With all of the amazing natural wonders that Iceland has to offer, visiting Iceland with kids is a bucket list trip for many families. Oddly, it feels like visiting Reykjavik with kids is often an afterthought – a place where people stay when they first arrive or about to leave Iceland.
We dedicated our last two days of our Iceland family vacation to seeing Reykjavik with our kids. We quite enjoyed Reykjavik’s charming town center and all of the amazing natural attractions which are easily done as a day trip.
Visiting Reykjavik with Kids
- Top 8 Things do Around Reykjavik with Kids
- Where to Stay in Reykjavik with Kids
- Getting Kids to Sleep in Iceland without Darkness
- Kid-Friendly Iceland Tours
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Top 8 Things do Around Reykjavik with Kids
With only 1 week in Iceland on our Icelandair Stopover, we had to make due with only 2 days in Reykjavik with kids. With so many incredible things to do around Reykjavik with kids, we made the most of our time. Here are the amazing things we did with our 2 days in Reykjavik with kids:
1. Skógafoss Waterfall
On our way from our cabin in the Golden Circle to Reykjavik, we decided to drive to South Iceland to see a few of Iceland’s most famous attractions.
The drive from the Golden Circle to the Skógafoss Waterfall was surprisingly boring. The vast majority of the Iceland landscape was flat with nothing to look at, but once you hit the mountains of South Iceland, the dramatic scenery makes up for lost time. The mountains rise up out of nowhere and are very beautiful, jagged and impressive.
We arrived at the Skógafoss Waterfall at 9am and were pleased with how empty the parking lot was. As we were getting ready for our Skógafoss Waterfall visit, the first tour bus pulled up. It was still pretty empty this early in the morning and there was still plenty of space for everyone.
By the time we left, the Skógafoss Waterfall parking lot was nearly full, so get to this famous Iceland waterfall as early as you can.
Thanks to its 200 foot vertical drop, you can see the Skógafoss Waterfall from the highway – that first glimpse of this famous waterfall will literally take your breath away. As you walk along the shores of the surprisingly gentle river which flows from the Skógafoss Waterfall, the views just get better and better.
There is a large rocky beach area just below the Skógafoss Waterfall where everyone stops to take pictures and admire the powerful elegance of the waterfall.
You can get surprisingly close to the Skógafoss Waterfall – if you have your kids in proper rain gear, they will love getting soaked! Our kids enjoyed playing around with the rocks on the beach, but it seemed like they were not into the Skógafoss Waterfall that much. Oh well, they’ll appreciate it later…
Once we had enough of the Skógafoss Waterfall from the bottom, it was time to climb the 300+ stairs to the lookout platform at the top of the waterfall. The stairs to the top of the Skógafoss Waterfall are pretty solid and we felt safe with the kids climbing them, but we did have to watch for them getting in the way of other people. As you’d expect, the view from the top of the Skógafoss Waterfall was pretty spectacular.
We were happy to see how safe the upper Skógafoss Waterfall viewing platform was for our small kids – there was simply no way they could get through that fence to fall through; it’s pretty rare to see this level of thought put into safety atop a platform like this.
2. Waterfall Way Hike
As excited as we were to see the Skógafoss Waterfall, we were equally excited to go on the kid-friendly Waterfall Way hike, which begins just beyond the upper viewing platform. The full length of the Waterfall Way hike is actually pretty long and hard, but the first section is an excellent kid-friendly Iceland hike – it’s fairly flat and follows the Skóga River through a beautiful mountaintop valley.
We were only hiking the Waterfall Way for a few minutes when we came across a really beautiful waterfall, one so beautiful it’d be a major attraction in almost any other country in the world, but it just so happens to be upstream of Skógafoss Waterfall, so its fate is to be largely ignored.
Even if you don’t want to hike the Waterfall Way with your kids, we recommend walking the 300m beyond the Skógafoss Waterfall viewing platform to this beautiful cascading waterfall.
