Reykjavík is the capital city of Iceland, and also most visitors’ first stop after landing at Keflavik Airport. From here, visitors usually split into two groups; those who make Reykjavík their base and then go on various day trips to explore the island, or those who do a proper road trip to explore the rest of the country.
But even the latter will always ensure that they spend at least a few days in the city before heading out. That’s because there’s so much to see and do in Reykjavík – even if you’re visiting Reykjavík with kids.
Parents already have enough on their plate, so to make life just a little easier, we’ve created this great guide to give you the lowdown on everything there is to do and see in the capital city to make your family trip to Iceland the best one yet!
The Best Things to Do in Reykjavík with Kids
It can be challenging when one has children to figure out which activities or sights will be suitable for their ages to avoid the rolling eyes of teenagers or smaller kids vibrating in their seats because they have to sit still when they can’t. Below you will find a few ideas that will work for the various ages & phases:
Oh, who are we kidding – at these ages it doesn’t really matter whether they’re in Reykjavík, the local grocery shop, or Mars – as long as they can move when they want to and sleep when they want to. Just double-check whatever you would like to add to your trip itinerary, as age restrictions apply to certain places and activities.
This is probably the easiest way of fooling young children into liking an adult activity. Hallgrimskirkja is usually on the list of anyone who has an appreciation for art and architecture and is looking for incredible views over the city.
The fact that Hallgrimskirkja was inspired by our famous Svartifoss Waterfall or that it looks like a giant church organ, might be lost on the young ones, but the wide open area in front of the church allows them to run around and play whilst you admire the exterior. Even after entering and going up in the elevator, you may be marveling at the breathtaking views, but the kids will be marveling at how high up they are. This outing works out gangbusters for everyone involved.
Harpa Concert Hall Music Programmes
This is yet another Hallgrimskirkja scenario where the outing benefits both big and small. Harpa Concert Hall is also one of our pride and joys when it comes to incredible architecture and is a favorite amongst photographers. It also has incredible music programs, with concerts suitable for a smaller audience and music workshops that will keep them busy for hours.
Hradastadir Farm & Petting Zoo
Need we even say more? The Hradastadir Farm & Petting Zoo is always filled with astonished and smiling little faces as they get up close to the animals and pet and feed them. Lambs, pigs, bunnies, kittens, horses, you name it, they’re all there. We include the zoo in our list, even though it will require a 20-minute drive outside of the city.
Arbær Open Air Museum
The Arbær Open Air Museum is an interactive way of experiencing Icelandic history and how people used to live here on the island. Whilst the adults can appreciate the historical relevance, the children are just too happy to have “gone back in time” and the open space gives them the freedom to get rid of all that pent-up energy.
Going horseback riding on the island is quite the experience. Not only do you get to explore the island on horseback, but you do so on our very own breed of horse called the Icelandic Horse.
These horses are incredibly friendly and look more like ponies than full-grown horses. Although most horse riding farms and tours will allow children from the age of 8 to ride, it can become too long for them on a longer trek. That’s why we placed this activity in the older kids’ bracket. Horse riding farms can be found between 30 minutes to an hour from the capital, but you’ll also find many tours departing from Reykjavík itself.
Doing this with the smaller children will only result in bags full of toys and sweets after a mere 10 minutes and then have them be bored. With the older children on the other hand…
Whether you’re looking for a few things for yourself or gifts for family and friends, our famous Laugavegur shopping street is the place to go. Here you will find everything from authentic Icelandic sweaters, and outdoor gear, to souvenirs, tasty treats, and much, much more.
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is one of our most famous hot springs here in Iceland because of its incredible aesthetics. And if the bright blue water looks familiar, you’ve probably seen it on your screen in movies such as Hostel and The Fifth Estate. Although children of 2 and up can enter the Blue Lagoon, we recommend that you keep this activity for the older children.
This is simply because of hot spring etiquette – no splashing, no jumping, no playing. There’s no way that you will be able to have a relaxing soak in the hot water whilst constantly having to keep smaller children from the very things they love doing most in water.
