Iceland is one of the most dramatically beautiful countries to visit in Europe. Its natural landscape is harsh and wild, with towering mountains, volcanoes and glaciers. Combined with this are the magical aurora borealis, warming and relaxing thermal pools and its modern and vibrant cities. Cities in Iceland are typically smaller than their European counterparts but are still well worth a visit to absorb their cultures, legends and natural beauty.
A city break in Iceland is perfect for those seeking time in outstanding natural landscapes and bustling metropolises. Spend some time in the capital Reykjavík before heading out to smaller cities in Iceland to experience a wealth of local traditions, delicious regional cuisines and stunning scenery. Here are 20 Icelandic cities you should visit.
- Cities in Iceland
Cities in Iceland
20 Iceland Cities To Visit
Reykjavík is the largest city in Iceland and is on the coast, filled with stunning architecture, dramatic views and plenty of cultural attractions.
Explore the architecture by visiting the impressive Hallgrímskirkja church.
This modern house of worship is simple and dramatic in equal measure and holds wonder despite being less ornately decorated internally than other European churches.
Begin to learn about Iceland’s Viking history at Sun Voyager, a waterfront sculpture that was inspired by a traditional Viking longship.
The sculpture looks out across the water and, at night, is lit up, creating a beautiful sight.
Warm up with local delicacies in one of the city’s many cafes or restaurants.
Popular options amongst locals include hearty fish and chips or comforting chicken noodle soup from 101 Reykjavík Street Food and tasty hot dogs from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.
Here are the most popular tours from Reykjavik:
A short drive from the capital is the city of Hafnarfjörður, known for its vibrant arts and culture scene, with many museums and events.
The Hafnarfjörður Centre of Culture and Fine Art is at the centre of the city’s arts and culture scene.
Inside are two galleries with works from influential Icelandic artists and works of art depicting Iceland and its history.
For a fun and mystical adventure with children or for grown-ups interested in local lore and legend, uncover the tales of the elves, dwarves and other hidden folks in the city.
Visit Hellisgerði, a park straight out of a fairytale, and look out for magical creatures.
The park is filled with lava formations covered in moss, with plenty of hidden caves for elves to hide in.
Nestled at the base of a fjord is the city of Akureyri, the second-largest city in Iceland.
Marvel at the beauty of colourful plant life thriving in harsh weather conditions at the Arctic Botanical Gardens.
The gardens are filled with more than 7000 species of plants that can be found across Iceland and other arctic countries and regions.
Take a boat trip onto the Eyjafjordur fjord and look for whales.
The fjord is a popular whale-watching destination with humpback, minke and even blue whales sighted.
Iceland is famous for its thermal pools, but for a more unusual bathing experience, visit the Bjorbodin or Beer Bath Spa.
Here you can relax and unwind in a wooden bath filled with beers designed to help you unwind and improve the health of your skin.
Top tour: Akureyri 3-Hour Classic Whale Watching Tour.
Another of Iceland’s fjord cities is Seyðisfjörður which lies on the banks of a fjord with the same name.
Steep and high mountains, perfect for winter skiing, overlook the city.
Active and outdoorsy visitors to Seyðisfjörður can take on the ‘Seyðisfjörður Mountain Viking’ challenge.
The challenge involves climbing the seven peaks of the area in less than 24 hours.
For a gentler hike and one that is suitable for families, look for the Gufufoss Waterfall, which cascades down into a pool surrounded by higher cliffs creating an ever-present vapour rising out of the ground.
Iceland has many beautiful and modernist churches, including the stunning Kópavogskirkja church, a popular tourist attraction for its architectural significance and the views from the top.
Explore the collections at Gerðarsafn – Kópavogur Art Museum for an artistic day out.
The museum describes itself as progressive and prioritises modern and contemporary arts in its collection.
Inside are more than 1400 works of art from a range of Icelandic artists, including abstract art and glasswork from female artist Gerður Helgadóttir, whom the museum is named after.
Egilsstaðir is the newest city in Iceland, having been established in 1947.
The beautiful Icelandic landscape surrounds this riverside destination, has a pleasant year-round climate and is filled with exciting things to do.
One of the best things to do in Egilsstaðir is to visit the Hengifoss Waterfall, the second tallest in the country at 128m (419.95ft).
