Here's a selection of some of Reykjavik's best places to eat, drink, stay and shop, plus some recommendations from a couple of the Icelandic city's top chefs.
Where to stay
Not far from the city, on the Golden Circle route, this modern, boutique hotel is a special place of luxury among the lava fields and mountains.
Take a seat in the Northern Lights bar and watch the aurora do its thing, or retreat to the Lava Spa for pampering or a soak in a hot outdoor pool. As the name suggests, this member of Design Hotels is perfectly placed to launch oneself into nearby adventures.
One of the city’s finest hotels is the Art Deco-influenced Hotel Borg. Built in the 30s, it successfully blends historic elegance with modern amenities, including a restaurant, spa and bar.
These twentieth-floor penthouse suites are the epitome of understated style, with epic panoramic views and daily organic breakfast delivery.
Heading outside Reykjavík? Check out the Tower Suites owner’s other property The Trophy Lodge, an exclusive gem enjoyed by celebs and billionaires.
Where to eat
In its lofty position on the eighth floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel Saga, Grillid is a Reykjavík establishment, holding a place as one of the best in the city for around 50 years.
The large, traditional dining room has incredible 360-degree views of the surrounding city, ocean and mountains, while the service and travel tips from the friendly and professional staff, many of whom are award-winners in their field, are top notch.
Serving European cuisine, the menu changes frequently as the team in the kitchen work closely with farmers and suppliers to create dishes from local produce in tune with the seasons.
Denis Grbic, Sous Chef, Grillid
Where do you go on your day off?
I look for casual restaurants like Snaps and The Coocoo’s Nest.
Flóran Café Bistró, in the centre of the plant and herb collection in Reykjavík Botanical Garden. It has an excellent Scandinavian-inspired seasonal restaurant, which grows its own herbs and vegetables.
To begin with, nobody should miss out on dining at Grillid. We have fantastic food and wine that guests can enjoy while taking in the breathtaking views. In summer I recommend visiting the natural hot springs in Reykjadalur, a beautiful valley only 45 kilometres from the capital. In winter, leave the lights of the city to watch nature’s amazing northern lights.
Best place for foodie inspiration?
There has been tremendous growth in the food culture in recent years so you can get inspiration from a variety of restaurants. At the moment, I get inspiration from Grillid, Dill, and Matur og Drykkur.
The beautiful island of Vestmannaeyjar has a lot to offer and everyone can find something to do. As an example, you can explore the history of the island, learn about the volcano eruption at Eldheimar in the remembrance museum, and dine at Slippurinn.
Down by the harbourfront, in a building that was once a cod-drying factory, is an impressive restaurant serving up tasty Icelandic fare that pays strong tribute to heritage, with a modern twist.
The passion radiates from owner Elma Backman as she talks about Matur og Drykkur – which translates to ‘food and drink’ and is taken from a classic Icelandic cookbook by Helga Sigurdardóttir.
The concept of the restaurant is to re-imagine the book’s traditional recipes and the inspired dishes, with carefully balanced flavours, showcase why Matur og Drykkur was included in the Nordic Michelin Guide 2017.
Menu highlights include a creamy halibut soup with mussels and dill oil, zings of raisin, and sweet cubes of apple; Icelandic twisted doughnuts with traditional caramel whey; and an exciting cocktail list. And if you’ve ever fancied trying lamb testicles (‘fries’), this is your chance.
Owner of Matur og Drykkur, Elma Backman's top three places to eat & drink
- Hverfisgata 12
Unique pizzas, cocktails and a great atmosphere.
- Café Paris
Delicious French bistro-style lunch.
- Sumac Grill + Drinks
New and exciting Lebanese restaurant.
See & drink
The Harpa concert hall by the old harbour is a stand-out modern structure. The shimmering glass facade and tilted block shape, resembling a glacier, is an architectural feat designed by Icelandic–Danish architect Olafur Eliasson. Entrance is free and the interior is as stunning as you’d hope.
The hall hosts a variety of shows and is home to the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. Venture upstairs for a refreshment with a view at the Harpa Cocktail Bar.
One word of warning, due to its cost and the timing of its construction post-GFC, Harpa is a point of contention among locals. On the bright side, it is a conversation starter.
Where to shop
Wander lively Laugavegur, a character-filled street of whiskey bars, gastropubs, cafés, restaurants and a mixture of high-end boutiques and tourist stores selling cosy knits and reindeer hides.
Stop by stylish Sandholt bakery for artisan pastries and cakes as well as homemade soda (with flavours like raspberry and Arctic thyme), craft beer, and hot chocolate served with a big dollop of cream.
Nearby is the dark treasure trove Myconceptstore, a curated mix of eclectic homewares, jewellery, furniture, books and more. Stop by Eva for high-end brands, Marta Jonsson to pick up leather bags and footwear, or Vinberid for gourmet delicacies to take home.