Tag: Hallgrímskirkja

Reykjavík with kids

Things to do in Reykjavík with kids

If you are visiting Iceland, there is a good chance that you will head to Reykjavík at some point. Whether you’re using the city as a base for your Iceland travels, or are just popping for an afternoon, it’s a fascinating place to explore in its own right, with lots to keeps kids entertained (in both good and bad weather).

CONTENTS

Walk along the scenic waterfront
Take in the views from Hallgrímskirkja Observation Tower
An afternoon in Laugardalur (swimming pool, botanical gardens, zoo, and much more!)
Visit a hot spring
Visit a museum
Go bird spotting at Lake Tjörnin
Watch a children’s concert at Harpa Concert Hall
Grab a yummy hotdog
Take a FREE walking tour

Getting around Reykjavík with kids
Family accommodation recommendationss


We only spent a few hours in Reykjavík on the way back to the airport as part of our 5 day Iceland itinerary, and although it was bitterly cold, we enjoyed a few free activities (walking around the seafront area and visiting a playground) and realised that we should probably have allowed longer to explore the city. So I reached out to some fellow bloggers for their suggestions on what to do in Reykjavík with kids; including the best museums to visit in Reykjavík with kids, watching a children’s concert at Harpa, and visiting secret hot springs in the city.

Read: 5 day Iceland itinerary with kids
Reykjavík with kids

Small playground near the seafront (click here for Google Maps location)

Walk along the scenic waterfront

(Marta, Learning Escapes)

One of my favourite things to do in Reykjavík and one that is easy to enjoy with kids too, is taking a walk along the scenic city waterfront.

It follows the curve of the Reykjavík bay and stretches from the famous Harpa concert hall, to the impressive sculpture called the Sun Voyager and then the historical Hofdi house. It is a long and flat promenade but is a beautiful one: on a good day, you can see the mountains in front of the city and it is sheltered enough from traffic that kids can trot around and you can push a stroller safely.

Reykjavík with kids

The sun voyager is easy to spot and fun for kids: the sculpture represents a vessel but kids will notice it resembles an insect with stick legs too, a quality that my two found absolutely hilarious! This is a lovely spot to add to any Reykjavík itinerary.

Take in the views from Hallgrímskirkja Observation Tower

(Catherine, We Go With Kids)

When visiting a new city, our kids always the opportunity to get a a bird’s-eye view of the area. Located on top of a hill in the centre of Reykjavík , Hallgrímskirkja is visible throughout the city and one of its best known landmarks.

Reykjavík with kids

On clear days (which are certainly not guaranteed in Iceland), it 239 foot/73 meter observation tower offers a perfect 360 degree panoramic view of the Reykjavik and its harbour.

Most cathedrals we have visited were built well before elevators were invented and required significant climbs up winding and narrow staircases to reach the towers. However, Hallgrímskirkja is a modern 20th century building that includes the convenience of elevators, which makes the trip to the top so much easier with small kids. Our kids really enjoyed checking out the view from each window, and we definitely recommend visiting Hallgrímskirkja Observation Tower with kids.

Spend an afternoon in Laugardalur (swimming pool, botanical gardens, zoo, and much more!)

Just a 10 minute drive from the city centre, there is the recreational area of Laugardalur. Here you will find lots of green open space, a playground, ice skating, Botanical Gardens, a campsite, and it is also where the Secret Solstice festivals is held every year.

Reykjavík with kids

Laugardalur. Google Maps 2018.

A highlight for kids is the geothermal swimming pool (Laugardalslaug). It’s the largest in Iceland, complete with a slide and hot pools. Entry is only ISK980 (approx. £6.20) for adults, ISK160 (approx. £1) for children, and FREE for children under 5 (a fraction of entry costs to the Blue Lagoon).

It’s also worthwhile visiting Reykjavík’s Family Park and Zoo, which is also in Laugardalur and open all year round. This is home to lots of native animals, such as Icelandic goats and horses, seals and Artic Foxes, as well as reindeer.

If your kids are a bit older and love sport, you may even catch a game of football or basketball at the main sporting arena.

