Change language

How to spend less and see more in Reykjavik

Reykjavik has a reputation for being expensive but there are plenty of ways to enjoy Iceland’s capital city without breaking the bank.

Discover one of the best falafel sandwiches you've ever eaten in Reykjavik

Discover one of the best falafel sandwiches you've ever eaten in Reykjavik

Eating

Prepare to have your life changed: tap water in Iceland is exactly the same as bottled water. It’s been proven via scientific testing and, thanks to science, your dining budget just doubled.

That said, some of the best food in Reykjavik is also the cheapest and the most geographically varied. Go vegetarian at Cafe Babalu, grab a falafel sandwich at Habibi Kebabs, test your endurance by trying to clear an entire plate at Viking Kebab, or try some of the best noodles in town at Noodle Station.

An Icelandic rock band rehearsing

An Icelandic rock band rehearsing

Music

Reykjavik's live music scene is known for its cosy, experimental gigs in small bars and cafés that make it a point of pride to put on at least a couple of acts a week. Kaffibarinn and Café Rosenberg are two of the most popular for live music, combining Icelandic hospitality with a great drinks selection.

Hostels are also getting in on the act with Kex Hostel regularly putting on gigs, including Thursday jazz nights, and Loft Hi Hostel has everything from DJs to poetry.

Some of the art on display at Hotel Holt, Reykjavik

Some of the art on display at Hotel Holt, Reykjavik

Art

The Reykjavik Art Museum overlooks the Reykjavik harbour and has a fantastic collection of Icelandic and international artists. Entry is free to under 18s and a ticket to the museum gives visitors access to all three galleries managed by the RAM.

There are small gallery boutiques dotted around Reykjavik which showcase local artisans, Kogga Ceramic Studio and Art Gallery 101 are both worth a look.

Recently a number of Reykjavik hostels have also started hosting exhibitions (such as Oddsson in the Vesturbær district) and Hotel Holt is decorated with works from Iceland’s largest private art collection.

A City Walk tourguide giving a free walking tour in Iceland's capital city

A City Walk tourguide giving a free walking tour in Iceland's capital city

Tours

There are a handful of free tours in Reykjavik, the most popular of which is City Walk, which meets at Austurstræti 101. This walking tour takes in all of the city highlights and the guides are happy to recommend local attractions for every budget.

Many bike rental companies have free cycling tours and a few hotels like Guesthouse Sunna offer a variety of tours, including whale watching.

Finally you can combine the cost of a tour and lunch by checking out the Reykjavik Food Walk, a delicious tour of Reykjavik that’ll give you a million low-budget, high-quality dining options.

Reykjavik on a clear day

Reykjavik on a clear day

Views

Climbing Esjan mountain gives visitors an uninterrupted view of Reykjavik and the surrounding countryside. If you’re not really up for a hike but still appreciate a good view, many Reykjavik residents visit Lake Tjornin, based in the heart of the city, to feed the birds.

The old church Hallgrimskirkja is another popular spot for sightseeing, or visitors can kill two birds with one stone by booking a room on the top floor of multi-storey hotels like the Icelandair Natura or Eyja Guldsmeden.

The best and easiest way to explore Reykjavik

The best and easiest way to explore Reykjavik

Transport

The main (and cheapest) form of public transport in Reykjavik is bus and there are lots of discounts to be had, especially for children aged 12-18 and travellers planning a longer stay. As the bus drivers can’t give change it’s worth investing in a discount card before boarding.

Thanks to the city’s beautifully-maintained streets, walking around Reykjavik is a great way to explore, especially if you manage to find the ancient walkway that circles the entire city. This scenic route is also pleasant to cycle and many properties (such as Thompsen Residence Suites, Smáragata Rooms, Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel, and Hotel Ódinsvé) offer guests cheap bike rental.

Where to stay

For accommodation in Reykjavik where the prices are low and the review scores are high, check out the following:

Our House Guesthouse
Built in the 1920s and only a 4 minute walk from Laugaegur (Reykjavik's main shopping area) this well-situated guesthouse has a hot tub and sauna, offering a relaxing way to end the day after all that walking.

Aska Apartment
For travellers looking to save their money, these self-catered apartments have everything you need to whip your own, home-cooked food and are located right in the centre of Reykjavik.