Planning an LGBTQ Iceland vacation? You’ll want to check out Reykjavik, which is not only Iceland’s capital, it’s the center of LGBTQ Iceland! Here’s a guide to Reykjavik written for queer travelers that points out how to spend 2 days in Reykjavik, including what to eat and LGBTQ friendly hotels!
Iceland is an incredible tourist destination packed with activities all year round. It’s worth a visit AT LEAST once in your life.
While it can be an expensive country to visit, Iceland is a short flight away from the Northeast U.S. and you can often find cheap flight deals.
Iceland Air’s famous stopover program lets you book a brief stay in the country on your way to/from Europe, which makes it even easier to explore the magic of LGBTQ Iceland.
This post is all about LGBTQ Iceland things to do in the capital city of Reykjavik.
How to spend 2 days in Reykjavik
Day One – Reykjavik Walking Tour and Gay Bar Crawl
Reykjavik isn’t just Iceland’s capital. It’s also the center of LGBTQ Iceland. Spend one day in Reykjavik getting to know the town by checking out the LGBTQ scene and these highlights:
Hallgrimskirkja church is an architectural marvel and perhaps the most recognizable landmark of the city. It’s free to visit the interior, but it costs money (1300 ISK) to climb up to the tower. The church is open from 10 am to 5 pm; hours change seasonally so make sure to check before planning your visit.
Reykjavik isn’t just Iceland’s capital. It’s also the center of LGBTQ Iceland. Spend half a day walking around downtown checking out these highlights:
Reykjavik’s Old Harbour neighborhood has ocean views and fun street art. This is also where puffin and whale watching in Iceland tours leave from. Walk around the neighborhood enjoying the colorful homes and street art. Gradually make your way to the Harpa concert hall.
The Harpa concert hall is a tourist favorite for its striking contemporary design. The beautiful building is worth a view, and one of the most famous spots in Reykjavik for selfie taking. Plan to spend a while here. While a quick photo stop will be good for most people, the Harpa is a performance venue. Consider booking tickets to a concert or signing up for a guided tour of the building to get to know it more.
Laguavegur, the main street in Reykjavik, has plenty of shopping and dining options. Spend a couple of hours taking in the shops and stopping for a warm coffee or pastry.
Laguavegur is also the center of LGBTQ Reykjavik!
But the party starts pretty late in Iceland. So before you head to the gay bar, it’s time for another Icelandic tradition, the swimming pool.
Reykjavik offers several public swimming pools with geothermally heated water. Bring your own towel and bathing suit, and for an affordable fee of around 600 ISK, you can soak in the rejuvenating waters alongside local Icelanders.
The Sundhollin pool is right near Hallgrimskirkja, making it a convenient stop for your first swimming pool experience.
Or if you’re traveling as an LGBTQ family, Laugardalslaug is the big public swimming pool with slides and attractions that cater to kids.
After your swimming pool experience, grab dinner. Then it’s time to hit the gay bar!
Kiki Queer Bar is Reykjavik’s gay bar. The city’s drinking culture starts late and goes long and hard, but even with a stop in during happy hour we had a fun chat with some Icelandic lesbians that remains a highlight of my visit.
I love stopping by local queer bars when I travel to learn more about the local LGBTQ culture and connect with other LGBTQ travelers!
Bravo is located next to Kiki and acts as a spillover gar bar. It’s mixed but LGBTQ friendly, with a laid back vibe. If Kiki is too crowded or you just want to try something different, give Bravo a go.
While not strictly a gay bar, Gaukurinn hosts drag shows and other events, including stand-up comedy, karaoke, and live music. Check the calendar. You just might luck out and be able to catch an Icelandic drag performance during your visit!
Day Two – Museums, Golden Circle, Spa Lagoon
Day one was all about getting to know LGBTQ Reykjavik. For your second 24 hours in Reykjavik, you’ve got choices. Get off to an early start then plan to wind down a day in Reykjavik with a visit to one of Iceland’s geothermal lagoons near Reykjavik.
Golden Circle Self-Drive
While tour operators run Golden Circle day trips from Reykjavik, a self-drive adventure lets you set your own pace. Go as fast or slow as you want and immerse yourself in the magic of these geological wonders.
