Published March 14, 2017
When you’re visiting a foreign city, public transport can be a bit intimidating. Here in Reykjavík, however, getting the hang of it is pretty easy. There are no tube lines to get tangled up in, no metro, no Ubers, and no tram system. Basically, if you’re a non-driver who doesn’t wanna splurge on a cab—the bus system is it.
As well as tourist-centric hop-on-hop-off buses, there are a grand total of 26 bus lines covering most of Greater Reykjavík (and more that go further afield). In Reykjavík, city buses are known as “Strætó”—a nickname for “strætisvagn,” which translates literally as “street carriage.” Most major routes stop at the bus station, Hlemmur, at the top of the main Laugavegur strip. Many major routes also pass Harpa and the downtown thoroughfare of Lækjargata. So download the Strætó app, connect your credit card, and charge that baby up—for just 440 ISK per journey, your carriage awaits.
Take a hike: Úlfarsfell & Mount Esja
Everyone who comes to Iceland wants to get out and seesome of that famous beautiful nature. If you’re on foot, and on a budget, you can get the bus to the city limits and find two picturesque local hikes. Úlfarsfell is a small mountain with two walking paths to the top, and Esja is the large mountain just across the bay from Reykjavík. Take snow grips and waterproofs in winter. Seriously. You’ll thank us later.
Route: Strætó 15 from Hlemmur to Ártún. Change to Strætó 57 at Ártún. Disembark at the Úlfarsá stop for Úlfarsfell, or the Esjurætur stop for the Esja Hiking Centre.
Pro tip: The winner of our “Best Pool” category, the Mosfellsbær neighborhood pool Láfellslaug, is also in the area.
The end of the road: Seltjarnarnes & Grótta
This beautiful nature area sits on the very end of the Greater Reykjavík peninsula. There’s a lighthouse with a tidal causeway, a bird sanctuary, and a small hidden hotpot that you can bathe your feet in. There’s also a Medical & Healthcare Museum on Austurströnd, if you like… medical stuff.
Route: Strætó 11 from Hlemmur, Harpa or Lækjargata towards Seltjarnarnes. Disembark at the final stop, then walk to Grótta (approximately twenty minutes).
Pro tip: If you get deja vu, maybe you’ve been here before… virtually. The black beach was the location of Björk’s “Stonemilker VR” video.
Meet the neighbours: Hafnarfjörður
You probably came through this suburb of Reykjavík already, as it’s on the Flybus route. While it doesn’t look like much from the bus, it’s a great place to spend a day. Pallett is a popular coffee house, occupying the same building as the well-regarded Von Mathús restaurant. The old town has a variety of good local shops, bakeries and museums, a tucked-away park with crags of lava and an elf-themed shop and café, and there’s a viewpoint overlooking the seaside.
Route: Strætó 1, straight from Hlemmur to the final stop of Hafnarfjörður.
Pro tip: Hafnarfjörður has a quiet retro-style pool, Sundhöll Hafnarfjarðar, built in 1949; it’s located at Herjólfsgata 10, 220 Hafnarfjörður.
West side/best side: Vesturbær
If the weather is truly shitty, or you just don’t feel like walking, you can take a Strætó to the nearby suburb of Vesturbær. Vesturbæjarlaug is one of the best pools in town, and less packed with tourists than Sundhöllin or Laugardalslaug. Nearby Ægisíða is a picturesque seaside stretch with a path along the beach—a twenty-minute walk will get you to the manmade beach of Nauthólsvík, which has a hot pot and café.
Route: Strætó number 11 (final stop: Seltjarnarnes) from Hlemmur, Harpa or Lækjargata. Disembark at the stop named Hofsvallagata/Ægisíða.
Pro tip: Kaffihús Vesturbæjar and Borðið are great spots for coffee or lunch.
For more city tips and guides, buy a copy of the full Best Of Reykjavík 2017 magazine, posted worldwide, at gpv.is/buybestof.