Iceland cruises are now some of the most popular sailings. Often part of Arctic voyages that also pass through Greenland and the Norwegian fjords, it is little surprise! But Iceland’s popularity isn’t just down to its neighbours – this impossibly beautiful country captivates travellers with stunning scenery, a unique history and one very famous city: Reykjavik.

With no shortage of things to see and do while you are in port, here is our guide to how to spend 24 hours in Reykjavik.

8am: Slip into the Blue Lagoon

People bathing in the Blue Lagoon geothermal pool in Iceland

This all depends on whether you are embarking on a cruise from the UK or a fly cruise. If you are flying into Iceland, you shouldn’t miss a stop by the Blue Lagoon either on your way from or back to the airport.

Located between Keflavík airport and Reykjavik, a dip in this geothermal mecca is the perfect way to recover from your flight. Nestled among mountains and lava fields, you can help yourself to handfuls of Silica Mud Mask as you swim slowly through the toasty water and enjoy the view.

9:30am: Stroll along the waterfront

The Sun Voyager statue seen at the Old Harbour in Reykjavik at sunset

If you sail into Reykjavik from a UK port like Liverpool, the first thing on your list should be a leisurely stroll along the waterfront. Whale watching boats bob at the water’s edge, looming mountains stand hazily in the distance and seabirds flap lazily over the water. The Old Harbour is also home to the Sun Voyager sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, and the stunning Harpa concert hall that shimmers pink, purple and blue in the sunlight.

10:30am: Visit the Reykjavik Museum of Photography

Images displayed in the Reykjavik Museum of Photography

Matito / Flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Reykjavik Museum of Photography is a fascinating stop on explorations of the city. Showcasing both historical and contemporary photography in artistic, social and cultural contexts, you will gain unique insights into a truly distinctive nation.

The oldest photos date from about 1860, and the photographers range from professionals to amateurs.

11:30am: Buy souvenirs in Downtown

Visitors and locals walking along Laugavegur in downtown Reykjavik

James Brooks / Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

Reykjavik’s hip heart is the perfect place to find souvenirs for friends and family back home – and a few mementos for yourself!

The bulk of shops can be found on Laugavegur alongside restaurants, cafes, bars and galleries. Aftur offers sustainable fashion made from recycled textiles; and Mal og Menning is a fantastic book shop stocking some really beautiful coffee table books about Iceland. Venture a little further from Laugavegur and you will find the outdoors shop 66°North (the perfect place to pick up a proper Icelandic jumper), and Islandia, a souvenir shop selling everything from puffin teddies to toasty gloves.

12:45pm: Have lunch at Laundromat

Staff serving customers behind the book shelf bar in Laundromat in Reykjavik

ryan Harvey / Flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Laundromat Café has become a destination for everyone from families to trendy locals. The décor is hip and homely (the bar doubles up as shelving for a range of books), and the food is always delicious. Warm up with the fresh fish and chips or the veggie burger, and don’t miss the hot chocolate – easily the best I have ever tasted!

2pm: See the city from on-high

People walking into imposing Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik

The best way to admire Reykjavik is from the top of Hallgrímskirkja church. For ISK 900 you can climb to the top of the tower and gaze west to Greenland, take pictures of the expanse of colourful houses and, on the clearest days, see mountains line the ocean for miles. But don’t discount the ground floor of the church: the interior is stunning and you can often watch the choir practising.

2:30pm: Stop for coffee and waffles

The exterior of Cafe Mokka, one of the oldest coffee shops in Reykjavik

James Byrum / Flickr.com, CC BY-ND 2.0

If you have room after lunch, walk down the street directly opposite Hallgrímskirkja and make a beeline for Mokka. As one of Reykjavik’s oldest cafes it is something of an institution, and is home to absolutely amazing waffles served with cream and jam – the perfect way to refuel.

3:15pm: Pop into the National Museum of Iceland

Historic exhibits in the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik

Mebrett / Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

The National Museum of Iceland is the perfect place to explore the history and heritage of Iceland. Temporary exhibitions change to display everything from recently unearthed, settlement-era remains to the evolving role of women in Icelandic society. Permanent exhibitions chart the ‘making of a nation’ and offer insights into Iceland’s visual legacy.

4pm: Relax by Lake Tjörnin

A whopper swan swimming along Lake Tjornin in Reykjavik

This inner-city lake is the perfect place to sit and rest your feet. Home to eider ducks, whooper swans and nesting arctic terns (among other wildlife), simply relax in the tranquil surroundings or pick up some seed to feed to the birds. It is also the perfect place for a scenic walk.

5pm: Enjoy a delicious dinner

A fancy dessert in a restaurant in Reykjavik eaten during a cruise to Iceland

(rinse) / Flickr.com, CC BY-ND 2.0

If you are spending the night there is no shortage of places to enjoy a delicious dinner. Some of the best restaurants in Reykjavik include Matur og Drykkur, serving traditional Icelandic cuisine with a fancy modern twist; Gló, where you can fill up on healthy, wholesome food; and Messinn, which serves some of the best seafood in Reykjavik.

7pm: Admire the aurora

The Northern Lights shining over the lava fields near Reykjavik in Iceland

Depending on the time of year you cruise to Iceland, your evening can be spent chasing the aurora borealis. Book an excursion and let experienced guides take you on an unforgettable journey under the dancing green Northern Lights, or simply keep your eyes peeled as your cruise ship takes to the ocean at twilight; headed for the next port on your itinerary.

Reykjavik is a unique destination like nowhere else on the planet. These suggestions are just one way you can spend your time there – for more advice, call our expert Cruise Concierge team. They won’t just find your perfect itinerary, but will help you plan your time in port!

Do you have any of your own tips for spending time in Reykjavik? Let us know using the comment box below!

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Charlotte Varela

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