But the fun doesn’t stop there, just a few more minutes up the Waterfall Way hiking trail is yet another amazing waterfall! It’s no wonder why they call this hike near Reykjavik the Waterfall Way!
The scenery along the Waterfall Way hike was just insanely beautiful. I was having thoughts like, “This could be one of the best family hikes we’ve ever done“, when disaster struck!! We ran into a “Trail Closed” sign!! Due to the spring thaw, the Waterfall Way trail was too sensitive to erosion and they closed the hiking trail until conditions improved. Aggghhhh!
We were having such a great time hiking the Waterfall Way, it was so disappointing to have to stop. According to the trail map on AllTrails, there were at least 8 more waterfalls beyond these two and we had wanted to see them all. How disappointing…
We are already planning a return trip to Iceland with our kids, so completing the Waterfall Way hike will be on our must-do list!!
3. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
Despite our disappointment in the Waterfall Way spring trail closure, we knew there were still plenty of amazing things to do near Reykjavik with kids. Not to be defeated, we hopped in our rental car and drove 25 minutes towards Reykjavik to the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, because chasing waterfalls is one of the top things to do in Iceland with kids.
Although it is much skinnier than the Skógafoss Waterfall, the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is just as high. The reason why the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is one of the best things to do near Reykjavik with kids, is that you can walk all the way behind the waterfall! We elected to do walked behind the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall at the end of our visit as we didn’t want to walk around with soaking wet clothes.
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There is an easy walking trail from the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall which leads you to three additional towering waterfalls. The third waterfall is pretty unique in that you can only see glimpses of it through narrow canyon walls. If you are brave enough you can attempt to walk up the canyon on a few rocks in the river to get a closer view.
We appreciated this bonus kid-friendly hike past the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall after the abrupt ending to the Waterfall Way hike.
After the short Seljalandsfoss Waterfall hike, it was time to walk the loop behind the beautiful South Iceland waterfall. The amount of spray the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall kicks up is enormous, so make sure you and your kids are properly dressed for it – make sure everything from head-to-toe is waterproof! Make sure your camera and phone are well protected as there are spots in behind the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall where you can take some fun family photos.
You’ll likely need to carry your kids on parts of the trail around the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall as the stairs and rocks are slippery. But there are also parts where your kids can walk and enjoy being part of an amazing nature experience – there are very few places where you can have a waterfall experience as unique as this! This incredible experience is one of the best things to do in Iceland with kids!
We didn’t actually walk all the way around the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall hiking loop as we found the rock steps on the far end of the waterfall to be too slippery and dangerous to carry small kids up. Not a big deal – getting behind the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall was the important part.
We are nearing the end of our Iceland family vacation and to be honest, I was feeling like I’d seen enough Iceland waterfalls. I almost didn’t want to make the drive out to see these two South Iceland waterfalls, but I’m very glad I did. The Skógafoss Waterfall and the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall were amazing and incredibly fun things to do with kids in Iceland!
4. Reykjanesfólkvangur Nature Preserve
On our second day in Reykjavik with kids, we hopped in the car around 7:45 am and drove to the Reykjanesfólkvangur Nature Preserve. This beautiful geothermal park is just minutes south of Reykjavik and we were shocked by how empty it was.
The landscape as you drive through this geothermal nature preserve is amazing; the road snakes its way through moss covered lava fields, rugged mountains, lakes with black sand, and many more surprises.
Our primary destination in the Reykjanesfólkvangur Nature Preserve was the Krýsuvík geothermal field. This active Iceland geothermal area near Reykjavik is home to steaming streams and ponds of boiling mud and water, surrounded by yellow, green and red soil. It was around 37F (3C) during our visit, so the steam coming off the Krýsuvík geothermal ponds gave a spooky ambience.
This may sound funny to say, but visiting the Krýsuvík geothermal field really felt like a true Icelandic experience. It’s exactly the kind of geothermal experience I wanted to give my kids in Iceland.
