Reykjavik Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Reykjavik

Reykjavik is a wonderful city set on a small island in the enormous ocean. It is the northernmost capital in the world. This city, close to the Arctic Circle, probably boasts the most beautiful landscape in the world. In Reykjavik you will see some great and unique Viking monuments, churches, and museums, as well as a lake in the middle of the city and geysers. This self-guided tour offers you an interesting stroll through the splendid capital of Iceland:
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Reykjavik Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Reykjavik Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Iceland » Reykjavik (See other walking tours in Reykjavik)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 Km or 3.4 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Austurvöllur Square
  • Althingishus (The Parliament House)
  • Dómkirkjan (Reykjavík Cathedral)
  • Kolaportið
  • Reykjavik Old Harbor
  • Reykjavik City Hall
  • University of Iceland
  • National Museum of Iceland
  • National Gallery of Iceland
  • Fríkirkjan Church
  • National Centre for Cultural Heritage
  • Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre
  • Sólfar (Sun Voyager)
  • Laugavegur Street
Austurvöllur Square

1) Austurvöllur Square (must see)

Austurvöllur is a popular gathering place for the citizens of Reykjavik, and especially so in good weather due to the prevalence of cafes on Vallarstræti and Pósthússtræti. It has also been a focal point of protests due to the close location to the Parliament of Iceland.

Austurvöllur is surrounded by Vallarstræti, Pósthússtræti, Kirkjustræti and Thorvaldsensstræti. The latter of which is named after Bertel Thorvaldsen, a statue of whom was, for a long period of time, present in the centre of Austurvöllur, now occupied by a statue of Jón Sigurðsson. Around the square is the Parliament of Iceland building, the city's oldest church the Dómkirkja, the Hotel Borg, and the dance club NASA. Austurvöllur was much larger in the past. In the early 18th century, Austurvöllur stretched from Aðalstræti in the west towards the creek in the east, and Aðalstræti in the north towards Tjörn in the south.

Why You Should Visit:
If Reykjavik had a main town square, this would be it. Not many tourists so you can actually see Icelanders going about their business.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Althingishus (The Parliament House)

2) Althingishus (The Parliament House) (must see)

The Icelandic Parliament House stands in Austurvöllur Square in the old town of Reykjavik. On the square, you can see local street musicians. Visitors are allowed inside the building to see how the government functions. You will often see groups of children, as local schools frequently organize excursions to Parliament House to show students the country's authorities at work.

Why You Should Visit:
This Parliament House is probably the least guarded one among all its peers; in fact, you can even walk all the way to the door front of this 19th-century building to take your selfie, with no security personnel prohibiting you from doing so.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Dómkirkjan (Reykjavík Cathedral)

3) Dómkirkjan (Reykjavík Cathedral) (must see)

The Reykjavík Cathedral (Icelandic: Dómkirkjan í Reykjavík) is the seat of the Bishop of Iceland and mother church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, as well as the parish church of the old city centre and environs.

It was in this Cathedral that Icelandic independence was first officially endorsed by the Lutheran Church of Iceland. Since 1845, members and cabinet ministers of every Alþing parliament (right next door) have gathered here for a service before the annual session. It was also in this church that Iceland's national anthem (also a hymn) was first sung in 1874.

Why You Should Visit:
The nice thing about this church is that there aren't too many buildings close to it thereby allowing you a really good view and opportunity to appreciate it.

If you are interested in going in, don't hesitate to try the door!
Open weekdays from 10am to 4pm and for ceremonies during weekends.
Sight description based on wikipedia

4) Kolaportið (must see)

Kolaportið is Reykjavik's own a flea market, a mixture of fine art, "trash-to-treasures", hand-knitted sweaters, artistic pursuits like jewelry (best prices in town), foodstuffs as different as Icelandic rye bread, chocolate Icelandic sweets (with licorice), shark and horse meat to the ever-present dried fish. Only open a few days a week but this is where the locals shop. You will enjoy walking around the place and also seeing people doing their daily shopping.

