Reykjavik, Iceland’s Capital City

Reykjavik, Iceland's capital, is probably among the unknown European capitals. However, it has plenty to offer to those who dare to discover it. Let's dig into the city's history, origin, and further tourist details that will surely help you while in Iceland.

Hallgrimskirjka church in the downtown of Reykjavik, Iceland's capital city

blog author By Samuel Hogarth shield verificationVerified Expert

    Welcome to Reykjavik, Iceland's capital city. Located in the country's southeastern part, it is the northernmost capital in the world and the most populated town in Iceland. Despite being small in size, it is large in adventure, leisure, and restaurant offers, and is an honorable member of our list of 30 best things to do in Iceland. Today, we will share everything about the principal city of this remote Nordic island.

    Iceland, Reykjavik, and its history

    Reykjavik is currently the most populous city in Iceland, with a population of about 131,136 people and a total of 233,034 if we add the metropolitan area. That means that approximately 60% of the Icelandic population lives in or near the capital.

    Reykjavik is located in the southern part of Faxaflói Bay, in the southwest of the country. Today it is undoubtedly the economic, cultural, and governmental center of Iceland, but beginnings are never easy, are they? For Reykjavik it was not either; it lived through buoyant times, times of crisis, and foreign domination.

    Reykjavik means "smoking bay" in Icelandic. And its name is due to the vapors that gushed from the ground due to geothermal energy. It seems that it was right in this area that the first settlement of Vikings from Norway was founded around the year 870. In the Landnámabok, or settlement book, the adventures of a group led by Ingólfur Arnarson, a Viking leader and explorer from Sogn, Norway, are narrated.

    Starting in the 18th century, the industrial development of the island began. Denmark used it mainly as a cotton industry location. It was in 1786 when the town was granted a municipality status. Coinciding with this letter, the Danish crown granted Reykjavik an entire trade route. In 1843 it became the Parliament's seat, and in 1918 it became the capital of Iceland just as the nation became a sovereign state. It was finally in 1944 when Iceland obtained absolute independence from Denmark.

    How do you pronounce Reykjavik?

    The name of the Icelandic capital is pronounced Ray-kyah-veek. Perhaps the thing that can be somewhat confusing is the J between the K and the A, but here it has a vowel sound similar to "Y" in English. It usually happens in the Icelandic language, so if you ever see "J" in the middle of consonants, think of it as a "Y" and you will surely get it right.

    Map of Iceland with the name of each town on it 

    Reykjavik Iceland Weather

    The weather conditions of each month will directly affect what you will have to pack. The average monthly temperature in Iceland must also be considered when preparing a trip. And since Iceland is so far north, the number of hours of sunshine you will have during your trip will also vary markedly depending on what time of year you visit.

    Iceland's proximity to the North Pole means that it can get quite cold here. And the temperatures in summer are not going to be anywhere near as warm as in other countries. So while other places may be experiencing a heatwave, the weather in Iceland in June, July and August will be much cooler. Its northern latitude provides almost endless hours of light during the summer months. By contrast, the number of daylight hours in Iceland in winter is significantly reduced.

    The coldest month in Reykjavik is usually February. As of April, the weather begins to change slightly, but we are still talking about 0-5 degrees Celsius on average.

    Girl bathing in geothermal waters surrounded by a snowy mountains in winter

    The warmest month is July, the average is around 13ºC, and I bet it is quite surprising to you, it is not exactly what comes to mind when many think of "summer." There may be heatwaves at particular times, so the temperature reaches higher degrees, but that would already be outside the most common average.

    The months with the most sunshine hours (21 hours) are June and July due to the Midnight Sun, while the darkest are November and December, with 5 and 4h of sunshine, respectively.

    The wettest month in Reykjavik, Iceland, is January with 47mm of precipitation. In contrast, the driest are June and July with 25mm.

    Remember, if you don't like the weather in Iceland, wait five minutes.

    Hotels in Reykjavik, Iceland

    Although Reykjavik is small, you will always have different options for accommodation and all budgets. We bring you the best options within the center of the city, so it will be more comfortable for you to move to the tourist spots and move through Reykjavik's streets.

    Reykjavik Residence Hotel

    This hotel is in the heart of Reykjavik. They offer luxury apartments with a private kitchen and WIFI. The Reykjavik Residence Hotel is a great option for privacy, and comfort though not at a budget price!


    Alda hotel

    If you prefer to be cared for and forget about having to cook yourself, you have the Alda hotel, in the middle of Laugavegur street, the most commercial street in the Icelandic capital. They have comfortable, modern rooms with WIFI.

    What do you not like hotels and prefer another type of accommodation? Well, you can also go for an Airbnb.

    Airbnb in Reykjavik

    We bring you a private, luxurious option to pamper yourself if that is what you are looking for, for the modest price of € 1,060 per night. check it out here.

    woman enjoying her breakfast at a Airbnb in Reykjavik

    Is it too much for you? That's fine; there are options from € 59 with a private room. Of course, you will probably have to share the bathroom and kitchen with the rest of the house guests. But it doesn't have to be a bad thing; if you are making a solo trip in Iceland, it can be an excellent opportunity to meet local people or other travelers.Since we have the accommodation controlled, it is time to move on to something essential: food.

    The best restaurants in Reykjavik

    From traditional food to the most avant-garde Nordic, you will have everything you are looking for with this list.


    This restaurant's name literally means "fish market" in Icelandic, and that's exactly what you'll find here. They offer tasting menus and a lobster bisque that you should not miss if you like seafood.

    Address: Aðalstræti 12, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland 
    Phone: +354 578 8877


    This elegant restaurant uses only the highest quality local produce in its dishes. Its cuisine is based on traditional Icelandic gastronomy with a special and unique touch. In addition to delicious food, they also have delicious cocktails.

    Address: Lækjargata 2a, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland 
    Phone: +354 571 7777

    Traditional Icelandic seafood on the table 

    Dill Restaurant

    It is the first Icelandic restaurant with a Michelin star, so it is a heavyweight within the restaurant industry. A culinary experience, enjoy the new Nordic cuisine in the heart of Reykjavik.

    Address: Hverfisgata 12, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
    Phone: +354 552 1522

    Kopar, Reykjavik

    For those looking to experience traditional Icelandic food while enjoying spectacular views.

    Address: Geirsgata 3, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland 
    Phone: +354 567 2700

    If you already have accommodation and food covered, I guess that you booked a rental car in Reykjavik already as well, then you just have to go out and see everything that the Icelandic capital offers. We have an entire article dedicated to discovering the best things to do in Reykjavik, don't you miss any of them!

    Visiting Reykjavik, Iceland, can be the prelude to a great trip. Both at the beginning and at the end of your trip, it can be the perfect start or the finishing touch of your great adventure in Iceland. Come and visit!

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