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What to do in Reykjavík on a Budget

Home > The World > Day Trips | Escape the City | Frugal Friday | Outdoor | Walks
by EricaL (subscribe)
High school teacher and writer living in Melbourne, Australia.
Published July 19th 2019
Save your precious Icelandic króna for essentials
Iceland has long been coined as a "bucket list" destination. Not surprising really, considering the land of fire and ice is filled with some of the planet's most jaw-dropping natural attractions.

The country's capital city, Reykjavík, is the word's northernmost capital city, located on the southwestern Iceland. Reykjavík is considered one of the quirkiest and hippest cities in the Nordic region but also has a reputation for being very expensive. This is justified by recent reports suggesting that Iceland is the most expensive country in Europe.

Reykjavik on a budget
Reykjavik, Iceland

How can you make the most of your time in Reykjavík, if you are travelling on a budget? Follow these tips and save your precious Icelandic króna for your important essentials:

Explore Reykjavík on foot

Seems obvious, but walking the streets of Reykjavík won't cost you a thing and by doing so you uncover all the quirks and sights of Iceland's vibrant capital city.

Despite its small size, Reykjavík is a dynamic city filled with art and culture. You'll find eclectic street art around every corner, boutiques selling an interesting mix of apparel, quirky museums and a thriving music & performing arts scene in Iceland's capital.

Reykjavik street art around every corner
Reykjavik street art around every corner

While museums are plentiful in Reykjavík, be aware that most incur an entry fee should you wish to visit.

If you have time, you could book onto a free walking tour with Reykjavík City Walk, otherwise wander and explore in your own time and at your own pace.

Visit the Hallgrímskirkja

You can't miss the Hallgrimskirkja; Reykjavík's iconic parish church standing tall in the centre of the city. Iceland's largest church is an architectural wonder; a building to be admired regardless of your religious beliefs.

Hallgrímskirkja church
Hallgrímskirkja church

There are no costs to enter Hallgrímskirkja but the elevator ride up to the top of the bell tower to enjoy the spectacular views over Reykjavík will incur a fee.

Inside Hallgrimskirkja
Inside Hallgrimskirkja

Explore the Old Harbour and Reykjavík Waterfront

Take a walk along Reykjavík waterfront along the Old Harbour and enjoy the magnificent sea views across the bay. This is where whale watching and puffin tours depart, although you're likely to see sailing vessels drifting peacefully in the chilly waters not too far from the water's edge, too.

Old harbour - Reykjavik
Walk along the old harbour in Reykjavik

Two key tourist attractions to see along the waterside are the Harpa Hall; a magnificent building hosting a concert hall and conference centre, and the Sun Voyager (Icelandic: Sólfar); a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, located next to the Sćbraut road in Reykjavík, Iceland. Visiting either key points won't cost you a thing, although you can book tickets to see a performance at the Harpa Hall if you wish.

The Harpa Hall
The Harpa Hall

The Sun Voyager sculpture is described as a dreamboat or an ode to the Sun.

Sun Voyager
Sun Voyager

Avoid eating out (too often)

Restaurants in Iceland are plentiful but incredibly expensive, probably some of the dearest you'll find anywhere else in the world. Save your Icelandic króna by avoiding restaurants altogether, and find your nearest grocery store. Bonus and Krónan are the two main grocery store chains. Assuming you have a kitchen facility in your chosen accommodation, you can quite easily make up your own dishes with your grocery store selection. If you don't have access to a kitchen, some grocery stores sell pre-made sandwiches and ready-to-eat hot foods such as pizza slices.

Prices in an Icelandic grocery store will likely be much higher than you are used to back in your home country. In saying that, you will still be saving a lot of cash by eating in vs dining out every day.

Bakeries in Reykjavik
Bakeries in Reykjavik

Other alternatives to eat out on the cheap in Iceland: keep a lookout for street food vendors such as the Bćjarins Beztu Pylsur - "The Best Hot Dogs in Town" or stop by one of the country's many delicious bakeries where you can fill up your tummies for less.

Rent a car and get out of town

Reykjavík is a fabulous city, but there is so much more to Iceland than what you'll find in the capital city. Get out of town to discover just how weird and wonderful Iceland really is.

There are numerous organised day tours you can pick to take you to Iceland's nearest tourist hotspots. That said, if you are on a budget, your best bet is to skip the organised tours altogether and rent a car.

Fuel is expensive in Iceland, however, you will still save money by driving yourselves to the country's main attractions vs booking a tour. By doing so, you will also have the option of departing earlier than the tourist buses thus avoiding the crowds. Plus when you drive yourselves you can stay as long or as little as you wish at each location.

Rent a car and get out of Reykjavik
Rent a car and get out of Reykjavik

Notes for driving in Iceland:

Driving in Iceland is relatively straight forward. Route 1 or the Ring Road is the national road in Iceland, which runs all around the island and connects you to most parts of the country.

In Iceland you drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left. The general speed limit is 30-50 km/hour in populated areas, 80 km/hour on gravel roads in rural areas and 90 km/hour on paved roads.

If you are renting a car for more than a day, parking in Reykjavík is surprisingly inexpensive. All street parking in downtown free in the city after 6pm, otherwise if you're back in Reykjavík earlier than 6pm, look out for parking zones out of town. There's a useful guide to parking in Reykjavík here.

Visit Reykjavik without breaking the back

Whether you are stopping over in Reykjavík on a transatlantic journey or you've specifically chosen Iceland as your vacation destination, the country's capital is an incredible place to visit. Enjoy one of the world's coolest cities and don't worry too much about the expense - you can and will get by on a budget in Reykjavík.
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Where: Reykjavík, Iceland
Cost: $-$$
Your Comment
Great article, EricaL!
by Elaine (score: 3|9170) 1296 days ago
a very good article
by fancy (score: 1|20) 1102 days ago
Good article. Makes me want to visit Reykjvik more. Was also told nil police stations there(?)
Ok to look for travel buddies .
by rubyyap (score: 1|14) 222 days ago
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