Haukadalur Geysir is home to the original Geysir, from which all geysers derive their name. While Geysir itself now erupts infrequently, you can still revel in the fascinating bubbling mud pots and hot springs.
Strokkur Geysir, on the other hand, erupts frequently, sending scalding water soaring into the sky. Be sure to linger and capture its eruption on video.
Gullfoss ranks among Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls, plunging into a deep canyon. During February, the cascade ices over fully. The glittery blue ice is truly mesmerizing.
Gullfoss is most impressive at sunrise and sunset, when the light turns the falls a golden hue. If you have the opportunity, time your visit for sunset—it’s a breathtaking experience.
The Gullfoss tourist information center is renowned for its delicious lamb soup. Stop off for lunch then make your way back toward Reykjavik for an afternoon spa visit.
Silfra Fissure Snorkel
If you’ve already done the Golden Circle self-drive tour, why not snorkel between continental plates at Silfra Fissure?
This is the only place in the world where you can snorkel or dive directly in the crack between two continents. When I heard about it, of course I had to go.
The Silfra Fissure is located in Þingvellir National Park, a short drive from Reykjavik.
You won’t see incredible fish when you snorkel the Silfra Fissure. What it’s known for is the incredible clear water, beautifully colored water.
The exceptionally clear waters at Silfra are the result of filtered glacier water slowly making its way through underground lava rock. You’ll see the rocks of the continental plates and deep blue, almost purple colors. It’s very unique.
The waters of Silfra Fissure are VERY COLD, around 2-4°C (35-39°F) all year round. Tour operators provide fleece drysuits to keep you warm and dry. For extra protection we brought hand and feet warmers. This helped us to feel warmer despite the chilly water and freezing air temperatures when we went, in February.
The experience was amazing and one I would definitely recommend. We booked with Iceland Adventure Tours.
whale watching in Iceland
Summer is the peak season for whale watching in Iceland. During the summer months, you’ll see minke whales, harbor porpoises, orcas, humpback whales, and white-beaked dolphins. Summer is also when the puffins are in Iceland. If you’re visiting in the fall or winter, you will still see whales but fewer of them.
Curious about whale watching in Iceland in winter? I covered my whale watching in Akureyri experience in another post.
The National Museum of Iceland is the place to learn about Icelandic heritage and history. A permanent exhibit overs Icelandic history from the Viking era to Settlement and modern times. If you like to go deeper when you travel, it’s a worthwhile introduction to Icelandic culture. You’ll also discover rotating exhibits, like a photo exhibit I’m sad to have missed called “If Garden Gnomes Could Talk.”
The National Museum is open daily from 10 to 5. Admission is 2500 ISK for adults.
Reykjavik Art Museum is housed in 3 separate buildings. Hours are 10 to 5 daily, although one building has shorter hours in the winter months. The exhibits showcases works by the top Icelandic artists and international artists.
There are also massive outdoor art pieces from international artists including Richard Serra and Yoko Ono in downtown Reykjavik.
If you like art but don’t want to dedicate a couple of hours to museum-going, keep your eye out while you walk for public art pieces and street art.
Budget tip: Buy a Reykjavík City Card and enjoy free admission to many city museums and galleries, swimming pools, Viðey island ferry, municipal buses, and other activities plus discounts on shops and tours.
A 24-hour card costs 4600 ISK and a 48-hour card costs 6400 ISK.
Geothermal Spa Visit
Both are idyllic, with soothing mineral waters, tranquil nature settings, and upscale spa services. When it comes to how to spend two days in Reykjavik, which geothermal lagoon should you choose?
Blue Lagoon is out on the Reykjanes Peninsula, 31 miles from Reykjavik. It’s on the way to the airport, so if you want to visit a geothermal spa on your last day in Iceland this is the more convenient option.
Sky Lagoon is the newest lagoon in Iceland. It’s 4 miles from Reykjavik city center, making it ideal for a day trip.
Blue Lagoon is the most famous attraction in Iceland. For this reason it’s often very crowded. They only let a certain number of people in per hour so you must book ahead.
Some people complain that the Blue Lagoon is overpriced and artificial. On my first trip to Iceland we skipped it because we were trying to save money, so I definitely understand those complaints.
