Reykjavik At Night

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You’ll find the northernmost capital in the world in the southwest of Iceland on an island in the Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic. Reykjavic’s latitude means that winters can be harsh but better than that in other places of a similar latitude because of the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream. At that latitude, there are short hours of daylight in the winter and the opposite in the summer.

Most visitors reach Iceland, and that means Reykjavik, by air. The capital’s population represents around two-thirds of the national population which is less than 400,000. Few countries have such a fascinating natural environment. You can expect to see volcanoes, waterfalls and glaciers and experience the northern Scandinavian culture. Tourism has grown in recent decades, with travellers interested in outdoor activities particularly attracted to this relatively remote island. Here are some things to do in Reykjavik at night if you are considering paying a visit.

Reykjavik At Night

Top Tours

  • Northern Lights Bus Tour – An incredible 4-hour evening tour by bus from Reykjavik to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).
  • Magic Ice Bar Entrance Ticket and Welcome Drink – An enchanting experience in Reykjavik in a room full of Viking ice sculptures.
  • Reykjavik Food Walking Tour – Taste the food and get into the drinking culture on a guided walking tour of restaurants in the capital. 
  • Hop-on Hop-off Bus – Explore at your own pace with this 24-hour bus ticket to get you to all the main sights.

20 Things To Do In Reykjavik At Night

1- Marvel At The Northern Lights

reykjavik at night
Dowtown Reykjavik at night with the aurora borealis gracing the sky above. Reykjavik City hall is the building on the far left and to the right of city hall is Althingi.

Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) is a feature unique to the Northern Hemisphere and virtually always in the extreme north in and towards the Arctic Circle.

It is not difficult to work out when the Northern Lights will appear as they result from particles in the earth’s atmosphere and those of the sun colliding.

If you are in Reykjavik in the long nights of winter, you should take a trip to see them outside the city, where there is minimal artificial light.

The fact that Iceland remains largely rural makes it an excellent place for viewing.

The Aurora Museum is also worth some of your time to learn more. Join this four-hour bus tour to ensure you see the best of the Northern Lights.

2- Drink In A Unique Bar

The Ice Bar in Reykjavik is where everything is made from ice except the drinks.

The glasses are ice with the bar kept at a constant temperature that prevents any melting.

On entry, you will be given gloves and a poncho to keep yourself warm as you take a drink that comes free with the entry fee.

The carvings in the bar tell stories of Iceland’s history and legends back to Viking times.

You can buy further drinks, which you are likely to do because it takes time to examine the intricacies of the lovely carvings.

The opening hours are long, right around the year, and extending them by making a special group booking is possible.

3- Eat Local Cuisine On A Walking Tour

things to do in reykjavik at night
Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral in Reykjavik at night.

One of the joys of travelling is enjoying local cuisine and Iceland’s cuisine has not spread worldwide.

Its reliance over the years on locally sourced ingredients is certainly restrictive and has led to some unusual foods and cooking techniques.

If you seek out Icelandic specialities, you will find such things as “treated” shark, puffin and parts of the sheep that are usually discarded elsewhere.

However, if you take an organised walking tour with food along the way, you will likely sample lamb soup, a definite local favourite, or lobster soup, such as hot dogs, cheese and ice cream.

A great experience. 

4- Tour Reykjavik’s Bars

things to do at night in iceland reykjavik Fresh cold beer in glass on bar background, close up.
Tasting local beer is one of the fun things to do in Reykjavik at night.

By day, a walking tour is a great way to get your bearings and the same applies in Reykjavik at night when you can go to popular bars, meet new friends and chat with locals.

The popularity of locally-brewed beers is in sharp contrast to the years when beer was banned (for 74 years, right until 1989!).

New brews are being introduced all the time and you might even get the opportunity to taste one that has yet to be introduced to the marketplace.

Sample 10 beers that are different from anything you have drunk before.

As an alternative, you can try shots of local liqueur.

Groups are relatively small, so your guide will have plenty of time to give you advice and answer your questions. Check out this tour.

5- Play The Game

reykjavik at night time
Northern lights shining over the city’s famous church in Reykjavik at night.

This city-centre self-guided tour is great fun.

You will be challenged to solve clues while learning more about Reykjavik and its highlights.

