Harpa picture
Iarigan - Patricia Hamilton/Getty Images

Key Info

Austurbakki 2

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Entertainment and Nightlife, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.0

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 4.5Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

One of Reykjavik's easiest structures to recognize is its concert hall and conference center, Harpa. Situated at the western end of the Sculpture and Shore Walk, Harpa's modern design regularly woos vacationers and architecture buffs alike. In fact, the window-centric building has won numerous design accolades, including the 2013 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award and the Gramophone Magazine World Architecture Award 2010. The performing arts venue also hosts an array of events, from symphony shows and comedic acts to the Reykjavik Jazz Festival.

First-time visitors love exploring this impressive structure. However, some past travelers who initially visited before 2017 were a bit disappointed to see that the building now limits where you can wander. The lobby, its shops and its restaurants are still free to visit, but checking out Harpa's performance areas and using its bathrooms will now cost you a small fee.

Harpa is within walking distance of the Sun Voyager sculpture and central Reykjavik, but travelers can also take the city's bus to an adjacent bus stop or park on-site for 250 Icelandic króna (or about $2.50) per hour. For those who don't attend a scheduled event – some are free, while others cost at least 1,500 Icelandic króna ($14.50) per person – but want to explore beyond the lobby, the property offers guided tours. Thirty-minute tours between June 19 and August 16 are available hourly between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and cost 1,500 Icelandic króna per person; tours lasting 45 minutes are offered from August 17 to June 18 on weekdays at 3:30 p.m. and on weekends at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. for 2,200 Icelandic króna ($21) per person. Additional information about Harpa's architecture, events and tours is available on the property's website.

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More Best Things To Do in Reykjavik

Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)1 of 10
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#1 Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)

The aurora borealis (or northern lights) can be an almost eerie sight: Picture emerald green swirls coloring the otherwise darkened sky. But scientists have a boring explanation for this phenomenal natural light show – "collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the Earth's atmosphere," according to the Northern Lights Centre. Still, it's a pretty breathtaking sight, and if you're visiting Reykjavik in winter, you might want to stake out some time for northern lights gazing.

Although you can see the lights from Reykjavik, you'll increase your chances of viewing them outside of the city. Previous travelers recommend taking a tour with local companies like BusTravel Iceland or Reykjavik Excursions. (But keep in mind that the aurora borealis requires a perfect cocktail of climate conditions in order to show – so you're not guaranteed to see the elusive display of lights even if you book a tour.) If you'd rather hunt for this natural phenomenon on your own, time your visit between September and mid-April.

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