The Reykjavik Marathon is fast approaching, and now that the four-week countdown to the race is on, we wanted to provide our best recommendations if you are traveling there this summer!
Be sure that if you plan to cheer along the route, you get one of our special edition t-shirts (translating to "first cheer then beer") before they sell out:
Where to Stay?
If you haven’t booked your accommodations yet, you have some great options to explore.
We stayed at the Icelandair Hotel in the Reykjavik Marina and would highly recommend it. We loved this spot for its modern and cheeky interior design, location along the marina, and hip bar located on the main floor. The staff were friendly and helpful, working with us to arrange tours and make recommendations as needed. The marathon route travels right along the marina, so staying here will also be extremely central to all things marathon-related.
Another great option, especially if you are traveling as a group or a family, is an Airbnb. We found Reykjavik quite expensive when it came to food and drinks, so staying in local accommodations can help you cut down on some costs by giving you the freedom to eat a few meals in. Like many cities though, Airbnb has been facing legal pressure in Reykjavik, so your options are more limited these days, and as a result rental prices a bit higher as well. That said, it is still worth exploring the availability of an apartment, and we enjoyed this round-up of places put together by The Culture Trip.
What to Do?
You may only be heading there for marathon weekend, so you will want to make the most of your time. We visited Friend in Iceland to help us with our planning, and were able to arrange an unforgettable helicopter ride as well as a self-guided tour of the Golden Circle. If you do take us up on our recommendation to stay at the Icelandair Marina Hotel, you will be just steps away from Friend in Iceland’s harbour-based office. They have a bright red sign out front on a teal building, and you will head up the stairs to chat with a helpful and friendly advisor about your planning needs.
A few highlights of our time exploring Reykjavik included:
The Blue Lagoon: Technically outside of Reykjavik, this geothermal spa is considered one of the 25 wonders of the world. You could visit it on your way to or from the airport, but if you’re running the marathon, we recommend this for a day-after-the-marathon excursion. You can soak your weary legs in the incredible blue waters. You must book in advance, and we went for the most basic package (“Comfort” for EUR 54) and had an incredible time.
Helicopter Tour: Explore Reykjavik from above on a guided helicopter tour with Helo. For this adventure, we also selected the Reykjavik Mountain View experience, which had us in the air for under an hour and included a landing on a nearby mountaintop. This would be a perfect pre-marathon excursion while you’re still saving your legs for race day!
Golden Circle: There are many ways to approach touring the Golden Circle, either in a self-guided fashion or with a formal tour. Either way, you should take the opportunity to get out of the city for a few hours and see the wonders of Iceland’s countryside. It is along the Golden Circle route that you will find the incredible waterfalls that are a hallmark of Iceland’s beauty, as well as Geysir, the first known geyser in modern Europe. If you visit Friend in Iceland, they will be happy to help you map a route for yourselves, or set you up with a local bus tour.
Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral: This Lutheran cathedral is one of the highest points in the city, so you can’t miss it when you arrive in Reykjavik. It is considered a primary landmark of Reykjavik and was only completed in 1986. To enter the tower of the cathedral costs ISK 1000 (approximately 8 EUR or $9.40 USD), and is well worth the small entrance fee for the views.
Where to Eat?
Healthy food abounds at any one of Glo’s four locations around Reykjavik. Fresh wraps, salads, and entrees feature generous portion of vegetables with meat to help you fuel up or recover from the marathon. Boasting an impressive 4.5 stars on Google Reviews, this spot is a favorite among locals and travelers alike.
The Sea Baron
This seafood shack is located on the marina and is a hidden gem offering incredible local eats. The wood-paneled interior features nautical artwork, and lengthy wooden tables that look like tree trunks sliced long-ways. You'll get a big basket of bread, an amazing lobster soup, and can choose skewers of fresh fish or meat that they will grill for you in the back. Don’t be fooled by the rustic atmosphere, the food is nothing short of spectacular.
Grai Kotturin (”The Gray Cat”)
This is where you will find your "American style" breakfast to fuel up the day before the marathon. Serving fluffy pancakes with sides of eggs and strong coffee, this tiny spot will not let you down. As for design, they feature some funky artwork. For example, they have bulldog faces on the wall and one of them is named "Pamela Anderson."
Icelandic Fish & Chips
The name sort of gives it all away, but this casual bistro has been open for about twelve years and serves consistently delicious fish and chips. While staying authentic to the dish’s British roots, Icelandic Fish & Chips steps it up a notch with an incredible light but crispy batter and locally produced dips to complement your food. Located down by the marina, this spot makes for a perfect midday meal or a casual dinner. If fish & chips specifically are not your thing, you are in luck as they also make a variety of other dishes including mussels, langoustines, soups, and an assortment of salads.
Eclectic in its décor, and plentiful in its menu options, this Spanish tapas restaurant will be a crowd-pleaser no matter who you are traveling with. You can select dishes from sea, land, or garden, and will easily create a feast for your table to enjoy. For groups under 6 people, you can book online directly on the restaurant’s website to reserve a table in advance.
If it is in fact the marathon that takes you to Reykjavik, best of luck! It's an incredible city, and the course will take you around great views both within and outside of downtown Reykjavik. Of the close to 7,000 runners who participate, there will be over 50 different countries represented from around the world, and the post-race atmosphere in downtown Reykjavik will be like an international block party. Have an amazing time, and don't forget to sport a Spectator Sports Special Edition Reykjavik shirt along the route!