15 Things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland with Kids

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Reykjavik with Kids

 

Planning on visiting Reykjavik, Iceland with kids? Like many people traveling to this northern island nation, our Iceland family vacation began as a multi-day stopover that was part of a much larger European adventure. We enjoyed our first summer trip to Reykjavik so much, that we couldn’t wait to return – finding ourselves on a winter Iceland stopover several years later.

For both of our trips, we chose to stay in the quaint and colorful city of Reykjavik, where we had the opportunity to explore many interesting museums and attractions. The city also provided a wonderful base for all of our Iceland family tours and day trips, including visiting a puffin colony, self-driving the Golden Circle (in summer and in winter), and checking out many of the local geothermal pools (plus the Blue Lagoon, of course). Whether you are visiting Iceland with a toddler or a tween, you will find plenty of things to do in Reykjavik with kids.

In a hurry? You can see many of our favorite things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland with children in this 2 minute video . Otherwise, just read on for our top family-friendly Reykjavik activities !

 

 

Iceland for Kids – 15 Things to do in Reykjavik

1. Hallgrímskirkja Church Tower

For sweeping views of the beautiful city of Reykjavik, take the lift to the top of Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran church. It is a great place to get your bearings and take some very pretty pictures.

 

Things to do in Iceland with Kids

Iceland with Kids

Iceland with Children

 

2. Reykjavik Whale Watching and Puffin Spotting Tours

There are a number of tour companies running right out of Reykjavik that can take you whale watching or puffin spotting (some tours are as short as 1 hour). Both Whale Safari (10 years+) and Elding Adventure (all ages) come highly recommended. Personally, my favorite tour company in Iceland is Hidden Iceland. They run some wonderful tours out of Reykjavik including a puffin spotting day trip (8 years +) and a Golden Circle Tour (8 years +). They can also do private tours which may be a preferred option for families with very young children. See reviews for Hidden Iceland here.

Note: This photo was taken from our day trip to the Westman Islands where there is a huge puffin colony.

 

Where to see Puffins Iceland

 

 

3. Perlan Museum

Perlan brings the wonders of Iceland alive in a unique exhibition, through ground-breaking technology, science, photography, and design. The experience includes a real ice cave (100-meter long), an interactive glacier exhibition, an immersive Forces of Nature show, a virtual aquarium and more. Perlan also recently added the Áróra 8K Planetarium Northern Lights show. The whole experience could be a great option for your first day in Reykjavik, arming you with a whole bunch of knowledge about the unique geography of Iceland before heading off to explore further afield.

Perlan is perched on a hill above Reykjavik, offering beautiful views of the city from their observation deck, cafe and restaurant. Tickets can be purchased online (there is a family option) and they provide a shuttle bus from Harpa Concert Hall in central Reykjavik. Learn more at: https://perlan.is.

 

Perlan Iceland
Image Credit: Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson

 

 

4. Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach

Possibly the coolest outdoor recreation area in Reykjavik is the Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach. This multi-use facility has steam rooms, geothermal hot tubs, a man-made beach, and a heated kiddie pool that spills into a larger pool at the ocean’s edge.

 

Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach

 

 

5. Ice Cream in Reykjavik

We have tried others, but Valdís is our favorite for ice cream in Reykjavik. With two locations in the city, I will confess that we have sometimes visited twice in one day ! Feeling adventurous? Try the locals’ favorite – licorice flavor. Learn more at: http://valdis.is.

 

Best Ice Cream in Reykjavik

 

 

6. Walk, Run or Jump Rocks Along the Seawall

My kids loved jumping the rocks along the seawall from the Sun Voyager sculpture to the Harpa Concert Hall (home of the Icelandic Opera). As it can be a little chilly in Iceland even in the summer, the cozy cafe inside makes for a nice place to warm up with a hot chocolate.