Visit a hot spring

(Patrick, Adventographer)

After a long day exploring the sights and sounds that make up the vibrant city there’s no better way to unwind than visiting one of Iceland’s hot springs.

You’ve likely heard of the famous Blue lagoon, but were you aware that Reykjavík has its own geothermal hotspots that won’t break the bank and aren’t a 45 minute drive away?

Reykjavík with kids

The Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach is an interesting phenomenon. This small stretch of beach just outside of Reykjavik’s core is a geothermally heated bay. Even in the dead of winter you’ll find hearty Icelanders taking a dip here where the water temperature is consistently 10C higher than the surrounding ocean!

If an ocean swim is too much consider visiting the Kvika foot bath. Though not big enough for full immersion this small beachside hot spring makes a great place to explore and soak your tired feet after a day exploring Reykjavík with the kids!

Visit a museum

Reykjavík has some fantastic museums, and these are our recommendations for families:

Saga Museum

(Lori, Maps, Memories And Motherhood)

Reyjavik’s Saga Museum takes you on a journey back in time to the first inhabitants of Iceland. Seventeen sagas features lifelike scenes from particular points in time — with life-sized mannequins of historical figures (which we swore winked at us a few times). The museum is self-guided, with an audio recording, describing each exhibit. It’s a great primer on the history of Iceland, but might be tough to get through for kids under 10 as there are some pretty graphic depictions: battles, The Black Death, the first Icelandic martyr. There also aren’t any interactive exhibits until you get through the entire museum, which was my boys’ favourite part where they tried on traditional costumes and battled their dad with shields and swords. Don’t miss the gift shop. It has some beautiful hand-made, traditional Icelandic products, and there’s also a restaurant to grab some lunch after your tour.

Reykjavík with kids

Maritime Museum

Iceland has a deep rooted history of fishing and fish is a staple of the local diet. Learn about the history and growth of the fishing industry at Reykjavík’s Maritime Museum. This is a fantastic museum for kids as it’s high tech and visual displays are engaging. You can also take a guided tour around the Coast Guard Vessel, Óðinn.

Whales of Iceland

(Constance, The Adventures of Panda Bear)

Whales of Iceland is an educational exhibit about whales in Iceland and its surrounding waters. The museum is located close to downtown Reykjavík and offers an amazingly immersive experience and interactive exhibits for children.

Kids will delight at exploring the museum and walking amongst the life-sized whale models. The museum is home to over 20 different whale models, one of which is a 25 meter or 82 feet long blue whale. Your child will love learning about whale anatomy with their interactive exhibit, touching the whale models, and using their virtual reality headset.

Reykjavík with kids

Admission is free for children under 7 years. Whales of Iceland also has an audio guide app which you can use to learn more about each and every whale on display. The self-guided tour takes approximately 30 minutes and guided tours are offered for groups larger than 15 people.

Perlan

(John, From Real People)

One of the down sides of being in the centre of Reykjavík itself is that you miss the chance to view the whole cityscape. The way to solve this is to take a trip to the 4th Floor Observation Deck of the Perlan, or the Pearl in English. At a height of 25.7 metres, it’s one of the best places to get your bearings and take in the best views across the whole area. Kids will particularly love chance to watch the aircraft taking off and landing from Reykjavík ReykjavíkCity airport.

Perlan was built out of some old hot water storage tank by adding the giant hemisphere back in 1991. There are some fantastic exhibitions that kids will really love. The ‘Wonders of Iceland’ experience gives you the chance to see, hear and feel the power of volcanoes, earthquakes and the geothermal energy of this amazing place. There is an augmented reality model of the largest sea cliff in Europe as well as a virtual aquarium and a man-made ice cave. The joy is that everything is inside, you can even get great views from the Cafe when the weather is bad.

Go bird spotting at Lake Tjörnin

(Ting, My Travel Monkey)

Right in the heart of Reykjavík, Lake Tjörnin or ‘the pond’ as it’s known locally, has more than 40 species of visiting birds including geese, swans and Arctic Terns. During the summer, it’s popular with families feeding the ducks, while there are pretty sculptures that line the shore. We were amazed to see people actually skating on the frozen lake!