Landmarks you will pass include the National Gallery of Iceland, Holavallagardur and Christ the King Cathedral.

Download the app and get started. Once you solve the clues about one location, you are guided towards the next, 10 places in all.

There isn’t a time limit, which means you can break for a coffee or a cocktail or you may like to compete with others to see who can do the fastest time.

To get the most out of the tour, perhaps speed is not the priority. 

6- See Whales Under The Midnight Sun

Long hours of daylight, and the midnight sun, make the extreme north of Europe unique.

The waters off Iceland are rich in marine life and include the largest species in the sea, whales.

Several species have been seen in the waters, with minkes and humpbacks the most common.

Capturing images of these whales under the midnight sun is memorable and you can book a tour in search of those images.

You will need to wrap up warm, but that should be no problem if you plan properly for a visit to Iceland.

Dolphins and porpoises are likely to add to your experience with an experienced crew that can find what you are looking for.

7- Eat Dinner At The Fish Market

Few places can offer fresher fish than the Fish Market, where restauranteurs and the public head to catch the day’s landings.

If you dine at the Fish Market, the offerings you will find match anything you have ever tasted from the sea.

Just think about these options straight from the sea.

The menu includes shrimps and scallops, squid and oysters, halibut, cod, tuna and salmon.

While there are meat dishes as well, why would you deviate from the best quality seafood you can find anywhere?

Dinner is served from early evening until 2300 and to avoid disappointment, make a reservation in advance.

8- Eat Hot Dogs On The Move

While Iceland’s waters have some of the best cold water marine species found anywhere in the world, one of the local favourites is similar to one so popular in the USA, the hotdog.

If you want to avoid sitting down for dinner, you can eat on the move with hotdogs, a popular way to do it.

You may be exploring or playing the game mentioned earlier in this article.

Either way, you can continue on your way while eating a hotdog from many of the places serving them throughout the evening and night.

9- Listen To A Live Concert

drive reykjavik to ranga at night
The concert hall and conference centre in Reykjavik at night, with the aurora in the background.

The Iceland Symphony Orchestra plays regular concerts, usually at Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, which has a capacity of 1800 and has been its home since 2011.

There will likely be a performance while you are there because the programme includes around 60 performances yearly.

Its funding comes largely from the Icelandic Government, which has been the case for 40 years.

Its future is thus assured with a youth orchestra established in 2009.

Check before your visit to Reykjavik to see what is on and make a booking.

10- Take To The Dance Floor

what to do in reykjavik at nighttwo cheerful young women having drinks while dancing on the dance floor of a club at night.
Going dancing is one of the fun activities in Reykjavik at night.

The dark nights in Reykjavik do not deter anyone from having fun.

There is plenty of entertainment in the capital, both music to listen to and dance to.

There are lots of clubs to choose from if you love dancing.

One street alone, Laugavegur, has a wide range of music genres on weekends.

Here are four popular dancing spots to party way into the night and after the sun rises in summer: Austur, Kiki Gay Bar, Lebowski Bar and Hressingarskálinn.

11- Look At The Stars

spending a night at reykjavik
The Aurora Borealis is one of the most incredible sights to see near Reykjavik at night.

In industrial areas, it is rare that you can truly appreciate the sky at night, which is a contrast to more sparsely populated regions on many continents.

In Iceland, away from the city, the skies are truly wonderous.

It is worth having a map of the universe to pick out the famous constellations and see any meteorites hurtling across the sky.

Wrap up warmly, take a drink and snack before heading out of the city at night, and look up.

Once you’ve done that one night, you will want to go again, especially if you haven’t identified those constellations.

12- Enjoy A Dip

reykjavik iceland at night
Night photo of Reykjavik city beach with the waterfront lights in the distance.

If you feel brave, go swimming after dark at Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach.

It is likely to be cold, of course, but there will always be some locals taking a dip in the water, and you are more than welcome to join them.

A hot water pump ensures that the water is nowhere near as cold as the night air.

During the day, there will be towels and suits for rent, but at night, take your own, get changed and jump into the hot tubs.

13- Watch A Film

Bio Paradise (Cinema Paradise) is a cinema that exclusively shows films that are a little different from the mainstream.