Opening Hours:
Sat, Sun: 11am–5pm
Reykjavik Old Harbor

5) Reykjavik Old Harbor (must see)

From the earliest times, Icelanders have depended on fishing to make a living. Reykjavik Harbor is thus fittingly one of the oldest places in the city. Here you can see locals at work. There are fishermen with their ships, boats and private yachts. You can see, for example, how locals carry whale meat from the whale ships – boxes full of exotic deep-sea creatures. The harbor also offers an amazing view of the island's dramatic landscape.
Reykjavik City Hall

6) Reykjavik City Hall

Reykjavik City Hall is located in the middle of the city. The building was constructed in 1987, following an international competition won by the architect Studio Granda. Alongside the offices of the mayor of Reykjavík, there is a nice cafe and a large 3-D map of Iceland. Art exhibitions are often held in the City Hall. The building stands on the banks of beautiful Lake Tjornin. Many ducks and seagulls flock around this lake, adding to the bustle and activity. This part of the city is definitely worth a visit!
University of Iceland

7) University of Iceland

The University of Iceland (Icelandic: Háskóli Íslands) is a public research university in Reykjavík and the country's oldest and largest institution of higher education. Founded in 1911, it has grown steadily from a small civil servants' school to a modern comprehensive university, providing instruction for about 14,000 students in 25 faculties. Subjects covered include social sciences, humanities, medicine, natural sciences, engineering and teacher education. It has a campus concentrated around Suðurgata street in central Reykjavík, with additional facilities located in nearby areas as well as in the countryside.

The University of Iceland was founded by the Alþingi on June 17, 1911, uniting three former post-secondary institutions: Prestaskólinn, Læknaskólinn and Lagaskólinn, which taught theology, medicine and law, respectively. The university originally had only faculties for these three fields, in addition to a faculty of humanities. During its first year of operation 45 students were enrolled. For its first 29 years the University was housed in the Icelandic Parliament building, Alþingishúsið, in central Reykjavík. In 1933, the university received a special licence from Alþingi to operate a cash-prize lottery called Happdrætti Háskólans. In 1940, the university moved into the main building, designed by Icelandic state architect Guðjón Samúelsson. The main building forms the core of the university campus on Suðurgata, where most of the principal buildings of the university are located today. In recent years there has been some major restructuring. In 2008 the university was divided into five different schools.
Sight description based on wikipedia
National Museum of Iceland

8) National Museum of Iceland (must see)

This National Museum of Iceland covers Iceland's entire history, right up to the present day, in a fun and visual fashion. There are Viking weapons, sailing vessels, clothes, religious artifacts, even a recreated Icelandic house. The collection of modern items includes a copy of Bjork's very first album, recorded when she was only 11 years old. You may enjoy the costume room as well, where one can try on outfits from different periods of Icelandic history. Café Kaffitár is located on the ground floor and offers coffee, refreshments and Icelandic treats.

Free entry included with Reykjavik City Card; there are free lockers; set aside 1.5-2.5 hours here.
There are free guided tours at 11am each Saturday, and it is recommended that you join one of these tours to gain a better understanding.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm (May 1–Sep 15); Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm (Sep 16–Apr 30)
Sight description based on wikipedia
National Gallery of Iceland

9) National Gallery of Iceland (must see)

The National Gallery of Iceland features the artwork of famous Icelandic artists and artwork that helps explain the traditional Icelandic culture. Among the highlights is the 'Making of a Nation – Heritage and History in Iceland' exhibition presented in the main galleries on the 2nd and 3d floors. Here the past meets the future as you explore how Iceland, its culture and society, developed from the early settlers in the late 9th century up to the modern days. The exhibition contains about 2,000 artifacts from all periods of Icelandic history as well as numerous well-selected photographs from the 20th century. Various forms of multimedia are used to educate and inspire as you may choose to either walk through time or follow special and well-marked themes through the exhibition.

There is a shop at the gallery, where you can buy art books, cards and other souvenirs representing the art of Iceland.

Why You Should Visit:
Over 200 years of Iceland-inspired art with great names like Münch and Vasarely and also more local artists. The museum building itself is a work of art.

The entry fee comes with tickets for the two companion museums; ask the staff to indicate where those are on your map. Also, ask if you can take photographs – sometimes you can.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm (May-Sep); Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm (Oct-Apr)
Sight description based on wikipedia
Fríkirkjan Church

10) Fríkirkjan Church

Fríkirkjan Church is a Free Lutheran church located in the center of Reykjavik on the shore of the picturesque Tjörnin Lake. There are always many seagulls and ducks on the water near the church. The church is characterized by a green roof. In general, the buildings in Reykjavik are of different, rather bright colors. The church was built in 1902 and is constructed of wood covered with metal, a prime example of the Icelandic vernacular tradition.
Sight description based on wikipedia
National Centre for Cultural Heritage

11) National Centre for Cultural Heritage (must see)

The National Centre for Cultural Heritage is located in the Culture House. The building is very beautiful and is a historic monument of Reykjavik. There are numerous exhibitions in the Centre, including national treasures and artifacts from the time of the Vikings. Most of the art exhibitions are held in the Culture Shop and Café. The Centre also holds a large exhibition of Icelandic films. Many of the Centre's temporary exhibitions display original artifacts and photographs.

