Free Things to Do in Reykjavik

view from hallgrimskirkja free activities in reykjavik iceland - the art of cheap travel

Iceland seems to have a reputation of being very expensive - the 2008 financial crisis is over and the country is recovering very fast. There are a lot of fun free things to do in Reykjavik though. From bathing in a hot tub and renting a bike for free to hip parties and viewing platforms for breathtaking panoramas - the most northern capital of the world has a lot to offer for those traveling on a tight budget aside of simply walking around. Just because you are trying to save some money, doesn't mean you can't do anything cultural and interesting!

There are a couple of museums you could visit for free - the Numismatic Museum inside the Central Bank of Iceland shows a collection of Icelandic coins and banknotes throughout the history (I have no idea how their money looks like by the way, despite of being in the city for one week - I didn't see Landsbankinn, the only place that changes currency without a fee and I was able to pay with a credit card literally everywhere, even in the bus). Visiting the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, Reykjavik Art Museum and Reykjavik Botanic Gardens also doesn't cost anything.

For everyone interested in politics and history going to the Icelandic parliament Alþingi sounds like fun - you can even attend the sessions 4 times a week from October to May. It is one of the first democratic parliaments in the world (depending on how exactly you define it).

As is most European cities there is a free walking tour - starting from Laekjartorg Square twice a day every day of the week. A good way to learn more about the culture and history of Reykjavik and see the important sights. Check out freewalkingtour.is for the exact place and time.

To see amazing panoramas of the city you have two free options. The tallest building in Iceland - Hallgrimskirkja - a modern church with an elevator that takes you to the top. It technically costs 700 ISK (approx. 4,50€), but sometimes the church shop is closed and the elevator is right near the entrance so nobody checks if you have a ticket anyway. You should be a law abiding citizen and pay for it and you also didn't hear that tip from me. For a panorama that is actually for free climb on top of Perlan.

They say that everyone who goes to Iceland "has to" go to a hot tub or swim in a lagoon, but if you don't want to spend money on this kind of entertainment there is a free option: there is a geothermal beach Nautholsvik. The beach has golden Moroccan sand on it (Icelandic beaches are normally black) and free hot tubs to soak in. Since it is a geothermal spot the water is much warmer than at any other spot in the north. Are you brave enough to go for a swim? Nautholsvik is not open until middle of May by the way.

The biggest shopping mall in Iceland is Kringlan -  and there is a free bus in summer that brings you there from the city center (in front of the Tourist Information Center at Aðalstræti 2) every hour from 10 AM to 5PM during the week (less frequent on Sundays). Even if you are not interested on shopping it is still a free ride to another part of the city. 

If you are looking for a bicycle to explore the city on two wheels you might notice that renting it costs at least 3500ISK for 5 hours or 5000ISK (approx. 32€) for one day. There is a way to get a bike for free though. The Bus Hostel gives you a bike for free if you are staying with them. It is a simple budget hostel, not the most central location, but it is one of the cheapest in accommodations in town. If you are looking for a cheap hostel and having a bike is crucial, then it is a good choice. If you don't necessarily need a bike, then book something more central.

If you are looking for free hip parties and local bands but don't have money Reykjavik offers a couple of options. The record stores regularly have release parties - look out for posters that announce those. If there aren't any, check out the free parties at KEX hostel. There are musicians performing live almost every evening in the common area, which means you can join even if you are not staying there (but I would advise you to do so, it is one of the best hostels I have ever been to and they did not pay me to say that). Check out their website to see if there is anything going on.

Do you know any other cool things to do in Reykjavik that are free?