 

Opera House Reykjavik

Sun Voyager Boat Sculpture Reykjavik

 

 

7. Laugardalslaug Pool – Geothemal Pools in Iceland

Icelandic people take their public bathing very seriously, so it should come as no surprise that there are 18 thermal pools in and around Reykjavik. In fact, many locals visit their favorite pool multiple times a week. If you truly want to experience the Icelandic lifestyle, I encourage you to visit at least one Reykjavik public pool during your Iceland family holiday.

We chose to visit Laugardalslaug Pool because it seemed to be one of the most family-friendly facilities, with an outdoor children’s pool, a paddling pool, two waterslides, numerous hot tubs, a steam bath, and mini golf course. If you are traveling to Iceland with a baby, Laugardalslaug conveniently has little baby baths and high chairs in the change rooms for wee ones.

See a full list of Reykjavik pools here: https://visitreykjavik.is. If you plan on visiting many public pools, museums and attractions during your stay, the Reykjavik City Card can save you money. For a fixed price, it offers free entry to most museums, pools, and some additional attractions. It also includes free public transportation in the capital area.

 

Swimming in Iceland
Image Credit: Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson

 

Note: Upon arrival at Laugardalslaug Pool, I will admit to being rather taken aback by the large sign (shown below) explaining exactly where you need to wash. I came to appreciate, however, the fact that once in the pool, you have confidence that nobody did that fake shower walk-through thing that is common at pools in North America. Showering with your bathing suit on is a definite no-no. Just strip down and shower like nobody’s watching. If you are a rarely-nude like me (or worse…. a never-nude), you will simply have to get over it.

 

 

Public Pools in Iceland

 

 

8. Shopping in Reykjavik

We loved some of the unique souvenirs we found in Iceland. My kids bought some trinkets made out of lava rock, while I loaded up on Icelandic blankets and sweaters. The main shopping street is called Laugavegur and along it you will find some great boutiques filled with unique Icelandic goods. My favorites are: Hrím, Aurum, Farmers Market, and Geysir. There is also a sweet little children’s clothing store called Ígló and Indí on Skólavörðustígur. While on your shopping stroll, be sure to stop in at the gorgeous Sandholt cafe and bakery. Their beautiful creations are so delicious that we found ourselves returning daily.

Tip: If you are looking for some inexpensive souvenirs for friends back home, go to the supermarket and buy Iceland finishing salt, unique Iceland chocolate bars (Hraun is designed to look like a piece of lava), or Icelandic salted licorice (odd-tasting at first – then highly addictive).

 

Shopping in Reykjavik

 

Bakery in Reykjavik

 

9. Feed the Ducks at Tjörnin Pond

Although we ran out of time for this particular activity, Tjörnin Pond is a popular spot for families to gather to feed the ducks and geese, take a stroll, and admire the colorful houses along the western shoreline. This pond is also a popular spot for ice skating during the winter months. Learn more at: http:/visitreykjavik.is.

 

10. Eat Hot Dogs

Almost a national pastime, the people of Iceland love their hot dogs. While there are plenty of options, you can’t go wrong with either Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (cash only) or Pylsuhûsid – both with stands in central Reykjavik. Just be prepared to line up as these places are popular!

 

Hot Dogs in Reykjavik

 

 

11. Reykjavik Family Park and Zoo

The Family Park and Zoo is located in the Laugardalur Valley and is home to various Icelandic farm animals, reindeer, harbour seals, arctic foxes, a selection of birds, and several reptiles. The park also has a carousel, a train, barbecue area and coffee house. Find out more at: http://reykjavik.is.

 

12. The Blue Lagoon

No visit to Iceland is complete without a trip to the Blue Lagoon. Quite honestly, I worried that we might find it way too touristy after having visited several of the local pools, but we actually found it to be very enjoyable.

At the Blue Lagoon, kids 2-13 years are welcomed for free with a paying adult, but please note that they do not have robes and flip flops in kids sizes (typically included with the more deluxe Blue Lagoon ticket packages). Babies and toddlers less than 2 years old are not permitted at the Blue Lagoon due to the high water temperature and the fact that the water is really silty and murky.

Although expensive (all food in Iceland is expensive), the LAVA restaurant is very good and has a kids’ menu. The facility also has a more casual cafe style restaurant.

