coffee, you will be sure to find a delicious cup of coffee to warm up with while enjoying a tasty Icelandic pastry. We recommend trying some Icelandic favorites such as vínarbrauð, marriage cake, and kleina.
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A few cafes and bakeries to check out in downtown Reykjavik are:
Sandholt Bakery - one of the most popular bakery in town they have rows of treats to choose from.
Brauð og Co. - Instagram famous for its bright colorful building, foodie famous for its amazing cinnamon rolls.
Mokka Kaffi - one of the oldest cafes in the city, go here for delicious Icelandic waffles.
7. Walk the Trails at Elliðaárdalur
A short 10 minutes from downtown Reykjavik, Elliðaárdalur valley is the perfect spot to escape the city center for a little bit and spend some time with nature. In this recreational area you will find a 10 km pathway with several different access points so you can pick and choose how long you would like to be out walking for based on the needs of your group.
No matter how long you walk the pathway you will still be in for a treat with some lovely nature! The pathway will take you walk alongside a river, through the forest, and up to a waterfall, a nice sampling of different nature elements in one spot!
Be sure to keep a look out for the bunnies hopping about all over this area. You will even find one hillside where the bunnies call home that your kids will love stopping by to say hello to the animals. All ages in your family will enjoy a few hours exploring Elliðaárdalur valley!
8. Spend an action-packed day at Laugardalur Valley
For a fun filled family day head just a few minutes outside of downtown Reykjavik to Laugardalur Valley. Here you will find several activities and locations to enjoy that will keep all your family members busy and happy explorers!
Some activities/locations to check out in this area are:
Reykjavik Family Park and Zoo - Here you will find a mix of Icelandic farm animals and a recreational park with a large play structure area and several other activities for children of all ages. This is a perfect place to spend a few hours with a little bit of something for all to enjoy.
Botanical Gardens - A beautiful park full of unique flowers, small ponds, and pretty fields to run around in. This park has several walking paths taking you around the garden and is a great place for little ones to run around while the parents enjoy the peaceful landscape.
Laugardalslaug Swimming Pool - While in this area make a stop at the Laugardalur pool. With a big slide and large pool full of activities for kids this is the perfect local pool to spend a few hours playing at.
Reykjavik Botanical Gardens in the Autumn
9. Visit the Nordic House
A cultural center for all things, you guessed it, Nordic, the Nordic House is a great place to take the kids on a rainy day. Here you will find a beautiful building full of books in the Nordic languages, a cafe that overlooks a pond with a great view of the city, outdoor walking trails, and a children’s library area.
In the children’s library you will find books in the Nordic languages, arts and crafts, large building blocks for the kids to play with, and fun structures for them to explore. Every few months a new children’s exhibit is installed that your children will love checking out. The Nordic House is a great place to go for some (free!) family fun.
10. Take a Whale Watching Tour
If your family is looking for a bit more of an action packed experience while in Reykjavik joining a whale watching tour from the Reykjavik harbor is a great activity for you all. Open for children of all ages, this tour leaves from the harbor right next to downtown Reykjavik year-round (weather permitting) and takes you out on the water for 2-3 hours in the search for whales. Your guide will share fun facts and information about the whales in the area while you keep a lookout for any whales playing close by.
An added bonus of the tour, the different views of the landscape surrounding Reykjavik from afar!
11. Take a Leisurely Stroll Around Grótta
At the northern part of Reykjavik you will find a beautiful peninsula called the Seltjarnarnes peninsula. At the tip of this peninsula, which is only about 5 minutes from downtown Reykjavik, is the lovely Grótta nature reserve. Here you will find walking trails along the rugged coastline, a black sand beach often frequented by wind suffers, an active birdlife, and the Grótta lighthouse which you can walk out to during low tide.
This area is a great place to catch the Northern Lights or the Midnight sun while in Reykjavik. There is even a small hot pool that you can soak your feet in while you enjoy a quiet family moment taking in the lovely surroundings :)
12. Relax at the Reykjavik Library
When visiting Iceland it is a good idea to have a few locations to head to for some indoor fun, and the Reykjavik library in downtown is one such location. At the library you will find a large children’s section with a great selection of English books to enjoy, as well as puzzles and other toys for your little ones to play with. The library not only has great views overlooking the water, there is also a floor that has different exhibitions on display for the public to enjoy. A great place to spend a few relaxing hours while keeping the children entertained.
13. Visit the Beautiful Sun Voyager
A stroll along Reykjavik’s scenic waterfront will take you to the Sun Voyager, a large steel structure along the sea that has become a must stop for a picture of the iconic views of Mt.Esja. Your kids will enjoy climbing around the structure while you take in the views of the mountain landscape combined with the sea. If you are hoping for a great family picture from your Iceland trip this is the place to get it!
14. Hit the Swimming Pools with Locals
The act of going to the swimming pools is deeply rooted in the Icelandic culture. Winter or summer you will always find Icelanders enjoying their pool time. It is an activity loved by the entire family! And once you jump into the relaxing geothermal water and see the buzz of life and activity in the area you will see why they love it so much too.
The pools are free for children to the age of 5, around 1.50 USD for children 6-17, and around 10 USD for adults. At the different pools you will find well maintained locker rooms that will include all you need for your babies and toddlers from baby bath tubs to high chairs you can take into the shower or use to sit the baby in while you get changed.
There are several local pools that would be fun for your family to visit. A few that we recommend are:
Vesturbæjarlaug - this pool recently underwent renovations all while keeping the charm the local pool has that the locals love. This pool is always full of Icelanders catching up with friends and family while relaxing.
Sundhöll - the oldest pool in Reykjavik, this location right in downtown and is always a fun one to check out.
Árbæjarlaug - with several different pools in a range of temperatures, slides, play areas, and a small indoor pool this location is great to go with a family.
15. Visit Perlan
While wandering around Reykjavik you will likely notice a large glass-domed building atop a hillside overlooking the city. This unique building is Perlan and is one of the most distinctive landmarks in Reykjavik.
At Perlan you will find several exhibitions, such as Wonders of Iceland, that will have the whole family learning more about the Icelandic nature in a fun and interactive way. Enjoy the amazing views over Reykjavik from the observation deck, and take a stroll through the forest that surrounds Perlan. There is a lot to do and see at Perlan so make sure to add it to your list for your family trip to Reykjavik!
As we said, Reykjavik may be a small city but it has plenty of fun to offer for the entire family! Head over to this blog post for more ideas and tips on activities to do with your family in Iceland.
Book your Iceland family holiday now!