The waterfall can be reached following a hike through jungle trails before opening into a rocky valley, with the waterfall cascading over a unique striped cliff face.
Ísafjörður is the perfect Icelandic destination for escaping big city noise due to its remote location.
It is best to visit Ísafjörður during summer as in winter the town can often be inaccessible.
Take some time to wander the streets of Ísafjörður, visiting its cosy cafes and restaurants and admiring the dramatic natural landscapes surrounding it.
Head out onto the fjord on a boat trip to see the bay, the mountains and the forests from the water.
On your boat tour, you may see whales, seals and puffins thriving in the region.
Top tour: Isafjordur Dynjandi Waterfall Tour and Icelandic Farm Visit.
If you are visiting the harbour town of Höfn during July, enjoy and experience the annual Lobster Festival.
The festival celebrates Höfn’s heritage as a fishing port and features plenty of themed activities and delicious lobster dishes.
Despite its small size, Höfn has several museums focusing on local art and history.
For a small and cosy museum experience, visit Listasfan, which specialises in Icelandic art.
Head to the coast to enjoy the carved sculpture of a narwhal horn on a grassy area overlooking the waters.
This is a great spot to photograph the statue and the surrounding natural landscape.
Garðabær is home to the President of Iceland, but there is so much more to this town than politics.
Uncover Iceland’s Viking heritage and visit Hofstaðir, a Viking settlement.
Discovered in 1986, the settlement includes a large longhouse believed to belong to a wealthy farmer.
Visiting the site and learning more about its history from various information boards is possible.
Many of the artefacts at the settlement are currently housed in the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavík.
Be inspired by a visit to the Museum of Design and Applied Art, a museum dedicated to preserving Iceland’s design history.
The museum was set up to house and celebrate Icelandic heritage through design with collections from the early 20th century to today.
Immerse yourself in arts and beautiful oceanic views at the Reykjanes Art Museum.
Reykjanes Art Museum is part of a larger museum complex, including the Maritime Centre, Heritage Museum, and the Duus Museum.
Spend a day exploring all parts of the museum, including its exhibitions, interactive displays, lectures and guided tours, to learn more about Iceland’s creative side.
For an unusual experience, walk across the Bridge Between Continents, a bridge that allows visitors to cross the geographical continental divide between Europe and North America.
Impressive views can be found at the top of the Reykjanes Lighthouse, a 26m (85.3ft) tall tower perched on a carved hill.
Enjoy panoramic views over the Atlantic Ocean and the mountains from the top of the lighthouse.
Mosfellsbær is known for its beautiful and lush green landscapes, nicknamed ‘the green town’.
The green town is famous for its links to some of Iceland’s most notable writers.
Its links are most famously to Egil Skallagrimsson, a Viking poet buried near the town alongside an impressive treasure horde.
Despite many treasure hunters heading to the region searching for the horde of Skallagrimmson, none has ever been found.
Continue exploring Icelandic literature at the former home of Haldór Laxness, Iceland’s only Nobel Laureate. Laxness focused his writing on his experiences living in the area.
The museum home is filled with examples of his work and has rooms decorated to reflect how they were during his life.
Explore Árborg Heritage Village to get a feel for life in Iceland’s past.
The village has various buildings, including a school, church and many homes, all displayed in traditional Icelandic fashion. Whilst exploring the historical village, wander along the shores of the Icelandic River.
Grab a bite to eat at Tommi’s Burger Joint, a cosy and rustic diner in the heart of the town.
The diner has a relaxed atmosphere and is perfect for visiting after a long day of exploring.
Keep things simple with a Tommi’s Classic cheeseburger, or try something different with a BBQ pulled pork bun or mouthwatering steak burger.
Another of Iceland’s harbour towns is Akranes, a cosy town overlooked by towering mountains.
Akranes’ is well-known for its delicious fish restaurants stocked with local fishing boats bringing in a range of catches daily.
For some of the best seafood, try Gamla Kaupfelagid for its impressive variety of succulent lobster dishes.
Step into nature and enjoy a hike to the top of Akrafjall Mountain.
From the summit, the views over the town and out to the ocean are spectacular, and on a clear day, it is even possible to see the capital of Reykjavik.
Fjarðabyggð is the perfect Icelandic destination to surround yourself with natural beauty.
Begin by hiking along the Búðará Canyon, which runs past the Wartime Museum. From here, follow a green and leafy valley to the stunning Búðarárfoss.
