We spent a sizable chunk of our 91 Icelandic days inside the drinking and eating establishments of Reykjavík. After another long day of museum-visiting or waterfall-ogling, a big beer and dinner cooked by someone else always sounded like a good idea. Here’s a quick list of our favorite places in the city.
Throughout our first month in Iceland, we were shocked by the sky-high alcohol prices, and drastically scaled back consumption. Of course, our alcoholic natures eventually reasserted themselves, but not until we had discovered the trick to drinking in Iceland: happy hour, happy hour, happy hour. Almost every bar in Reykjavík has a generous happy hour special, and a fun evening can be had by bouncing from one to the other. The Reykjavík Grapevine even offers an app for it. Here are our three favorite bars, in no particular order.
Den Danske Kro literally means The Danish Inn, but this is a place for Icelanders. We often visited the small bar on Ingólfsstræti and always had a blast. A raucous crowd gathers here to talk, play darts and listen to music. There’s also a large patio out front, but good luck finding a seat during one of Reykjavík’s rare sunny days. [Location]
The Loft is found on the fourth floor of a building on Bankastræti. The terrace offers a great view of the city, and is another popular spot when the sun is shining. Inside, there are comfortable couches and tables which are perfect for working. I spent more than one afternoon here, happily hacking away at my computer and sipping on a giant Gull lager. [Location]
MicroBar is an apt name for this tiny bar tucked into the back of the City Hotel. Beer Heaven would also work. Despite its small size, MicroBar has the best selection of beer in the city, with craft Icelandic brews joining bottles from across Europe. There’s always a different local beer discounted during happy hour and the crowd seems to be an even mix between Icelanders and tourists. [Location]
Honorable mention goes to a few other places we often patronized. Kaldi Bar on Laugavegur is a cozy and intimate little joint, with excruciatingly slow taps and an indie vibe. The Íslenski Barinn (Icelandic Bar) is a cool spot across from the Austurvöllur Park with a lot of outdoor seating and great food. And Lebowski Bar has fully dedicated itself to The Big Lebowski with film paraphernalia and even a full size bowling lane adorning the walls. You read that right: the bowling lane is affixed to the wall.
Eating out in Reykjavík always presented a challenge, as much to our palates as to our pocketbooks. All too often, we ended up at ho-hum places memorable only for their outrageous prices. A bill over $100 at a mediocre pasta joint? Anything is possible in Reykjavík! So it was a treat to find restaurants that offered either great food or reasonable prices… and occasionally even both.
Icelandic Fish & Chips might not have one of the city’s most creative names, but it serves up some of the best food we had in town, at an affordable price. This is a mix-and-match kind of place, where you can choose your type of fish, potatoes and a sauce. The menu includes suggestions for those who don’t feel like winging it, but I have a feeling any combination is equally delicious. [Location]
The Noodle Station serves up probably the best-value meal in Reykjavík. Big steaming bowls of oriental noodle soups, served with chicken, lamb or veggies. Predictably popular with students, this place is about as simple and quick as it gets, but the noodles are incredible. The nearby Núðluskálin, which serves similar dishes, is also worth checking out. [Location]
Þrir Frakkar isn’t exactly cheap, but if you’re going to splash out, you might as well do it right. The name of this Reykjavík institution translates to either “Three Overcoats” or “Three Frenchmen”, and both meanings are played upon in the decor. The restaurant concentrates on Icelandic fare, such as puffin breast, horse filet and whale steak. Incidentally, we tried all of these. The whale was surprisingly flavorful and the horse was amazing. At the end of our meal, we felt good enough for shots of Brennivín. A very fun and popular place, where reservations are mandatory. [Location]
Those were our favorites, but we enjoyed other great meals in town. You can’t talk about Icelandic cuisine without tipping your hat to the Icelandic Hot Dog, best enjoyed at the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur stand near the harbor. Nearby is the excellent and affordable Krua Thai. We also loved more upscale meals at Rub23 Sushi and especially Vegamot.
Also, if you have access to a kitchen during your time in Reykjavík, you can save a ton of money by shopping at the weekly Kolaportið Flea Market. The focus here is on clothes and toys, but there is also a food section toward the back, where filets of horse meat and even whale are surprisingly cheap.
At this market, these pale blue eggs caught our eye. These are guillemot eggs, and they’re considered a delicacy in Iceland. We bought a couple and boiled them up… the consistency was a bit strange, but we enjoyed them.