48 Hours In... Reykjavík
- Iceland's capital is a good base from which to experience the island's natural wonders
- The city itself is also one of the most picturesque on earth
- Esquire has put together a handy guide on what to do your first 48-hours in the capital of Iceland
It’s a wonder that Iceland remains on so many bucket lists for quite so long.
Admittedly, all the horror stories you’ve heard about astronomical food bills are true – but cheap flights, reasonably-priced accommodation and an effortlessly explorable capital city make it the perfect option for a truly unique weekend away.
You could easily spend the whole time perched on the Reykjavík coastline gawping at the snowy mountains in the distance, plugged into some Bjork and having a nice little cry. But we suggest you fit a few meals into that packed schedule and, if possible, hire a car and explore further afield.
To give you a steer, here are our top ways to fill 48 hours in Reykjavik…
Where to visit
Entering the warm glass greenhouse of Friðheimar from the cold chill of the Iceland air is a bit like finding an oasis in a desert – if you replace pools of water with rows and rows of miraculous tomatoes. Different varieties are cultivated year round thanks to eco friendly technology, and only the juiciest are destined for your soup bowl.
Friðheimar’s menu is almost shockingly simple: alongside your soup you can order a refreshing selection of sour cream, cucumber salsa, butter, and herbs, as well as skewers of cheese, vegetables, and meat.
For your main, you can’t go wrong with the tomato ravioli, and despite the confusion you may feel upon reading its name, the restaurant’s green-tomato cheesecake is mouth-wateringly delicious (bonus Instagram points for being served in a plant pot). It'll take around an hour's drive, but dining in the golden haze of heat lamps in a horticulturist's dreamland is an experience you’ll never forget.
Where to relax
If you looked on social media, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was only one Lagoon in Iceland: it’s big, it’s blue, and it’s full of pruned, preening influencers trying to get the perfect Insta shot. For a more original option, try the Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths – their natural geothermal springs are said to be healing, and so is the peace and quiet. After a steamy soak, you can pop along to their geothermal bakery and watch bread be baked in the hot, bubbling ground (and devour it moments after it's finished cooking).
Where to snack
The quirky charm of Café Babalú offers a feast for both the mouth and eyes. Decorated with a wild array of interesting objects – from Icelandic tapestries to vintage Disney figures to bunting made of bank notes – the cheap and simple comfort food of this café will warm you up in no time. Enjoy a steaming bowl of soup with a cheese toastie for dipping. Situated right next to the iconic Hallgrímskirkja cathedral, it’s the perfect place for a quick bite to eat.
Where to eat dinner
Imagine the perfect menu. Good: now stop. There’s no need to exert your imagination muscles when Kol’s classy comfort food-inspired menu is ready and waiting in Reykjavik. From juicy beef, scallops, and lamb sirloin to vegetable skewers and nut steaks, Kol manages to cater for both carnivores and vegans alike. The ambient restaurant is extremely stylish while still retaining Icelandic charm (giant mural of an Eagle? Check). It’s not hard to be cold in Iceland, but it’s quite an achievement to be this cool.
Where to stay
Seeped in history, this art-deco luxury hotel is bordered by two Reykjavík institutions – a centuries-old bakery and tailor – as well as the birthplace of Nobel Prize-winning Icelandic author Halldor Laxness. It's joined on Laugavegur street by beautiful book shops, independent homeware stores and enough vintage menswear to fill your new vintage suitcase.
How to get there
It goes without saying that seeing the Northern Lights should be top of your agenda, but you shouldn’t simply rest easy with the tour you booked – they can be cancelled on the day at the first sign of clouds. That’s why IcelandAir is the savvy choice. Not only does the affordable airline strategically take a route that maximises your chances of seeing a stunning aurora mid-flight, but it also provides a buddy hotline that enables you to get Northern Lights tips from an Icelandic expert.