If I had to name one thing about Iceland that I didn’t enjoy, it would have to be the expensive prices. Food, petrol, hotels, activities, you name it- it’s like a stab in the wallet. Luckily, in the capital city of Reykjavik, there are plenty of free things to do. You can easily fill up a day or two of your Iceland travel itinerary in Reykjavik, without spending money. If you’re visiting Iceland on a budget and want to spend some time in the city, check out these 15 fun and free things to do in Reykjavik!
Take a Free Walking Tour
Reykjavik is a great city for a free walking tour. Not only is it a pay what you want activity, but walking around Reykjavik is an awesome way to get to know the city and enjoy all its colorful buildings and shops! A free walking tour will take you to some of the city’s must-see sites, as well as some of the places on this list! CityWalk Iceland has a great free walking tour led by locals!
Stroll Down Laugavegur
If you don’t have the time for an organized free walking tour, you can definitely hit up the highlights on your own. The main street that runs through Reykjavik is called Laugavegur. Walking along this street, you’ll find tons of restaurants, souvenir shops, adorable cafes, and more. Parts of the street are even dedicated to pedestrians only, so it’s definitely something you don’t want to miss!
This iconic symbol is one of the free things to do in Reykjavik that you just cannot miss! The facade of Hallgrimskirkja is so unique, you’ll find yourself wanting to view it from all different angles. It is free to enter the church as well. If you wish, you can pay to ride the elevator to the very top and get a beautiful view over Reykjavik. But you’ll want to make sure you do it on a day that’s not very cloudy to get the best view possible.
Lief Erikson Statue
Just outside Hallgrimskirkja Church is the statue of Iceland’s famed explorer, Lief Erikson. He was the first European explorer to discover land on North America. He founded the Norse settlement, Vinland, which is believed to be what we now know as the area around Canada’s Newfoundland and New Brunswick. Not only are his accomplishments impressive, but if the statue in Reykjavik is even a little bit accurate, then DANG, Lief Erikson was a babe! Definitely take the chance to swoon over this hunky statue in Reykjavik.
Elliðaárdalur is a beautiful park outside of the city center that’s often overlooked by Iceland travelers. If you’re looking for some free things to do in Reykjavik that are less touristy, check out the activities in Elliðaárdalur. There are walking and biking trails to explore. There is a beautiful river that runs through the park. Some people even bring a picnic to enjoy on a sunny day.
Drink Clean Glacier Water
Iceland has some of the cleanest, freshest drinking water in the world! The country collects its cold tap water from the glacial waters found all over the land. Throughout Reykjavik, you can find public drinking fountains that supply this fresh water for free. No need to buy water bottles to stay hydrated!
Harpa Concert Hall
You don’t need a concert ticket to admire this amazing building. Before visiting, I wasn’t really sure what all the fuss was about, but when I saw the glass walls of Harpa Concert Hall, I was really blown away. It’s just something you have to see in person. You are welcome to step inside and view the interesting architecture as well. There are also free, clean restrooms you can use inside!
Kolaportið Flea Market
Just around the corner from Harpa Concert Hall is Reykjavik’s flea market. Open on the weekends from 11am to 5pm, Kolaportið is a great place to just walk and discover some cheap(er) goods in the city. You can find sunglasses, snacks, old books, second-hand clothing, and more. You may even be able to score some of Iceland’s famous fermented shark to try…if you dare. Light haggling is a custom at Kolaportið Flea Market, so you may be able to score yourself a cheap, eclectic souvenir!
Old Harbour Area
On the west end of Reykjavik, you’ll find the Old Harbour. Here, you can find lots of old fishing boats and many water-based tours. Some Reykjavik foodie favorites are also located in the Old Harbour, such as Kaffivagninn Coffee House, Valdís Ice Cream Parlor, and the lobster soup from Sægreifinn! If you’re particularly interested in Iceland’s maritime history, the Maritime Museum is also located here. If you don’t want to spend any money, you can easily just stroll up and down the harbour, looking at all the boats and little shops in the area.
Tjornin Pond is a great place to visit if you’re looking for free things to do in Reykjavik that are more quiet. In the summer months, the water is home to many Icelandic birds. People can walk around the pond or enjoy the lovely colorful homes that line the shore. There are plenty of benches around the pond where you can stop and relax or maybe read a book. In the winter, the pond freezes and becomes an excellent place for ice skating.
