As beautiful as Reykjavik is, it’s also a touch expensive. Which could make travelling on a tight budget tricky at best. At worst, you might be wallowing in a permanent state of FOMO. We wouldn’t blame you for asking, is it worth going to Reykjavik? Can it be done on a shoestring? The answer’s a HUGE yes. All you need is a little insider info. We’ve got the basics down. Budget-friendly activities, free stuff to do in Reykjavik, and some tips on where to grab a bite to eat that won’t leave your wallet lacking.
If you’re in the market for a cheap dinner in Reykjavik, you’re looking at a menu awash with junk food. Subs, burgers, fries and pizzas are all budget-friendly eats. None of which, last time we checked, were traditional Icelandic dishes. Though, there are restaurants where you can eat well for less in Reykjavik. Like most good things, they need tracking down. We’ve compiled a round–up of options to suit all tastes.
Trot along to Mulakaffi for some traditional Icelandic eats. It doesn’t quite dip to the cheapest prices you’ll find in the city, but the quality is worth paying a few extra krona for. The menu that changes weekly is where you’ll find the dishes that deliver value for money. Prices range from £12.50 (kr 2250) – £21.80 (kr 3900) for a main dish. The pan-fried haddock is a lovely dish if it’s on the menu when you visit.
Tucked away in a night club, the vegan chefs here cook up burgers and grilled sandwiches late into the night. Rough around the edges, but if you ignore the shabby setting, the stellar item on Veganaes’ menu is the soup of the day. It comes in at £8.35 (kr 1490) and comes with baked beer bread and vegan cheese. Best of all? You can get a free refill on your soup. The perfect dish if you’re visiting Reykjavik in winter.
Word on the street is, if you want to eat cheap in Reykjavik, you’ve got to try the noodles. And, most people will point you towards Noodle Station. It’s a valid choice, but the low cost meals and the setting feels a bit too cheap. Ramen Momo’s noodle bar feels like a mini upgrade. Korean from bowl to beer, it’s a trip for your tastebuds. Lunch is the time to drop by. Tuesday – Friday you can get soup and a side for £10.50 (kr 1890)
Orbzii tip: We know you’re not flying all this way to buy a Dominos. But, it’s worth remembering chains like this have sweet, sweet deals on certain days. Drop by on Tuesdays to bag a medium pizza for £5.60 (kr 1000).
Make your money go further
Finding free stuff to do in Reykjavik will only get you so far. Yes, we’ve listed plenty of those below, but you’re going to want to fork out for some attractions too. When you do, it really does pay in this city to find any way to save a few percent. One of the easiest ways, is to buy a Reykjavík City Card. It gives you free access to all of the city’s swimming pools, some museums, galleries and unlimited bus travel. Along with that you’ll get discounts on entry to a very long list of attractions, key restaurants and even deals on excursions and whale watching tours in Reykjavik. A 24hr card costs £22.35 (kr 4000), 48hr cards cost £31.30 (kr 5600) and 72hr cards are £38.55 (kr 6900).
Free things to do
You’re savvy enough to know the general free things do on most city breaks. We’ll not go into the benefits of parks, window shopping and general mooching here. We’ve got genuine stuff to do in Reykjavik that won’t leave you feeling like you’re just getting by on your trip.
Art and architecture
Reykjavik has plenty of quirky buildings and sculptures to scope out around the city. No matter your attitude to architecture, there are two buildings you’ll want to peer at. Start with the Harpa centre. A venue for highbrow concerts and plays, outside it’s a modern eye-popper and inside it’s just as fancy. Entry is free – though you will have to pay to see a show. The next building? Iceland’s Hallgrímskirkja church. 74.5 metres of attention grabbing building that sits at the highest point of the city. If you prefer art and sculpture, the shore and sculpture walk is the one. Head to the coastline to find the Sun Voyager and a handful of other works. No spoilers here – but do make sure you drop by. On your way to the coastline, keep your eyes peeled for Reykjavik’s street art. It can’t quite match Rotterdam in size and colour palette – but still exciting when you stumble upon a gem.
It needn’t cost a penny to see the northern lights in Reykjavik. Yes, there are tours that whisk you out to the darkest sky spots – but that’s not essential. You’ll simply need to keep an eye on the Aurora forecast – available for free from the Icelandic Met Office – and head to a place with the least light pollution. The harbour area is popular with aurora spotters – or the observation deck of the Perlan Observatory. Many, many visitors and locals also flock to the Grótta lighthouse. Our tip? Head back in the daylight. It’s a lovely spot for birdwatching.
Free walking tour
Walking tours can be a great way to see a city – we don’t need to tell you that. But a free walking tour in Reykjavik? Now we’re talking. City Walk run free 2 hour tours lead by an English speaking guide. You’ll trot around central Reykjavik, learn about the city’s history and clock up a serious number of sights. So where’s the catch? Firstly, the walk isn’t loaded with stops for drinks, shopping and spending. Secondly, is it really free? Well, yes. And no. City Walk ask you to pay what you think it was worth at the end of the tour. In this case, it’s your call. Pay a small tip, or not, just keep in mind, a standard walking tour of the city is around £25.