The Krýsuvík geothermal field is a great place for a short kid-friendly hike near Reykjavik. As one of the top geothermal areas near Reykjavik, a visit to Krýsuvík is a must-do attraction in Iceland with kids.
When you are dealing with boiling water and mud, you really need to watch your kids closely. Our two-year old wasn’t listening very well during our visit to the Krýsuvík geothermal field, so we needed to pick him up for his own safety.
Krýsuvík has wooden boardwalks and groomed, easy trails winding their way through the out-of-this-world terrain. The whole kid-friendly hike around the Krýsuvík geothermal field is less than 0.6miles (1km).
If you are eager for a longer hike with your kids, you can take the trail which branches off from the ‘easy loop’ up a hill to another hot spring. We had hoped to do this hike, but due to the howling wind and rain, we elected not to go up as we have learned through experience that the wind in Iceland gets stronger the higher up you go.
A very quick drive south of Krýsuvík geothermal field brings you to Gígvatnsvatn Lake. This short drive is worth it to see the vibrant blue color of the water. The sky was dark & cloudy during our visit and the water was still an amazing color – I’d love to see Gígvatnsvatn Lake on a blue sky day, the color must be incredible!
There is a Gígvatnsvatn Lake hike which begins in the parking lot to a nearby mountain peak, but again, we passed on this opportunity due to the inclement weather.
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5. Reykjavik with Kids
After the Krýsuvík geothermal field, we drove to downtown Reykjavik and parked next to Arnarhóll Park. From here, we enjoyed walking through Reykjavik to its best known landmark, the Lutheran church Hallgrimskirkja.
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With its 74m tall spire, Hallgrimskirkja is the tallest structure in Reykjavik and can be seen throughout the city. A modern church by European standards, the Hallgrimskirkja church was consecrated in 1986. Its unique design was inspired by the elements of Iceland’s landscape, such as trap rocks, glaciers and mountains.
We thought the simple, yet elegant interior of Hallgrimskirkja was one of the most beautiful church interiors we have ever seen. I could just imagine how amazing the massive pipe organ would sound in there.
One of our favorite things to do with kids is climbing towers and had hoped to be able to climb up the Hallgrimskirkja tower, but the only way to the top is by elevator. So we paid our admission fee and up we went.
The elevator up the Hallgrimskirkja tower takes you to a room where you are behind the four clocks atop the tower. You still need to climb a few flights of stairs to get to the outdoor Hallgrimskirkja observation deck.
The views from the Hallgrimskirkja observation deck are excellent and we could see quite far despite the cloudy, rainy weather. It was very windy up there and we needed to hold on to our cameras extra tight.
The Hallgrimskirkja observation deck is safe for kids as all the viewing windows are approximately 4 feet off the ground. If smaller kids want to see, they will need to be lifted up by an adult. A visit to the Hallgrimskirkja church is a fun thing to do in Reykjavik with kids!
Next we walked to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a hot dog stand which we saw featured on a food travel show on Netflix called Ainsley Eats the Streets.
Hot dogs you ask? Well, not only do our kids love hot dogs, but Icelandic hot dogs have a reputation for being way better than their American counterparts. Hot dogs in Iceland are made from lamb, pork and beef and served on a steamed bun with raw onions, crispy white onions, ketchup, pylsusinnep (a sweet brown mustard) and remoulade (a sauce made with mayonnaise, mustard, capers and herbs).
We found a little spot nearby which was sheltered from the rain and enjoyed our Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dogs. They were indeed very good hot dogs and the steamed bun was a nice touch on a cold, wet Reykjavik day. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say they are better than American hot dogs, but they do serve up a tasty hot dog.
6. Blue Lagoon with Kids
We were grateful for one more full morning in Reykjavik with our kids before catching our flight back home to Banff, Canada. We wanted to do something special on our last day in Iceland, so naturally we chose to visit the world-famous Blue Lagoon with our kids.
