My partner and I recently visited Iceland for a winter break and between renting a car and road tripping, we took some time exploring Reykjavík, where we were based for our trip.
I can’t believe I’m actually writing these words – but my boyfriend and I recently headed to Iceland for a short winter break! Iceland has been on my bucket list for years and years – as I’m sure it’s on many people’s ‘must-visit lists – so I’m still in awe that I actually got to go.
It was an absolute dream and I cannot wait to share all the amazing memories of what we got up to.
Booking our winter break in Iceland with LuckyTrip
About a month into my new job, I won Star of the Month which awarded me a £400 gift card on anything I see fit. I chose travel vouchers, of course, with LuckyTrip. LuckyTrip is this really cool app that finds awesome affordable trips based on your budget – and each trip includes flights, hotel and usually some sort of activity or excursion too (I say usually as if it’s an excursion it’s often included in the price but sometimes it will suggest, for example, a local coffee shop to visit which obviously isn’t included in the price).
I was delighted when I found a trip for Iceland that we could book more or less using my gift card – and the entire process was really easy. LuckyTrip kept us updated the entire time in terms of any restrictions we had to follow to enter Iceland (and explained them really thoroughly to me) and were super helpful at helping me book additional luggage.
The only issue we did have was when we booked the tests we needed to take to enter Iceland. We purchased discounted tests at the recommendation of LuckyTrip but the days before we were due to leave, by chance, I saw on a Facebook group about travelling in Iceland that the tests weren’t actually valid as they were home tests. Although our travel advisor did look into this further and said we were fine to use the tests we already had, other travellers in the group said otherwise. Obviously, LuckyTrip knows best but with restrictions changing so often, we decided to go ahead and book a rapid antigen test at a drive-through centre anyway, just to be on the safe side.
This did mean a mad rush the day before we were due to fly and meant we’d wasted money on the previous tests – however, restrictions changing is pretty much a given when choosing to travel during these times.
On the note of travelling during Covid-19, I’d also like to add that we took necessary precautions at all time – at the current time, you are required to wear masks on all flights with EasyJet and in indoor spaces in Iceland – which we adhered to at all times – as well as taking the necessary tests before we flew, after our return to the UK and providing proof of being fully vaccinated.
But onto the fun stuff: what we got up to!
We actually spent our first and last (full) day exploring the capital, Reykjavík.
Once we’d arrived in Iceland and checked into our hotel, we wrapped up warm and took a stroll around central Reykjavík. We stayed in Fosshotel Baron – a three-star hotel in the heart of the city and overlooking the water with the mountains in the background! I can’t comment on the price as it was included in our booking but I was surprised to read that it was three-star, as it was really lovely. It was cosy, the staff were super helpful and the breakfast was tasty and filling too. Although they did give us a room which essentially had two bedrooms with four single beds in, rather than a double bed which was quite funny! Luckily we both managed to squeeze into the single bed. Also, the hotel was really warm at all times too and was direct across the road from a Dominoes, with a supermarket about a 30-second walk away too. It took us only five minutes to walk into the main part of Reykjavík as well – and the hotel had free parking. All in all, I’d definitely recommend Fosshotel Baron.
Reykjavík is an absolutely beautiful place – busier than I expected, with a lot of tourists, but still very authentic and not touristy at all. I was also surprised to find many shops and homes decorating for Christmas, which made me really happy – exploring this cute seasonal town with snowy mountains around us. It really got me in the mood for Christmas and I particularly liked shopping in the ‘all year round’ Christmas shops that were filled to the brim with tasteful decorations and The Icelandic Yule Lads baubles.
Our first day found us mostly just wandering around, before grabbing a late lunch/early dinner at Bastard Brew and Food. Though the food was pretty much your standard English food, it was really, really tasty and just about within our budget. We soon discovered that Iceland is a pricey place and you can soon use up your budget on eating out – and especially on alcohol, sometimes even when partaking in happy hour!
So we were happy enough just finding somewhere cheap to eat as opposed to hunting down authentic Icelandic dishes. Bastard Brew and Food did the job with delicious meals which were good sized portions and tasty cocktails to match. I particularly liked the ‘vibe’ in here too, it was very laid back and cosy but also like a high-end pub with funky decor.