Watch a children’s concert at Harpa Concert Hall

(Nicolette, Nic & Cam)

When I was researching family activities for our trip to Iceland, it was my desire to incorporate a cultural experience into the mix. Since Harpa Concert Hall is such a magnificent focal point in downtown Reykjavík, I decided to check their calendar to see if, per chance, something would fit our schedule and interests.

Reykjavík with kids

We hit the jackpot! The Iceland Symphony Orchestra would be performing a concert for children, including a narrated story featuring Maximus Musicus. Maximus Musicus was created by two members of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, and Icelandic children absolutely love “the most famous musical mouse in Iceland!” What a treat! Harpa was filled with children and parents. There were crafts for the kids before the concert. And then, we got to experience a wonderful concert in the Eldborg concert hall, the largest hall in Harpa!

Grab a yummy hotdog

(Celine, Family Can Travel)

If you’ve done any research into a trip to Iceland, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of the Icelandic hot dogs. These dogs are delicious and sold everywhere (including gas stations). The Icelandic hot dogs are made mostly of Icelandic lamb with some pork and beef. What better time to indulge in this popular food than a day out in Reykjavik!

Reykjavík with kids

After having seen it on a travel show, we planned our mid-day stop at the popular Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a short walk from Reykjavik’s best known landmark, the Lutheran church Hallgrimskirkja. We recommend trying it first as the locals do, served on a steamed bun with raw onions, crispy white onions, ketchup, pylsusinnep (a sweet brown mustard) and remoulade (a sauce made with mayonnaise, mustard, capers and herbs). For our kids, we just went with ketchup, which is always a winner.

Take a FREE walking tour

(Bec, Wyld Family Travel)

One thing we decided we needed to do while we were in Reykjavik was one of the free walking tours. It is a city we did not know much about so it was the perfect opportunity to learn more about the Icelandic culture. We met at the square in front of the Parliament building and our guide was Eric. It was an easy walk through the city and as we went in the winter Eric made sure we weren’t standing still for long.

Reykjavík with kids

We went to all of the popular sites around Reykjavik and Eric told us about them, when they were built and what the significance of the building was. He was also able to share with us some of the more quirky sides of the Icelandic culture…the tree of the year being one of them! (We won’t give any of that away though, you will have to go on the tour to find out about that!) and how names are passed down to family members. It was a great way for the girls to learn about the Vikings all the way through to how tourism is now effecting Iceland.

We highly recommend a free walking tour when you are in Reykjavik especially with Eric. There is so much more you can learn from a local that is just not in any guide you will find and standing, in, near or around a landmark of importance to a city is the perfect way for the whole family to learn about a magnificent place like Iceland.


Essential info

Getting around Reykjavík with kids

We had a hire car and we found it reasonably easy to find parking spots in the city. Parking is not especially pricey (30 minutes was approximately £0.80).

The city is quite compact and you can walk around between the main sites. However, if little legs are tired, one of the best ways to get around Reykjavík is on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour.

Family accommodation recommendations

Budget: Central Guesthouse Reykjavík
Near airport: Airport Hotel Aurora Star
Mid-range: Fosshótel Rauðará

For more family-friendly accommodation options, check out the Best Family Hotels in Reykjavík from Little City Trips.


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, this is at no extra cost to you, although I get a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog. 

Reykjavík with kids

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Where would we be without our Lonely Planet Guide? There’s also a specific Iceland Road Trip edition.

We also recommend you purchase a good Iceland road map.

You may also like to read:
5 day Iceland itinerary with kids
How to save money on a family trip to Iceland
What to pack for Iceland in October

Suitcases and Sandcastles
Iceland itinerary with kids

5 day Iceland itinerary with kids

When people told me they had been to Iceland, their eyes widened, followed by a disbelieving shake of the head before they launched into a list of the things they had done. Since returning from our first trip to Iceland, I now understand that look. The breathtaking beauty of this island has to be seen to be believed, and with all its open space, magical geography, charming Icelandic horses, and hot dogs, our boys (aged 3 and 4) reckon it’s one of our best holidays yet!

