Surrounded by Iceland’s rolling fjords, Reykjavik bursts with traditional Nordic charm and modern Scandinavian cool. This clean and green little city is the world’s most Northern capital, and certainly has it’s own quirky vibe with boho cafes filled with dreamers and poets, thermal spas in the snow, and an energetic clubbing scene pulsing every night of the week.
Iceland may be known as one of the most expensive destinations in Europe, but don’t let that put you off – recent economic turmoil means that prices aren’t as astronomical as before, and with plenty of Reykjavik hostels, you can make an affordable trip to the city. Check out our top three hostels in Reykjavik too. Need any more convincing? Check out our suggestions for 10 things to do in Reykjavik on a backpacker’s budget…
1. A nightlife tour
Reykjavik nightlife is famous, but it’s hard to know where to start. For a small fee you can join the Night Circle Tour which starts in Bar 11, with an hour of free drinks from the bar, and moves on to different bars with free shots, a free hot dog (to soak up the booze) and entry to a club later all included. You will be accompanied by 30 others on the tour – an instant supply of drinking buddies and chance to meet other travellers!
If you’d rather go it alone, try Kaffi Sólon, which, depending on which time you visit is a café/bar/bistro/nightclub, that displays local art every month.
2. Bike it
With its valleys, rivers and beaches, Reykjavik is a city surrounded by the great outdoors, and there’s no better way to explore it than by bike. Hire a bike from Iceland Bike and find your own way around the city, or join in with their free tours in the summer – they’ll take you off the beaten track to some interesting sights – like the home of eclectic singer Bjork!
3. Indulge in a spa
Iceland is also famous for its natural hot springs and outdoor spas – perfect for recovering from a manic night out. The largest is Laugardalslaug with a slide, hot pots and steam bath, or try The Blue Lagoon, with thermal springs, a swimming pool and steam baths, set in a lava field just outside the city.
4. Discover Iceland’s Past
The National Museum is stuffed full of artefacts covering Icelandic culture from settlement to the present day. The permanent exhibitions ranges from Viking age objects to a collection of 20th century photographs.
5. Gullfoss Waterfall
Located in the canyon of the Hvítá river, Gullfoss (‘Golden Falls’) is one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls and one of the most beautiful sights in Iceland. You can get to the falls by car or by taking the tour bus, and it’s well worth the trip – the falls are breathtaking up close – plus it’s completely free to wander around.
6. Go Gover-mental
Forget the Houses of Parliament, head to Austurvllur Square in the Old Town, for the Althingishús, the world’s oldest functioning parliament. Founded in 930, the parliament buildings are some of the oldest stone buildings in Iceland, dating from the 19th century.
8. Whale of a time
Wander to the harbour, and you’ll find the old whaling ships, moored opposite the whale watching companies. They may no longer be in use, but these ships provide a fascinating insight into the Iceland of old. The whale-watching cruises themselves are a great chance to see the city from the water, even if you don’t spot any whales.
7. Hunt Down a hot dog
Believe it or not, hot dogs are a national delicacy in Iceland, and the only place to try them is Baejarins Beztu Pylsur – ‘The Best Hot Dog in Town’. This hot dog stand in the centre of town serves juicy sausages a bun comes with mustard, fried onions and mayonnaise – even Bill Clinton has had one!
9. Go fish
Reykjavik is a still a major fishing port, and the Old Harbour is also home to the fish market, which is cheaper than local supermarkets. “The Baron” stall in the fish market is the perfect antidote to the winter chill – the owner takes his leftover fish and makes the most delicious crayfish soup you can imagine. Sit on old barrels and drink beer while sipping your soup from a cup.
10. Score a Souvenir
Reykjavik is great for picking up some quirky souvenirs. The Kolaportid weekend flea market at the Old Harbour has vintage clothing, second-hand books and unusual home buys. Scattered among these are craft and souvenir stalls.
Been to Iceland? Share your budget tips with us below…