Perlan is a great way to see the country if you’re unable to actually see the country. It offers visitors various interactive exhibits and activities such as walking through a real ice cave, a Northern Lights show, and much more. It’s a super fun family outing.
Nauthoslivik Geothermal Beach
At Nauthoslivik Geothermal Beach, you will find something for everyone. Smaller kids can play in the sand, older ones and the adults can lie on the beach. One can choose to take a dip in the “ocean”, the hot tubs, or the pool, or you can visit the steam rooms.
No, this is not as general as it sounds. Although you will find plenty of delicious food in Reykjavík, you simply cannot visit the capital city without indulging in our two favorite things here on the island; hot dogs and ice cream. Hot dogs are our unofficial national food here, and an experience you’ll never forget.
You’ll even be tempted to take some of our famous sauces home with you (these you can get at the local grocery store). And it may sound counterintuitive, but Icelanders are obsessed with ice cream. You will find a wide range of homemade ice cream in various flavors that’s simply not to be missed.
The name Laugardalslaug Pool can be a bit misleading, as this almost equates to a water park or resort. Here you will find a big pool, a kiddie’s pool, waterslides, hot tubs, and even a steam bath and mini golf course. This will at least be a half-day outing (before the kids sleep the rest of the day because of all the fun they had).
Based on Interests
We also have a few things to do and see in Reykjavík that stand out if you have a particular interest in certain things. So, check if any of the below takes your fancy:
An Interest in Animals: Go on a Whale Watching Tour
This is an incredible experience for anyone who has a love of wildlife. Whales can be found all along the Icelandic coast throughout the year, but we highly recommend a tour during our official whale season, when migratory whale species also call Iceland their home.
Our official whale season is from May to September. You will just need to double-check with the tour operator beforehand, as some only allow children from the ages of 10 and up on the boats.
An Interest in Volcanoes: Check Out the Lava Show
There’s no denying the fiery side of The Land of Fire and Ice, and many are fascinated by it. Although you can visit various craters and lava fields across the country, the Lava Show will give you the opportunity to experience real, flowing lava.
You can see what it actually looks like, how it moves, and feel the heat. You can even leave with your very own piece of cooled-down and hardened lava.
An Interest in Boats: Visit the Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum is an ode to Iceland as a sea-faring nation. If you have any interest in boats, this is where you need to go. Not only do you get to dive into the country’s history, but you get up close and personal with actual vessels – including a few in the harbor. Entry is also free with a Reykjavík Card.
An Interest in Vikings: Have Your Viking Portrait Taken
You have the unique opportunity of turning yourself and your family into Vikings. At Mink Studios, you can get dressed up in traditional Viking garb and gear (even some weapons), and have your portrait taken by a world-famous photographer that’s worked on the set of Game of Thrones.
Family-Friendly Accommodation in Reykjavík
You will find plenty of accommodation options in Reykjavík, suitable for all preferences and any budget. If you’re looking for a touch of luxury, you can opt for a hotel stay. The following comes highly recommended when visiting Reykjavík with kids:
If you’re looking for a bit more budget-friendly options, you can look into some self-catering options and holiday rentals such as:
How to Get Around Reykjavík with Kids
Luckily, it’s pretty easy and safe to move around Reykjavík with kids. You can make use of our public transportation. If you purchase the Reykjavík Card, hopping on and off is free and easy, as long as you stay within the boundaries of the city. This is especially handy if you have smaller kids.
But for the most part, one can easily walk to the various places of interest in the city. If you want to pick up the pace a bit and just have some fun, you can rent bikes at one of the many bike rental companies in the city.
If you are planning on doing day trips such as visiting the Blue Lagoon or the Hradastadir Farm & Petting Zoo, we highly recommend that you rent a car in Reykjavík – it’s not only incredibly convenient, but this way you’ll always be in control of your time and itinerary, and you don’t need to lug everything regarding the kids around, you can simply keep everything you need safely in the car.
Tips for Planning a Trip to Reykjavík with Kids
If this is your first time visiting Reykjavík, the following tips and advice will be very helpful:
When to Go
When you should go will depend solely on your own personal preferences, your budget, and what you have on your Iceland bucket list. Will you and the kids be able to handle the cold and having to stay indoors a lot during the colder months of the year?
