City Guide | Reykjavik

Author: Miranda Eason

I’ve wanted to go to Iceland for such a long time that I can’t quite believe I’ve been and come back already. Just writing this feature is making me want to be there again, that’s how much I loved the place.

Yes, everything people say about Iceland is true, it is expensive, but prices are comparable with cities like London, Stockholm and Copenhagen. You could consider staying in a hostel or airbnb rental to keep accommodation and food costs down. And yes it’s cold (at least it was in early November, I’m not sure how high temperatures rise in the summer). However that’s all the excuse you need to invest in some cosy new winter clothes.

When I told people I was going to Iceland the most common response was, “ I want to go there so much.” If it’s on your list of places to visit, I urge you to go now. The flight is just over three hours from Gatwick (see if you can snag a deal in the Easyjet sale) and it’s another 45 minutes or so on a coach to Reykjavik. The people are amongst the friendliest I’ve ever met and everything is so well organised, it’s a zero-stress kind of place. Here’s where I stayed, my favourite places to eat and the resources that helped me make the most of my trip…

Stay: Kex Hostel

A three-storey warehouse which was a biscuit factory in a previous life, Kex is a stylish hostel on the waterfront in Reykjavik (grab a window table in the restaurant for views of mountains on the other side of the bay as you eat) and just a short walk from lots of shops, sights and restaurants. Rooms range from doubles all the way up to dorms for 16 (help yourself to a pair of earplugs from reception). Brekkie (which is cheaper if you pay the night before) is buffet style and includes fresh bread, cheese, meat, eggs, porridge with various toppings, juice and endless coffee. At lunch there is a limited offer from the evening menu, which includes everything from bar snacks, to hamburgers and bigger meals such as salted cod, baked, onion and spinach (mouth watering at the memory!). Iceland Airwaves music festival was on whilst I was there and Kex was one of the off venue venues, hosting around six bands every day. The atmosphere was amazing, definitely worth timing your visit with Airwaves 2015 if you’re a music fan. Before you book be warned: the showers aren’t great. The water is a trickle at best. Top tip: the women’s communal shower on the third floor is the best, power-wise, or maybe that should be the least worst.

Eat veggie: Gló

If you’re veggie/vegan/raw/just fancy loading up on veg then you must have at least one meal at Gló whilst you’re in Reykjavik. Every day there are four dishes on offer, usually including a meaty option to keep non veggie travelling companions happy. I had raw lasagna, a tasty mixture of avocado, courgette, tomato, spinach and dehydrated something-or-other – possibly kale – which came with a choice of three salads from a selection of 12 on the side. So good.

Eat at the Best Goddamn Restaurant In Reykjavik: Snaps

Voted the Best Goddamn Restaurant in Reykjavik by The Reykjavik Grapevine (for the third year in a row) Snaps is a French bistro style kind of a place, serving up French bistro style classics such as French onion soup and steak bernaise. I had the baked salmon aka the biggest piece of salmon I have ever seen in my entire life, which came with caramelized onion, apples, sherry sauce and mashed potatoes. Sadly I was too full to sample the desserts. It was one of those places that feels a little bit fancy but a lot laidback at the same time.

Eat pizza: Hverfisgata 12

One of those restaurants that doesn’t have a name (Haverfisgata 12 is its address) it would be very easy to walk past, which would be a huge shame because, bold statement alert, I had the best pizza I have ever eaten there (and I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in my time). Quirkily decorated, candlelit and cosy, the atmosphere is like being at your best friend’s house, if your best friend owned a mansion in the middle of Reykjavik. Worth booking ahead on a weekend evening.

Explore: I Heart Reykjavik Walking Tour

Inspired by our Adam who took a motorcycle tour in Lisbon and went on a chocolate tour in Paris I booked to do the I Heart Reykjavik walking tour on my first morning in the city. It was a brilliant introduction to Reykjavik and Icelend covering the city’s history and the day-to-day life of the Icelandic people. We discovered a secret sculpture garden, heard the stories behind some of the oldest buildings in the city, saw a wide selection of the street art for which Reykjavik is becoming increasingly famous and came away with a guide book worthy amount of recommendations for the best places to eat in Reykjavik and advice for travelling around Iceland. Highly recommend.