CONTENTS


A trip to Iceland had escaped us for so long as we thought it would be too expensive for us budget travellers. But cheap Easy Jet airfares from Luton airport tempted us and, alongside some Iceland saving tips from fellow bloggers, it made us realise that a visit to The Land of Fire and Ice does not need to break the bank. Admittedly accommodation and car hire are the largest outgoings, and we found grocery costs to be double compared to the UK, but there are so many free outdoor activities to do in Iceland to help outweigh this cost.

Click here to read: How to save money on a family trip to Iceland

This 5 day Iceland itinerary with kids is aimed at those families who want to keep costs down, get away from it all and self-drive. Check out our trip highlights in this video:

Self-drive

We love a good road trip. Self-drive is the best option for exploring Iceland with young kids as you’re on your own schedule, with the flexibility to linger or move on as you please. Europcar Iceland provided us with a 4×4 rental on arrival at Keflavík airport. If you are following the below itinerary and driving in the winter months, a 4×4 is essential as roads can be icy and you may be driving on snow!

Iceland itinerary with kids

Planning the route

Hey Iceland put together this fantastic 5 day self-drive itinerary for us. We explained that we wanted to see the sights, but also wanted to feel we were getting off the beaten track and away from it all. And as we were travelling with kids (our boys were aged 3 and 4), we didn’t want to cram as much as possible into our days and overtire the boys. Hey Iceland certainly delivered and I couldn’t fault their itinerary.

Online routing from your car

Iceland itinerary with kids

We were provided with a tablet displaying an online map with GPS to follow. This is much better than relying on Google Maps as some of  the roads we drove along do not exist on Google Maps! Moreover, it was very easy popping back into the car after visiting each spot and pressing a button to lead us to our next location, rather than consulting a paper map.

You can also search for cafes, petrol stations and geothermal pools using the tablet, change your route as you go, and check road conditions ahead. If you get really stuck, there’s even an online chat to speak with someone back at the Hey Iceland office in Reykjavik. The tablet also comes with inbuilt WiFi, so you can still be connected to the world when you’re out in the sticks.

The accommodation

As we travelled to Iceland end of October / beginning of November, camping really wasn’t an option as temperatures dropped below freezing. Hey Iceland booked us two nights at Sel Guesthouse and two nights at Kast Guesthouse. It was really nice not having to pack up and move each morning, instead returning to a base on Day 2 and Day 4, and it didn’t feel like we did much back-tracking.

We stayed at a self-catering cottage at Sel Guesthouse, which has a homely charm and felt nicely remote. This had one bedroom which we all slept in, and a separate kitchen/lounge area. In contrast, Kast Guesthouse has a more modern feel, with spacious rooms, bunk beds for the kids, a powerful shower, and a large window to watch the Northern Lights dance over the mountains (if you’re lucky!) For both accommodations a buffet breakfast was provided, which included cereals, fresh breads, cheese, fish, cured meats, fruits, fresh juice, tea and coffee. If you book in advance, an 8pm dinner can also be arranged for you at these accommodations, although we found this rather late for our boys and opted to self-cater at Sel Guesthouse, and had a picnic in the room each night at Kast Guesthouse.

When to go

Many people suggest visiting Iceland in summer when the weather is warmer, and long hours of daylight mean that you can pack more into your visit. However, we visited during the UK October half term. This meant there were far fewer tourists (we enjoyed many places completely to ourselves) and gave us the chance of seeing the Northern Lights (although we weren’t quite that lucky).

Iceland itinerary with kids

Photo credit: Miss Tort from Kast Guesthouse. The KP index (Aurora Forecast) was very low and we could only see a faint white glow, as if cloud were catching the moonlight. However, Miss Tort captured this magical shot on her camera by leaving the shutter open for 20 seconds.

