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Thursday, March 3, 2016

12 Free Things to Do in Reykjavik, Iceland

Yes, Iceland is an expensive country, for sure! However, there are still a number of free things and activities - indoors and outdoors - that can be done and enjoyed in Reykjavik. Apparently, Iceland is not a hopeless case for cheapskate travelers like me.

What you will read below is a list of 12 free things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland that I discovered, did and experienced myself, some of them by accident while roaming around the city.

1. Free museum visits
When I visited Reykjavik, I made sure to take advantage of free museums in town. You should do the same! I managed to go to the National Museum of Iceland. Lucky me, entrance is free every Wednesday. There’s also the Reykjavik Museum of Photography which houses collections with specific focus on Icelandic photography. I also saw a free exhibition gallery at the ground floor of Perlan and the first floor of Harpa.

2. Bird watching in Lake Tjornin
After a tiring day of walking around town, I would usually rest and eat my snacks by the lake while watching a flock of swans, ducks, and geese. I would feed them too. It's my favorite spot in downtown Reykjavik.

3. Walking around the Hólavallagarður cemetery
I stumbled upon this cemetery by accident. I didn't even realize there was an old cemetery up the road behind the colorful houses facing the Lake Tjornin. Creepy place but definitely worth visiting!

4. Panoramic view of Reyjavik from Perlan 

Going to Perlan is a good, free alternative for the paid, viewing platform at Hallgrímskirkja. You can get a good panoramic view of the entire city of Reykjavik from Perlan up on the Oskjhuhlid Hill. No entrance fee is required to enter this building and go up to the balcony. Outside Perlan, you can also see an artificial geyser called Strokur that erupts every few minutes or so.

5. Connecting to free wireless internet 
There are many free Wifi hotspots all over downtown Reykjavik, which I absolutely loved as it allowed me to upload photos immediately in my online gallery. In my experience, most Wifi signals could be picked up at the bus stops.

6. Free tour at Radhus: Reykjavik City Hall
The Reykjavik City Hall (Radhus) is located next to Lake Tjornin. I didn’t know there’s something like a free guided tour there. It was purely accidental. I only went inside to use the restroom but when I saw a group of tourists, I joined them. The local guide lectured us about the history of Iceland, its geography, and topography. Inside there is an exhibition space on the ground floor and a huge 3D topographical model of Iceland. There is also a tourist information desk there, so if you need any assistance, I suggest you visit this place.

7. Hiking the Oskjuhlid hill
Before going to Perlan, I did some hiking in this hill and traversed a forest surrounded with pines and mossy volcanic rocks. There are trails for walking and biking in this hill. I even discovered some tunnels. Apparently, this area was used by the US military during the Second World War, and leftovers of an old bunker are still there.

8. Visiting the churches
I read somewhere that Iceland is among the top atheist countries in the world so I was surprised to find Catholic churches such as Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík Cathedral, and Fríkirkjan scattered all over town. I went inside these churches without paying anything.

9. Going inside the Harpa to rest and get a picturesque view of the Reykjavik Harbour
Entrance fee is not required for you to get inside the Harpa. It’s also a good resting place as there are a number of seats and sofas inside. There's a even free exhibition gallery that I saw when I went there. Most of all, Harpa gives you a picturesque view of the Reykjavik Harbour.

10. Fishing (or watching the locals fish!)
I didn't actually go fishing in Reykjavik but I saw a bunch of Icelanders fishing close to the harbour, so I decided to watch how they do it. Pretty impressive!

11. Strolling along the sea front
Taking a stroll along the sea front close to Harpa is something that I highly recommend. There are benches for resting and various sculptures are dotted along the baywalk. You will also have a nice view of the mountains across the ocean. Make sure you take a photo of Solfar (Sun Voyager), an iconic symbol of Iceland. If you are even lucky, the Northern Lights are viewable in this part of the city.

12. Tap water is free and tastes great!
Last but definitely not the least, tap water in Iceland is amazing and it's free! Forget about bottled water. You don’t have to buy one in Iceland. The Icelandic tap water is the best tasting water I’ve ever tasted in my life. Seriously!

Do you have anything to add to this list of 12 free things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland? If yes, feel free to share your recommendations and leave your comment.

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