The walk is gentle and suitable for most visitors.
For a more challenging hike, scale Grænafell Mountain, a mountain covered in birch bush, rocky grass and plenty of challenge.
The summit offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, the town and the Geithúsaá River.
Regain your strength by dining at one of Fjarðabyggð’s many restaurants and cafes.
Try the delicious Icelandic pastry ástarpungar, a fried spherical doughnut filled with raisins and cinnamon, at Brekkan, or opt for something a little fancier at Randulff’s Teahouse.
This fjord-facing restaurant has ample outside seating to enjoy the scenery while feasting on local fish dishes.
Visit Húsavík’s famous wooden church with its white walls, green roof and red exterior detailing.
Rögnvaldur Ólafsson, an Icelandic architect, designed the church in 1907 to resemble Swiss Chalets.
Húsavík is one of the best destinations in Iceland for whale watching.
It is located in Skjálfandi Bay and has a higher chance of whale sightings than any other area of Iceland.
Board a tour boat and venture into the bay to see blue and baleen whales enjoying the plankton-rich waters.
Relax and unwind in the naturally heated thermal waters of GeoSea, an outdoor bathing area filled with warming seawater.
Beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the bay below are from its pools.
Top tour: Húsavík Whale Watching Tour.
16- Vík í Mýrdal
Animal lovers should head to the Dyrhólaey Lighthouse at the country’s southernmost tip.
While the views from the top of the lighthouse across the natural landscape are stunning, keep your eyes peeled for the resident puffins.
These beautiful sea birds nest on the cliffs by the lighthouse between May and August each year.
If you are lucky, you may even glimpse a newly hatched puffling.
Head to the coast and explore Vík í Mýrdal’s black beaches for beautiful photographic opportunities.
The best beach to visit is Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach which has towering basalt walls and many sea stacks.
Another beach worth visiting is Sólheimasandur, where the wreckage of a 1973 USA Navy aeroplane can be found.
Top tour: From Vik: Katla Ice Cave Jeep Tour and Glacier Walk.
Learn about Iceland’s fishing heritage at the Herring Era Museum, the largest maritime museum in the country.
There are exhibitions on how herring fishing shaped the country and how it influenced Icelandic culture.
Quench your thirst with a local brew at Seagull 67 Brewery.
Tours of this small family-ran brewery are available with a tasting board of their best beers to round off your visit.
Siglufjörður sits on a fjord overlooked by snowcapped mountains, and there is no better way to explore than by taking to the water in a kayak.
Explore the waters with a tour guide, and keep your eyes peeled for whales who may be swimming around you.
Top tour: Guided kayak tour in Siglufjörður.
Vestmannaeyjarbær is located on Icelands Vestmannaeyjar islands, just off the country’s southern coast.
The city is on the largest of the islands, Heimaey, which is volcanic.
Understand more about the volcanic landscape of Iceland at Eldheimar Museum.
The museum is dedicated to a devastating volcanic eruption that covered the islands in clouds of volcanic dust and showers of hot rocks in the early 1970s.
Continue your exploration of Iceland’s volcanic geology and climb to the top of the newest mountain in the country, Eldfell.
This mountain was formed from the 1970 eruption and has spectacular views of the archipelago and the mainland.
Borganes is a must-visit cultural centre in Iceland that celebrates the country’s Viking heritage and newer creative and cultural additions.
The Settlement Centre is one of the best museums in Iceland to uncover the country’s origins.
Understand how the settlers lived and thrived in the icy north, and immerse yourself in Viking lore and Icelandic folk tales.
Film fans should stop into Geirabakari, a bakery used in the movie ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’.
Try their signature astarpungar while enjoying the dramatic scenery from their windows.
Hvammstangi is one of the best locations in Iceland to learn about and see seals in their natural habitat.
Visit the Seal Centre, located along the Arctic Coast Way, to learn more about seals and their lives in the Arctic waters.
There are several interactive exhibitions, lectures and displays inside the museum, with some focusing on the biodiversity of the surrounding landscape.
Grab a map from the seal centre and head out to one of the recommended seal-watching destinations, many of which are a short walk or drive away with tour operators running regular trips to see these spectacular marine mammals.
Visiting Iceland soon? Book your bus transfer from Keflavik Airport (KEF) to/from Reykjavik here.
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