Do you want to avoid peak season prices? Do you want to partake in seasonal activities such as seeing the Northern Lights, Puffin spotting, ice cave exploring, etc.? All of this will pretty much dictate when the best time for you to go will be.
What to Pack
There are a few things to remember when packing for a trip to Iceland:
- You’ll always be wearing layers so that you can take things off and put things on all throughout the day. That’s why you need to ensure that you have enough t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, and sweaters to layer up with.
- You’ll need waterproof clothing such as a raincoat, waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, and waterproof hiking boots. This is not just to be prepared for sudden rainfalls, but also for hikes where you might have to cross rivers, visit hot springs with wet and muddy trails, or visit the waterfalls where one gets drenched by the mist and spray.
- A hat and sunscreen are a must, irrespective of season. We end up with a lot of burnt visitors because “it didn’t feel so warm” or it was an overcast day. Between the sun still beating down on you whether it feels hot or not and whether you can see the sun or not, you’re also dealing with UV rays reflecting off the water or ice, depending on what you’re doing.
How to Budget
In general, you should work off the following assumptions when planning your trip budget:
- Accommodation will be about $124 per person per day (this can be managed in terms of the type of accommodation you opt for)
- Transportation will be about $24 per person per day (this can be managed in terms of the vehicle you’re renting, or by using public transport in Reykjavík, especially if you’ve bought a Reykjavík Card that gives you free access to the Reykjavík bus service)
- Food will be about $46 per person per day (this can be managed in terms of cooking your own food and eating out)
- Activities will be about $24 per person per day
The Best Time of Year to Visit Reykjavík with Kids
As we already mentioned, when to visit will depend on your preferences, budget, and the things you would like to do and see on the island. But generally speaking, to avoid most of the peak season crowds and prices, spring and fall are considered good times to visit.
For the best weather and the best opportunities for outdoor activities and attractions, the summertime in Iceland is ideal. For natural phenomena and activities such as the Northern Lights and ice cave exploring, you should plan your visit for the wintertime.
Budget-Friendly Activities for Families in Reykjavík
You’ll be happy to learn that there are plenty of things to see and do that won’t require you to remortgage the house once you’re back home. These are a few of the most cost-efficient and budget-friendly things to see and do in Reykjavík with kids:
The following won’t cost you a cent:
- Go on a walking tour. City Walk will allow you to explore the city with an experienced guide at absolutely no cost.
- Hot springs with no entry fees, such as Kvika Footbath.
- Hike Mount Esja.
- Have a stroll in Reykjavík’s Botanical Gardens.
- Visit Grotta Lighthouse.
- Take a walk along Reykjavik Harbor.
*Purchasing the Reykjavik Card will also allow free access to places such as:
- National Gallery of Iceland
- National Museum of Iceland
- Arbær Open Air Museum
- Museum of Photography
- The Reykjavik Art Museum
- The Reykjavik Zoo and Family Park
- Thermal Pools such as Laugardalslaug Pool.
The following won’t cost you an arm and a leg to do and see in Reykjavík with kids:
- Eating hot dogs and ice cream
- Arbæjarlaug Swimming Pool
- Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach
*Purchasing the Reykjavík Card will also give you discounts on entry to places such as:
- Aurora Reykjavik
- Saga Museum
- Whales of Iceland
- Harpa Concert Hall
- Elding Whale Watching Tour
- Kopavogur Thermal Pools
Reykjavík with Kids; A Jam-packed Itinerary
As you can see, it’s no wonder that most choose Reykjavík as a base or plan to spend at least a few days in the capital city during their trip to the island. One can almost fill an entire trip itinerary by just including everything there is to see and do in Reykjavík with kids.
Just remember to pre-book any tours well in advance during our busy summer season, and rent a car in Reykjavík if you’re planning on doing any sightseeing or participating in any activities that are on the outskirts of the city. We hope that you have a lot of fun on your jam-packed itinerary of Reykjavík!