Explore off the beaten path with Reykjavik's best hidden gems

Looking to get off the beaten path on your trip to Iceland? Want to avoid the obvious tourist traps? Experience 10 of the best hidden gems in Reykjavik.

People from all over the world travel to Reykjavik for a wide variety of reasons, with examples ranging from seeing the northern lights in the winter months to relaxing in the geothermal waters of the Sky Lagoon or Blue Lagoon. The city is also home to iconic landmarks and some of the most spectacular scenery you will see anywhere in the world, while the surrounding areas are also filled with interesting places to visit for guests of all ages.

With that being said, it is also worth occasionally getting off the beaten path and exploring some of the less obvious activities and tourist destinations on offer in the region, so you can ensure your trip is completely unique. In this guide, you can learn about 10 of the very best hidden gems in Reykjavik, from great food options to amazing group tours or family activities that will live long in the memory.

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1. Take a helicopter tour over the springs

Reykjavik is famous for its incredible landscape, and what better way to explore the key sights than with the geothermal helicopter tour? Leave from Reykjavik Domestic Airport and fly over Iceland's scenic areas for 50 to 60 minutes.

Highlights:

The route is designed to fly over Iceland's hot springs and volcanoes. Learn about the geothermal activity from your pilot, who will be happy to share insights and expert knowledge.

Meeting point and start time:

Nauthólsvegur, 102 Reykjavík, Iceland. Open daily, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM.

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2. Go fishing for good in Faxaflói Bay

Go off the beaten path with the three-hour sea angling experience. Explore the Faxaflói Bay fishing area with an expert crew. Fish for cod, haddock, mackerel, and other fish in a sustainable way.

Highlights:

Experience an Icelandic tradition in a safe and supportive environment. Anything you catch can also be barbecued on board, meaning you'll also be able to sample authentic local cuisine.

Meeting point and start time:

Ægisgarður 5-1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland. Start time 4:30 PM.

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3. Experience a live molten lava show

One of the best hidden gems in Reykjavik is the Icelandic Lava Show. With a Lava Show entry ticket, you'll enjoy a multi-sensory experience as you get close to real lava. The experience is created by heating genuine lava from the 1918 Katla eruption and recreating the conditions.

Highlights:

The Icelandic Lava Show is a safe way to improve your understanding of volcanoes. See real lava, hear its effects, feel the heat coming from it, and smell the scents.

Address and opening hours:

Fiskislóð 73, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland. Open daily, 12:00 PM-7:00 PM.

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4. View experimental art at the Living Arts Museum

Reykjavik has a large number of museums and galleries, but one of the more hidden places to explore is the Living Arts Museum. Operated by artists, it places an emphasis on experimental, contemporary art. Visitors can enter for free as it is a nonprofit organization.

Highlights:

Most art on display is from the second half of the 20th century to the present day. Exhibits are changed frequently so that different artists' work can be showcased.

Address and opening hours:

Grandagarður 20, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 12:00 PM-6:00 PM.

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5. Try traditional Icelandic dishes on a food tour

Dig into authentic cuisine from the region on the Icelandic food tour. Over the course of 3 hours, you'll visit numerous food establishments, eating traditional dishes and some modern favorites. Try Minke whale steak, Icelandic lamb soup, and even fermented shark.

Highlights:

You'll get the chance to dine at Reykjavik's oldest restaurant. Depending on timing, you may also get to explore a popular food market in the city center.

Meeting point and start time:

Austurstræti 4 101, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland. Start times vary.

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6. Test your wits with an escape room

For a short and sweet activity to fill some time, try the Prison Break Escape Game. Look for clues and solve complex puzzles in order to escape from your jail cell. Will you manage to break out before the time limit?

Highlights:

You've been framed for a murder you didn't commit, and your pleas of innocence fall on deaf ears. You have just 1 hour to escape and avoid your death sentence in this engaging game.

