Travel Tips Tuesday – Free things to do in Reykjavik

Because sometimes you want to spend a day without handing over wads of cash. As pretty much everyone knows, Nordic cities are the some of the most expensive places to visit and Reykjavik is no exception (only a few months it was declared the most expensive city in Europe and third in the world for the most expensive pint!).

So if like me you like to keep some of your spending money back for enjoying the local beers then here are a few suggestions of free things you can do in Reykjavik.

Hallsgrimakirkja

Arguably the most famous landmark in Reykjavik, if not the whole of Iceland, this modern church sits atop a hill at the middle of the city looking down on the surrounding areas, giving some of the best views of Reykjavik. The tower itself isn’t free to go up (it costs that magic number 1000ISK, which at the time of writing this is around £7 – pre Brexit it was nearer £4.50, make of that what you will). The church itself if functioning and free to enter unless there is a musical performance on. It’s a stunning building and definitely worth the trip, the architecture is inspired by the basalt columns found along the coat of South Iceland – it definitely has the same wow factor for me, particularly last November during a particularly bad storm when we found shelter in here for a while (before it closed due to the weather, natch).

View of colourful rooves of downtown Reykjavik from the tower of Hallgrímskirkja
View of downtown Reykjavik from the tower of Hallgrímskirkja

The Einar Jónsson Museum.

Located a stones throw from the infamous Hallgrímskirkja, this museum was built at the start of the 20th Century to house Jónsson’s sculptures. OK so technically the museum itself is 1000isk to go inside, but outside is a sculpture garden that is free to walk around, open 24 hours a day and you might also bump into some of Reykjavik’s many cats. It’s worth looking at the museum’s website for photos of when the museum was first built and comparing that view to today!

bronze sculpture of 3 women in front of concrete square modern museum building
Einar Jónsson Sculpture Garden

Hallargarðurinn (Hallar Park)

Less than 10 minutes walk away (head towards the pond), is Hallargarðurinn, another outdoor space/small park it too houses some sculptures by amongst others,  Ásmund Sveinsson (who has his own sculpture museum in Reykjavik), and the beautiful neoclassical wooden house that was once home to Thors Jensson who appears to have once been a successful businessman and built this wonderful house.

 

contemporary metal geometric sculpture in a park against a backdrop of a nordic style wooden house
Hallargarðurinn

Sculpture and shore walk

If you now leave the park and turn right towards Harpa concert hall (this would’ve been on my list also, but apparently they now charge to do tours around the building, whereas before you could just wander for free – if you can go in, do it’s amazing!), Harpa is the first stop of the walk.

You’ll notice a walking and cycle path heading east along the shore past Harpa, with amazing views over to Mount Esja and scattered along this shore path are several sculptures- the most famous of which is the Sun Voyager. A contemporary, striking metal viking ship skeleton by Icelandic sculptor Jón Gunnar Árnason, that is rarely seen without a smattering of tourists trying to capture this wonderful sight.

 

metal skeleton sculpture of a viking ship in front of water and mountain range
Solfar – The Sun Voyager

The sculpture and shore walk ends at Höfði house and from here you can head south(ish) to Lucky records.

Lucky Records

There are several record stores in Reykjavik, some get more of a mention in travel guides than others, and I feel like Lucky Records doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. Its more spacious than it’s counterparts, which lends the space to being great for in store gigs and DJ sets – so despite this being a shop on the list, you can see some great music for free if you play your cards right! If there’s aren’t any gigs on you can still browse in one of the coolest shops in Reykjavik, the decor is a mix of band and gig posters and graffiti which changes variably. There are comfy sofas as well as decks to listen to vinyl before buying and they house a massive range of both new and second hand records, CDs, DVDs etc. During Iceland Airwaves festival Lucky Records is a must visit off-venue venue to see up and coming Icelandic and international artists.

People sat around in a record shop chatting
Lucky Records

I hope you’ve enjoyed my mini tour of free things in Reykjavik, let me know in the comments about the free things you’ve enjoyed in Reykjavik – particularly those I’ve missed from this list!

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