The Blue Lagoon is located quite close to the airport, so it makes for a great stop on the way to/from KEF International. On our first family trip to Iceland, we chose to spend an afternoon there prior to flying back to North America — hopping on our plane feeling amazing.

Book Blue Lagoon tickets in advance, as key times slots can sell out. If possible, try to avoid visiting between 10am – 2pm as this is the busiest period. Learn more at: http://www.bluelagoon.com. Check prices for airport to Blue Lagoon transport (or vice versa) on GetYourGuide.com.

 

 

 

13. Family Friendly Museums in Reykjavik

If the weather isn’t looking great and you are seeking family-friendly indoor activities, Reykjavik has a number of museums that are engaging for kids, including the Maritime Museum (close to a Valdís Ice Cream location), the National Museum of Iceland (Vikings!) and the Whales of Iceland Museum. For those of you visiting Iceland with a teen, you could shock (or impress?) them with a visit to the world’s only Phallological Museum (my kids can’t stop talking about their gift shop finds). In better weather, the Árbær Open Air Museum is a nice place to explore history via an Icelandic village experience. For a full list of museums and galleries, please see: https://visitreykjavik.is.

Note: If you plan on visiting many museums and attractions during your stay, the Reykjavik City Card can save you money. For a fixed price, it offers free entry to most museums, public pools, and some additional attractions. It also includes free public transportation in the capital area.

 

Kids Museums Reykjavik

 

 

14. Family Events in Iceland

I think it can really be an enriching experience to enjoy or participate in a local event in any country. The top family-friendly events in Reykjavik include the Children’s Culture Festival (April), First Day of Summer (April), Festival of the Sea (June), The National Day of Iceland (June 17), and Reykjavík Culture Night (August).  You can find further Reykjavik events and festivals on the Visit Reykjavik events page.

 

Family Events Iceland

 

 

15. Flyover Iceland – Coming July 2019

A brand new flight ride experience will open in Reykjavik on July 1, 2019.  While you hang suspended, feet dangling, before a 20 meter spherical screen, this multi-sensory flight simulation experience will take you over some of the island’s most iconic natural wonders, hard-to-reach locations and picturesque scenery. Special effects, including wind, mist and scents, combine with the ride’s motion to create an unforgettable experience. Learn more or pre-purchase tickets at: www.flyovericeland.com.

Note: There is a FlyOver experience in my hometown of Vancouver, and to be honest, I think it is just okay. Perhaps my ambivalence towards it is due to the fact that it showcases scenery that I am rather familiar with. I think the Iceland show is going to be quite special though, because so much of the incredible landscape of Iceland that will be featured in the film, is not generally accessible – even to most Icelanders. In fact, watching this little YouTube movie on the making of FlyOver Iceland made me really want to see it !

 

 

 

 

Where to Stay in Reykjavik

Get ready for some sticker shock. Hotels in Reykjavik are very expensive, especially in the main tourist season (May-Sept). If possible, I recommend making a reservation as soon as your travel plans are fixed. Most hotel sites, such as Booking.com, offer a Pay Later flexible booking option that you can cancel if something better comes along.

 

Best Area to Stay in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is a small, and very walkable city, so as long as you are somewhere around the core, you cannot go too wrong. The one thing I will caution, however, is the fact that the city streets can get a little lively at night (Icelanders love to party). In fact, our last visit coincided with a music festival where some parties and events went well into the morning. For this reason, I personally prefer Reykjavik family hotels that are not right in the center of town. I would also recommend putting in a request for a quiet room at your chosen property that does not face a main street.

Note: An easy way to get a feel for where all the action (noise) is in Reykjavik, is to Google Reykjavik Nightclubs. They are generally all clustered in two areas, so as long as you have a bit of a buffer between the nearest party spot and your chosen accommodation, you should be fine.

