Reykjavík is full of family-friendly activities if you know where to look. So you can avoid asking random parents pushing their vintage strollers for advice, here’s a list to guide you through the day.
You can start your day by going to one of our wonderful pools. It’s not only a great way to have fun with your kids, it also cleans them really well so there’s no need to risk an early-evening scream session by the bathtub when the little ones are tired after a fun-filled day.
Most pools open at 6:30 in the morning on weekdays. So it’s a perfect post-breakfast activity for early birds. Insider’s note: Icelandic parents sometimes take their kids to the pool for a quick splash right after dinner and dress them in their pyjamas when they leave the pool, then drive home and put the kids straight to bed.
To see which pool is closest to you, check your nearest tourist information desk.
WHERE TO TAKE KIDS FOR LUNCH?
Any Icelander will tell you that you are never as hungry as after a trip to swimming pool. This is why almost every single pool in Reykjavík has a hot dog stand nearby. While an occasional hot dog is of course fine, many parents opt for a more substantial and healthy meal for the kids—often while enjoying great coffee themselves. Where you go depends on your kid’s age.
Babies and Toddlers: Bergsson Mathús
The calm atmosphere at Bergsson Mathús is extremely childfriendly and their weekend brunch is one of the best in town. Toddlers playing on the floor is not an uncommon sight and just the sheer volume of prams outside the restaurant should be recommendation enough.
Preschoolers: Laundromat Café
In the basement at the Laundromat is a large room filled with toys, books and pillows— so much fun for the kids to hang out and play in, while parents have a real conversation upstairs. The Laundromat is reasonably priced and is also well stocked with board games for older children or adult players.
Schoolkids: Café Babalú
Café Babalú is a charming establishment on Skólavörðustígur, filled with gorgeous artefacts that look like they were found in a grandparent’s attic. If you want to see the pillows our grandmothers sewed in middle school, this is the place to go. In addition to serving many great small dishes, they have—speaking from experience—the best Nutella cheesecake in town. Café Babalú has a great selection of board games and just an overall nice ambiance that anyone can enjoy.
After a nice lunch, and perhaps a stroll around downtown, it’s perfect to walk down to The Pond (Tjörnin) and enjoy the birdlife. Remember that even though some still feed the birds, the city of Reykjavík has asked that we don’t, because bread’s not good for them and it attracts massive numbers of seagulls, who not only steal the bread away from the ducks, but also find their offspring quite delicious.
If you cross the street that cuts The Pond in half with a bridge, you enter one of Reykjavík’s funnest parks, Hljómskálagarðurinn. Tucked away in the southeast corner of the park there are all kinds of different outdoor toys for kids—everything from swing sets for toddlers to huge rope structures for bigger kids (and adults!) to climb in, as well as fields for soccer or badminton. And if you’re still in the mood for some food, just fire up the barbecue! All you need is some food and coals. The park boasts a huge barbecue and a great seating area too.
REYKJAVÍK ZOO AND BOTANIC GARDENS
Many Icelandic parents visit the Reykjavík Zoo with their kids. It’s not your regular zoo with lions and tigers, it’s a domestic animal zoo with sheep and chicks and ducks. They even have a small aquarium that school kids really like, and connected to the Zoo is a small park with rides. Bear in mind that the Reykjavík Zoo is by no means a spectacular establishment. While the rides are not pricey many of them bear signs of corporate sponsorship. The coffee isn’t all that great either and many opt to skip the Zoo all together and go to the Botanic Gardens—where they do have great coffee, at Café Flora, and wonderful outdoor picnic areas surrounded by the gorgeous flora of Iceland.
REYKJAVÍK CITY LIBRARY
Many of the aforementioned options work much better in nice weather, but as we say in Iceland: There is no bad weather, just lousy clothing. If you don’t subscribe to our philosophy, a great way to spend an afternoon is to hang out in the children’s department at the Reykjavík City Library. Take the elevator to the second floor and immerse yourself in books and educational toys. And for the toddlers, there is a huge playpen with all kinds of toys, so children of all ages can find something to enjoy.