On our first evening, we headed out on a Northern Lights Luxury Yacht Tour – because of course, we wanted to see the northern lights! Unfortunately, we weren’t very lucky this first night, but the experience of sailing out on the yacht was really lovely on its own. We headed out with a relatively small group and the team really looked after us, allowing us to wait inside in the warmth and encouraging us to go outside when we had a chance of seeing the lights – though of course we were allowed to explore the yacht at our own free will at any time – both inside and out! The yacht had its own history too, having been purchased basically as a luxury yacht for leisure. We were able to see one of the bedrooms as it was back then. Inside, we were offered blankets and could order boozy hot chocolate from the bar, when waiting inside by candlelight. It was really lovely and romantic.
As a bonus, if you don’t see the lights, you’re able to rebook for free until you can!
We headed back the following night and were a little luckier – getting to see the faint green lights in the distance. Although the lights are, of course, nothing like the photos and actually pretty hard to see just with the naked eye, I found it a little emotional and am glad that I managed to tick seeing them off my bucket list.
We spent our last full day in Iceland staying closer to the hotel and exploring Reykjavík too. We’d done pretty much all of our driving the previous few days (blog post to follow) and wanted to enjoy a more slow day visiting museums and picking up souvenirs.
We spent the morning visiting Perlan – a historical landmark and interactive museum that sits upon a big hill just outside of the centre of Reykjavík. The museum boasts a planetarium show all about the northern lights, an in-depth look at the wildlife of Iceland and global warming, a fantastic observation offering stunning views of the city and an indoor man-made ice cave! It was the perfect way to kill a few hours and avoid the cold.
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Afterwards, we popped into the quirky and tiny (seriously tiny – it’s within an underground toilet!) Punk museum, and stopped at Messinn for some delicious authentic Icelandic lamb soup in a bread bowl. It was probably the only time we ate actual Icelandic food (apart from a hotdog from the famous hot dog stand!) when exploring Reykjavík, and it was super tasty.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon taking photos of the city and I shopped for a souvenir Christmas ornament. We also spent a good half an hour inside Fótógrafí – a, you guessed it, photographers shop. As Shaun is a photographer himself, it was nice talking to the owner about his way of life, photographing Iceland and owning his shop.
That night, we grabbed food at Lebowski Bar (based on the movie), but it was so packed as the football was on that we didn’t really get to enjoy it. I did, however, really enjoy stopping in this really cute bar/cafe (which I cannot find the name of right now), for pre-drinks. Every time we passed it, it caught my eye – a couple of steps down from street level, the outside (and inside) was adjourned with those bright and bold Christmas fairy lights and lots of old school Christmas decorations – and inside was just as seasonal!
I loved ambling into the tiny bar, pulling off my huge coat and scarf and hats and gloves and setting into a cosy sofa for a seasonal beer with Christmas music playing. It was exactly what I imagined bars to be like at Christmas time, and I was so happy to experience it, even just for one drink. I was over the moon.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Reykjavík – take it. This little town has so much charm which I suspect lasts all year round, but it’s truly beautiful during winter. I felt like I was in a winter wonderland much of the time, so it was perfect for an unexpected seasonal break.
That’s pretty much how we spent our time when staying in Reykjavík – I’d have loved to visit all the pretty looking bars or try some of the authentic cuisines but our budget was all used up for the adventures we went on outside of the capital!
I enjoyed this part of our holiday so much that I would without a doubt recommend visiting Iceland for a short break this winter and just spend your time exploring Reykjavík – particularly if you’re looking for a romantic and seasonal break. You’ll find it all here in this charming place and with it being just a couple of hours flight from the UK – why wouldn’t you?!
Keep an eye out for my next posts sharing our experiences of the Golden Circle and other amazing sights around the country – and if you enjoyed this post, please do share it!
Have you ever had the pleasure of exploring Iceland? Would you consider visiting Reykjavík for a winter break? Let me know your thoughts below!