city reviews, iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is the little big city. Its official population is 119,000 people with about twice that living in the surrounding towns. In the US or most of Europe this would be quite a small city; however, Reykjavik really pulls off a bigger town feel.


Almost everyone in Reykjavik speaks decent English so communication shouldn’t be an issue if you know that language.


The city is very navigable with a couple of larger roads but no real highways. There is plenty of free parking if you are willing to walk a few blocks which I always am! The city is quite walkable once you park. There are also public buses which will get you from place to place; however, they don’t come that often and were a bit hard to figure out for me.


I recommend Airbnb. I paid about $40/night to take a private room for two in an apartment. We had full range of the apartment and hardly saw the owner. Another visit we did use a hotel which was under $100/night for 3 people and included a large delicious European style breakfast. My upcoming trip I have rented a 5 bedroom house for a large group of us for about $350/night.


Food is quite expensive in Reykjavik. Going out to eat at an average restaurant that might cost $10-20/person in the US would be about double that in Iceland. However, shopping for your own food is reasonable, sometimes cheaper than the US, but still more expensive than most of Europe.

Because of this I haven’t eaten out much in Reykjavik. There are plenty of other blogs where you can learn more about the cuisine there, but if you are budget traveling like me, you may want to skip it.

Two recommendations I can make: Omnom Chocolate: got a bunch of free samples from them and loved it. Quite delicious dark homemade chocolate bars. Reykjavik Roasters makes some awesome brews. They are located in a quaint red house that really sets that perfect coffee house mood.

Shops and stuff to see:

Most of Reykjavik’s shops and restaurants are located along Laugavegur street and its side streets. Here you will find numerous bars, restaurants, locally hand made products of all sorts, clothing shops, and more. Much of it is touristy of course so prices may be a bit higher than elsewhere. We discovered some cool pottery shops and lots of wool clothing stores on our last visit.

A view of the city with the mountains behind it from one of the hotels I stayed in on my first ever visit to Iceland in 2015


For its size Reykjavik has amazing nightlife. Both times I visited, I took one night to go out on the town and had an amazing time. Tons of people out including many locals not just tourists. Last time I met a guy who recognized me from my Instagram where he had seen photos from my previous visit. We also met some random Icelandic guys who showed a great time, skipping the line to get into a more exclusive club. One of the most fun bars in Reykjavik is the gay bar, Kíkí Queer Bar, fun music and a great mixed crowd. We also enjoyed Lebowski BarKaffibarinn, and Austur.

Because drinks are expensive in Reykjavik ($10/beer, $15/cocktail), I’d recommend a good pregame to get the night started. Drinking age is 20 and there are bouncers but they are pretty chill. Icelandic people love to drink and party (or so they have told me), and from what I’ve seen they seem to be right. Most of the bars are off that same main street with all the shops and restaurants. Just walk up and down and go bar hopping. You will have a good time!

Touristy Stuff:

Like most towns there are all sorts of tours including free walking tours. I’ve never done one in Reykjavik but I know that in some towns the system kind of rips off the tour guides, so make sure you tip well and maybe read up on the way the tour guides work before going on one.

Whale watching is tons of fun and a good way to enjoy the nearby natural beauty. I recommend Elding Adventures At Sea, whom I went with and quite enjoyed. They have their own museum about whales as well.

There is also a large swimming area (well lots of them but one in particular) in the city, taking full advantage of the thermal waters underneath Iceland. Every pool at this swimming park is somewhat warm and there are multiple hot tubs of various temperatures. The park is called Laugardalslaug and is open to the public.

Another popular tourist attraction is the Hallgrimskirkja, a large church deigned to resemble the natural volcanic rock formations found in Iceland. It is quite beautiful and offers a great view of the city from the top.

Random tourist saying a prayer in front of the great church

The best thing about Reykjavik is you can do all this stuff in just a day or two, giving you tons more time to see the rest of the nature on the Island.

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

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Nikon D3300
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Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II


A quick guide to visiting Iceland (part 1)

Geyser erupting in Iceland

Iceland is one of my favorite places in the world. Granted I speak from limited experience, having primarily traveled in Central America and Europe, but that being said, there is something unique and special about Iceland that is hard to find elsewhere. As I plan my seemingly annual trip there, I thoguht I’d share some travel advice for budget minded adventure travelers like myself.

When to go:

Iceland is cold. It rarely gets above 50 degrees even in the summer. It also rains. A lot. And of course snows in the winter as well. The cheapest flights to Iceland are around early spring and mid autumn. If you don’t mind some snow, are ok missing the spectacular greenery of the country, and still want a chance at the northern lights, I’d go mid fall or spring.

However, if you plan in advance and plan properly, you can still get a reasonably priced trip to Iceland even in peak season (July). The weather is better and much more of the Island is accessable.

Getting there:

Budget airlines WOW Air is the cheapest and easiest way to get to Iceland. From BWI, Boston, and San Francisco, you can get direct flights nearly every day of the year. WOW airlines also has a unique stopover feature where you book a flight to somewhere else in Europe with an planned stopover (kind of like an extended layover) from 1 day to several weeks in Iceland. This immensely decreases the price of your ticket and helps the bring tourism to the country

The cost of getting there can be as cheap as $80 one way with WOW airlines in the early months of the year and up to $300 or more in the peak summer season. I just booked round trip, stopover tickets from San Francisco to Iceland to Dublin, and back, for $375 round trip. From BWI it is not uncommon to see round trip tickets in early spring lower than $200 round trip.

Other airlines are available too but for greater cost. It is important to remember that WOW charges for anything larger than a small 10kg personal item. However, even if you upgrade to full sized checked luggage, you still make out cheaper most of the time.

Where to stay:

There are 3 primary ways to stay in Iceland: hotels, Airbnb, and Hostels as well as lesser known guest houses and such which often appear on hostel, airbnb, and hotel searches.

Hotels: this is the typical way to travel for most people. However, as a world traveling adventurer YOU are not most people. There are times though when a hotel makes sense. My first, almost completely unplanned, trip to Iceland, I had no housing for me and my two friends. We booked hotels, often on the fly the night of, for 3 people, in mid May, for under $100/night with breakfast included. It worked out well that time. Hotels often charge per person outside of the US. So unlike here where you can get a room with two double beds and put 4 people no questions asked, there they may actually question you and throw a fit if more than the allowed number try to stay in one room.

Airbnb: this is my favorite way to travel in Iceland. It is probably by far the most economical for more than a single person. people in Iceland are super nice and lovely to stay with a chat with. A private room in Reykjavik, in someones house, can be as cheap as $40/night for two people while a private studio separate from the house starts at about $70/night. Use this link to save $35 off you first Airbnb trip!

Hostels: I have to admit, I’ve never stayed in a hostel in Iceland. I think if I ever go solo, that’s exactly what I will do. There are a few good hostels there from reading the reviews, but a lot of them seem more like guest houses than true hostels. Use Hostel World to evaluate whether this will make a good choice for you

Happy Travels!

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

Follow JELTOWN on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and now on YouTube!

Save money by traveling like I do

$35 off your first Airbnb booking!

Check out the Equipment I use

Nikon D3300
Nikkor 18-140mm Zoom Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II