Family Travel in Iceland - Reykjavik

1: Getting to know Reykjavík

It is nice getting to know the city. Here is a map of Reykjavík, divided into many areas. (Area 7 and 8 show the image below).
Another map of Reykavík and its surroundings is here. Following image is from that map.

The city can be entered by car, bus, bicycle or by foot. (1) Start at Perlan (the Pearl), built on Reykjavik's hot water tanks. Go up to the fourth floor where you can go out and get a view of the whole city. On the ground floor there is an artificial geyser and outside there is another one.
(2) Drive on to 'Hallgrimskirkja', the biggest church in Iceland. You can't miss seeing the tower and it can be your guiding light in the city. Usually it is not hard finding a parking place near the church. In front of it, there is a stature of Leif the Lucky who was the first European to sail to America.
Take a walk down Skolavordustigur. If you want you can go down Laugavegur as well (the main shopping street) or if the walking is enough for the kids, you can drive down to (3) Reykjavik's pond (Tjörnin) and park in the car-parking-house under Reykjavík's City Hall by the pond (5 min drive). Look inside Reykjavik's City Hall. Inside there is a big 3D map of Iceland which is worth taking a look at. Bring with you some bread and feed the ducks, swans and geese on the pond. On the other side of the pond, there is a nice garden where it is nice to run around.
(4) Close by the pond is The Parliament House, a stone house where the parliament resides. It stands by Austurvollur, a small squere with a statue of Jon Sigurdsson, our Leader for Freedom. Iceland became independent from Denmark in 1944, on Jon's Sigurdsson's birthday, the 17th of June. 17th of June is now the National day of Iceland.
Dómkirkjan (the Dom Church) is on the other side of The Parliament House. This is as much downtown as you can go. There are some old houses, café's and restaurants and on a nice day you can sit outside and enjoy refreshments.
Maybe this is enough of 'city' for the kids and time for some activity. Drive to the Vesturbær (the West-city or west-part of the city), pass the University (5) and the National Museum (which kids might enjoy visit) and down to the sea shore at Ægisíða (Aegisida)(6). There you still might see some old fishing boats and the kids can run around on the shore. By looking over the ocean you can see Bessastadir, the home of our president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and his wife, Dorrit Mousajef. (7) End the tour in Vesturbæjar-sundlaug (west-city-swimmingpool) where it is nice to relax.

2. Reykjavik Zoo and Family Park in Laugardalur

The Reykjvaik Zoo and Family Park is located in Laugardalur in Reykjavík. It is open from 10 am - 18 pm during the summer time. Please check their web-site. In the park there are mainly icelandic farm animals but also some wild animals. There are also some other activities and rides/games going on. There is a restaurant in the park but it is also possible to buy a hot dog and barbique it by yourself.

3. Nautholsvik, beach

On a sunny day you just have to go to Nautholsvik, the 'real beach' in Reykjavik. It is not big but it is very nice. It is close to the Pearl. It has two hot tubs so if the water in the sea is too cold (it is for me but not for my kids!), you can warm the body in the tubs. There are good walking and cycling paths along the shore so it is a good idea cycling or walking to the shore.

4. The island Videy

There are some small islands close to the mainland in Reykjavik. The most famous one is Videy. It only takes about 10 minutes to sail out there. Some 80 years ago, people lived on the island and still the ruins can be seen on the eastern part of the island. Now there is the old church, the old school with historical information and 'Videyjarstofa', where there is a restaurant. Also some ruins which are being investigated. You can borrow bicycles in the island (for free) and it is very nice cycling around. The island is so small that it only takes about 1 - 2 hours to cycle around it. In 2007 a memorial of John Lennon was built in Videy, a light-pillar which Yoko Ono turned on the 9th of October 2007. The shore is also very nice, with lot of beautiful stones, shells and even starfishes. Press here to see some more photos from cyckling around the island.

5. Hiking, Esjan or Ulfarsfell

The 'city mountain' in Reykavik is Esja, some 700 meters high. It is a bit steep, especially the last part, but children over the age of 8 should be able to climb it. It takes about 1 - 2 hours to walk to the top, but of course a half way can often be enough. From the top there is a great view over the city and in good weather you can see pretty far.
Smaller mountain, but still with a great view over Reykjavik and its surroundings is Ulfarsfell, close by.
Close to those mountains there is the house of Halldor Laxnes, the nobel price winner in litterature 1964, and it can be worthwile driving to his house and take a look around.
After the activity a nice swimming is essential. There is a new swimming pool in Mosfellsbaer with many slides and a nice café where you can have refreshment after the swimming.

6. Horseback riding - Hafnarfjordur

Going horseback riding is a very good day-activity. No matter if you have tried it before or not, you can find a trip that suits you. For young children it is possible to try horseback riding by sitting at the horse and have someone to lead by reins. For others a trip from one hour up to a whole day trip can be found. There are various places where you can go horseback-riding. One place is Ishestar (Ice-horses) in Hafnarfjordur.
Close to Ishestar, there is a small lake, Hvaleyrarvatn, where my kids love to play. Throwing stones out in the water, wade as far as one can get or just running around.
After the activity, go down town in Hafnarfjordur. It is sometimes called 'the Viking village'. They have a viking-restaurant, Fjorukrain which is worth visiting. It is also very nice walking around downtown or down to the harbour.
End by swimming at the newer swimming pool in Hafnarfjordur, Sudurbaejarlaug.

7. Whale watching and sea-angling

From Reykjavik harbour there are daily trips out to Faxafloi either to watch whales or to go sea-angling. Both is very joyful, maybe more activity in the sea-angling. It gives also a nice view of the city and its surroundings.

8. Indoor activities

If it is raining cats and dogs and you still need some activity, it can be a good idea to go bowling. The main bowling place is in Oskjuhlið (Öskjuhlíð), close to the Pearl (Perlan). Check their home-page.
There are also many museums in Reykjavik and surroundings. One of them is the Saga Museum in the Pearl which my kids grade number one, and also for example The National Museum of Icealand close to the University of Iceland.
Or, of course, go swimming ...

9. Heidmork, Gvenndarbrunnar, Arbaer-museum

Walking in Heidmork (Heiðmörk), looking at 'Gvenndarbrunnar' (the main support of cold water for Reykjavik), picknick. Arbaer-museum (Árbæjarsafn), museum with old houses, swimming in Arbaejarlaug (Árbæjarlaug).

10. Night swimming

As said before, all the swimming pools in Iceland are warm/hot as they are heated up with geothermal hot water. It is fun going in them all year round and also all time of day. Try to go swimming late in the evening (most of the pools are open until 10 in the evening or even longer) or on a rainy day. It is lovely lying in the hot tub/jacuzzi and feeling the raindrops on the nose. Many of the pools also have a warm indoor pool where it can be nice to start at least with small children.

11. Ellidaardalur - the salmon river

There is a salmon river in Reykjavik called 'Elliðaár' (Ellida-rivers). There are nice paths close to the river and small forrest. This is really a nature-pearl in town. It can both be nice walking around and also cycling around. It can easily be combined with trip 17 as Arbaer-museum and Arbaer-swimmingpool are close by.