At the time we visited, sunrise was around 9am and sunset 5pm. For young kids (our boys were 3 and 4 years old), this is more than enough daylight hours for sightseeing. They were shattered by the end of each day, and fitting any more into an evening would really have been pushing it (for us parents too). Although we did find that after 3pm, the temperature dropped and it became bitterly cold. So we advise getting out on the road for 9am each morning.

Plus, we were also fortunate enough to have snow! Snow is a huge novelty for our family and we absolutely loved it. It makes everything look so pristine and pretty, it’s fun to play in, and Daddy Lynn even got to drive on the snow!

Iceland itinerary with kids

What to pack

A blog post is coming soon with a packing list for a family visit to Iceland. But the key is layers! We took (and wore) thermals, waterproofs (we love these 3-in-1 jackets from Mountain Warehouse), woolly hats and gloves, and good walking shoes. Don’t forget a spare battery and memory card for your camera (you will be taking A LOT of videos and photos).

Our 5 day itinerary with kids

Day 1 – The road South

Aim to land at Keflavík Airport in the morning to maximise the first day, and collect your hire car (we had pre-booked with Europcar and collected our 4×4 from straight outside the airport). Many tourists then head straight to the Blue Lagoon or on to Reykjavik. However, we wanted to get out into the open countryside as soon as possible!

Iceland itinerary with kids

Gunnuhver

Take the 20 minute drive South to the ‘Bridge Between Continents‘ where you can walk from the European to North American plate and back again, via a wooden bridge spanning a black-sand gulf. Then on to the steamy hot springs of Gunnuhver. Around this area, a handful of power plants have been built to exploit the geothermal heat.

Iceland itinerary with kids

Church at Strandarkirkja

Feel the bracing power of the Atlantic Ocean crashing on to the coastline and spot the lava pool of Brimketill, before making your way towards Sel Guesthouse on the Golden Circle, via the Lutheran church of Strandarkirkja and the seaside town of Stokkseyri.

Overnight stay at: Sel Guesthouse

Day 2 – The Golden Circle

Today you will tick off some of the major sites of Iceland, so expect to see a few more tourists and coach parties; although we did have our first couple of stops totally to ourselves. The first of these is the beautiful historic church of Skálholt and then the eco-village of Sólheimar.

Once we arrived at Kerið, a volcanic crater lake, we started to see more tourists. Surprisingly, we had to pay entry to walk around the top of the crater. This is the only outdoor natural attraction we had to do pay, and unfortunately due to the biting cold wind and icy footpath, we weren’t able to stay long and didn’t really get our money’s worth. We did see some people wearing crampons (like these). This was a very good idea.

Drive on to the Þingvellir National Park, the setting of Iceland’s original parliament, to explore the waterfalls, fissures, church and lake of this historical site, along a boarded footpath.

Next pop for some organic home-made ice-cream at Efstidalur Farm, before heading to the hot springs of Geysir. This was a huge highlight for my Go Jetters fans (the Strokkur Geyser features in the first series). Thankfully there was no Grand Master Glitch to be seen, and the main geysir (Strokkur) was free to shoot boiling water up in the air at any given moment. Very exciting to witness. The geysir blows every 6-10 minutes, sometimes up to 40 metres high.

The last stop is the magnificent Gullfoss waterfalls, before heading back to the warmth of your cottage at Sel Guesthouse.

Overnight stay at: Sel Guesthouse

Day 3 – To the West Coast

If driving in the winter months, you will need a 4×4 for this day. We visited at the end of October and drove on snow-covered roads. It was magical. However, we had the peace of mind of a 4×4 with specialised snow tyres. Otherwise, you should take the road West to Gljúfrasteinn, just north of Reykjavik.

Iceland itinerary with kids

First stop at Laugarvatn to marvel the hot spring lake from it’s black sand beaches, before heading north on the spectacular F550 (also known by us as the ‘snow road’) to the waterfalls of Hraunfossar.

Then head to Hestalanda Farm to ride an Icelandic horse! If your kids have experience riding horses or are older, you can pre-book riding tours. As my boys had no riding experience and were 3 and 4 years old, they enjoyed a gentle ride around the indoor paddock. Call or email ahead to book.

