It’s true; Reykjavik is an expensive city (especially if you’re British because the exchange rate is so bad for us). Luckily, there are plenty of free things you can do while exploring Iceland’s capital city.
Admire some weird and wonderful street art [Read: 10 pieces of Reykjavik street art you need to see & where to find it]
Reykjavik has a reputation for it’s street art. It’s plentiful and it is all kinds of weird and beautiful.
You really don’t have to look far to find it either because you’ll find some of it adorning shop fronts down Laugavegur, you’ll catch glimpses of it down side streets, and if you go wandering you’ll find it decorating neighbourhoods.
My personal favourite was this really simple but powerful piece. I saw it and these whole waves of the feels hit me.
See the city from Harpa
Impossible to miss, Harpa is Reykjavik’s concert and exhibition hall. While the events are ticketed, anyone can wander into the building, and up the stairs to see the city from a height.
The building itself is really pretty, with oddly shaped windows, some of which are tinted, which make for a nice pattern against the city.
Walk along the sea wall
Once you’ve visited Harpa, take a left out of the building and walk along the seawall where you can let the crisp air hit your face and take in views of Mount Esja.
Photograph sun voyager
This sculpture on the seawall is one of the most touristy spots in the city. I mean, it’s easy to see why; it’s a beautiful sculpture depicting a ship with the sea and Mt Esja in the background. And if you go down at sunrise or sunset, your bound to get a brilliant photo. Though you might have to wait your turn because everyone wants a photo in front of it.
Take a free walking tour [Read: Discover Reykjavik on a free walking tour from CityWalks]
CityWalks offer a very popular two-hour walking tour around Reykjavik, covering the history of the city and the Icelandic culture. From personal experience I can tell you that this tour is absolutely worth it and is a brilliant way to see and learn about the city.
This tour is listed as free, as it doesn’t have any kind of ticket price, and you basically pay what you think the tour is worth. Technically, it’s free as you don’t have to pay your guide anything. But if you do pay your guide, it’s probably one of the cheapest activities you can do in Reykjavik and is certainly worth it.
Stroll around Tjornin
Tjornin is the park next to city hall, where you can take a nice leisurely stroll around a lake and enjoy looking at the nice neighbourhoods around it.
Get up close with Iceland…and a vagina?
Ok, so I’m going to start on the one that caught your attention here; the vagina. So, Iceland’s mayor decided that the best way to celebrate 100 years of women being allowed to vote in Iceland was to unveil some artwork depicting a vagina. It’s not immensely obscene and to be honest I probably wouldn’t have realised what it was had I not been told.
I mean, I kinda see the major’s idea; people don’t say the word ‘vagina’ all that often and look you’ve read it four times in the last minute! On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like the most progressive way to stop sexism but Reykajvik does also have a penis museum, so I guess it balances out. Plus, it is a very liberal city.
Once you’ve gotten over that, take a look at the huge 3D map of Iceland.
Get a panoramic view at the Perlan
The viewing deck of the Perlan offers 360 degree views of the surrounding area, making it a perfect place to get a really good view of the city. (The best place is probably Hallgrimskirkja right in the city, but that’s not free.) It’s completely free to get to the viewing deck, but there is a restaurant and a cafe if you fancy a bite to eat.
While it will cost you to get up to the top of Hallgrimskirkja, walking around it and admiring the church is completely free. You can also go inside the church for free. If you do want to get up to the top, get there early or prepare to queue.
See the northern lights
If the conditions are right, it’s possible to see lady aurora from the city. We headed down to the sea wall on a clear night, when good solar activity was forecast (you’ll find the aurora forecast website handy), and we were rewarded with a patch of green in the sky.
It was hard to spot at first, and to begin with I wasn’t sure if it was a cloud and my brain was playing tricks on me and turning it green. But no. The green got stronger and we saw it for about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, I had broken my tri-pod the day before so my photos were not great (as you can see).
When it comes to the lights, it really is about having the perfect weather conditions, especially if you’re in a city where light pollution can make them even harder to see.
If you’re a keen photographer and want to head out of the city on a trip to see the lights, I cannot recommend Arctic Shots enough & you can read about my experience on their northern lights tour here.
Spot the Yule Lads
If you’re visiting Reykjavik during the festive period, make sure to keep your eye out for the Yule Lads being projected onto buildings.
The Yule Lads are part of Icelandic folklore. There are 13 of them and 13 days before Christmas, one comes into town each night.
Over Christmas, the Yule Lads can be seen projected onto buildings, which makes a pretty fun kinda treasure hunt; especially if you’ve got kids.
Would you add anything else to the list?