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The top 10 things to do in Reykjavik with kids

Reykjavik is Iceland’s capital city and is most likely the city where you start and end your ultimate family road trip through Iceland. About 136.000 people live in Reykjavik, which is a lot considering Iceland has a total population of about 346.000 people. But don’t let these facts fool you. This isn’t some small town city with nothing to do.

There’s lots to do for families with kids of all ages. Lots of playgrounds, pools, parks and museums to keep you entertained. Great food like hot dogs, ice cream (yes, even in winter) and sea food. Amazing architecture and last but not least it offers you the chance to spot whales, puffins and if you’re lucky even orca’s. Reykjavik has something for everyone and deserves at least a two days visit.

Yellow Lighthouse in Reykjavik Iceland
Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik Iceland

Why Reykjavik is a great choice for a family visit

Iceland is a family friendly travel destination and high on the bucket list of most families who love to travel with kids. How could it not be? It has amazing architecture, over 10.000 waterfalls, (active) volcanoes and craters, geothermal pools, black sand beaches and glaciers. There aren’t many cities in Iceland, but they all offer lots of kid friendly activities and amazing food that will delight both the children and the parents.

Reykjavik is compact, you can basically walk everywhere without needing public transportation. It’s easy to get around and you can enjoy yourselves in parks, around Lake Tjörnin and by going souvenir shopping in the picturesque city centre. You can even mail a letter to Santa from Reykjavik (I’ll get to that later).

When to visit Reykjavik

The best time to visit Reykjavik is during the summer holiday season, from June to August. Let’s face it, you won’t get summer weather. It rarely gets warm in Iceland, let alone hot. Just now that you’ll experience extremely long days. Because of the phenomenon known as midnight sun, Iceland sees up to 21 to 22 hours of sunlight from May to August. From December to January the opposite happens with only 4-5 hours of daylight. Another reason to visit Iceland during the school holidays in July and August.

Architectural gem Harpa in Reykjavik - Iceland

How to get there

Since Iceland is a small island there aren’t many ways to reach it. You can get here by ferry or plane.

Ferry

If you’re leaving from Denmark you can take the ferry to the Faroe Islands from Hirtshals and arrive in Tórshavn. Stay here for a few days (some periods of the year the ferry will only depart once a week), before you board the next ferry to Iceland. You’ll arrive at Seyðisfjörður and from there you can drive to Reykjavik in two days. Or take it slow and enjoy Southern Iceland first, before city tripping in Reykjavik.

Flight

Unless you’re flying from Orlando or New York, you’ll arrive at Keflavik airport. It will take about 45 minutes to get to Reykjavik by car or bus. I do advise to also book your bus transfer before arriving in Iceland. Especially during high season. And definitely if you have kids who need a car seat and you’re not bringing your own. Whether you need a transfer to a car or camper rental company or you’re driving straight to Reykjavik, you’ll need to be certain they bring a car seat. You only have that certainty if you pre-book.

If you’re flying from New York or Orlando the other options are Egilsstaðir, Akureyri and Ísafjörður. But I would not advise to start and end your trip in any of these towns. Fly to and from Reykjavik which leaves you with lots more options when it comes to renting cars or campervans. Also, when it comes to stocking up on last minute camping gear or warmer clothing, Reykjavik has many shops and thus more options.

We booked our bus transfer via Get Your Guide, with a company called Gray Line. They were punctual and brought the right size of car seat. Other reliable companies are Flybus and Airport Direct.

Now without further ado, let’s dive into the best 10 things to do in Reykjavik with kids!

10 things to do in Reykjavik with kids

A scenic stroll along the waterfront

Hallgrimskirkja

Visiting a museum

A hike through the city centre

Mailing a letter to Santa

Eating out

Thor

Whale watching

Checking out the parks

Renting a campervan

A scenic stroll along the waterfront

Architectural gem Harpa in Reykjavik - Iceland
Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik Iceland

Reykjavik is great for hiking. One of the best things to do with kids in Reykjavik is a stroll along the beautiful waterfront. Start at the harbor and end it at the Sun Voyager.

Harbor of Reykjavik

The first thing we did is walk to the harbor to check out the fisherman working on their nets after just ending their morning at sea. It’s a great starting point for a hike along the waterfront.

Harpa Concert Hall

When passing the harbor you run into your first architectural highlight: Harpa. It’s a concert hall and conference center designed by Henning Larsen Architects, a Danish firm. Go inside to admire the inside of the building to and warm up with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. And check out if there’s a concert that might interest your family, while you’re in the city.

