Grapevine’s guide on where to catch the midnight sun
Sunsets in Reykjavík offer something otherworldly to the beholder, whether you’re a die-hard sunset chaser (like me) or simply can’t adjust your sleep schedule to the extended daylight hours (also like me). Of course, the nights don’t actually get dark during Icelandic summers, but if you’re willing to stay up until midnight and adjust your plans to the unpredictable weather, you’ll be rewarded with a long-lasting flare of color reflected over the beautiful North Atlantic. We’ve compiled a few of the best places in Reykjavík to watch the sunset—perfect for solo adventures, gatherings with friends, or a romantic rendezvous.
Grótta Island Lighthouse
This is a popular spot any night of the week, so don’t expect solitude. However, it’s popular for a reason—you’ll be treated to a sweeping westward view of the ocean and far-out peninsulas, plus Mount Esja and the city skyline over your shoulder. Be warned that the island is closed for most of the summer for bird breeding, and even when the path is open, you need to be aware of the tides so you don’t get stuck. Don’t let this discourage you, though, because the view from the parking lot is still quite lovely.
Viðey Ferry Terminal
For the people-averse among us, the ferry terminal may offer the solitude you crave. Situated at the northeast end of Reykjavík’s shore walk, you’ll find an unobstructed view of the ocean, pockmarked only by the occasional boat. Mount Esja is to your right, hovering over Viðey. If you want to get closer to the water, a staircase leads to a small beach (Skarfaklettur) with a whale-sized boulder. If you’re more inclined to see a city skyline, this is not the place—but other than that, this spot is pretty perfect.
Red Steel Pyramid Bridges
Far from downtown, this spot gets less traffic than others on this list. Park at the Geirsnef dog park and walk along the path toward the ocean. You won’t have a full view of the horizon, but the two red steel pyramid bridges by Teiknistofan Tröð add some man-made drama to the landscape. Lupines, in season through early summer, accent the shoreline. This isn’t your traditional sunset viewing spot, but it’s still worth a trip.
Reykjavík Harbour and Harpa
You’ll never be alone around Harpa, but I’m always surprised to see only a handful of teens and tourists lingering for sunset here. Walk the short distance out to Ingólfsgarður Lighthouse, and you’ll be treated to a number of sea-worthy sights: fishers casting off, boats coming in for the night, and the fluffy green Þúfa. The nautical objects serve as a reminder of Iceland’s maritime history as you watch the sun dip below the horizon of Faxaflói bay. While you’re at it, you can walk along the shore walk to Sólfar—an artistic reminder of the nation’s Viking past.
Situated on a hill overlooking downtown Reykjavík and the waters beyond, Perlan offers a panoramic view of the sunset, though it feels rather distant when you aren’t right by the shoreline. Head behind the iconic dome and you’ll find a network of walking trails, some leading to mysterious underground bunkers. Standing just above them you’ll spot the University of Iceland, Hallgrímskirkja, and several looming construction cranes. For you visiting city folk, this is probably as close to a metropolitan sunset as you’ll get.
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