That means older films, documentaries and art movies that you are unlikely to see in the main cinemas.

Located on Hverfisgata, it was the first cinema to open in Reykjavik.

The films are largely independently produced and form a large part of the Reykjavik International Film Festival held yearly.

You’ll also see a few European and American films at that event.

14- Attend A Lava Show

The Lava Show recreates what happens when a volcano erupts, which has happened frequently over the centuries in Iceland.

The show is unique and hot.

There is seating for 20 at a high level above the lava with a bar serving drinks.

A further 88 guests can sit at ground level, very close to the flowing lava.

Everyone has goggles to wear with the atmosphere “smelly”, adding to the heat and the noise.

You will learn more about volcanic activity and receive an interesting geology lesson.

There is nothing comparable anywhere on the continent.

15- Go To The Freezer Theatre

The Freezer Theatre is designed to look like an old fish factory, built in a truly authentic style.

Local artists perform the shows in English and they are enjoyable to watch.

The performances tell the stories and legends of Iceland.

The theatre helps keep folklore alive for younger generations.

Contact the theatre in advance of your visit to Iceland to learn more about the current programme and make a booking.

16- Go Shopping For Souvenirs

With a climate like Reykjavik’s, indoor venues often come in handy.

One option is to head to Kringlan, the biggest shopping mall in the city, with more than 150 shops and plenty of places to eat and drink.

Some of the best fashion shops in Reykjavik are here, with an activity area, Adventure Land, for children, a cinema and a library.

You won’t get bored within the mall and you will all be warm and dry.

It is in the heart of the city and easy to find.

If you plan to take home souvenirs from your visit to Iceland, this is an excellent place to visit, even if the weather is fine.

17- Explore The Perlan Museum

reykjavik things to do at night
The large glass facade of the spherical museum Perlan in Reykjavik at night.

Perlan Museum is at the top of Öskjuhlíð Hill in Reykjavik and is a stylish glass-domed building offering panoramic city views.

Perlan is one big nature exhibition and includes a 100 metre (around 325 feet) ice cave which is manmade.

It took 350 tonnes of snow to construct the ice cave.

You can walk through it while you can also experience what it is like when a volcano erupts or when an earthquake occurs.

Another attraction, Arora, is a Northern Lights visual feast, and if you are a keen birdwatcher, you will love the model of Látrabjarg, the biggest Seabird Cliff in Europe.

18- Dine With A Local Family

There are a few better ways to get to know Reykjavik in real depth than visiting a home to enjoy a homemade dinner with a family.

You will be welcomed by naturally hospitable people who cook and present a typical Icelandic meal.

At the same time, you can discuss any topic of life in Iceland.

A three-course dinner might start with dates wrapped in bacon, followed by lamb and vegetables.

Dessert may be a sticky toffee pudding. And locally brewed beer is the most likely drink to wash down the meal.

19- Learn To Cook The Icelandic Way

If you want to learn about Icelandic cooking, you can book a class where the main focus will be lamb and, not surprisingly, fish.

Iceland has a great range of cold-water species, which is cooked in various ways.

Salt Eldhús (Salt Kitchen) has excellent views of the Reykjavik harbour and has a modern kitchen where professional chefs will teach you their techniques in a relaxed atmosphere.

There are early classes but the one starting at 5 pm and lasting around 4 hours is the most popular, with an excellent dinner as a reward.

20- Sing The Night Away

Experience karaoke the Icelandic way in Reykavik at night.

Sæta Svínið is the place to go every Wednesday to eat and drink before taking your turn on the microphone.

The main idea is to have fun, and it is not too important if you don’t match the original singer who performed the song you are trying.

It’s a popular place each night, with bingo played on a Sunday if singing is not your thing.

There is a three-hour happy hour each day during the late afternoon or early evening. 

For more exciting cities at night, read:

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Steve Smith is a widely travelled man who has lived on the South West Coast of Turkey since 2008. He hails from North East England where he lived most of his life but has been to every continent of the world, with a particular love for Southern Africa and its wildlife. He lists Argentina, India, and Vietnam as other favourite places that he enjoyed greatly while sport is also a passion, cricket and golf as a participant, rugby union and soccer as a spectator.