History and Culture
Last minute holidays to Iceland aren’t just for the remarkable views, the Nordic country is steeped in traditional island culture and the story behind the country is as interesting as the island itself. You can learn all about it in the many museums dotted around the city.
The Viking influence can still be felt today – even the Icelandic language is descended from the Vikings. You can take a 20 minute drive from Reykjavik and step into a Viking themed village in Hafnarfjordur, or experience and learn all things Viking in a visit to Viking World in Reykjanesbær, just a 40 minute drive from the capital.
If you fancy something a little magical then Iceland is definitely the place for you. Polls showed that over half of Icelanders either believe or entertain the idea of elves. Yes, elves! This belief is so strong that protest groups along with the local residents have actually halted many construction plans where elves supposedly live. There are hundreds of stories about the elves of Iceland, it’s worth asking a native about it when you get there or sign up for one of the many elf tours to learn more.
The clear waters of Silfra and the positioning of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, provide an opportunity to witness to a rare geological spectacle on your holiday to Iceland. Deep in Thingvellir National Park, you can snorkel in glacial waters (don’t worry you get to wear a wetsuit) and experience being on two continents at once. For those who want to a really dig deep in the geological magic, scuba diving is also available.
Entertainment and Nightlife
As the capital city, Reykjavik is not only the cultural hub of the county, but also home to the best nightlife in Iceland too. By day, some of the hottest clubs and pubs are restaurants but, don’t worry, they turn into booming dance floors by night.
With pubs, clubs and live-music venues, Reykjavik caters to a wide variety of tastes. If you like to dance the night away, check out Austur on Austurstraeti Street, but, a word of warning – the drinking age is 20 in Iceland and you’re guaranteed to get asked for ID everywhere you go if you look any younger than 30, so, make sure you have some proof of age with you.
If the party scene isn’t your thing, you can retreat to one of the many late-opening cafés in Reykjavik. With a relaxed feel, you’ll love chilling and chatting in places like Café Paris in the central of the city and if you’re travelling with little ones this is a lovely, Icelandic way to spend the evening.
From malls to boutiques
If you love to shop, then Reykjavik is the place for you. Between charming boutiques and designer shops, this city has everything. Whether you’re after souvenirs or vintage clothing, we’re sure you’ll find something you love down the streets of Laugarvegur and Skólavördustígur.
If you find yourself in the mood for a big shopping spree, there are malls you can spend the whole day looking round. You could take a quick trip to Kringlan, home to over 150 shops and restaurants, or go further afield to Smaralind Shopping Centre, a shopping haven spread across 3 floors. Either way, you won’t struggle to find something to spend your Krónas on.
Iceland’s traditional dish is different depending on who you ask. The majority of answers are either shark, Hakarl or the Pylsa hot dog (this hot dog is different because it includes lamb as well as pork and beef) but either way, the natives love their food.
There’s a wide range of cuisines in the city, but if you’d like to try something authentically Icelandic, Reykjavik boasts plenty of Nordic restaurants. There are lots of places to experience typical dishes from around the world making the city ideal for even the fussiest of eaters. Home to some of the best local and international chefs, you’ll never be too far from something truly delicious.
For those of you who love food and hate the endless loads of laundry that’s inevitable after your holidays, you can now combine the two in one fun, original experience at the Laundormat Café. With hearty portions and book-worm décor, you can dive head-first into a delicious meal whilst those holiday clothes are in the washer and dryer, we only wish it was this fun back home.
Flights to Iceland take around two and a half hours from the UK. There are buses, taxis and cars you can hire from the airport. You can start your holiday in style by pre-ordering a chauffeur to drive you to your hotel or guesthouse straight from the airport. You also have a choice of cars, SUVs and limousines to pick from.
There are lots of places a hire-car will come in useful, but if you’d prefer a holiday from driving too, there are a number of organised excursions that will take you to all the sought-after places.
Exploring Reykjavik can be done on foot, by bike or by bus. The buses run regularly around the city and there’s a bus station in the centre of Reykjavik that can take you all over the country.
Iceland is host to all different types of sports. In January every year the Reykjavik International Games see over 20 different sports for participants to compete in. Situated conveniently in the ‘Valley of Sports’, Laugardalur Valley, local spectators and tourists alike show their support for the competitors, especially in the ‘national sport’ of handball.
If sports aren’t your thing, celebrate with the people of Reykjavik in the uplifting Winter Light Festival. Every February, hundreds of tourists and locals come together to celebrate the light in the long, dark winter months. This event has something for all ages, from an 80-metre water slide and disco in an open air thermal pool in Álftaneslaug to live bands and concerts in the heart of the city. If you’re travelling to Reykjavik in February, this is a must-see event.
You can also catch the Viking Festival in Hafnarfjörður, a 20 minute drive from Reykjavik. This festival has been going since 1995 and lets you revel in all things Viking. Enjoy staged battles, crafts and merrymaking costumes during the six-day long event.
Exact dates for these festivals change each year, so be sure to check the dates before you book a late deal to Iceland.
Best times to visit
With cool temperatures throughout the year, Iceland is the perfect place to try winter activities all year round – you can do practically anything, from skiing to glacier ice treks.
November to March sees temperatures average as low as -3°C, the coldest month being January. Some days have less than four hours of daylight but generally there is anywhere from 6 to 10 daylight hours throughout the winter.
If you’re lucky you can spot the Northern Lights from October to March. January, February and March are said to be the best time of year to see them, but there is no guarantee with nature. Plenty of companies offer services to take you to open landscapes to assist your Aurora hunting or, you can simply rent a car and look for a clear patch of sky. Of course, if you do head out into the wilderness unaccompanied, always employ proper care and attention and tell someone where you are going.