However, it is worth a visit at least once. The atmosphere is serene with multiple connected swimming pools in a field of lava rocks.
We visited the Blue Lagoon our way to the airport during our northern Iceland road trip and you can read more about that visit in the linked post.
Sky Lagoon has an impressive setting. The lagoon is situated right along the coastline so you can see black lava rocks jutting into the North Atlantic from your mineral soak. The turf-thatched huts are a nod to traditional Icelandic buildings. If you did a Ring Road trip you may have seen some of Iceland’s turf churches.
Blue Lagoon is more expensive than Sky Lagoon. The base package at Blue Lagoon costs $64 and includes admission, one mud mask, one free drink and one towel. For $82, you get two extra masks, a bathrobe and a free sparking wine if you dine at the onsite restaurant.
The base package at Sky Lagoon costs 9,990 ISK (around $49) making it the cheaper pick. This includes admission and a towel.
However, Sky Lagoon’s popular Seven Step Ritual makes this lagoon more expensive. To visit Sky Lagoon and do the seven step ritual costs between 9,790 ISK ($70) and 12,790 ISK ($92) if you want a private changing room.
The seven step ritual is a modification of the classic hot and cold cycles in Nordic spa culture. You’ll take a warm soak, plunge into a cold pool, warm up again in the sauna, before washing and exfoliating your body. Once I learned more about what the Seven Step Ritual actually included, it felt like a bit of an overcharge to me to be honest.
Both Sky Lagoon and Blue Lagoon are manmade lagoons. Both work hard to create relaxing settings that feel natural, not artificial. And I think they both do a good job.
While each has a different ambience, the popular lagoons near Reykjavik overlap in many aspects. Whichever one you choose, you won’t be disappointed!
When you finish at the lagoon, make your way back to the city center for dinner and another night enjoying gay Reykjavik!
Where to eat in Reykjavik
Let’s get one thing out of the way first – food in Iceland is very expensive.
Most ingredients have to be flown in, so you’re paying extra for those costs.
Reykjavik has a few more budget options than other places in Iceland. But prices are still going to be more than what you’d pay at home for similar food.
Once you’ve gotten used to that fact and adjusted your budget, you can find tons of great food in Iceland.
Head to Grai Kotturin for an American-style breakfast and coffee or a warm lunch sandwich. This cafe is open daily from 8 am to 2 pm and includes some veggie and vegan options, like bagel sandwiches with homemade hummus.
On the casual side, Svarta Kaffið serves up filling bread bowls of soup, while Icelandic Fish & Chips does an Icelandic take on the classic pub fare.
Iceland is known for its love of hot dogs. And Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is the most famous Icelandic hot dog stand. It’s been operating continuously since 1937. The hot dogs are lamb based but they also include pork and beef. Vegan eaters, give this a pass – but know that the Icelandic gas stations have started carrying vegan hot dogs so you, too, can enjoy an Icelandic hot dog on your road trip.
Cafe Babalú is a gay-owned bakery cafe with some gluten-free items on the menu. Stop in for a warm drink and sweet treat. They’re open daily from 8 am to 10:30 pm.
Dill is a Michelin-starred restaurant in Reykjavik known for its innovative and locally-sourced Nordic cuisine and use of traditional cooking methods. If you’re looking for a splurge, make a reservation well in advance.
When I visit Iceland, I always try to save money on food by buying groceries for breakfast and lunch. This saves money and helps me avoid the hassle of trying to find a semi-affordable place that’s open for lunch while on a winter Ring Road road trip.
Then I can treat myself to a nice dinner and not freak out about what it’s costing.
While you’ll want to make a night of the Reykjavik gar bar scene, drink prices really add up!
When it comes to alcohol, I do what the Icelanders do and grab a bottle of wine at the duty free at Keflavik airport before I start my trip.
Want more practical tips? Check out my Iceland winter packing guide.
LGBTQ Friendly Hotels in Reykjavik
Iceland in general is a very LGBTQ friendly place. You can confidently book a hotel in Reykjavik without any worries.
But sometimes it helps to know a few LGBTQ friendly Reykjavik hotels to consider.