Visiting the Blue Lagoon was a really special thing to do near Reykjavik with kids. Visiting the Blue Lagoon from Reykjavik is expensive, but it’s totally worth it. The Blue Lagoon is a ways outside of Reykjavik, so the easiest way to visit the Blue Lagoon with kids is to buy Blue Lagoon tickets with transportation from Reykjavik.
Being such a popular thing to do in Reykjavik with kids, there is a wide variety of tours to the Blue Lagoon from Reykjavik. There’s sure to be one which will be amazing for your family.
Be sure to read our post on the Blue Lagoon with kids.
7. Gunnuhver Geothermal Area
We loved the geothermal springs we visited earlier in our trip, so after our incredible visit to the Blue Lagoon with kids, we couldn’t resist a visit to the nearby Gunnuhver Geothermal Area. This Icelandic geothermal area has wooden walkways leading to a viewing platform for the single dominant steam vent in the area.
This geothermal steam vent was easily the biggest we had seen during our week in Iceland. The large pool of water underneath the steam vent was violently boiling, showing just how close the magma pool must be to surface. Yikes! It’s an incredible show of nature’s force, making the Gunnuhver Geothermal Area a really interesting thing to do with kids near Reykjavik.
Another interesting thing to do with kids near the Blue Lagoon is Midlina (The Bridge between Continents). We didn’t have time to stop, but we were able to see this 50 foot long bridge from the highway. This bridge is special as it spans a valley which is being continually created as the North American tectonic plate diverges from the Eurasian plate.
This is the same tectonic phenomenon on display at the Thingvellir National Park in Iceland’s Golden Circle. If you aren’t able to make the trip to the Thingvellir National Park, Midlina is an excellent (and much less busy) alternative.
Where to Stay in Reykjavik with Kids
The decision on where to stay in Reykjavik with kids depends a lot on how long you are staying in Iceland with your kids and what you are doing.
If you are only in Iceland with kids for a few days and are not venturing far from Reykjavik, we’d recommend you get a kid-friendly hotel in central Reykjavik. Most day tours from Reykjavik offer hotel pickup, making it much easier for you to see some of Iceland’s top attractions without a rental car.
If you are on an Iceland family vacation and have a rental car, then we recommend getting a vacation home rental in Reykjavik. Having a rental car means you can save money by not getting a place to stay in central Reykjavik.
When traveling with kids, we have a strong preference for staying in a vacation home rental. We find that the kids sleep better when they have their own bedrooms, and it’s nice to have laundry facilities to wash our clothes.
Another big benefit of getting a vacation rental is having a kitchen to cook some of your own meals. Eating out is very expensive in Iceland, so having your own kitchen helps have an Iceland family vacation on a budget. We typically like to have a healthy breakfast at home, pack a good lunch, then reward ourselves to a great meal at a restaurant in the evening, but aside from the hot dogs, we made all our meals at our vacation home rental in Reykjavik.
Getting Kids to Sleep in Iceland without Darkness
If you are traveling to the Iceland with a toddler (or a baby) during the endless days of summer, your kids may have trouble sleeping without darkness.
If you are worried about your kids sleeping in Iceland, consider traveling with a Slumberpod. This ingenious product will create a dark sleeping area for your toddler, and it even works with the popular toddler travel beds like the Shrunks Junior.
If your kids are too big for a Slumberpod, travel blackout blinds are also an option to consider helping your kids sleep in Iceland.
Kid-Friendly Iceland Tours
If you are looking for an 8-day family-friendly Iceland tour which visits many of the locations from our Iceland family vacation, check out the Geysers, Glaciers and Fjords tour by National Geographic.
In addition to many of our Iceland family vacation ideas, this epic National Geographic family tour of Iceland includes whale watching, a visit to an Icelandic horse farm, explore a lava tunnel, and an excursion to the volcanic Westman Islands to search for puffins and whales.
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