If you’ve ever spent more than 30 seconds on Instagram, it won’t surprise you to hear that Iceland is a top destination these days. With friendly people, great food, and ridiculous natural landscapes, the island nation’s recognition is long overdue - and thanks to IcelandAir’s now famous stopover program, you can layover in Iceland en route to Europe at no extra charge. Here’s how to make the most of your layover in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Warm up with a bowl of ramen.
Ramen Momo, Iceland’s first specialized ramen joint, has all the rich, warm broth you’ll need to stay cozy in Reykjavik’s blistering cold. (Did we mention this place’s other specialty is dumplings? Yes, please.) Ramen Momo’s tiny hole-in-the-wall dining room only has space for a handful of guests, so you’ll enjoy a charming and intimate atmosphere as you devour your soup.
Get lost along the waterfront.
Reykjavik’s historic Old Harbour and waterfront are a delightful mix of top-notch tourist offerings alongside still-developing industrial spaces and anchored fishing boats. It’s a great place to wander on foot, especially if you keep an eye out for the fantastic murals and public art you’ll spot in the area. Once you’ve walked up an appetite, enjoy traditional Icelandic seafood at Höfnin, a gem of a restaurant right on the water.
Lounge in a thermal pool.
For most visitors to Iceland, curiosity about the country’s thermal pools and hot springs only go as far as the Blue Lagoon, a man-made thermal bath known for its neon blue waters. The Blue Lagoon is certainly fun, but what about visiting someplace that isn’t packed to the brim with tourists? Stop by Laugarvatn Fontana, a spa and wellness space centered around natural hot springs just over an hour outside of Reykjavik. You’ll find steam baths, geothermal pools, and a Finnish sauna. And should you prefer a refreshing dip in chillier waters, the whole experience is situated on a scenic lakefront.
Chow down on Iceland’s national dish.
Iceland’s famous hot dogs are nothing like the kind you’ll find at an American ballpark. Made of grass fed lamb, beef, and pork, these dogs are a trip straight to culinary heaven. The most popular spot to try Icelandic hot dogs is Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, a food cart by the Reykjavik waterfront. If you want to avoid the cart’s long lines, you’ll want to hop over to Pylsuhusid Hot Dog House instead. Pylsuhusid just might have the freshest and tastiest hot dogs on the island, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that they also sell ice cream.
Take in some local photography.
With a whopping 5 million(!) photos, the Reykjavik Museum of Photography has been lauded as one of the best museums in Europe. The museum’s collection ranges from photos taken in 1870 all the way to 2002. You’ll see a visual story of Iceland’s history and growth into the thriving nation it is today, as captured by talented Icelandic photographers.
See the city from above.
Be sure to stop by Hallgrimskirkja Church and take the elevator to the very top, where you’ll find unrivaled panoramic views of Reykjavik’s. The church gets crowded most days, but it’s well worth the hassle to see the city’s colorful rooftops and waterfront from above.
The birth of Reykjavik’s coffee culture can be traced back to two small cafe chains: Te & Kaffi and Kaffitár. Opened in the ‘80s and ‘90s respectively, these two cafes catapulted Iceland into the third wave coffee scene, and are now well-known local institutions. Drop in to get a feel for Iceland’s famous cafe culture, where you’ll spot locals chatting with friends and neighbors. (You’ll also spot babies left napping in their strollers, unattended, on the streets outside the cafe. Pick your jaw up off the floor - in Iceland this is common and totally safe!)
Get acquainted with the great outdoors.
Iceland’s eye-popping natural wonders - think geysers, mountains, glaciers, and lunar-like terrain - are central to what makes the country so unique. If you have an extra day to spare, venture out and see the landscapes for yourself at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and Seljalandsfoss waterfall, along Iceland’s Western coast. Both are within a 1.5 - 2.5 hour drive from Reykjavik.