As a running city, Reykjavík has improved immensely over the past few years. Good running paths are never far away, and new ones are being made every year.
The number of runners has also grown significantly, with over 70 running events being held in the greater Reykjavík area every year. Beautiful sceneries, great running paths, and plenty of fresh air—running in Iceland’s capital is definitely a treat.
In many cities, parks serve as the main running areas. This is not the case with Reykjavík, as its parks simply aren’t big enough for longer runs. Rather, most of the best and scenic paths can be found near the coastline, both on the north and south side of the city.
For example, you can run from the centre of town along the coast on the south of Reykjavík, around Elliðaárdalur in the east part, and then over to the north side of Reykjavík along the ocean—well over 20 kilometres—only crossing the road once!
Alternatively, on the edge of town you’ll find Heiðmörk, a wonderland for trail enthusiasts, with dozens of kilometres worth of woodland trails.
If this is your first time in Reykjavík, why not strap on your running shoes and head out to experience the city in a novel, exciting way. To get you started, we’ve made a list of our five favourite running routes in the city.
1. The Sightseeing Run (8km)
For those who like to do their sightseeing on the run, a good place to start would be Tjörnin (The Pond), near City Hall. Tjörnin and its surrounding gardens are lovely, with lively birdlife and beautiful statues to take in. Bring your phone and take a selfie sitting on the bench beside the statue of the poet Tómas Guðmundsson! After you enjoy a run around Tjörnin, it is time for a little uphill climb towards Hallgrímskirkja.
Your next stop is the Sólfar sculpture, with its stunning view of the ocean and Mt. Esja. Harpa concert hall is now close by, and from there you can follow the blue and yellow lines on the pavement towards the old harbour. One there, you’ll run past fishing trawlers, whale-watching boats, restaurants and small shops in the old harbour area, which is gaining more popularity by the day. Finally, on your way back to City Hall, you can finish your sightseeing by running past the Catholic Church, Alþingi and Reykjavík’s cathedral.
2. Laugardalur (5km)
The heart of Icelandic sports and athleticism is found in the Laugardalur valley, home to the national football stadium, a sports hall where the national handball team (Iceland’s heroes) play their home matches, an indoor running track, an ice-skating rink and the fabled Laugardalslaug swimming pool. The whole area is practically a big park, which also includes a botanical garden, a children’s activity park-slash-petting zoo, and Reykjavík’s only camping area. And if you are looking for a place to go for a picnic, Laugardalur is the perfect spot.
Laugardalur also has some of the nicest running paths around. They are usually full of people walking and running, especially the broad tree lined path in the middle of Laugardalur.
On Midsummer’s night in June, the Midnight Run is held in Laugardalur. The 5km route on the map below is the same as used in the race.
After your run there is nothing better than soaking in the hot tubs at Laugardalur swimming pool, Iceland’s biggest.
3. The Airport Circle (8km)
The paths around Reykjavík airport are very popular with runners and cyclists. Maybe running around an airport doesn’t sound too enticing, but there are really only occasional take-offs and landings there, so don’t let that scare you from enjoying one of Reykjavík’s best places for a run.
There is a scenic path that runs along the seaside down to Nauthólsvik geothermal beach. The path then goes through Öskjuhlíð close to Perlan (The Pearl). In Öskjuhlíð, you’ll find some forest trails that you can follow instead of the main path, and if you want to do some hill training, then that is the perfect place.
In the summertime, a good idea is to start this run in Nauthólsvik. Bring your swimwear, there are free changing rooms and after the run you can cool down in the freezing North-Atlantic before relaxing in the hot tub on the beach.
We promise your joints and muscles will love it!
4. Elliðaárdalur (10km)
Running in the Elliðaárdalur valley feels like a jaunt through the countryside, even though you’re in the middle of Reykjavík. The Elliðaá river runs through the valley, which also has a small forest with trails that are very popular during summer.
A clearly marked 10km route goes around the two valleys, Elliðaárdalur and Víðidalur. However, if 10km feels too much, it is easy to take a shortcut using one of the Elliðaá river bridges. Watch out for salmons jumping as you cross!
The best way to start your run is by the underpass near Fossvogur, which is easy to get to running or on a bicycle. Close to the underpass you’ll find a waterfall—this is in our opinion one of Reykjavík’s most beautiful spots on a sunny summer’s day. Another option is to start your run by the Árbær swimming pool, and the pool in Breiðholt is also close by.
5. The Long Run (17km)
Some runners think 5km or 10km is only a light jog and need their long runs on the weekends. Since most of the best paths in Reykjavík are by the sea, the obvious choice for a 15-20km run is to connect the two seaside paths and run a big circle around the older part of Reykjavík.
This is the most popular route for Reykjavík runners, most of which will traverse at least parts of it on their Saturday or Sunday runs. This route will take you through some very beautiful and scenic paths near the ocean. It also leads you through Fossvogsdalur, the busiest part of Reykjavík’s path system, full of people walking, running and cycling or just playing with their children.