Sun Voyager Statue
Another iconic symbol of Reykjavik is the Sun Voyager statue. The statue was commissioned by artist Jon Gunnar in 1986 to commemorate Reykjavik’s 200th anniversary. The artist imagined the statue as an ode to the sun, and as a symbol of light and hope. Today, the statue sees thousands of visitors in its picturesque waterside location. Stop by and enjoy the statue, along with the harbor and the snow-covered Mt. Esja in the background.
Reykjavik City Hall
City Hall is usually not a place that people would want to visit, but City Hall in Reykjavik is a different story. In the exhibition hall inside, you can find a huge, detailed, three-dimensional map of Iceland. Here, you can get a better idea of Iceland’s fascinating topographical arrangement and geology. It’s particularly interesting to see after you’ve explored some other Iceland explorations, so you can see where all you’ve visited!
Admire The Street Art
Reykjavik is one of the most colorful and artsy cities I’ve visited! The cute little home and buildings in the city center are all different colors, and there is hardly a blank wall in town! Many of the giant murals you’ll find around the city are commissioned by local artists. If you’re a lover of street art, Reykjavik is a great city for you!
Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach
Believe it or not, you can actually plan for a beach day as part of your budget-friendly Reykjavik itinerary. Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach has a swimming area with geothermal waters pumped in, to make the water temperature more bearable for people. During the beach season, from May 15 to August 15, you may often find the area packed with locals on a sunny day. Along with the beach is a large, man-made hot-tub that you can enjoy even if the clouds are out and the wind is blowing. There are changing facilities, restrooms, and even a snack shop on site. Parking is free of charge as well. In the winter, from August 16 to December 31, you can also enjoy the hot tub, but there is a charge of 500ISK.
Grotta Lighthouse is located on the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula, about a 10-15 minute drive from the center of Reykjavik. It’s less frequented by visitors, making it another great, quiet place to visit. During low tide, you can walk from the parking lot out to the lighthouse. But make sure you pay attention though, because there’s a chance you could get stuck there when the tide comes back in. The area is also breeding grounds for some of Iceland’s bird population, so you can spot lots of different birds in the sky around the lighthouse.
Other Ways to Save Money in Reykjavik
Your trip to Iceland doesn’t have to destroy your travel budget. There are plenty of different free things to do in Reykjavik that will fill your itinerary and allow you to save some cash! If you’re staying for several days, here are some other ways you can save money in Reykjavik:
- Reykjavik City Card – This pass will allow you free entry to many of Reykjavik’s museums and attractions, as well as free use of many public pools, city transportation, and more. The Reykjavik City card can help you save some money if you want to make use of its discounts.
- Stay in an Airbnb – Lodging is another pricey part about visiting Reykjavik. There are tons of places on Airbnb around Reykjavik that are often cheaper than staying in a hotel or even a hostel. Get $40 off your next Airbnb rental here.
- Grocery Shop and Cook for Yourself – Visiting Reykjavik’s restaurants for every meal is a great way to quickly eat through your travel budget (Pun not intended, but totally impressive.) Find accommodation with a basic kitchen and you will save tons on food by shopping at Bónus and cooking your own meals. Here are some other ways to eat on a budget while traveling.
- Don’t Park in the City – Paying to park your rental car close to the city center is a waste. Parking in the surrounding residential areas will save you money, and it’s only a 10-20 minute walk to the center, depending on where you find a spot.
- Avoid Traveling During Peak Season – Peak tourist season almost always brings higher prices, no matter where you go. The best time to visit Reykjavik is during the shoulder season, in Spring and Fall, when the temperature is not so wintry and harsh, and the summer tourist crowds have not yet arrived.
- Go With a Friend – Traveling solo means having to absorb all the costs of Reykjavik travel yourself. But having a travel buddy lets you to split the costs of food, lodging, etc. and allows you to share the amazingness of Iceland with a friend!
- Get Outside The City – There are plenty of great day trips from Reykjavik that will allow you to get out of the city and see some of Iceland’s best free sites! There are lots of tour groups you can join, but renting a car in Iceland is the way to go!
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Love love loved Reykjavik when I went. Great list with excellent ideas!!!