Reykjavik is the northernmost capital in the world. As a result, winter days can have as few as four hours of daylight and summer days can be around 21 hours long. Reykjavik is a city surrounded by nature and steeped in a history going back to its founders, the Vikings. Over time, the city has transformed from a small fishing town into a trading, cultural, fashionable and vibrant city. Despite being such a remote venue, its attractions compensate for it and so Reykjavik Airport keeps expanding its offer and accepting more and more international travellers. Car hires are the most common solution for travellers in Iceland, especially 4x4 vehicles that make a trip to Iceland safe and adventurous!
Although the weather can be unpredictable, the city’s friendly atmosphere and its many offerings make up for its temperamental climate. One such place is the city’s busy Old Harbour where you’ll find fishermen chatting and kids running around. For something more tranquil, take a 10-minute ferry ride to Viðey Island and see Yoko Ono’s memorial to John Lennon – the Imagine Peace Tower.
If you happen to be in Reykjavik between October 9 and December 8, you can witness blue lights shooting from the Imagine Peace Tower into the cold Icelandic sky.
If you’re travelling to Reykjavik for pleasure, renting a vehicle is highly recommended. Hiring a suitable car is very easy in Reykjavik. There are plenty of car hire agencies available, such as Sixt, Enterprise, Europcar and more.
Basic info and car hire in Reykjavik
- Location: Southwest Iceland
- Population: 545,245 (2015)
- Official language: Icelandic
- Currency: Icelandic Krona (ISK)
- Weather: Reykjavik has a Subpolar Oceanic climate. The average winter temperature is 32°F/0°C and average temperature for the spring is 37°F/3°C. In the summer month temperatures are roughly 50°F/10°C and in the autumn 39 F/4°C is the average. Read more »
- Holidays in Reykjavik: For public holidays in Iceland click here »
- Internet coverage: Most hotels, bars, restaurants and cafés offer Wi-Fi.
- Road conditions: Major roads are well maintained, while secondary roads may be narrower and rougher.
- Car hire in Reykjavik: The price for a one-day car hire is, on average, 32£/36€ in the winter, 24£/27€ in the spring, 35£/40€ in the summer and 27£/31€ in the autumn. The most common vehicle collection hub is Keflavík International Airport, also known as Reykjavík-Keflavík Airport. Please note that rental prices vary frequently. It’s best to make a reservation 3 to 8 weeks prior to your pick-up date – this way you ensure the lowest price. Alternatively, it is possible to get a great last minute car hire deal. Find the best car hire deal in Reykjavik!
Driving in Reykjavik
Hiring a vehicle in Reykjavik is the best way to see the country. Driving gives you the chance to explore Iceland at your own pace and to discover things and places that you might never reach by tour bus, let alone on foot. The roads aren't congested and there are plenty of road signs that mark speed limits, making driving a stress-free experience. Drinking and driving is strictly prohibited.
The best time to travel to Reykjavik (weather-wise) is during the summer. However, if you want to see the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, you’ll want to visit between September to April. Northern Lights are bright sky displays that occur when gaseous particles collide. A combination of clear skies, strong activity and darkness produce Aurora Borealis. While November and February are the darkest months in Iceland, they are also quite rainy and foggy. On the other hand, September and October have clear skies and long nights and are the best option for those hoping to see the Northern Lights. Who knows, you might get a chance to witness this natural miracle while driving! Just pay attention to the road as well. But don’t worry if you had no such luck, you can always head to Northern Lights Center and see the HD panoramic displays of the eerie green phenomenon.
- Age limits: 21 (You must be 23 if you want to hire a 4WD vehicle. But, in general, the minimum age may vary according to car hire companies. A Young Driver fee will apply to drivers under 25 years of age. In order to hire a car, it is required that a driver has held a licence for more than one year).
- International Driving Permit: No.
- Additional papers: Identification (passport), a valid driver’s licence and valid proof of insurance. (It is advisable to buy insurance at the car hire agency in case your policy doesn't cover you while driving in Reykjavik).
- Additional requirements: Warning triangles, reflective vests and hands-free equipment with hearing aids are required when talking on the phone while driving.
- Children in the car: All car occupants must wear a seatbelt. Children under the age of twelve or shorter than 4ft 11in (1.50 metres) are required to ride in a booster seat.
- Driving side of the road: Right
- Lights: Headlights should be on at all times.
- General speed limits: 18-30mph/30-50kph in populated areas, 50mph/80kph on gravel roads in rural areas and 55mph/90kph on paved roads
- Parking suggestions: Parking in Reykjavik is quite hassle-free. There are parking zones, parking lots, multi-storey car parks and street parking available. The closer to the city centre you park, the more expensive parking will be. Know that the downtown area is relatively small, so if you park in the outskirts – and pay less – you can reach the heart of Reykjavik in about five minutes.
