Are you coming to Reykjavík on a tight budget? Here are 7 things you can do for cheap or free!
Are you coming to Reykjavík on a tight budget? Iceland’s capital city has a lot to offer the frugal traveler. Whether you’re an experienced backpacker or first-time explorer, you can still have a blast without blowing all your savings.
The best things, after all, sometimes come for free—and Reykjavík is no exception. Be sure to stay in hostels and meet fellow travelers, and you’ll be thrilled by what Iceland has in store.
Here are 7 things you can do for cheap or free in Reykjavík.
1. Check out all the quirky murals
Reykjavík is known for being an artsy city, but its art isn’t just confined to museums—it’s displayed on the streets themselves, out in the open air. Vibrant, colorful murals are abundant in the downtown area, and you don’t even need a map to find them. Sometimes the best way to encounter street art is to simply go wandering.
However, if you want to check out Reykjavík’s most famous murals, hit up these locations: Laugavegur, the main shopping street downtown, which is practically covered in art; Brauð & Co. (on Frakkarstígur), possibly the most colorful bakery in Iceland; and the old harbor area.
2. Soak in a hot tub
You may have heard a lot about the Blue Lagoon, but you can relax in hot tubs and saunas without leaving the city. Reykjavík has seven public baths in total, so no matter where you’re staying, a hot tub is guaranteed to be nearby. Not only are these pools much beloved by locals, but they’re inexpensive—and they’re also a great place to go when the weather is dreary.
3. Explore Öskjuhlíð
Though Iceland doesn’t have many tall trees, you’re in luck if you come to Reykjavík. A thick evergreen forest called Öskjuhlíð surrounds Perlan, or the Pearl, a glass-domed landmark on the outskirts of the city. The forest—which covers a hilltop and stretches down to the coast—is replete with walking trails and even features the ruins of British barracks from the Second World War. In Öskjuhlíð, you can get a taste of nature and history at the same time.
You can walk to the woods from downtown or take a free shuttle bus to Perlan (the shuttle leaves every half-hour from Harpa, the main concert hall).
4. Peak into City Hall
It’s not every day that you can step into a capital city’s seat of government. However, Reykjavík’s city hall, or Ráðhús, is not only open to the public but also a frequent tourist stop. Inside, you’ll find a vast topographic map of Iceland and peer out across the picturesque lake. What’s more, the city hall frequently hosts an art exhibit—and entrance is always free.
5. Shop at the flea market
What would Iceland be without its very own flea market? This vast shopping area, also known as Kolaportið, is packed with stalls selling handmade Icelandic sweaters, scrumptious chocolates, Icelandic books, cheap shoes and various trinkets. You can even sample smoked salmon or Iceland’s infamous rotted shark.
Keep in mind that the market is only open on weekends.
6. Look into the sky
Gazing upwards might sound boring, but in Iceland, the sky is full of natural wonders. If you’re here in the summertime, the midnight sun could be in full view—step out of your hostel any time at night, and it will be light enough to walk down to the shore or check out the mural you missed yesterday. In the summer, it’s easy to stay up late chatting with new friends, strolling the city streets or heading downtown to grab a midnight snack.
Winter is a different creature altogether. The darkness dominates, but it’s just as enticing—even in December, when the sun barely crawls above the horizon. That’s because winter brings out the northern lights, which dance in the sky with remarkable colors. It’s best to get away from the city’s bright lights in order to glimpse this natural phenomenon, though you can sometimes see the aurora in the middle of downtown. Try walking along the peninsula Seltjarnarnes or hiking up toward Perlan for the optimal view.
Because Iceland has so much to offer, it’s only natural to want to get outside of Reykjavík. However, if you’re on a budget, renting a car may be out of the question. That’s where your hostel can come in handy: if you make a friend who’s renting a car, offer to pitch in for gas and go along for the ride. Alternatively, many hostels keep carpooling lists in a public place, making it easy for you to request or host a ride.
Even if you didn’t plan on leaving Reykjavík, your hostel may open up unexpected doors to new adventures.
Don’t let traveling on a shoestring prevent you from having the time of your life in this frosty northern city.