Overnight stay at: Kast Guesthouse

Day 4 – Snæfellsnes Peninsular

Today you will drive a loop around the Snæfellsnes Peninsular, returning back to Kast Guesthouse.

First head to the church at Búðir. Park up and follow the coastal paths for a morning walk along the Atlantic coast, backed by dramatic mountains. Then head to Rauðfeldsgjá where you can walk up to a large crack in the mountain face. We had deep discussions of whether dragons lived in there. Watch your footing if icy on the way back down, but do stop to admire the spectacular view in front of you.

Iceland itinerary with kids

Back in the car, pass through the hamlets of Arnarstapi and Hellnar, stopping to marvel their sea-sculpted rock formations, and on to the pair of pinnacles at Lóndrangar.  You may then wish to visit the underground lava cave of Vatnshellir. However, at ISK3570 (approx £24 per person), we decided against it as we had so much natural beauty to explore this day that was free.

Instead we drove on to the black pebble beach of Djúpalónssandur, where we found the poignant shipwrecked remains of a fishing trawler from Grimsby (where Daddy Lynn was born!) The boys had so much fun here chasing the waves and jumping in the pebbles.

Iceland itinerary with kids

Kirkjufell

Finish the day at iconic Kirkjufell and follow the footpath up behind the waterfalls, before driving back to Kast Guesthouse to warm up with a hot shower and hot chocolate.

Overnight stay at: Kast Guesthouse

Day 5 – Back to the airport

If you’ve booked an evening flight from Keflavík Airport, you still have a whole day up your sleeve. Head to the Borgarnes Swimming Pool, an hour from Kast Guesthouse and on the way to Reykjavik. Entry is a fraction the cost of the Blue Lagoon and by arriving at 10am, we had the place to ourselves! Entry is IKR900 per adult (approx. £5.70) and the boys were FREE (although their website does state IKR300 for children). There are three heated pools (the hottest is 41°C ), a kids’ pool and slides (although they were closed for our visit as the water that runs down the slides had frozen), an outdoor sauna, an outdoor lap pool and an indoor pool. There are free arm bands for children, should you need them. Ensure you follow the correct etiquette on entry to pool and wash thoroughly – yes, that does mean getting naked in the shower and washing your bits with soap in front of everyone.

Iceland itinerary with kids

There are lots of geothermal swimming pools dotted all over Iceland. Cameras are not allowed inside.

It’s then a one hour drive to the centre of Reykjavik, via the free tunnel. Spend your last hours wandering along the sea front and check out the concrete masterpiece of Hallgrímskirkja. If you need to escape indoors from the weather, head to the Viking Maritime Museum or Saga Museum.

If you do have longer in Reykjavik, check out our post – Things to do in Reykjavik with kids.

Iceland itinerary with kids

Hallgrímskirkja

Ensure you leave enough time to get back to Keflavík Airport, allowing for the rush hour (4-6pm).

Other tips for visiting Iceland with kids

  • Don’t bother taking cash with you to Iceland or getting cash on arrival. Iceland is a cashless society and your card can be used (virtually) everywhere.
  • Pick up food/snacks whenever you see a supermarket as they are few and far between.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle to fill up with water from taps (perfectly safe to drink).

 

Have you been to Iceland with kids? Feel free to leave a comment and tell me about your experience. 

Iceland itinerary with kids

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Disclaimer: Our visit to Iceland was hosted by Hey Iceland, with complimentary 4×4 car hire from Europcar Iceland (we paid for our car insurance). Our jackets and waterproof trousers were gifted from Mountain Warehouse. The boys also received a complimentary horse ride each from Hestaland Farm. However, as always, these are all my own words and opinions. This post also contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, although I receive a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog.


Where would we be without our Lonely Planet Guide? There’s also a specific Iceland Road Trip edition.


We also recommend you purchase a good Iceland road map, in case your tablet fails.

You may also like to read:
How to save money on a family trip to Iceland
Looking for a Luton airport hotel with free parking?
Things to do in Reykjavik with kids

Dais Like These
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