Icelanders believe in magical folk, and it’s easy to see why on this wild and otherworldly island. Its haunting beauty has landed it a starring role on the Game of Thrones TV series, which is partly filmed here. Reykjavik is the world’s most northerly capital, full of quirky architecture, spectacular design and home to some of the best nightlife you’ll find anywhere. Visit geysers and waterfalls, wallow a while in the famous Blue Lagoon, and tickle your tastebuds with local specialities like putrid shark if you dare! Get the best out of this welcoming city with our essential guide to what to do in 48 hours in Reykjavik.
Day one: morning
Reykjavik is compact, so it won’t take long to get your bearings. Start by getting a bird’s-eye-view of the city by climbing the tower of its famous landmark, the Hallgrimskirkja church. Built in 1937, it’s the tallest building in Reykjavik. Then take a stroll along Laugavegur, the main shopping street, which is full of enticing boutiques, bakeries, design shops and cafés – perfect for a cosy lunch.
Day one: afternoon
Visit Reykjavik’s charming Old Harbour, filled with fishing boats and dominated by the stunning, glassy Harpa concert hall. There are several museums here, including the Saga Museum, which brings Icelandic history to life with interactive exhibits. (You can even dress up as a Viking!) For an unforgettable experience, you could take one of the whale-watching tours that depart from here (April to September are the best months for whale sightings). The newly trendy Grandi area near the harbour is full of great places for dinner, and perhaps a taste of Icelandic specialities such as puffin or shark.
Day two: Excursion to the Golden Circle
Dozens of tour-operators run day-long tours of the Golden Circle, which is a route that links Iceland’s top 3 attractions: the Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall (all of which have made appearances in Game of Thrones). Thingvellir was the site of Iceland’s first parliament, and its crags, waterfalls, glacial rivers and lakes are hauntingly beautiful. The Geysir area is a reminder of just how new Iceland is, geologically speaking, with volcanoes bubbling just below the surface. The geysirs spurt huge jets of scalding water high into the air in one of nature’s most dramatic displays, and the powerful Gulfoss waterfall plunges for 70 metres down a spectacular canyon.
Back in Reykjavik, you could go for an evening session at the Blue Lagoon, a stunning geothermally heated pool, or party with the locals at the city’s famous bars and clubs.