Exploring Reykavík on foot

Opposed to many people I met, I hadn’t done much research before my trip. I decidedly took my time to just rest and explore at a leisurely pace rather than ticking off attractions.

Iceland is home to less than 380,000 people. Around 250,000 of them live in the capital region, and the city itself has about 140,000 inhabitants. To me, it didn’t feel like a city, though, more like a larger town. Most houses have two or three stories, and the pace is pleasantly laid back. The locals speak excellent English, mainly with an American accent. This is unsurprising as the US has had an Air Base in Keflavik since the 1950s.

Despite its moderate size, Reykjavík offers plenty to do even without leaving the centre. If you don’t like walking as much, you can use the local bus network to get around.  

Free walking tour

One of the things I love doing in any city is joining a walking tour. The CitiWalk Tour is free and only supported by voluntary donations at the end. I enjoyed it and found it super interesting. Big shout out to our guide, Mo (Maurice) from the Dominican Republic (if I remember correctly), who offered an interesting “outsider from within” view of Iceland and its people. One of the valuable nuggets of information was that Icelandic is very close to old Norse and a very literal language. Reykjavík, for example, means Steamy Bay and Vikings are simply Bay People. That’s why I translated the names of places and streets in these blog posts, as it hopefully helps you to remember them more easily. The other nugget was that due to its remote location and the relatively small number of people, Icelanders are often closely related. To keep offspring healthy, Icelanders check an app that allows them to check their degree of relation to their dating partner. You don’t believe it? Check out this video.

I highly recommend this tour, which offers a lot of insight about history, Icelandic people and their culture. It doesn’t involve a lot of walking, so dress warm against the wind in colder months. 

The waterfront

Reykjavík’s waterfront offers stunning views over the bay to the mountains on other side and the Sun Voyager is a popular photo spot for tourists. This is true not only on sunny days, but also when the strong wind whips sleet into your face. On one such miserable day I wanted to take pictures of the choppy sea and dramatic skies, but the hail whipping into my face made me reconsider and seek shelter in a café with a cappuccino. A new friend from the hostel fortunately was less wimpy – Thank you Cecilia for sharing some of your pictures with me!

Street art

While walking through the streets of Reykjavík, I noticed lots of street art. Sometimes in the form of small but poignant graffiti expressing political opinions, other times as impressive murals that were often nature-themed. 

Updated: November 25, 2023 — 2:08 pm