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Iceland’s capital is a city of extremes. Not only is it the most northerly capital city in the world, but it’s also surrounded by an awe-inspiring landscape of storm-tossed seas and dramatic mountains, and is home to some of the most exciting examples of art and design in northern Europe.
We overnight in Reykjavik on our Iceland and Greenland cruises, giving you even more time to experience all that Reykjavik has to offer (and to enjoy the city’s famed nightlife). Here’s how we think you should spend your precious 48 hours in this fascinating, ever-changing city.
Start your time in Iceland by getting your bearings on one of our Panoramic Reykjavik tours. Your introduction to vibrant Reykjavik will reveal some of its much-loved charms: the traditional wooden houses of the Old Quarter, Hallgrimskirkja Church (Iceland’s largest church and undoubtedly its most striking), and the churning Ellida River. You’ll pause at the Pearl (also known as Perlan) – a revolving glass dome which houses a fine dining restaurant – for views over the city and perhaps a spot of lunch.
No visit to Reykjavik is complete without exploring the storied Golden Circle. This 300km route begins in the capital, and takes in three of Iceland’s most well-known natural wonders. On our Golden Circle tour, you’ll have the chance to stroll through the historic Thingvellir National Park, marvel at the Gullfoss Waterfall and witness the spectacular geysers of the Haukadalur Valley.
Immerse yourself in some of Iceland’s most extraordinary landscapes on a Glacier Safari. On your way to the glaciers, you’ll pass thundering waterfalls of lava and the gravel desert of Kaldidalur before coming upon the frozen world of Langjokull Glacier. This four wheel-drive adventure is ideal for the adrenaline-lovers.
After a full-on day of exploring, relax and indulge in a hearty dinner at Grillmarkadurinn (The Grill Market). The restaurant’s interior design celebrates Iceland’s landscapes, with natural elements like water and rock taking centre-stage. Sip a refined cocktail before tucking into a modern Icelandic feast of grilled meat, game and fresh fish.
On your second day in Reykjavik, soak up the city’s cultural and artistic scene at the Nordic House, which was designed by Alvar Aalto, a modernist Finnish architect. Wander the exhibition space to discover everything from street art to photography. The Living Art Museum is run by local artists, and also features live music events, performances and film screenings. It’s housed in the same building as Kling and Bang, which is dedicated to thought-provoking pieces of art.
In the afternoon, take a trip to what is arguably Iceland’s most famous attraction: the Blue Lagoon. This enormous geothermal spa is one of the 25 wonders of the world, and is located on a lava field around 40km from Reykjavik. The geothermal seawater is said to be relaxing and rejuvenating, and is what gives the lagoon its distinctive blue hue. Grab a drink at the in-water bar, reap the benefits of a mineral face mask or heat up in the sauna during your visit.
Don’t leave Iceland without trying some of the city’s street food, which has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. Head to the Hlemmur Food Hall, an indoor food market where you can grab anything from organic vegetables to Mexican burritos. After a busy day, pull up a seat at one of the bars and enjoy a charcuterie board alongside a full-bodied glass of red.
Iceland is one of the best places to see the northern lights. When the skies are clear during August to April, you have a good chance of seeing the famed aurora borealis in Reykjavik. As a general rule of thumb, the closer to the coast you are and the further away from light pollution such as streetlights, the more likely you are to spot those fabled green lights dancing across the sky. Join us on a Museum of the Northern Lights tour: you’ll visit the Northern Lights Centre before going hunting for them yourself in the night sky.
The sights and landscapes of Reykjavik are waiting. Start your Icelandic adventure now by browsing all of our northern Europe cruises.
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