Address and opening hours:

Reykjavik Escape, Borgartún 6, 105 Reykjavík, Iceland. Tuesday-Saturday, 12:00 PM-8:00 PM.

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7. Take in the sights on a city walking tour

The Reykjavik city walking tour is aimed at tourists and covers many of the most obvious attractions and landmarks. However, along the way, you'll also get to see some of the more secret places the city has to offer.

Highlights:

Pass by the colorful houses of Þingholt, see Viking homesteads, and explore sculpture parks. Along the way, your guide will teach you about Norse mythology and the history of the city.

Meeting point and start time:

Skólavörðustígur 45, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland. Starts at 10:00 AM.

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8. Travel to the Imagine Peace Tower

The Imagine Peace Tower is literally hidden for much of the year, as the beams that make up the tower only shine from October to December and at select periods throughout the rest of the year. However, if you time your visit to Reykjavik in this period, it is well worth a visit.

Highlights:

Booking yourself on the Imagine Peace Tower tour is a great way to experience the tower in full and learn about the inspiration behind it — John Lennon and Yoko Ono's message of peace.

Address:

Imagine Peace Tower, Videy, Iceland.

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9. Try your hand at rock climbing

If you're looking for active hidden gems in Reykjavik, why not try the rock climbing experience? Make the most of Iceland's rocky terrain and see the landscape from a different perspective. A harness, shoes, a rope, and a safety helmet will be provided.

Highlights:

Travel to one of several possible rock climbing locations. The experience can be adapted based on your previous experience and level of confidence. All the gear you’ll need is included.

Meeting point and start time:

Your guide will pick you up from your hotel. The tour starts at 9:00 AM.

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10. Tour a working Icelandic distillery

Iceland has established a strong culture for producing pleasant alcoholic drinks, and the Eimverk Distillery tour and tasting is a superb way to put these products to the test. Sample whiskey, gin, and authentic Icelandic brennivín as you tour the premises.

Highlights:

Experience a relaxed spirit-tasting session alongside other visitors to the region. Learn about Iceland's charming history of alcohol production and gain an appreciation for the work that goes into making each bottle.

Address and opening hours:

Lyngás 13, 210 Garðabær, Iceland. Open Monday-Friday, 10:00 AM-3:30 PM.

FAQs

What are some lesser-known attractions in Reykjavik that are worth visiting?

Among the most enjoyable lesser-known attractions in the city are the Icelandic Lava Show, the Living Arts Museum, and Reykjavik Escape, which offers a number of different themed escape room games to try. Several walking tours in the city also cover a combination of major tourist hotspots and obscure or hidden places.

Are there any hidden or secret gardens in Reykjavik that I can explore?

The Grasagarður Botanical Garden is located in the Laugardalur district and is one of the best hidden gems in Reykjavik, offering more than 5,000 different plant species. The region has also become a popular destination for nature lovers because it attracts grey geese and many other bird species.

Can you recommend any hidden or secret viewpoints in Reykjavik with great views of the city?

The 1-Hour Helicopter Tour in Iceland: The Geothermal Tour offers incredible views of the city and its surrounding lakes, lagoons, and volcanoes. If you would prefer a stationary viewpoint, the tower at Hallgrímskirkja is accessible to the general public, with free admission, and provides a great view over Reykjavik.

What are some lesser-known neighborhoods in Reykjavik that are worth exploring?

The neighborhood of Vesturbær is perfect for culture lovers and houses both the National Library and the National Museum. Alternatively, Fossvogur is relatively quiet and is likely to appeal to those who are more in tune with nature, as it has a forest, plenty of stunning plant life, and attracts wildlife.

Can you recommend any hidden architectural gems in Reykjavik that are not as crowded as the famous landmarks?

The Imagine Peace Tower is located on Viðey Island and is an interesting architectural gem, as it serves as a memorial to John Lennon. It is dedicated to Lennon and Yoko Ono's message of peace, and when lit up, the beams appear to reach up to 4,000 meters into the sky. However, the tower is only lit up at select times of the year.