Explore: Apps, Magazines & Sites to help you make the most of your trip

As well as signing up for the I Heart Reykjavik walking tour I read the I Heart Reykjavik site from beginning to end and signed up for the weekly ‘crash course in all things Iceland’ email newsletter ahead of my trip. The Reykjavik Grapevine is a funny, informative magazine and website, covering everything from food and drink to news and culture. Check out their Best Of Reykjavik 2014: Dining & Grubbing awards for all the best places to eat. Iceland Magazine is magazine and website focussing on travel, nature, news, people and culture. You can pick up the mag at shops and restaurants around the city. Just reading the latest issue is making me want to book a return trip.

This is already heading towards being the longest post I’ve ever written and I haven’t even told you about the Blue Lagoon suffice to say you must go. It’s touristy, but the locals go too apparently, and it’s one of those remember-it-forever experiences (my hair went a bit funny afterwards though, so take a deep conditioner with you). And there’s no room at all for me to tell you about where I went when I left Reykjavik. That will have to be saved for a future post. Have you been to Reykjavik? Have I missed your favourite places to eat and sleep? Inspired to go? Do share!

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13 thoughts on “City Guide | Reykjavik

  1. I love Iceland its my favourite place in the world. Here are a few recommendations:
    Food:
    http://www.grillmarkadurinn.is/en/
    Amazing – if you can find it! I think it was pretty obvious actually, but it did take us a couple of walks round to eventually spot the sign for it, down its hidden courtyard
    http://bbp.is/en/ Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur – essentially a hot dog stand but the best hot dog I’ve ever eaten (even better than NYC!)
    Noodle Station
    http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g189970-d2400356-Reviews-Noodle_Station-Reykjavik_Capital_Region.html
    Simple but delicious
    Svarta Kaffi
    http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g189970-d1487023-Reviews-Svarta_Kaffi-Reykjavik_Capital_Region.html
    for the soup in a bread bowl

    Bars:
    The Laundromat Cafe, a cool place for a drink or even lunch
    Lebowskybar also does delicious burgers
    Kaffibarin rumoured to be part owned by Damon Albarn

    Things to do:
    If your there at the right time a trip to try and see the northern lights. We saw them on Valentines night, how romantic. No you’re up a mountain for 4 hours in the freezing cold middle of the night, but it was amazing.
    We also did the golden circle tour, which takes in Geyser, Gullfoss and Thingveller national park, which were all amazing. I can recommend Icelandair for booking tours, we couldn’t fault them, they even emailed us pictures that the tour guide had taken of the northern lights as our camera was rubbish.
    The blue lagoon is a must, despite the expense and touristy nature of it – and a tip for the hair – slather your hair with the conditioner provided before you go into the lagoon and it will protect your hair from being funny afterwards!

    Anyway, I love it. Cant wait to go back.

    1. Well Claire, now I definitely have to go back if only to check out Grillmarkadurinn – it looks like my kind of place! I forgot to include BBP, you’re right, the best hotdog I’ve ever had. And you got to see the Northern Lights, very jealous!

  2. Iceland has been on my list of places I want to visit for such a long time but for some reason I never quite seem to make it! Ah maybe definitely next year – fingers crossed!

  3. yaay – i have been waiting for this post, Miranda! Thank you!! I have booked in on the walking tour and thanks to Claire’s amazing contributions have booked in for the tasting menu (with wine, of course) for our first night in Reky. I am so so so so excited now (and so excited to tell my husband he is going – he’s blissfully unaware of his 30th bday present!)

    Looking forward to the next post (soooon????) for tips on things to do outside of Reky.

  4. Perfect timing, we’re off in exactly three weeks! Will use your recommendations, thanks so much! Getting really excited now…

  5. What a great place! I was lucky enough to be proposed to whilst watching the northern lights up a remote hillside over looking snow capped hills (smug? Yes!!!) we also went through icelandair: a package with flight and hotel, the Fosshotel baron, brill location and fab breakfast. In reykjavik I would recommend the volcano museum where you can watch a short film done by 2 guys, really informative. The big national museum was also good. Food wise if you want to splash out Gustav V was amazing we chanced upon it and it was a real gastronomic delight! We drove round the golden circle trip but it was March so there wasn’t much snow around, imagine it could be sketchy at this time of year! Although I enjoyed the blue lagoon I think a locals geothermal pool could be better and less touristy! We also drove down on the ring road to see some of the traditional grass topped houses still remaining and the waterfall- seljalandsfoss. Echoing a previous post/the blog it was such a friendly place and easy to organise whatever you wanted! We will definately re-visit!

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