Sun Voyager

Almost immediately after you pass Harpa and walking along the waterfront you’ll see a sculpture in the distance. It’s called Sólfar in Icelandic, Sun Voyager in English. While walking towards it you smell the salty sea, hear the seagulls all around you and if you’re lucky you’ll see the little head of a seal peaking above the water. The sculpture of a dream boat is made from stainless steel. It symbolizes light and hope and is meant as an ode to the sun. It’s quite an impressive sight to see. And nice to see as a part of your stroll.

Since it’s probably very windy and cold, it’s time to wrap up your scenic stroll along Reykjavik’s waterfront. Turn right into the alleys of the city, where you’ll end up in the city centre, so you can warm up somewhere with a drink and/or a snack.

Hallgrimskirkja

Reykjavik's Hallgrimskirkja in Iceland
Inside Reykjavik's Hallgrimskirkja in Iceland

Hallgrimskirkja is a church that can’t be missed. It’s the largest building of the city and can be seen almost all over the capital. It’s not your typical looking church and a wondrous building to lay your eyes on.

Head inside and go all the way up to get a great view of the city. Take the lift to the top of Hallgrimskirkja. We missed it, because naptime was long overdue, but I’ve heard many people say that it’s a great thing to do in Reykjavik with kids.

Reykjavik City Card

The Reykjavík City Card offers free entry to a great selection of museums and galleries as well as the thermal pools in Reykjavík. It also provides free unlimited travel by bus within the Reykjavík capital area.

There are three types of cards. You can buy them online for adults over 18 and for children. Children under 6 are free.

Type of cardAdultChild (6-17)
24 hours€29€12
48 hours€40€19
72 hours€48€26

Visiting a museum

Whales Of Iceland museum in Reykjavik

Not all kids are a fan of museums. We got lucky with a teen that has always loved to visit them, I hope our toddler will too. And while not all museums are suitable for kids, you’ll always find one that will cater kids and their parents. I will leave you with two must see museums while in Reykjavik. One was picked out by the toddler (only 1,5 at the time, but he still remembers it at 3) and the other by our then 14yo.

Whales of Iceland

Our toddler picked Whales of Iceland as the best museum of the city. It’s a top thing to do with a toddler in Reykjavik. Here you won’t find taxidermy whales, but life-sized man made-models of about 25 types of whales. The lighting is blue to give you the feeling you’re with them in the sea. There’s also a huge screen where you can check out humpback whales while lounging in bean bags spread out the room.

Whales Of Iceland museum in Reykjavik

National Gallery of Iceland

Maybe not an obvious choice for most teens, but this one is for the kids who like to see pictures of everyday Icelandic lives and art made by famous Icelandic artists. The building itself isn’t very special. We liked the green Fríkirkjan (Free Church) next door much more. But the inside is light and spacious. Because there are several exhibitions spread out in different rooms on three different floors, you’ll breeze through it without noticing the time.

And hey, even our toddler loved one of the exhibitions. The one with all types of mystical creatures. Made from non-threatening white materials. He laughed because they were funny-looking.

We spend about an 1,5 at the museum before heading out and we saw all floors.

Inside the National Gallery of Iceland in Reykjavik
View of Frikirkjan and the National Gallery of Iceland in Reykjavik

A hike through the city centre

Rainbow road in Iceland's Reykjavik

The best way to get to know a city is by strolling through it. And with a city centre as compact as Reykjavik’s you’ll see it all within a few hours. The trolls in the streets (as tall as the trees they’re attached to) will be fun to see for most kids and the teens will probably make selfies with it. There are many cosy restaurants and cafes to take a short break at and of course you’ll get a glimpse of Icelandic houses with walls made from corrugated metal. Get lost while strolling, but if you’d like to get more information about what you’re seeing: book a tour.

Take a guided walking tour

We don’t have any experience with guided walking tours through Reykjavik, but I’ve heard many good things about the free walking tours by City Walk. Just don’t forget to tip your guide afterwards. Get Your Guide will help you find this tour and many others.

LGBTQIA+ friendly city

Iceland as a whole is a very LGBTQIA+ friendly country. Reykjavik is one of the places where that’s very visible. With multiple rainbow streets and rainbow flags at the city hall. When you’re part of a LGBTQIA+ family this is the place to be.

For us it’s important to teach our children about equality for all and how to be an ally. Spotting rainbows on the streets are an easy way to get the conversation started. And to be fair, our (now) 17 yo, teaches us new things about allyship on a regular basis too!

LGBTQ+ friendly city Reykjavik in Iceland
City hall of Reykjavik in Iceland

Mailing a letter to Santa

Jólahúsið (The Christmas House) in Reykjavik - Iceland

Finally, after teasing this one at the very beginning of this post, here it is: the Christmas Store. Jólahúsið is open all year round and here you can get everything Christmassy your heart could wish for.

