Iceland's Reykjavik is an excellent choice of destination if you are travelling with a baby - an interesting and child-friendly location
I can tell you from first-hand experience many positive reasons why Reykjavik, Iceland, is an excellent choice of destination to visit with a baby. The people were friendly, the streets felt safe and there is plenty to keep you occupied.
Our trip to Iceland with our then 16-month old son, Harrison, began on an Icelandair (www.icelandair.co.uk) flight to the capital of Reykjavik. Being only a three-hour flight from the UK, it is ideal for those travelling with a baby for obvious reasons – the shorter the better in my opinion. Especially when your child is under two and may very well be on your lap for the whole journey, as on most airlines they don’t need their own seat at this age. Icelandair were amazingly accommodating to us because we had a baby with us. Once on the plane, the air stewards put themselves out to move passengers around to give us a row to ourselves so my son could have his own seat - a much appreciated gesture. The standard seats we had were also very roomy, with plenty of legroom, making the flight a fairly comfortable and relaxed experience overall. Another bonus was that once we landed, our pushchair was unloaded immediately and was waiting for us at the bottom of the aeroplane stairs so we didn’t have to carry a heavy 16-month old miles to the baggage carousel.
Our pre-booked transfer from Keflavik International Airport (www.keflavikairport.com) to the hotel turned up on time, with an English-speaking driver (English is widely spoken in Reykjavik) and even had the correct baby seat fitted.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Hotel Reykjavik, a conveniently located hotel walking distance to the town. The hotel was very smart and clean and the staff on reception were very helpful. We stayed in a double room (on the first floor, but there was a lift available so it wasn’t a problem) and had the baby’s cot already set up for us on arrival. As with most hotel rooms, there was a shower but no bath so trying to convince Harrison to stand in the shower proved challenging and resulted in me having to get in there with him to keep him calm. Bizarrely, the hot water in Iceland smells like sulphur, as it comes up directly from the geothermal ground, which did take some getting used to. The Hotel Reykjavik also had a spacious bar/restaurant which served a lovely buffet breakfast, including cereals, fruit and milk suitable for the older baby, and provided highchairs. The restaurant didn’t provide substantial evening meals, only limited bar ‘snacks’ which meant if you got back to the hotel quite late after a day trip and your child was tired and ready for bed, you would then have to walk into town to get your dinner (Or ensure you eat a large lunch!).
What to do
Compact and easy to navigate - ideal for exploring with a pushchair in tow, Reykjavik City has a rather relaxed 'small-town' feel about it. The main street is lined with small, albeit rather expensive, boutiques and restaurants and leads down to Lake Tjornin - take some bread (if you can afford it!) and let your baby help feed the ducks who reside here. A must-see while you are in Iceland is the Reykjavik Settlement Museum which shows the city's oldest ruins found (around 930AD), which were only discovered in 2001. The content itself may not be much interest to your baby, but the exhibition is quite interactive so there are lots of buttons they can push along the way.
While in Reykjavik, we took our son on a few day trips with tour operator Reykjavik Excursions (www.re.is). I would thoroughly recommend taking your baby swimming to the Blue Lagoon (www.bluelagoon.com) geothermal hot pools. This was actually the first place my son ever went swimming, and it was a magical experience for him (and us!). The water is lovely and warm – a bit like being in a huge bathtub (there are sometimes ‘hotspots’ though which you should be aware of), and the steam all around gives a very relaxing, peaceful atmosphere. We were even able to take our pushchair right up to the seats near the water’s edge. Dressing gowns were provided for adults (at a small charge) but take your own for your baby. Unfortunately, there were no family changing cubicles, so one parent will have to struggle on their own. Once dried off after our swim, we got a hot drink and snack from the Blue Lagoon café and watched the other swimmers through the big poolside window. All-in-all, a thoroughly enjoyable day out with your baby.
Another day trip we took was with Reykjavik Whale Watching, which took about three hours in total. Although I must admit I was fairly anxious about going on this trip with a baby, I really had nothing to worry about. My son was provided with a life jacket for his age upon boarding the boat (which was safely done via a flat ramp), and there was plenty of room for our pushchair. We chose to sit in the seating area downstairs as it was quite a chilly day (as did most of the other passengers), where my son promptly fell asleep, giving us the opportunity to purchase a hot chocolate from the on-board snack bar. When we actually reached the whales, I did have to sacrifice going to the upper deck to watch them as Harrison was still asleep, but to be honest, watching them through the window was fine with me anyway as I stayed nice and warm.
Remember - If you do want to take your baby whale watching I would make sure you check the weather forecast first, and enquire whether the excursion boat has a sheltered cabin area and also that the tour company you choose can provide you with a life jacket specifically for your child’s age.
The Golden Circle Day Tour
Definitely a good option, as you get to see a variety of locations just outside Reykjavik, including geysers, the Gullfoss waterfall and the Thingvellir National Park (where you can actually stand in-between the Great Atlantic rift). The tour itself isn’t too long and tiring – only about eight hours. Car seats for babies are provided at the excursion office just before you board your coach, so you have to fit it yourself (which is good as then you’ll know it is fitted safely). The only annoying thing about doing this tour with a baby was that it did feel like everytime our son fell asleep we had to get off the coach to look at something. It was very ‘on, off, on, off, on, off…’ – not a problem normally, but when you have to wake a baby over and over it can upset them a bit. And each time we had to get the driver to open the luggage compartment so we could get our pushchair out. By far though, the best part of this day tour was seeing the geysers. The steaming geothermal ground around them was completely accessible to us with the pushchair, and my son enjoyed the ‘surprise factor’ of waiting for the geysers to erupt.
I would definitely go on a family holiday to Reykjavik again.