Reykjavik

How to Spend a Cheap Layover in Reykjavik

6 Ways to Experience Reykjavik Without Breaking Bank

I enjoyed an early-morning stopover in Iceland, as I had to transfer from Keflavik International Airport (KFV) to the domestic Reykjavik Airport (RKV) for a flight to the Faroe Islands. Including baggage claim, taking the Flybus to the BSI bus stop, and the walk from the city center to the airport, I had to make plans for about 4 hours of unbridled exploration. If you have the time, Iceland now offers free stopovers as part of Icelandair’s #MyStopover campaign. This post will give some tips for those who are only staying in Reykjavik for a short amount of time.

Reykjavik Boat

1) Save A Few Bucks and Get Off at the BSI Bus Terminal

It costs about 500 ISK less (~$4 USD) to take the Flybus in lieu of the Flybus+. If you plan on exploring anyway, the walk from the bus stop to RKV (takes about ~30 minutes) is quite pretty as planes/ helicopters may take off above you. Note: there is no great signage that indicates the correct road to eventually get to RKV, so don’t be afraid to ask someone inside the bus stop to point you in the right direction.

2) Go to the Sculpture Garden

Outdoor Stone Garden

The Einar Jonsson Museum‘s Garden is absolutely lovely in a solemn and gothic kind of way, and can be explored outdoors for free (whereas the museum inside has an admission fee). The sculptures are striking and inspired by both Norse mythology and Christianity. It doesn’t take long and you’ll appreciate the stark imagery.

3) See Hallgrímskirkja, aka the Big Church + Leif Erikson

Hallgrímskirkja

This one is a no-brainer and nigh impossible to miss. The church is the centerpiece of Reykjavik, seems to be at the city’s highest point, and has a powerful feeling to it. You’ll also be around fellow tourists, so now’s the time to make quick friends!

4) Walk Down the Main Street (Skólavörðustígur) and See the Cute Shops

Kiki Queer Bar

A colorful assortment of cafes, clothing shops, and souvenirs make up the heartbeat of Reykjavik in Skólavörðustígur. If you’re coming from a large city, the selection will seem minimal and kind of bleak — but, if you’ve been spending time in the countryside, this bustling hill will seem like a bastion of busyness! I stopped at Noodle Cafe to grab a tasty bite for just about ~$10 USD (yes, Iceland is known for its sticker shock. Expect to pay around ~$20 for anything other than noodles.)

5) Walk to the Parliament House and See the City Square

The architecture in this area is pretty cool, and there is a good selection of tourist shops if you need to buy gifts.

6) Start Around City Hall and Wander the Lake

In my opinion, this is the best part of a stopover in Reykjavik. From the beautiful boardwalk by city hall to the sloped paths around the lake, one can see mythological statues, Japanese sakura gifted to Iceland, the national birds looping above the water, and a panoramic view of the city. This is definitely my top recommendation for anyone just spending a short amount of time in town.

User TiggiC from Reddit whipped together this very handy map that gives a visual of the distances and locations of every site:

Reddit Reykjavik Map

Reykjavik is pretty small, and is definitely walk-able! For domestic flights from RKV, you really only need to arrive ~45 minutes before departure, maximum. There’s just one security check at one gate, and it flows very quickly. My total cost for a big bunch of experience: about 1,700 ISK, or ~$13 USD (January 2016). Have fun!

Header image via Christine Zenino

Nate

I’m a digital nomad who earns his keep online. At PercentSharp, I’m the Director of Strategy. Sometimes I eat banana peppers right out of the jar.

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