But the best part is: there’s a letter box outside where you can mail your letters to Santa. Your children can send their letter to Santa early!

Eating out

Having dinner at a seafood restaurant in Reykjavik - Iceland
Eating a icelandic hot dog at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur in Reykjavik

Eating local food is the best and the food in Reykjavik is great so it deserves a spot in this list of top 10 things to do in Reykjavik with kids.

You can eat as cheap or as expensive as you want in Reykjavik. If you’re splurging and you love fish then opt for a meal in a seafood restaurant. Most of them also sell fries and home made fried fish fingers. We had an amazing family dinner at Höfnin in the harbor.

Icelandic hot dog

Hot dog stand Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (translates to the city’s best hot dog) is not only frequently visited by the locals, but it has become a tourist hot spot over the years. Probably after Bill Clinton was pictured eating a hot dog here. Get the one with everything, með öllu, and your belly will be full and you’ll be satisfied.

Ice cream

It may sound weird for a country with a climate like Iceland’s, but the locals love them some ice cream. There are many places where you can get fresh Italian style gelato in many flavors. The most popular one is Valdís, with ice cream so beautiful it’s almost art.

An American milkshake in Reykjavik's Hard Rock Cafe - Iceland

Do you enjoy this list of 10 things to do in Reykjavik with kids?

If so, read more about family travel in Iceland

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Thor

Thor souvenir shop im Reykjavik Iceland
Thor souvenir shop im Reykjavik Iceland

Another souvenir store, but not just any souvenir store. As the name Thor suggests, its main subject is the God of Thunder. It has a huge wooden statue of Thor in the entrance and the shop is very aesthetically pleasing. With lots of vikings, longships, trolls and fairies. It’s worth checking out. We bought a few high quality souvenirs here and we love them. It’s not cheap, though. But in all fairness, nothing is in Iceland.

Thor souvenir shop im Reykjavik Iceland

Whale watching

Whale watching tour from Reykjavik in Iceland
Whale watching tour from Reykjavik in Iceland

If you want to check out some wildlife, Reykjavik offers the best kind: a meet-up with whales. There are many tour operators that offer whale watching tours.

We went for a company called Elding and booked them via Get Your Guide. It was a great tour. They where punctual, offered great information and the boats were well kept.

Of course they can never guarantee you that you’ll spot whales. But they do have great systems to check out where the whales are without getting in their way. Most companies (thankfully) keep a distance between the boat and the whales.

What kind of whales you’ll see depends on the time of year. Check out the site of the company of your choice to find out which mammals can be spotted if you’re lucky. This includes not only whales, but also dolphins and (rare, but it does happen) even killer whales.

Checking out the parks

Pont Tjornin in Reykjavik - Iceland

Even though Reykjavik is small, it does have lots of green spaces that take up large chunks of the city. There are different areas you should definitely check out with kids

Lake Tjörnin

This pretty prominent lake in Reykjavik can be found next to the city hall. It’s known for the many birds. There’s a plaque with all the birds you can spot here and it’s nice for kids to count the different species they spot.

Laugardalur

Laugardalur is a beautiful park with lots of plants, trees and flowers. In its small lake you’ll find lots of ducks and swans. But the best thing is the swimming pool, Laugardalslaug. Of course it also has a children’s pool with some slides and the outdoor pool is heated. If you don’t have time to visit the nearby Blue Lagoon, you can still play around with your kids in this geothermally heated pool.

Hljómskálagarður Park

This park is located south of Lake Tjörnin and is great for a picnic, while the kids play at the playground.

Renting a campervan

Renting a camper for the ultimate family road trip through Iceland

Lastly, on this list of the top 10 things to do in Reykjavik with kids: renting a campervan. Most of you will not only come to Iceland for a city trip. It’s the best starting point for your ultimate family road trip through Iceland. Between Keflavik airport and Reykjavik you’ll find many rental companies that offer all kinds of campers. We were really happy with the company we chose, Motorhome Iceland (not sponsored).

No matter how great your family visit to Reykjavik is, the best way to end it is by going on a family road trip around the entire country. Or at least for a visit to the Golden Circle and the Diamond Circle. Iceland is a great place for a family vacation!

Renting a camper for the ultimate family road trip through Iceland

There are many more things to do in Reykjavik with kids. Did I miss any important ones? Some must-sees or must-do’s that I missed? Please let us know in the comments and help other parents add your tips to their road trip itinerary!

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About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

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Comments (2)

    Saskia posted on 24 Jun 2022 at 2:32 pm

    Thank you! I hope you get to visit it soon.

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