Thermal Pools

The city operates seven thermal pools, all with changing rooms, lockers, showers, wading pools for small children, and “hot pots” (hot tubs), usually in a row with successively higher water temperatures. All but one have water slides and other delights for children. Entrance fees are typically 900kr for adults and 140kr for children ages 6 to 15, though you can get in free with the Reykjavík City Card. Swimsuit and towel rental are typically 500kr apiece.

Don't be dissuaded by poor weather. Icelanders still show up in the rain, and believe the combination of cold air and hot water greatly beneficial to health. (They have very long life spans to show for it.) For a side of the city few tourists witness, show up at 7:30am, when Icelanders have a dip before work.

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When in Iceland . . . -- Visiting a genuine Icelandic thermal pool is the best antidote for culture shock. Lounging in a hot tub with Icelanders, who are quite blase about this everyday ritual, is for many of us a far better way to interact with locals than Reykjavik's famed wild nightlife.

Reykjavík Thermal Pool Guide

  • Árbæjarlaug, Fylkisvegur 9, Árbær, near Elliðaár River (tel. 411-5200; Mon–Thurs 6:30am–10pm; Fri 6:30am–8pm; Sat–Sun 9am–8pm all year round; bus: 19). This kiddie wonderland is full of water toys, but it has plenty for adults, too. A 15-minute bus ride from the city’s heart, this pool is one of Reykjavík’s less touristy. The city's largest public Jacuzzi is here, but you won’t find anywhere to do laps.
  • Laugardalslaug, Sundlaugavegur 30, at the north end of Laugardalur Park (tel. 411-5100; Mon–Fri 6:30am–10pm; Sat–Sun 8am–10pm; bus: 14). In the eastern part of the city, this is the biggest and most populated pool, with several outdoor swimming areas, an Olympic-size indoor pool, a steam room reminiscent of a whale’s belly, and a massage room. 
  • Sundhöllin, Bergþórugata 16, at Bergþórugata, behind Hallgrímskirkja (tel. 411-5350; Mon–Thurs 6:30am–10pm; Fri 6:30am-8pm; Sat 8am–4pm; Sun 10am–6pm; bus: 1, 6, or 13). A major renovation in 2017, adding an outdoor pool, a new reception area, and updated the locker facilities, turned this into one of the best pools in town. A line of hot pots outside offers views of the city. The historic pool building was designed by the architect of Hallgrímskirkja.
  • Vesturbæjarlaug, Hofsvallagata, at Melhagi (tel. 411-5150; Mon–Thurs 6:30am–10pm; Fri 6:30am–8pm; Sat–Sun 9am–8pm; bus: 11 or 15). This pool is a 15-minute walk from Tjörnin Pond, on the southwestern edge of the city, near the university and just a short distance from good shoreline strolling on Ægisi[b6]a. Nauthólsvík Beach is nearby, and you can pay extra to sit under sun lamps, a nice splurge on a gloomy day.
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Pool Etiquette

Icelanders are especially strict about pool rules, especially when they pertain to hygiene. (Remember that Icelandic pools are far less chlorinated than pools abroad, so the concern over spreading germs is not paranoia.) To avoid stern looks of disapproval—or even lectures by pool monitors—follow these simple procedures:

  • Leave shoes and socks outside the locker room, unless a sign specifically authorizes you to take them in.
  • Undress completely at your locker and then walk to the showers carrying your towel and swimsuit. Stash your towel by the showers.
  • Shower first, and then put your suit on. Rarely will you find a shower curtain or stall to hide behind; if you feel shy, be assured that Icelanders are both respectful of privacy and very nonchalant about this everyday routine. (Also be prepared for voluntary nudity in steam rooms, which are sex-segregated.)
  • When showering, use soap, which is usually provided. Most shower rooms post a notorious sign—often photographed by visitors—depicting a human body, with red blotches over the "trouble areas" requiring particular attention.
  • Don't go down water slides headfirst.
  • After your swim, shower again and dry off before entering the locker room. Dripping on the locker room floor is frowned upon.
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Spas

A few Reykjavík hotels offer fitness rooms, saunas, massages, and health and beauty treatments, but only at Hilton Reykjavík Spa, Suðurlandsbraut 2 (tel. 444-5090; Mon–Fri 6am–8pm, Sat 6am–6pm, Sun 10am–4pm), do these combined services truly amount to “spa” status. NordicaSpa is especially adept at treatments featuring Iceland’s natural resources, from geothermal mud massages to seaweed wraps. Non-guests of the hotel are welcome.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.