Advice about car hire and driving in Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik may possibly be one of the most pleasant capitals to be in, when it comes to driving a rental car. The city’s transport infrastructure still seems perfectly adequate for its population and use, which means traffic congestion is almost none existent – even in rush hour.
With an abundance of wide dual carriage ways and simple layout around and across the city, you can get from one end of the capital to the other in less than half an hour. Very few cyclists, no dedicated bus lanes, tram systems or even trains, means Reykjavik is straight forward to drive in as a tourist or visitor.
Driving during winter in Reykjavik, Iceland
Despite relatively mild weather compared to northern Iceland, occasionally there will be heavy snowfalls in Reykjavik during the winter season.
However, rental cars come with winter or snow tyres as they are sometimes referred to in the UK. These are not studded tyres, but tyres with different tread structure made from a rubber compound which remains soft and flexible even at subzero temperatures to secure optimal friction on ice and snow.
The municipal of Reykjavik discourage use of studded tyres in the city to limit tarmac wear and therefore use of studded tyres outside of the winter season is illegal.
A large fleet of snow ploughs and gritters are always on stand-by in Reykjavik during winter months, which means that even heavy snow falls has little to no effect on road traffic.
Should I rent a 4x4 in Reykjavik?
The Reykjavik area is relatively flat and all main roads in Reykjavik and its immediate surroundings are tarmacked and cleared from snow during winter. This is also the case with the main highway route 43 between Reykjavik and Keflavik airport, which means the benefits of 4x4 car hire in Reykjavik are limited, unless you plan to explore the more rural parts of Iceland during your stay.
Parking in Reykjavik
Reykjavik’s inner city centre is extremely compact, yet very accessible by car. As most locals choose to do their daily shopping in some of many malls and retail parks on Reykjavik’s outskirts, (where parking is free) it’s relatively easy to find parking in Reykjavik city centre as a visitor.
On and immediately around Reykjavik’s high street Laugavegur, pay and display and meter parking is available. However, if you don’t mind walking a few minutes, free parking is available in Reykjavik close to city centre Hotels and the high street.
Car hire companies in Reykjavik
There are plenty of down town car hire locations in Reykjavik at relatively competitive prices for City centre locations. Car hire is available from major car hire companies such as, Alamo, Avis, Sixt, Hertz and Pro Car Reykjavik. Car hire is also available from local providers Geysir Car hire and Route1.is car rental.
Things to do in Reykjavik
Shopping in Reykjavik
Reykjavik city centre has a very unique village-like high street, lined with traditional Icelandic small one and two storey buildings in various colour combinations. Despite this it has a very cosmopolitan feel with trendy cafes, gourmet restaurants, bars and up-market designer clothes boutiques.
Reykjavik offers great variety for its shopping visitors with everything from superior locally crafted wristwatches to traditional handmade sweaters made from Icelandic sheep’s wool.
And remember that if you are buying goods worth more than 4,000 ISK (approximately £20) Icelandic VAT is reimbursable at the Airport in Keflavik on your return. For more information use this link.
Christmas in Reykjavik
According to CNN International, Reykjavik is the best city in the world to spend Christmas holidays beating the likes of New York, London and Nuremberg. Plenty of seasonal activities for kids and a near guarantee of real snow make Reykjavik an excellent family destination to spend the holidays.
Music in Reykjavik
For those interested in music, Iceland Airwaves music festival showcases popular Icelandic artists and up and coming groups once a year. The Iceland airwaves festival takes place at various venues around Reykjavik typically in October. For lovers of classic music, Reykjavik’s all new concert hall, Harpa, opened in 2011 and has already received several international prizes for its acoustics and arcitecture.
Outdoors activities in Reykjavik
There are plenty of outdoors activities in and around Reykjavik. If you like animals try horseback riding on Icelandic ponies or why not go whale watching. Reykjavik also benefits from two 18 hole golf courses and more than ten Geothermal baths and hot springs.
History and Museums Reykjavik
In direct translation from Icelandic into English, Reykjavik means “Smokey Bay”. When the first Viking settlers set eye on the bay, hot geothermal steam was billowing out of the ground and was therefore named Reykjavik thereafter.
For more about the Viking crusaders and Iceland’s history, visit the National Museum of Iceland, which is located on the city centre outskirts. The attraction is well recommended for all ages and parking your hire car is free at Reykjavik National Museum of Iceland.
If you are looking for a more themed “Viking experience”, perhaps you should try ‘The Saga Museum’ located only 5 minutes drive in your hire car from Reykjavik town centre. The building (Perlan) in which the museum is located, is an attraction in itself as the top floor not only offers 360 degree panoramic view of the city, but also has a revolving restaurant covered by an enormous sky dome.
Dining and Nightlife
One of Iceland’s most important assets is its fishing industry. Therefore Reykjavik harbour and bay is an integral part of the city centre, not least for restaurants and cafés, who naturally take advantage of the short distance between where the fish are landed and their kitchens. Seafood simply doesn’t get fresher than this.
Generally it isn’t cheap to drink and dine in Iceland, although seafood is fairly priced compared to the UK, considering the quality of the product.
Reykjavik is renowned for having one of the best nightlife scenes in the world, which may possibly also be why it isn’t uncommon to bump into celebrities and Hollywood A-listers in Reykjavik. Bars and clubs are usually not just open to 4 or 5 in the morning, they are mostly jam packed and buzzing until closing time. Hence during summertime where the sun doesn’t set, it’s easy to lose track of time when you are going out.
What is the weather like in Reykjavik?
Summer in Iceland - weather during the summer in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is the world’s most Northern capital. Nevertheless, summers are surprisingly mild in Reykjavik with temperatures regularly exceeding 20 degrees Celsius because of the Gulf Stream. However, thanks to Reykjavik’s location on the edge of the Arctic weather system, temperatures can fluctuate radically, which means that temperatures between 0-10 degrees Celsius aren’t uncommon either during summer months.
Winter in Iceland - weather during the winter in Reykjavik
Never leave your Reykjavik hotel or hire car without a warm coat or jacket during winter. Even though temperatures occasionally are well above 0 Celsius on winter days, the Icelandic weather is notorious for changing within minutes. A sunny crisp winter day may change into a snow blizzard within the hour. So always bring warm clothes – also when driving.