One important note about Iceland: The sun does not rise until close to noon, unless you’re traveling during the summer. So when I say get up bright and early, I mean that in the literary sense rather than literal.
Grab your hotel’s breakfast buffet (at my hotel, it’s 2500 ISK or about $19 for non-registered guests) or walk to Early in the Morning (Veghúsastígur 9A, mains 3500 ISK, early.is) and have your fill of their Huevos Rancheros or Eggs Benedict. If you’re in the mood to cook breakfast—and perhaps a couple of your lunches too—at your Airbnb, pick up eggs, meat, milk, bread and vegetables from a Bónus supermarket (locations throughout Reykjavik, bonus.is). The prices are similar to how much they are back in the United States, so don’t feel like you have to penny-pinch.
Hit up the city’s most visible church: Hallgrímskirkja (Hallgrímstorg 1, Hallgrimskirkja.is). Named after the 17th-century clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson, this Evangelical-Lutheran church sits atop the hill in the middle of Reykjavik. You can freely enter when there are no services going on, but going up the tower will cost you 1000 ISK, or about $8.
From Hallgrímskirkja, walk east to Bruggstofan & Honkítonk BBQ (Snorrabraut 56, beers from 1200 ISK, bruggstofan.com). The downtown outpost of RVK Brewing Company serves up almost every beer style imaginable: IPA, pilsner, Kölsch, witbier, stout, tripel, and fruited sours. And you don’t need me to tell you that thanks to how crisp Icelandic water is, every glass is both refreshing and clean.
If you have the appetite for it, order the brewpub’s pepper-spiced ribs and wings, arguably some of the best I have had.
Depending on how stuffed you are, walk or take the 10-minute bus ride to the Icelandic Phallological Museum (Kalkofnsvegur 2, adults 2500 ISK, phallus.is). As the name suggests, you don’t see paintings at this museum, but I suppose it’s a place where you can see other works of art. With about 200 penises from various mammals (including legally acquired ones from homo sapiens who have passed on), the museum is one of the best places in the world to undertake a serious study of Johnsons.
From the museum, continue to the harbor. Finish your second night at Reykjavik by checking out FlyOver Iceland (a $39 4D ride not at all dissimilar from Epcot’s “Soarin’”) and Whales of Iceland, two relatively quick attractions. Duck inside Lamb Street Food (Grandagarður 7, mains from 1990 ISK, lambstreetfood.is) for their falafels, and indulge in heavenly ice cream (!) from Omnom (Hólmaslóð 4, cups from 1090 ISK, omnom.is).
A word about viewing the Northern Lights: Because Icelandic meteorological conditions are notorious for being fickle, it’s a good idea to book a trip to see it as soon as you arrive. Most tour companies will allow you to go on the next evening’s sailing for free if it’s too cloudy to spot them. If you don’t end up catching them during your time in Iceland, don’t feel bad. Just use it as a reason to come back to this beautiful city either on its own or as part of a stopover on your way to mainland Europe. (Also, there are plenty of VR tours on YouTube.)