The Blue Lagoon makes all the headlines and features on all promotional photos of Iceland — but as any local will tell you, it’s a tourist trap. I’m not saying it’s not a fantastic place where you can have a great day — what I’m saying is that you can get an authentic experience in a hot pool in Reykjavik for a small fraction of the price.
Locals love their hot pools, and there’s a remarkable variety to choose from. Here, we’ve shortlisted the best hot pools in Reykjavik.
What to expect
Before we start digging in, here’s what you should expect. Icelandic swimming pools require you to wash before you go in — in the nude. It will seem awkward at first, but no one really bothers so it’s fine. Swimming pools are generally outdoor, and it can be really cold, but the hot pools more than make up for this. You should have your bathing suit or towel, though most pools can sell equipment. Everyone speaks great English, so don’t worry about that.
All pools have lockers which you can use safely and are generally open from early in the morning until late at night (22:00). They’re also very clean and safe (Iceland itself is one of the safest countries in the world). The atmosphere is generally very relaxed, people come there to relax after a good day, enjoy a day off with their kids, or simply hang out with their friends or loved ones. The hot tubs are also one of Iceland’s most important social venues — think of it as the British equivalent of the pub, or the French equivalent of the cafe. All the pools mentioned here are the real deal — you get to experience an authentic Icelandic hot pool, no bull. You’ll likely be surrounded by locals, not tourists.
The pools include a swimming pool with lanes as well as hot tubs and sauna — so you can swim if that’s your thing, but you can also just chill and enjoy the lovely thermal water. The greater Reykjavik area has 18 thermal pools, so you’re bound to find something good. They vary a lot in size and age, but all feature at least a pool and a hot tub. Most of them are open until 10PM, but it’s always good to check opening hours. They’re also surprisingly cheap.
Here are our favorites.
The oldest and possibly the most well-known swimming pool in Reykjavik was built in 1937 and was recently renovated in 2017. The pool is in a central area in the heart of Reykjavik, easy to reach no matter where you come from. It’s very close to the Hallgrímskirkja church, which can be seen from the sundeck, as well as the main shopping and nightlife street Laugavegur.
The entry is by a very inconspicuous building — you would probably never guess there’s a swimming pool there. The building’s exterior is a minimalist white that is almost Art Deco in style. It’s a very plain urban area
The pool features a steam room as well as a dry Finnish sauna, several hot tubs, and swimming lanes (both indoor and outdoor). There’s also an ice tub if you want to risk going from the sauna directly into the cold water. Be sure to check the rooftop tub — that’s by far my favorite spot in the Sundhöllin swimming pool. You get a chance to see people going about their lives from a hot tub on the roof of a building… only in Reykjavik.
Although it’s a bit farther from the city center, Árbæjarlaug is definitely worth a visit. Located in a very scenic setting, right next to a small misty forest, it’s one of Reykjavik’s best-kept secrets. Overlooking Elliðarárdalur valley, a gorgeous green area, popular with both hikers and cyclists, Árbæjarlaug features a gorgeous indoor swimming pool in a greenhouse-like solarium. Of course, you can also go and enjoy the outdoor facilities.
Outdoor, there’s a slide, as well as the already familiar hot tubs and swimming pools. There’s possibly no better place to enjoy the view in Reykjavik while comfortably laying in a bubbly hot tub.
The pool lies in the Reykjavík suburb of Árbær, which also hosts the open air museum Árbæjarsafn, so you can easily fit both of them into a single day.
Laugardalslaug is the most popular pool in Reykjavik, and it’s also the largest. Its location makes it perfect for a short visit, and this is also the favorite of tourists. It’s the one pool where you’re equally likely to be surrounded by locals and visitors.
There are plenty of facilities at Laugardalslaug — think slides, basket hoops (yes, in pools), even a beach volleyball court. There is, of course, a sauna, and a massage room (for which you have to pay extra), as well as seven hot tubs. Be sure to check the saltwater hot tub. It’s likely going to be a bit crowded, but it adds a new twist to an already relaxing experience.
All in all, Laugardalslaug is possibly the easiest choice if you want to visit just one pool. It’s close to a small amusement park which features a zoo with Icelandic farm animals and a botanical garden, so you can mix the visit with something else. Oh — and it’s a great choice for sunny and snowy days alike.
If you talk to Icelanders, most of them have at least one fond memory from Vesturbaejarlaug. The pool is one of the coziest and most charming in Reykjavik. It’s also located close to the University of Iceland, so it’s a favorite of both students and professors.
You’re likely to hear some interesting discussions if you pay attention. The pool’s four hot tubs have witnessed countless conversations about politics, culture, and modern affairs.
The pool is in walkable distance from the city center, you can also take a walk around the university campus (it’s not amazing, but quite interesting and simple), as well as the national museum, which is definitely a sight you don’t want to miss out on. If you’re around, also check out Studentakjallarinn — the alleged student cantine which in all reality is an incredibly cool food bar, and very cheap as well. Quite possibly the best bar on campus in the world.
Another excellent choice, particularly for families or people looking for a laid-back experience is Lagafellslaug. With both outdoor and indoor pools, steam room and play area for children with slides of various sizes and shapes.
If you’re an adult, Mosfellsbær also has you covered, with three slides ranging from 12 meters long to 43 meters. There is also an indoor pool there as well as numerous hot tubs, a cold bath, and a Finnish sauna.
However, this pool is a bit far from the city center. The good news is that if you don’t have a car, you can reach the pool by bus, which can be a fun adventure in itself.
For some reason, the western part of Reykjavik is actually considered a different city — Seltjarnarnes. In this sense, the swimming pool is outside of Reykjavik, but in all pragmatic reality, the pool is well inside the city.
As before, you have the lovely swimming pools, the hot tubs, steam room, as well as the already familiar slide. The scenery is also delightful.
This swimming pool complex lies in Reykjavik’s western peninsula, which is a great starting point for visiting the Grótta lighthouse.
Guess what? The list goes on (and on and on), and here’s yet another charming swimming pool in Reykjavik. This public swimming pool is located high on a hill with a view over the city.
As the previous pools, you get the swimming pool, the hot tubs, the steam room, the scenery… it’s a successful recipe and Icelanders have reproduced it time and time again. After all, Icelanders really love their hot pools, and they know how to make the most of them.
This pool is also outside of the central area, so you’ll probably need a car or a bus to get to it.
… and many, many more!
I’m gonna stop here because it’s simply getting redundant. Reykjavik is riddled with hot pools, they’re all lovely, cozy, and charming, and they can all offer you a great experience. In many ways, the best pool is the one that’s closest to you, or you can opt for the largest or most well-known pools. The choice is yours, and you can’t really go wrong! Here are a few more honorable mentions:
- Reykholt pool
- Vík í Mýrdal