The hotels and guesthouses on this list all have a reputation for being LGBTQ friendly. There are even a few gay owned hotels on this list. So if you like supporting queer business owners while you travel, like I do, take special note:
This boutique hotel in central Reykjavik is gay-owned. There are only nine rooms so you’ll want to book in advance. The rooms are decent sized with classic decor and free WiFi. Rates are quite decent given that you’re staying on the main street Laugavegur – close to all the gay and lesbian bars in Reykjavik!
Hotel Borg by Kea Hotels offers art deco ambience and an Instagram worthy atmosphere. Staff are LGBTQ friendly. Hotel Borg is located in Austurvöllur, the main square of Reykjavik. You’ll be walkable to the gay bar Reykjavik scene while still able to get a good night’s sleep. The hotel has a restaurant, spa and fitness center.
Radisson Blu 1919
The Radisson hotel group promotes itself as LGBTQ friendly. Their Reykjavik hotel is walkable to Iceland’s Parliament, Old Port and National Museum. The Radisson hotel chain is LGBTQ friendly with lots of nice amenities. Enjoy the single origin coffee from the lobby cafe or grab breakfast at the buffet, which includes plenty of plant based options for vegan travelers! If you want to be walkable to everything in gay and lesbian Reykjavik while in a smaller hotel – there are 88 rooms – with modern amenities, this is a solid pick for LGBTQ travelers.
Hilton Reykjavik Nordica
Hilton is another international hotel chain that welcomes LGBTQ travelers. Rooms at Hilton Reykjavik Nordica are simple and bright. Many offer city or waterfront views. There is free WiFi and free parking, making this a good stop before your Ring Road road trip. The hotel has its own popular restaurant and bar.
The one downside is location. It’s far from the downtown corridor action.
If you’re coming in for Reykjavik gay pride activities, you’ll need to drive in.
Room With a View
This apartment style hotel is gay owned and obviously very LGBTQ friendly. It’s located right on Laugavegur, the hub of Iceland’s nightlife including gay bars in Reykjavik. Rooms range from studios good for solo travelers to 4 bedroom apartments ideal for LGBT family travelers. Whether you choose a studio or a large apartment, the setup is homey, with clean and modern decor. Sometimes that’s exactly what you need when traveling!
Airbnb Reykjavik Iceland
In addition to LGBTQ friendly hotels, you’ll find many Airbnbs in Reykjavik Iceland to choose from. These may be cheaper than some of the LGBTQ friendly hotels in Reykjavik. Some guesthouses and Airbnbs come with kitchenettes that will allow you to save money by cooking your own meals. Since food in Iceland is very expensive, this can be a convenient way to stretch your budget while exploring the best of gay and lesbian Iceland!
My first visit to Iceland coincided with Rainbow Reykjavik.
Rainbow Reykjavik is a small winter Pride festival put on by LGBTQ Iceland tour operator, Pink Iceland!
We didn’t take part in any of the official events but we did pop into a happy hour at Kiki and we had a blast!
The winter pride travel event mostly attracts gay men, but it is open to everyone. If you enjoy pride travel (and you want a chance to se the auroras), add it to your LGBTQ travel bucket list!
When is Iceland Winter Pride?
Unfortunately Rainbow Reykjavik hasn’t updated their events page since 2021.
We’ll keep an eye on their site and let you know if we hear about a new version of the pride travel event.
Ready to Plan Your LGBTQ Iceland Itinerary?
Iceland is magical. Queer people are magical. Queer people in Iceland…well, you get the picture.
This LGBTQ Reykjavik guide will help you make the most of your time in Iceland’s capital city.
But I’d be remiss not to tempt you to venture outside of Reykjavik to see some of the most popular natural attractions Iceland has to offer. Whether you’re interested in Iceland’s geothermal spa culture and northern lights in the less-touristed north of Iceland or the highlight reel of waterfalls, black sand beaches, and glaciers in the south of Iceland, you’re sure to have an amazing trip.
Wherever you go, leave yourself extra time to get there. If you stop even half as often as I do to take photos of Iceland’s beautiful landscape, you’ll need it.
Iceland is honestly one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. Not only is the landscape stunning, the people are friendly and it’s a super safe destination for LGBTQ travelers like me!
Enjoy every moment and make the most of your trip.
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