Why You Should Visit:
To see Iceland not from an academic historical and distant point of view but that of Icelandic people themselves: scientists, artists, children, citizens, from past & present.

Free with your National Museum ticket or the Reykjavik City Card; there are free lockers; set aside 1.5-2.5 hours here.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre

12) Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre

Notable addition to the Reykjavík skyline and Icelandic culture, set at the border between the land and the ocean, Harpa – the Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Centre – is a gleaming sculpture in the very heart of the Iceland capital, reflecting magnificent northern sky, bustling Reykjavík harbor and the vibrant city life. Shimmering in mesmerizing Arctic light, the angular design of this architectural gem blends in perfectly with the surrounding mountainous landscape and North Atlantic waterfront. Geometrically shaped glass paneled facade of the building has been inspired by crystallized basalt columns found in Iceland in abundance.

Winner of the prestigious Mies Van der Rohe architectural award, Harpa owes its intricate lattice of convex and concave glass design (making it resemble an alien spacecraft at night) to the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects, Icelandic firm Batteríið Architects, and Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Built at a cost of 164 million Euros, the venue opened in 2011 and has since attracted 4 million visitors.

Declared one of the best concert halls of the new millennium by the Gramophone magazine and the best performance venue in 2011 by Travel & Leisure magazine, Harpa (capable of seating up to 3500 guests at a time) – apart from being home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Icelandic Opera and the Reykjavik Big Band – also provides for great shopping (houses a score of design boutiques), gourmet dining (two high-end restaurants: Smurstöðin located on the 1st floor and Kolabraut on the 4th floor) and more (there are four halls of 28.000 square meters in total, including 6,600 sqm of conference space).

In addition to stunning architecture, Harpa also boasts state of the art equipment and, most notably, supreme eco-friendly characteristics. It relies mostly on natural light thanks to the glass facade, covering three of the four sides, allowing for significant reduction in electricity consumption. On top of that, all waste in the building is sorted and all recyclable waste is recycled, plus all the detergents used to clean the building carry the Swan label, a renowned eco label used in Scandinavian countries.

45-minute guided English tours of Harpa are provided on a daily basis.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Sólfar (Sun Voyager)

13) Sólfar (Sun Voyager) (must see)

Sun Voyager is a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason (1931-1989), located next to the Sæbraut road in Reykjavík. It is described as a dreamboat or an ode to the sun. The artist intended it to convey the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom.

In 1986, the district association of the west part of the city funded a competition for a new outdoor sculpture to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the city of Reykjavík. Jón Gunnar’s Sun Voyager won the competition, and the aluminum model was presented to the city for enlargement. The full-sized Sun Voyager was eventually unveiled on Sæbraut on the birthday of the city of Reykjavík, August 18, 1990.

The work is constructed of quality stainless steel and stands on a circle of granite slabs surrounded by so-called “town-hall concrete”. It was constructed in accordance with Jón Gunnar’s enlarged full-scale drawing of Sun Voyager and was overseen by Jón Gunnar’s assistant, the artist Kristinn E. Hrafnsson.

Why You Should Visit:
Great subject for photographs as it provides a nice vantage point to look out into the waters and think of very deep things.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Laugavegur Street

14) Laugavegur Street

To experience the charm of Reykjavik shopping, visit Laugavegur - the city's historic shopping district. On this street you will find specialty stores that sell clothes made by local and international designers, bookshops and souvenir stores. There are also many cafes, bars and restaurants along this street.

Walking Tours in Reykjavik, Iceland

Create Your Own Walk in Reykjavik

Create Your Own Walk in Reykjavik

Creating your own self-guided walk in Reykjavik is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
South Reykjavik Walking Tour

South Reykjavik Walking Tour

Reykjavik attracts tourists, first of all, with its unique, picturesque sunsets and views of the sky and also with its thermal waters. The southern part of Reykjavik has some interesting tourist attractions, including a geothermal beach with a magnificent and unforgettable skyline, geysers and museums. This self-guided tour will lead you to these amazing places:

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 Km or 3.6 Miles
Historical Churches

Historical Churches

Icelandic churches are unique, and much of the best architecture of Reykjavik can be found at its religious sites. Most churches in Reykjavik do not intrude on the picturesque and dramatic scenery surrounding them. The exception to this rule is Hallgrímskirkja, the most impressive church of the city. This self-guided tour will lead you to the religious sites of Reykjavik:

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.5 Km or 2.8 Miles
Museums Tour

Museums Tour

Reykjavik, a city of Viking heritage, offers a great variety of museums where you can see the artifacts that remain from the time of the Vikings. This self-guided tour will lead you through the most interesting museums of Reykjavik, revealing the rich Icelandic culture:

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles