Christmas in Iceland blog
|Useful information, travel tips & tours
Festive Greetings from Iceland!
My name is Alexandra and Christmas in Iceland is something I like to think I know quite a lot about, since well, I’ve spent all of my 32 Christmases here in Iceland.
You are probably here because you’re trying to find things to do in Iceland at Christmas and I’m going to try my very best to tell you all you need to know, weather, tours operating, opening hours and so forth. So let’s dive right in!
Christmas activities in Iceland
Before Christmas Eve there is an abundance of things to do, christmas markets, ice skating rinks and christmas concerts. But I want to focus on things to do during Christmas.
Here are some facts about Christmas in Iceland we should address before going further:
Christmas Eve (24th of December) is the biggest day. At 6PM the festivities start with either going to church or with dinner and we open our Christmas presents later that evening.
Christmas day (25th of December) is the day to be a bit lazy, read a book, spend quality time with the family and then perhaps glamour up before Christmas dinner.
The second day of Christmas (26th of December) is usually a lazy day to recover from all the salted food we’ve been eating the days before and sometimes a chance for the extended family to get together in a more casual way.
On Christmas Eve most stores, restaurants and supermarkets are open until 1 or 2AM (some later) but at 4PM nearly everything closes and stays closed until the 26th when a handful of supermarkets open. Most restaurants open their doors again on the 26th.
And then on the 27th of December opening hours are back to normal until New Years Eve.
So to finally get to the point, what is there to do in Iceland at Christmas since almost everything closes down?
I’m glad to tell you that you can still do tours during Christmas, but at the same time, I have to tell you that only a small fraction of tours operate during Christmas. I recommend booking them sooner rather than later since they tend to sell out. Lucky for you I’ve tracked down a few tours operating on 24th-26th of December and down below are links where you book them as well.
Fly over Iceland (not operating 25th)
Reykjavík Northern Lights Cruise & Aurora Exhibition (not operating 24th)
Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour – Traditional Icelandic Food (not operating 24th)
Weather in Iceland at Christmas
Now, you’ve probably wondered if December is a good time to go to Iceland weatherwise or if it is cold? The temperatures in Iceland in December are quite milder than what people usually expect. Usually we’re dancing around freezing temperatures, -5°C to 5°C (23°F – 40°F). It is worth mentioning though that this winter (2022) has been really cold so far and we already have a lot of snow. Temperatures have been around -5°C to -15°C and the forecast is expecting it to get even colder.
The next thing you might ask is, does it snow in Iceland at Christmas? Simply put, there is a chance of snow but no guarantees. Usually in Reykjavík (Southwest) it’s more likely to have red Christmas than white, but in Akureyri (North) it’s more likely that Christmas will be white. But this year we are looking at a very white Christmas around the whole country!
Although the temperatures are usually mild, it’s probably the wind that will get to you! It can get quite windy and snowstorms are part of our everyday lives. So always always always check www.safetravel.is before heading out!
The handful of restaurants we talked about earlier that are open during the 24th and 25th of December are listed here:
Apótekið – (closed on the 24th)
Grillmarkaðurinn (closed on the 24th)
American Bar – (closed on the 24th)
Haust Restaurant – (closed on the 26th)
Hereford – (closed on the 24th)
Flame (closed on the 24th)
If all else fails, why not go for the delicious hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur? At their location in Tryggvagata, the opening hours are going to be normal so at least you won’t go starving!
Supermarkets open during Christmas in Reykjavík
I’m going to be frank, everything closes at 4PM – most close at 2PM and nothing opens back up until midnight on the 25th with one exception, Pétursbúð. Pétursbúð is a small convenience store in Reykjavik so I would only depend on it for necessities. When this is written some stores have not published their Christmas opening hours but as soon as they have I will update the information below:
Hagkaup (Skeifan and Garðabær):
24th – Open until 4PM
25th – Closed
26th – Opens at 10AM, then 24/7
Iceland (Engihjalli and Hafnarfjörður):
24th – Open until 4PM at all locations
25th – Opens at midnight in Engihjalli and Hafnarfjörður
26th – 24/7
24th – Open 10AM – 2PM
25th – Closed
26th – Closed
24th – 9AM – 3PM
25th – Closed
26th – 10AM – 7PM (some locations closed)
24th – 9AM – 5PM
25th – 12PM – 17PM
26th – 10AM – 10PM
Best place to spend Christmas in Iceland?
It’s really hard to answer that question! It all depends what you’re looking for. If you want to go sightseeing on your own and are very well prepared you can stay anywhere, however if you want to have access to supermarkets and restaurants during the festivities, Reykjavík is probably the best place to stay in Iceland at Christmas.
I hope this has answered your questions about the Christmas season here in Iceland, but if you have more you can always comment down below and I’ll do my absolute best to assist you!
Looking forward to seeing you in Iceland this Christmas!