There are no less than seventeen municipal swimming pools in the greater Reykjavík area, each with their own distinct qualities and disciples. Going to the pool is a local pastime for most Icelanders; it’s a place to exercise, relax and catch up with the latest gossip or discuss politics. Everyone has a favourite pool and mine is, by far, Vesturbæjarlaug.
See Also: The Best Swimming Pools in Reykjavík
Having grown up in England and travelled to other countries, I can confirm that the swimming pools in Iceland are at an unbeaten high standard; visiting a pool during your visit should be mandatory!
Many tourists choose to go to Sundhöllin public baths which are located directly downtown, close to the bus station Hlemmur, but I would argue that’s it’s worth travelling that little bit further to my recommendation.
Vesturbæjarlaug is located in the suburb of Vesturbær, a mere 20-minute walk from Reykjavík’s city centre. A great route from downtown is past the pretty Landakotskirkja—the Catholic Cathedral of Iceland—and towards the sea until you come across the pool.
Boasting no less than five hot tubs, one cold tub, a steam room, a sauna and sun lamps, as well as a 25-metre lap pool, Vesturbæjarlaug provides no end to your pool options.
On sunny summer days, you can expect the Vesturbæjarlaug to be bustling with families, tourists and people sunbathing. There’s a shallow lounging pool which is warm but not too hot, making it ideal for lying down in the water to catch some sun.
On winter days, snow covers the grassy banks and locals, especially the older generation, will roll in the snow before their swim or soak in the hot pool. Mist clouds can be seen over the water as the geothermal heat condenses, giving an atmospheric feel to the place.
I particularly like to visit when the weather is bad, and you feel the harsh conditions while still feeling completely comfortable in the warm water.
Pool-goers are required to wash without a swimsuit before bathing, and this is the case for all swimming pools across Iceland. This rule ensures a hygienic pool, allowing for a lower chlorine content than in other countries which only enhances the Icelandic swimming experience.
Some modest travellers may find the idea of showering naked in front of other people quite terrifying but don’t worry, there are two shower cubicles with curtains, in the girls’ changing rooms at least.
See Also: Getting Naked in Iceland
The changing rooms themselves are bright, clean and welcoming with plenty of lockers which you can use for free. There are both inside and outside changing rooms; the latter is of course entirely private but roofless which can give a completely different feel to your bathing experience.
Many pools can have quite a utilitarian appearance in that they look like a sports facility whereas Vesturbæjarlaug oozes a vibe of social relaxation guaranteed to help you unwind.
Unlike many other establishments in Reykjavík, there is no grand water slide but families still flock there, and children delight in playing in the sizeable paddling pool, equipped with a basketball hoop and mini slide. It’s possible to grab inflatable arm rings for the little ones as you exit the changing area.
Admission to the pool is just under 1000 ISK, and you can stay for as long as you like, making it one of the cheaper recreational activities on offer in the city. Open every evening until 10 PM; it’s the perfect place to soak before heading out on a Northern Lights tour or hitting the downtown to experience the Reykjavík nightlife.
The neighbourhood, Vesturbær, is inhabited by a large number of arty types and Björk herself has been spotted taking a dip in this neck of the woods.
Just outside of the pool is a new burger joint, Hagavagninn, opened by hit Icelandic hip-hop artist, Emmsjé Gauti. The burgers are out of this world, and I can personally recommend the “Number 2” which has some kind of relish from heaven as well as perfectly caramelised onion strewn across a grilled beef patty.
Across the road is the stylish and wildly popular coffee shop, Kaffi Vesturbær, which has a revolving menu and I can highly recommend stopping by for a post-swim coffee or meal—they offer a cracking eggs benedict!
The friendly convenience store Melabúðin is also next door, and it’s an excellent (albeit expensive) spot to stock up on supplies. They even have a hot food counter that serves Icelandic singed sheep head if you’re feeling adventurous.
The locale of the swimming pool is close to the sea, so if you fancy a stroll, you could take a gander by the coast or, better still, walk to the beautiful lighthouse and coastline it inhabits, Grótta.
The entire vicinity of the pool is a quiet but very friendly suburb of Reykjavík even though it’s so close to the downtown. You can really get a feel for the local way of life and laid back approach to every day in Iceland.
Did you find this article useful? Find out about more of Reykjavík’s hidden gems & read Grótta | My Secret Reykjavík. Be sure to leave any comments or queries in the Facebook box below.