I still can’t quite believe it, but after two very long years thanks to ‘you know what’, my family and I have recently returned from a much-needed holiday in Reykjavik.
The irony is we flew home from Iceland in March 2020 into the first lockdown, so it seemed only right to restart our Nordic travels where we left off.
So, if you are thinking of taking the family to Reykjavik, and there is certainly lots to enjoy together, here are some of my top tips on what to see, do and enjoy, especially if you have little ones for company.
The Blue Lagoon
A trip to Reykjavik, or Iceland generally, wouldn’t be complete without a day spent bathing in a geothermal pool.
We headed to the iconic Blue Lagoon on day one of our trip, which is about a 45 minute drive from the city centre, and it is such an other-worldly experience, relaxing in the hot seawater with a much-needed silica face mask on, surrounded by the dramatic volcanic landscape.
It is such a family friendly place too, with children aged 2-13 years entering free of charge, and provided with complementary arm floats on arrival. Afterwards be sure to head to the ‘Lava’ restaurant for the most incredible fine dining experience, which again includes a fantastic children’s menu.
Harpa is one of Reykjavik’s most striking modern landmarks especially set against its North Atlantic backdrop. Our main reason to visit this award-wining concert and culture venue on this trip was to see the ‘Circuleight’ art installation.
This fully immersive and interactive video piece is inspired by eight elements: lava, basalt, glacier, water, flora, algae, microorganism, and volcanic gas. Along with a powerful score of original music by renowned Icelandic composer, singer, and songwriter Högni Egilsson it will be an experience that lives long in the memory.
Since our last visit the ‘Hnoss’ restaurant has opened on the ground floor and is highly recommended if you are in need of a parental pick-me-up.
Sat by the frozen Tjörnin lake, the Nordic House was designed by renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and opened its doors in 1968. Another unique cultural venue in the heart of this laid-back city, inside you will discover a library, children’s library, restaurant, and exhibition hall.
This very special little building may appear simple from the outside, but inside it is a true testament to Aalto’s pioneering approach to human-centred design, with every inch of space, light and the material totally in tune with its setting and created with form and function in mind.
My six-year-old particularly liked looking through Nordic children’s books, and a moment of quiet and calm was much appreciated by me too.
Whales of Iceland
If you are looking to add an element of education to a fun-filled day, then Whales of Iceland is for you. Located close to the old harbour and about 15 minutes’ walk from the city centre, inside you will find 23 life sized, expertly crafted creatures to learn more about.
With audio guides and videos from leading researchers, biologists, and even British children’s TV presenters, if you make it through the gift shop you will leave with an enormous amount of new knowledge.
There is a super cute café here too, but afterwards we headed over the road to the Grandi Mathöll instead.
With 100m of underground ice caves to explore, volcano and glacier exhibitions, as well as an awe-inspiring Northern Lights Planetarium show it’s no wonder Perlan is Reykjavik’s most popular visitor attraction no matter what your age.
Once supplying the district with hot water, the former six heating tanks are now topped with a dramatic glass domed restaurant and observation deck providing amazing views of the tree covered Öskjuhlíð hill below as well as the city and coastline beyond.
Perlan is about a ten-minute drive by car from the centre of town, or buses on line 18 run regularly.
The Golden Circle
Finally, if like us, you want to explore a little further afield then the Golden Circle is the most famous sightseeing route in Iceland. You will need a full day for this, and while we did go by car again there are lots of bus tours available if you don’t fancy driving through the snow and ice.
First, we headed to the Haukadalur Valley, passing through some of the most amazing landscapes I’ve ever seen, and while the Great Geysir rarely spouts, the smaller geyser ‘Strokkur’ reliably gushes fountains of boiling hot water every 8-10 minutes to everyone’s delight.
From here if you head a further ten minutes up the road to Gullfoss, you can also watch the mighty Hvítá river, which travels down from the glacier Langjökull, powerfully cascade 32 meters in a dramatic display of raw natural power. It was the perfect way to end our visit.
I hope this family-friendly guide to Reykjavik has inspired you to travel to Iceland. Please do let me know of any more recommendations as we will certainly be heading back soon.
All images by Nicola Capper.
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