Iceland is an enchanting land of fire and ice, with stories of trolls and fairies that capture children’s imaginations. Experiencing Iceland with kids offers the opportunity to explore natural landscapes and rich histories not found anywhere else in the world. With more people choosing to take a layover in the city, Reykjavik has become a popular family destination for travelers. Here’s what to do in Reykjavik with kids on your next visit or layover.
What to Do in Reykjavik With Kids
Hallgrímskirkja Church Tower is a must-see. Seeing the inner workings of the clock tower and an amazing 360° view of the entire city is worth the small fee. The church was designed to resemble the basalt lava flows that naturally occur in Iceland and which the Black Beach of the South Shore is famous for. Not only can you see the church from everywhere in the city (it is 240 feet tall), the open green spaces around the church allow children to stretch their legs and run around.
Note: there is a small fee to enter the church and take the elevator to the top (900 ISK for adults and 100 ISK for children aged 7-14).
Check out the Thermal Pools in Reykjavik
Iceland is famous for their geothermal heating and naturally occurring hot springs. Every city in Iceland has a thermal pool that is available to all citizens and tourists for a small fee. It’s one of the best things to do in Reykjavik with kids. In Reykjavik there are 18 thermal pools that you can visit and if you are using the City Card you can access them for free.
Laugardalslaug, the largest swimming pool in Reykjavik, is located next door to the national football stadium. Opened in 1968, Laugardalslaug has 3 swimming pools, one outdoors heated at 28°C, two indoor pools, hot tubs, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, an 85-metre-long water slide and even a hot tub with sea water naturally rich with minerals. Admission for adults is 980 ISK, children 6-17 are 160 ISK and children under 5 are free.
While in the area, why not check out the Reykjavik Family Park and Zoo. Although there are no lions or tigers, the zoo and park does give you the chance to see Icelandic animals like arctic foxes, seal, reindeer and the short but strong Iceland pony. The kids will love being able to run around while the parents grab a coffee at the coffee house. Admission for 13 and up is 880 ISK, children 5-12 is 660ISK and under 5 and seniors are free.
Go Back in Time
Iceland has a rich history. The fact that they are so isolated means their language and customs has not changed much from the original Norway Vikings who founded the country in the 9th century. The living Open Air Museum allows you to take a stroll back into Reykjavík’s early history.
The playground and toy exhibit will entertain the whole family as you stroll through twenty traditional homes, including the only still existing turf house in Reykjavik. You will learn how the city came to be from a few scattered farms to a bustling city. English tours are offered daily. During warmer weather you can be led by costumed guides as you visit grazing animals and traditional crafts. Admission for adults is 1650 ISK, but it is free for children, seniors and those with the Reykjavík City Card.
If that’s not enough Viking history for you check out Viking World on your way to or from the airport to see the full-scale intact Viking ship, Islendingur . This ship is believed to be an exact replica of a Viking ship built around 870. It took 2 years to create, since they only used tools that were available to Vikings at the time. Admission for adults is 1800 ISK and free for children.
Take a Free Walking Tour
Children need to stretch their legs and there is no better way than exploring the city. The free tour is run by very knowledgeable graduate students who take you all around the city. The focus is on the history of the city and Iceland in general but touches on many modern aspects, such as why houses in Iceland are so colorful. They provide a lot of interesting tidbits and magical stories and tailor the content for the audience, so they are great with keeping children entertained.
The 2-hour walk is around 2km long with many stops and easy slopes so suitable for all ages and physical abilities. Although they say the walk is free they do suggest at the beginning that you can offer any tip you feel, which you will find is worth a good tip.
Note: You have to sign up for this tour in advance. https://citywalk.is/tour/free-walking-tour-reykjavik/
Try the Cuisine
While some comment on how expensive food is in Iceland, others enjoy the wide variety of food options. A few things you and the kids may enjoy are: black salty sweet licorice; Skyr yogurt that has been around since the time of the Vikings; the popular baked Kleina pastry found throughout the city; or the Icelandic lamb hot dog. Make sure you ask for it all dressed which includes raw onions, fried onions, remoulade (mayonnaise-based relish), ketchup and Icelandic caramelised mustard, which is brown.
Get Hands on with Icelandic Volcanoes
As one of the most active volcanic areas in the world, Iceland has volcanic eruptions every 4-5 years. Couple that with melting glaciers, Iceland’s landscapes is constantly changing. The Volcano house is a wealth of information on all things volcano in Iceland, including informational videos detailing the major volcanos and eruptions in the country’s history. The mineral exhibit offers a large collection of semi-precious rocks, minerals, ash and lava. More than enough to please any young geologist.
As a parent it’s nice to be able to go to a museum and not worry about your children touching things. At the Volcano House children are encouraged to take part in the hands-on geology exhibit of ash, lava and pumice from Icelandic volcanoes.
Admission for adults is 1790 ISK, students and seniors 1400 ISK, 7-14 year old 1000 ISK and children 6 and under are free.
Paige McEachren spent over 20 years working in corporate communications before she decided to stay home and help her young kids navigate life with ADHD, Dyslexia and Anxiety. She loves to travel, bake, and try new things. She shares her tales of a disordered life on her blog www.pieceofpie.ca. You can also follow her on Twitter or Instagram.