What to see in Reykjavik
Regardless of one’s religious denomination, the Church of Hallgrímur, Landakot Church and the Free Church in Reykjavik are praiseworthy. They are all a treat for the eyes in their own, unique way. For a city stroll you can choose the old Laugavegur shopping street and the artsy Skólavörðustígur Street. A useful information is also the fact that the latter street is only 10 minutes away from the main meeting point, Austurvöllur Square, filled with lively cafes. Lastly, enjoy the tranquility of Lake Tjörnin. This is the capital's own lake where you can relax, go for a run or feed the birds.
Our favourite spots
Visit Iceland’s biggest flea market! You’ll find books, souvenirs, clothes and everything in between
You can park your rental in Kolaport covered parking garage only 3 minutes away.
More parking suggestions here »
Harpa Conference and Concert Center
An outstanding example of modern architecture, the Harpa Conference and Concert Center is the centre of Icelandic cultural life. If you have time, take in a performance.
On-site parking is available.
Also known as Sólfar, Sun Voyager is a modern sculpture resembling a Viking ship. It was built in 1986 as an ode to the sun, light and hope. It's located on the waterfront and recalls how the Viking ships would have approached the new land.
Cars can be parked in Kolaport covered parking garage just 7 minutes away.
More parking suggestions here »
National Museum of Iceland
Learn about the history of Iceland and see examples of Icelandic arts, crafts and more. National Museum of Iceland is both educational and interesting choice.
Parking is accessible from Suðurgata. Parking at the front of the entrance is for buses only.
More parking suggestions here »
Hotels in Reykjavik
Reykjavik Natura Hotel
This central hotel offers great spa services and is very near the famous Perlan restaurant. On-site parking is available.
Enjoy a comfortable stay at the 101 Hotel in the heart of Reykjavik. Public parking is nearby.
Another centrally located hotel with parking nearby.
This family-run hotel is beautifully situated by Lake Ellidávatn and perfect for those who wish to combine nature and city. What is more, the Northern Lights can be seen just outside the hotel! On-site parking is available.
Drive your rental car around Reykjavik
There is nothing that can remotely compare to driving in Iceland. The roads are quiet (pay attention to sheep crossings), the landscape is magical and with a hired car, you are in charge of everything…everything except the weather. It is highly recommended to keep track of weather reports since the roads can get dangerously icy. Hiring a 4WD is also a smart idea, since many scenic roads are only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles. Be prepared and always carry water and snacks with you. Also, fill up your tank when you see a petrol station because they are not as common as you might think. Since good music and road trips go hand in hand, fully embrace Iceland and get familiar with their artists– If Björk is a bit too much for you, try Of Monsters and Men
With all driving preparations in place, all you require now are some ideas of where to go! The Golden Circle is a popular driving route since it takes you along tumultuous waterfalls, roaring geysers, rugged mountains, sapphire icebergs and more. Furthermore, beautiful places like Þingvellir, Gullfoss, Geysir and Kerið are relatively close to one another and can thus be covered in a short period of time. The beautiful Seljalandsfoss waterfall is only a 75-mile (120km south-east) drive and then Skógafoss waterfall is only a 20-minute drive further. For unforgettable pictures, a stop at the crystal caves under Vatnajökull glacier is a must. Note that you will need to hire a guide to reach the caves. If you like peculiar little towns, then Vik (110mi/178km south-east) should also be on your list. Depending on how much time you have, you can take your rental along the 55mi/90km long Snæfellsnes Peninsula (118mi/190km north-west) and discover towns, villages, beaches and mountains.
For a shorter trip, Mount Esja, a true hiker’s paradise is only a 10-minute drive from Reykjavik. The approximately two-hour hike is not overly demanding and the views from this volcanic mountain range are spectacular. You can also visit one of the natural wonders of the world, the manmade Blue Lagoon (30mi/47km south-west) in Grindavik. This popular geothermal spa is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Where to eat, drink and party in Reykjavik
Icelandic cuisine is based on lamb, potato, fish and seafood. Locals love to eat Skyr, a dairy product similar to yoghurt, but milder in flavor. Sheep’s head is a local speciality as well as Lundi, or puffin meat. You might be surprised to learn that this capital doesn’t have a McDonald’s or Starbucks. Nevertheless, you won’t be left high and dry if you have fast food cravings – KFC, Taco Bell, Domino’s, Subway, Dunkin Donuts and others can be found easily. If you can handle strong drinks, try the Icelandic unsweetened schnapps, Brennivín. The lively Laugavegur street makes a good starting point when searching for a restaurant and bar.
Major events and festivals in Reykjavik
If you’re a foodie, this is probably one of the best things you can experience. This event brings talented international chefs to cooperate with the country’s finest restaurant and create heavenly dishes based on Icelandic ingredients.
This annual event brings light to the city in all aspects – a rich programme of entertainment and amazing illumination!
This is one of the oldest music festivals in Iceland. Get to know local performers and listen to famous international artists!
This yearly festival gathers Vikings from all across the world to celebrate their heritage.