24 Hours in Reykjavik (and where to eat!)

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Reykjavik is a colorful, charming and growing city, full of activities and food. When traveling to Iceland, be sure to make exploring the city a part of your itinerary. You can do it in 24 hours and spend the majority of your trip off exploring all of the natural wonders and landscapes around the country. (or spend more time if you can!) We dedicated one full day to the city on our trip. Here are a few options of what to check out!

We stayed down by the old harbor and our backyard view was like a charming secret garden. We could walk anywhere in the city and come home to a pretty quiet street. The location could not be beat.  While we stayed in an Airbnb, there were multiple inns and guesthouses on our street.

To get a good solid day in, wake up early and head out for coffee. There are coffee shops all over the city. You could do a full coffee shop crawl and compare. The first one we popped into was Reykjavik Rost, right down by the harbor. The interior is a charming instagramable dream. I had a deliciously stuffed croissant with ham and cheese and the most perfect cappuccino.

Because this particular coffee shop is located on the harbor, I should mention the tours! There are tours you can take out onto the water, like whale watching and the northern lights. While we wanted to do both tours, the weather and cloudiness were not on board with our northern lights tour; so that didn’t happen. We also talked to travelers we met who did do a whale tour and they were not able to see much.. so we ended up skipping it. If you go, let me know how it was/is!

While food and drink costs can be high; many bars and restaurants offer a happy hour. Yes its probably geared to visitors to the city but the deals are worth it! Check out a few places for drinks and small bites, if it includes a charming outdoor patio, even better.

The street art! I could have spent a full day just checking out all of the street art in the city. My travel companions may think I’m a bit odd… snapping photos all over the city… but there’s so much to see! Who doesn’t want to pose like my friend below 😉

And because posing is hard work: back to the food 🙂

Be sure to grab a cinnamon bread from Braud and Co. Its a local chain bakery with the most delicious baked goods. I went here three times for this bread!

Look at that cinnamon perfection.

And you cannot leave the city without trying an Icelandic hotdog! Here they are made with lamb instead of pork or beef. Order it with everything; raw white onions and crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade sauce. Its delicious but sweeter than I anticipated. You can try different ones throughout the city. We queued up for the ones at Baejarins Betzu and I’m wishing I had ordered more than one… 

When you need a break from all that food; head to Hallgrímskirkja church and up the tower. You’ll see the city from above in all its colorful glory.

After taking in the view and getting a bit of an appetite back; a fish and chips crawl is always a good idea. We tried a couple different places like from a food truck and from restaurants.


There are a few museums in the city if you are interested; some of them seemed a bit too tourist geared (ahem the penis museum… yeah I said the P word) but you never know what might strike your fancy in there 😉

Shopping abounds all over the city. You can find cold weather gear, a Christmas centered store, local wool sweaters, art, you name it.

And but of course, I’ve gotta close this post out with more food. Two of the best meals we had in the city were at Fish MRKT and Forerttabarinn.

And of course this doesn’t hit all of the many options for your 24 hours of exploring the city but it sets a great starting tone. What other questions do you have about exploring the city?

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How to Explore Iceland’s South Coast

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After four days spent exploring Iceland, I can tell you my absolute favorite was driving through the south coast and visiting Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

Below is how we did it in one day.

We stayed in Reykjavik and took an entire day to drive to the Lagoon and back. We left our Airbnb at 6 am to start our drive. The total drive time depending upon weather is four and a half to five hours to the Lagoon. Always check the weather prior to departure. Keep in mind conditions can change in an instant depending on the season you are traveling.  You can also choose to stay in towns on the way like Vik or rent a campervan and stay wherever you choose along the way. But, it can be done in a day too, weather dependent.


Once you get to the lagoon the views are breathtaking. You’ll see white, blue, black and turquoise icebergs floating and dancing before you. The icebergs are 1,000-year-old pieces of the Oraefajokull glacier breaking off and heading out to sea. You can hike around the perimeter or during the summer months take a boat tour out and around the icebergs.  We saw multiple seals swimming around and lounging near the icebergs.

After hiking around or boating between the icebergs, there are a couple of food trucks situated by the Lagoon parking lot. These could be weather or seasonal, but when we were there the options were fish and chips or a truck with lobster rolls and seafood stew.

On your way to the Lagoon or your way back, take time to pull of the side of the road and explore. There are waterfalls coming out of everywhere! Could you imagine this backdrop as your backyard? Many of these are private property (and many are not). Picture your morning view, a cup of coffee and the beauty of a backyard waterfall. I’m in.

Skogafoss waterfall is also on your path to or from the Lagoon. Skogafoss is about two hours out of Reykjavik. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a rainbow or two… we did 🙂 Unfortunately I did not get to climb the 370 steps to the top of the waterfall (stairs and being 6 months pregnant does not equal a great climb), but if you do I hear the view of the coast at the top is beyond worth it. There’s also a hiking trail that begins here and a camping area.

Renting a car versus taking a bus tour was how we picked to explore and I’m so glad we did. Every time something popped up into our view that we wanted to check out; we just pulled over and explored. We could take our time or just a picture and hop back in.

On our way back to Reykjavik we stopped off to check out the Black Sand Beach, Reynisfjara in Vik. There is a parking lot here with a restaurant, toilets and a food truck, in case you need to fuel up!

The black sand mixed with the powerful waves and rocky cliffs is a sight to behold. I’m guessing there are fewer visitors early in the morning; so if you can, make it your first stop on your way to the Lagoon.

Keep in mind the sneaker waves. Do not stand too close to the water and never turn your back to the water.

Finally to wrap up your South Coast tour; if you’ve done it in one day as we did, pizza and beer is the only acceptable end. Olverk Brewery is a must on your way back into the city. The brewery is located about 30 minutes outside of Reykjavik.

After stuffing ourselves with pizza we made it back to the Airbnb just before midnight. A very successful day of exploring the South Coast.

Truly there is so much to see! Any questions about traveling Iceland’s South Coast?

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