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What to Do in Reykjavik During Iceland’s Dark Season

By Jessie November 11, 2019

How to Enjoy Reykjavik After Dark

You’re in the middle of planning your winter getaway to Reykjavik, only to realize that most of your time will be spent in the dark. While known for its summer midnight sun, Iceland sunset occurs as early as 3:30 p.m. in winter.

Not to worry — the darker days of Reykjavík don’t have to throw a wrench in your plans! Instead of staying holed up inside, embrace all that Reykjavík’s all-day nightlife has to offer with the best ways to have fun in Reykjavik after dark!

Stay Caffeinated

Coffee culture is serious business in Reykjavík. For a city that experiences a maximum of four to five hours of daylight at the peak of winter, it’s no wonder that Reykjavik has so many cafes. After all, how better to fight the urge to crawl into a ball and hibernate all winter than with a cup of the world’s greatest pick-me-up

Cafe options in Reykjavik range from quirky and cozy sit-down coffeehouses to larger chains suited to people on the go. If you’re looking for international coffee chains like Starbucks, you’re out of luck. All cafes are Icelandic-owned, ensuring an authentic caffeinated adventure. 

Our personal favorite is a warm and cozy cat cafe in downtown Reykjavik. Kattakaffihúsið is the first cat cafe in Iceland, and it’s also a temporary home to cats looking to become someone’s permanent friends. Whether you’re considering adopting a cat, or simply want to enjoy their company while having a slice of freshly baked cake, Kattakaffihusid is the perfect place to cozy up during the dark season. Oh, and their mouthwatering menu is mostly vegan and has plenty of gluten-free options, so everyone will find a tasty treat!

Check Out a Festival

A long list of lively winter festivals happen in Reykjavik each winter—a clear sign that dark winter nights don’t stop Icelanders from having a good time! From big name live music fests to culinary events for serious foodies, Reykjavik winter festivals offer something for everyone. Check out these winter festivals while exploring Reykjavik after dark:

Go for a Dip

Icelandic people are big swimming pool enthusiasts. It’s not uncommon for locals to spend hours soaking in a hot tub or swimming laps at the pool. Most pools are open all year, and with over 18 to choose from in Reykjavik alone, there’s no reason to stop being active once the sun does down! Who knows — you may even catch the Northern Lights while gazing up from one of  Reykjavik’s geothermal swimming pools.

A word of advice: Icelandic people take the cleanliness of their pools very seriously, so be prepared to grab some soap, get butt-naked and have a full-bodied shower before getting into the water. 

Enjoy Local Music at Gamla Bíó

Once an old cinema house, Gamla Bíó is now a great place to stay warm while getting your dance on to some live music. For people looking to grab a bite before the show, the concert hall also has a rooftop lounge with bar snacks, drinks, and an incredible view.

This live music venue is a great place to get a pulse on the ever-evolving local music scene in Iceland. With its great acoustics, cozy vibe, and diverse weekly line-ups, Gamla Bíó is a must-visit spot for music lovers in Reykjavik.

Warm Up With a Drink (or Three!)

It should come as no shock that one of the best things to do in Reykjavik at night is go drinking. If you’re looking for things to do in the middle of the night, there’s no shortage of Reykjavik bars open late to keep you warm during frigid winter days. 

You can find a wide variety of craft beer and standard lagers at most bars in Reykjavík. Is beer not your thing? There are plenty of cocktail bars to choose from, too. You can even try out the traditional winter-warming drink jólaglögg, a local take on mulled wine often made with Icelandic spirits like Brennivin.

Bask in Reykjavík City Lights

reykjavik christmas

Icelanders are keen to keep the lights on as long as possible during the winter months. Starting in November, it’s not unusual to see brilliant holiday light decorations dancing all over the city until the New Year. Fantastic Christmas events occurring throughout the season will brighten up even the darkest of winter days. 

If you’re in Reykjavík to celebrate the New Year, witness the city come to life at a traditional New Year’s Bonfire. Found in many locations across the city, these bonfires are a great way to hang out with locals while ringing in the New Year. Watch for a dazzling display of fireworks from every corner of Reykjavik in the lead up to midnight.

Catch a Flick at Bíó Paradís

There’s a high chance that when you’re in Reykjavík at night, there’ll be at least one day when the weather is windy, wet and dark all at once. One way to avoid the nasty cold while still exploring the city is to catch a flick at Iceland’s only independent movie theatre, Bíó Paradís.

Home of the Reykjavík International Film Festival, you can find everything from art house films and local Icelandic classics to the occasional blockbuster. If you’re a big movie buff, this spot is definitely worth visiting on a dark, windy day in Reykjavík.

Take an Ice Cream Road Trip

Ice Cream Iceland Reykjavik

Icelanders love their ice cream, and there’s no season too cold for them to hop in the car and drive to find this delicious favorite. Icelanders even have their own word for the phenomenon  ísbíltúr, which translates to “ice cream car ride” in English. 

While exploring the streets of Reykjavik after dark, why not act like a local, grab an ice cream and make a road trip out of it? If you’re looking for motivation to go out at night, the sweet taste of ice cream is a surefire way to light up those dark Reykjavík days.

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