48 Hours in Reykjavik

March 31, 2017   /   bynatalie  / Categories :  Travel

Reykjavik is the capital city of Iceland and home to two thirds of their 300 000 person population. Even so, it feels more like a town than a capital city of a European country. It’s compact, easy to navigate, beautiful and probably the cleanest city I’ve ever visited. 

It’s also home to a bustling food scene and an vibrant art & design community. While it may feel like tiny town, you’ll find there’s LOTS to see and do. We had 48 hours in the city and spent every single one of them exploring, eating and shopping.

Here’s my guide to 48 hours in Reykjavik

Where to stay

There are some amazing spots in Reykjavik available for rent on Airbnb. Scandi design is world-famous and in Reykjavik, it’s easy to submerge yourself in this trademark simplicity. We stayed super central, in this Airbnb apartment, which was perfect for walking around (when it wasn’t too cold).

Location: Barónsstígur, Reykjavík, Capital Region 101, Iceland

Price: R2200,00 per night

More info: Airbnb Listing

Getting Around

We had a car, but you could easily get around on foot in the centre of town and then book tours to get to attractions like the Blue Lagoon. Parking on-street is pretty expensive, but it’s free overnight (after 6pm) and there’s a cheaper parking garage just around the corner.

The first 24 hours

Reykjavik Roasters

As soon as we’d put down our bags, we hit the streets in search of quality coffee and baked goods. We found our fix at the famous Reyjkavik Roasters; the kind of place that you imagined might have accidentally and effortlessly invented what would eventually become hipsterism as we know it. After more than a week of filter coffee and machine java, I was giddy with excitement to finally have a frothy latte in hand.

Location: Google Maps

Price: Around R80 a coffee

More info: www.reykjavikroasters.is/english

Braud & Co.

A few steps away, we found Braud&Co. Bakery, where strikingly good looking men bake sinfully delicious cinnamon buns.

Location: Google Maps

Price: Around R60 for a pastry

More info: www.braudogco.is


The city is teeming with souvenir shops and little stores selling local products for ravenous tourists like me. I picked up some local prints, a vintage-style map of Iceland, some clothing, arctic salt and other gifts to take home. What I loved about it was that unlike most touristy cities, who import I heart CT t-shirts in bulk from China, it was easy to find locally designed, printed and produced items. I’d recommend popping into 66° North – Iceland’s oldest clothing brand, if you want to shop for some local clothing. Also Reykjavik Raincoats, who design quirky, brightly coloured raincoats fit for Wes Anderson’s costume designer’s closet.


We had planned to allow ourselves one fancy meal, and booked at Grillmarket long before we left South Africa. In a city where it wouldn’t be difficult to find yourself forking out the equivalent of R500 on a very everyday pizza, the tasting menu, at R1300 per person, seemed like excellent value. The cocktails, at almost R350,00 each, were less so – but we were splurging, after all.

The food kept coming and coming and coming, and ranged from lobster tails and King Crab, to minke whale, steak, enormous lamb chops and finally, a platter of desserts. The staff was great and were happy to make changes to our menu to accommodate the pregnant friend we met up with. There was far too much food and my only regret as we were leaving was that my stomach seemed to have shrunk over our week of slim pickings.

Location: Google Maps

Price: Around R1300,00 per person for the multiple-course tasting menu

More info: www.grillmarkadurinn.is/en

24 More Hours In Reykjavik

The Blue Lagoon

We started early and arrived at the famous Blue Lagoon just after it opened. It’s only about a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik, so perfect for day-trippers. If you don’t feel like driving, or haven’t rented a car, I recommend booking with Grayline, who will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel or a central location. They have various tours that either incorporate the Blue Lagoon (with Icelandic horses, or whale watching, for example) or take you straight there.

It was a freezing cold, rainy day, so our experience wasn’t as pleasant as it could have been. It’s so lovely to be soaking in the warm geothermal water, but hard to ignore the icy icy rain slapping your face and eyes and freezing the tips of your ears off. Nevertheless, we spent a good couple of hours in the water. You have to pre-book your tickets, so keep that in mind when you’re planning your trip.

Location: Google Maps

Cost: R1350,00 with Grayline (including transport) // from R630,00 direct (standard entrance)

More info: Blue Lagoon Tours with Grayline // Blue Lagoon Website

Reykjavik Food Tour

One of my highlights of the whole trip was an experience we actually won! The Reykjavik Food Tour with Wake Up Reykjavik is a really wonderful way to spend an afternoon in the city. Our guide, Gabriella, was such a jam and she made us laugh and gave us insights into local culture and why the houses in the city are painted such bright colours.

The tour was packed with food and included a taste of traditional fermented shark (I’m not afraid to say it’s by far the worst thing I have ever consumed), the lamb soup every Icelander grew up on, local cheeses and cured meats, ice cream made from a secret recipe, the much-talked about Icelandic hot dog and a sweet treat in a beautiful cafe. Our afternoon stretched into a four hour tour, because we were having so much fun. I’d really recommend this tour to anyone with half a day in the city.

Location: All over the city

Cost: R1600,00

More info: wakeupreykjavik.com/tour/the-reykjavik-food-tour

Noodle Station

After such a jam-packed trip and a 4am wake-up looming, we decided to spend our last evening in Reykjavik in our cute Airbnb apartment, eating takeout noodles (there seemed to be at least one noodle shop for every other shop in the city) and packing our bags. Noodle Station is deservedly on most articles we found about food in Reykjavik. At R100 for a bowl of vegetarian noodles, it was by far the cheapest meal we had in Iceland (beside the petrol station hot dogs along the road) and it was delicious!

Location: Google Maps

Cost: About R100 for the veggie option

More info: noodlestation.is/en

Iceland is a super popular destination right now, and there are only so many cars, hotels, Airbnb apartments and restaurants. I recommend doing your research and booking as much as possible ahead of time.

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48 Hours in Reykjavik, Iceland


  • Reply

    Lalannie / 19 Apr

    Dreamy…. why are the houses painted so colourful?

    • Reply

      natalie / 30 Apr

      Because the winters are so dark, cold and monotone, Icelanders paint their houses these bright colours to bring life to the city.

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