Christmas and New Years in Iceland

Christmas and New Year’s in Reykjavik are magical times to visit Iceland. Here we’ll go over a couple of things you should know so that you can prepare and not miss out!

Christmas Day, the 24th of December. 

Icelanders celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December. They eat with their family and open presents in the evening. Many supermarkets are open until 10 am – 2 pm, but the majority are closed and after 2 pm, don’t expect many stores to be open. 

Some restaurants in the city center will be serving tables and the hotel restaurants as well, however, make sure to book ahead since these restaurants will be full. 

Moving on to the 25th of December.

The biggest problem could be the 25th. On the 25th, most Icelanders spend time with their families. Therefore, almost all the stores will be closed the entire day, so make sure to prepare if you need food. Again, restaurants and stores in the city center are your best bet and, as on the 24th, make sure to book a table. 

Many tours will not be operating on both days but that doesn’t mean you have to sit inside all day! Check out our selection to keep you warm and take a stroll around our city! 

  • You can check out the Christmas cat, hidden somewhere in the city center.
A picture of the Christmas cat in Reykjavik
  • Laugarvegur is filled with Christmas lights. 
  • Tjörnin, the pond in the city center, might be frozen solid, allowing you to walk on it. 

These are just a few examples of the things that Reykajvík has to offer. There are many more that pop up each year and it’s up to you to explore and find them!

Though many places will be closed on the 24th and the 25th, there is plenty of time to enjoy Reykjavík in between. You can try some Icelandic beer, go on a food tour, visit the city swimming pool or just walk around and enjoy yourself!

New Year’s! 

New year in Iceland is something you don’t want to miss out on. If you’re here for Christmas, definitely stay for New Year. The same principles apply to New Year and the 1st of January as Christmas, most supermarkets will be open until around 2 pm, while other stores are closed. Make sure to book tables at restaurants since they will be in high demand!

But what exactly is happening on New Year’s eve? 

Let’s break it down by the hour to give you an idea.

  6:00 pm – Icelanders are with their families, eating dinner. 

  8:00 pm – Still eating, possibly watching the ‘News of the year passed’ Where they chronicle the biggest news stories of the year.

  10:30 pm – ‘Áramótaskaupið’ begins, a comedy sketch show that makes fun of events, politicians, companies, and stuff in general, that happened in Iceland in the past year.

  11:45 pm – Icelanders get ready to go out and shoot some fireworks! You’ll see some people get over-excited and start early! You should definitely be on the way to the spot where you’re going to watch the show!

  12:00 am –  Chaos! Thousands of fireworks paint the sky all the colors you can imagine. Illuminated by the colors, Icelanders hug each other and kiss, wishing a happy new year and a prosperous new year. We highly recommend you do the same. You absolutely MUST be outside and ready to watch, cause it’ll only last about 15 minutes!

  12:20 am – Most people are done blowing up their fireworks and now it’s time to party! Some Icelanders might head to the city center, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see a lot of them. Most Icelanders will be attending a party at someone’s home.  

Watching the fireworks!

Now that you know what a usual Icelandic New Year’s eve looks like, let me give you some pointers on where to watch the fireworks. 

Ideally, you want to be in the suburbs since that’s where most Icelanders will blow up their fireworks. Usually, there is a large gathering in front of Hallgrímskirkja, but then you miss out on everything else! The beauty of the fireworks is in the chaos and magnitude. If you’re in the city center, you’ll only see a tiny fraction of the spectacle. 

Because of this, I recommend going to the suburbs if you can, for example;

  • Kópavogur, 
  • Grafarholt, 
  • Garðabær 
  • Breiðholt 

If that is not an option, then take a taxi to Perlan. It is a great place to watch the show. Perlan stands on top of a hill and you can walk around it, giving you an overview of a large part of the city. If the weather is good, this will give you a much better experience of what Icelandic New Year is like! Alternatively, there are some tours that offer a boat tour that will give a lovely view of the city from afar.

The Holidays in Reykjavik

  Christmas and New Year’s in Reykjavik is a great time to come enjoy and experience our little island. Make sure to book a table in case you want to go out to eat. Enjoy walking around and exploring the city before enjoying the amazing spectacle that is New Year’s eve. Go on a food walk, go swimming in the freezing cold and drink some beer! Try and get away from the city center and into the suburbs if you can in order to get the best view, who knows! Maybe you’ll meet some nice Icelanders that will let you blow up some of their fireworks!

So don’t miss out on Christmas and New Year’s in Reykjavik if you’re coming to Iceland over the holidays! 

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