 

Best Family Hotels in Reykjavik

Finding family friendly hotels is Reykjavik can be a little tricky. While Iceland is very family-friendly in general, there just aren’t that many hotels that offer family sized rooms. To compound the problem, those few family rooms book up quickly. That said, here are a couple family friendly hotels in Reykjavik, Iceland that we really love.

 

Reykjavik Residence Hotel

This highly rated apartment-style hotel has fully furnished 1,2 and 3 bedroom suites that are perfect for families both large and small ! Guests love the breakfast basket delivered to their room each morning.

Check Prices and Availability.

 

The Sand Hotel 

This fashionable boutique hotel is in a great location on the best shopping street in Reykjavik, and only a 10 minute walk to the center of town. Rooms feature muted tones, flat-screen TVs and hardwood floors, complimentary Wi-Fi, Nespresso machines, and designer toiletries. The hotel has a beautiful two queen room that is perfect for families. All stays at the Sand Hotel include a continental breakfast featuring pastries from their award-winning Sandholt bakery.

Check Prices and Availability.

 

Other Family Accommodation Reykjavik

On our first Iceland vacation with kids, we planned our trip at the last minute and found very few decent hotels available that weren’t going to charge us a fortune. We opted instead to book a vacation rental apartment. HomeAway and Airbnb have quite a nice selection in Reykjavik.

We absolutely adored our 2 bedroom apartment right off of the main shopping street of Laugavegur (so much so, that we have now stayed there twice). Owner Dyrlief has a number of beautiful vacations rentals around Iceland ($130-$340 USD/night). Find all of them here. If you have never rented from Airbnb before, I would love to offer you a $34 USD ($45 CAD) Airbnb referral credit towards your first booking.

 

Family Friendly Apartment Reykjavik, Iceland

 

Iceland Frequently Asked Questions

 

When is the Best Time of Year to Travel to Iceland?

The best time of the year to visit Iceland depends on what you are looking for. Most tourists visit in the summer months (May-Sept.) when the climate is more welcoming. The summer months are also a great time for whale watching and puffin tours. September to mid-April, however, are the best months to see the Northern Lights, hike on the glaciers or visit the blue ice caves.

 

Should I Rent a Car in Iceland?

For a short Iceland stopover, a rental car isn’t necessarily required. Buses run frequently between KEF International Airport and Reykjavik (Flybus and Gray Line) with stops near most of the major hotels and guest houses. Tickets can be purchased online or at the airport upon arrival. The Blue Lagoon also has an hourly bus that runs between their spa and the airport or Reykjavik.

Reykjavik is a very walkable city (no car required) and most tour companies offer a hotel pickup for day trips and tours.

With that said, we prefer to rent a car in Iceland. As a family of four, the cost for tours and transfers can add up quickly, making hiring a car in Iceland a more economical alternative. We also like the freedom of visiting sites on our own schedule and really enjoy self driving the Golden Circle (one of the most popular Iceland day tours). As long as you are not dealing with severe winter driving conditions, the route is not a difficult one to drive. There are a few things you should know about driving in Iceland, however, and I encourage you to review our tips for renting a car in Iceland.

Taxis are very expensive in Iceland and the airport is about a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik. You can expect a cab from KEF to Reykjavik to cost around $150 USD or more.

 

Is There Uber in Iceland?

Uber and Lyft do not currently operate in Iceland.

 

How Many Nights Should You Stay in Iceland?

I think a minimum of 3-5 nights is great for a first trip. We have stayed twice for five nights (once in summer and then again in winter). On our next trip, we will stay for longer (7+ days) so that we can drive the whole Ring Road, which essentially is the route around the perimeter of the country.

 

Where is the Best Area to Stay in Iceland

For a first trip to Iceland, I think it is best to stay in Reykjavik and do day trips from there. That said, if you do plan on exploring the South Coast of Iceland near Vatnajökull National Park, I would advise staying at least one night in that area (whether on a tour of the region or self driving). There are day trips that run to the region from Reykjavik, but it makes for a very long day (especially if you have kids with you).

 

More Information on Reykjavik

For more family friendly things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland, including day trips and other tours, please see: http://visitreykjavik.is

 

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