Reykjavik is a wonderfully vibrant city. On the whole, I don’t particularly mind when we visit a city or an attraction – I’m firmly of the belief that there is no ‘right’ time to visit somewhere and the best time to do something is NOW and not at some magical ‘perfect’ time in the future – but that said, Reykjavik is a city I’d really recommend at Christmas when travelling with children.
Iceland is a country of fairies and elves… there is magic everywhere! And Reykjavik at Christmas is the icing on the cake! There is, for instance, no Santa Claus… but there are 13 yule lads, who are the Icelandic equivalent of Santa Claus and visit children in the 13 nights running up to Christmas. Each night, starting on 12th December, a new Yule Lad comes to town and, somewhere around the city, he can be found! The children had great fun exploring each evening looking for the new Yule Lad!
Like most things in Iceland, it’s simply done. Authentic. And the children adored it.
So, while you are here…. this is what we’d recommend you see….
- Take a bus tour
These run year round and are a great way to see the city cheaply (and stay warm!)
We started at the Harpa concert hall…
and took the whole trip, which is a great way to get your bearings in a city.
We stopped off at the Perlan, which afforded some great views of the city….
There is also an indoor geyser, which the children enjoyed watching several times.
The tour also passes the infamous Hofdi house – where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in 1986.
We also stopped off at Solfar – the Sun voyager sculpture, which I’d recommend seeing several times. We loved it!
2. The Golden circle tour.
It’s so easy to take this tour – it’s offered at many places and how you take it is up to you! We decided on a private tour, because J can sometimes struggle with the cold and he can be impatient… I didn’t want him to have to wait for other passengers to take photos etc., if he felt uncomfortable. I was very pleased we took a private tour, but not for the reasons I expected! The children found Thingviller national park extremely interesting and spent far longer here than I’d expected. It was great to have a guide with us who could answer all our questions about the first parliament.
Seeing the waterfall was incredible – I don’t think we’d ever seen a two tier waterfall before!
But the highlight for us was the geysers. The children thought they were amazing and we could have watched them all day if we hadn’t got so cold!!! There is a great visitor centre at the geysers too, so we stopped off for a meal and warm up there. J, of course, didn’t eat a thing!!!
3. Whales of Iceland.
One attraction I’d recommend for children is the Whales of Iceland exhibition. A giant exhibition in every sense! You’d be forgiven for thinking that you are in the wrong place when you get there…. it’s housed in a plain looking warehouse, but it’s an amazing sight to see! The whales are all lifesized, so it’s easy to get an idea of JUST how big these creatures are.
We loved learning about the different whales – there is a quiz you are give on the way in so the children were learning without even realising it.
And G loved the 3D experience! There was only one device, but I’d recommend waiting to take a turn as it was worth it.
This is somewhere you have to spend a little time – one of the tallest buildings in Iceland, and placed right in the centre of town, it affords some wonderful views of the city… Do take time to take the lift up to the observation gallery! and it’s beautiful just to look at too!
And there is a statue of Leif Erikkson straight outside, which was built to commemorate 1000th of the Icelandic parliament…
Iceland has the oldest democracy in the world and it’s fascinating to learn about how that came about.
5. The blue lagoon.
Situated slightly out of Reykjavik, this is actually far closer to the main airport, so if you are flying to Iceland, I’d recommend you do this on the way to or from the airport, as it’s more time and cost effective. But it is really not to be missed. It is a man made attraction and does have a slightly industrial feel to it (which I personally rather liked) but it is, simply, one of the most fun hot springs we have ever visited. When J was told we could drink diet coke from the bar – IN the hot spring- I thought he’d burst with excitement.
We didn’t have time to take in the restaurant, but it looked lovely.
My top tips – don’t worry about the weather or the daylight – it’s stunning regardless. With so much to do in Iceland, you are probably going to be pushed for time… Fit this in on the way back to the airport if needs be… just go! We were there in mid December and even J didn’t struggle with the air temperature. The hot springs will keep you warm! I wouldn’t bother with a robe either… the entrance is directly in front of the springs (and there is a way in and way out of the water without ever having to actually brave the outdoors!). And bring a waterproof camera if you want to take some photos actually in the water… we didn’t, and left without any photos of us in the water 🙁
It’s actually rather hard to condense everything we loved about Reykjavik into 5 points… All in all, Reykjavik is just a lovely, clean, safe, vibrant city. It can sometimes be noisy especially at night – Icelanders do know how to party! But we didn’t find that a problem at all… in fact, we fitted right in!!! We’re a bit noisy ourselves!
There is art everywhere you look. You could spend hours just wandering!!
And what about food? We had an amazing breakthrough in Iceland. J – out of the blue – decided he would try steak. We were lucky enough to get a reservation at Grillmarkadurinn, a highly rated restaurant in Reykjavik. I wasn’t at all confident about J eating anything but firstly – I NEVER say no when J says he’ll try something and secondly, as we were staying in a self catering apartment, I knew that I could cook him something later if he really didn’t like anything. The staff listen to him so carefully and prepared just what he asked for – a steak (well done) and chips (not touching the steak) and NOTHING else… I’m sure that’s not their usual request… but that’s what they provided! He had NEVER eaten steak before, but calmed by the attentive staff and presentation of the food… THIS happened!!!!
He ate the whole thing!!! And, from that day on… steak (well done!) and chips (not touching!) is one of his favourite meals.It remains one of the happiest days of my life 🙂 My favourite restaurant ever!!
Will we go back? Absolutely! I’d love to check out Reykjavik in the summertime… It must be such a different city with the midnight sun!