Best Places to Eat & Drink in Reykjavik, Iceland
While many visitors to Iceland use Reykjavik as a jumping-off point for their adventures out in the Arctic wilderness, it is no mere base camp. It’s a vibrant, thoroughly modern city, with fantastic restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Although Reykjavik has experienced some incredible transformation over the past decade, those looking for a uniquely Icelandic dining experience needn’t worry—smoked reindeer is still on the menus of even the fanciest restaurants. We asked Classic Journeys’ Iceland Guides Atli and Kommi (both native Icelanders who’ve spent plenty of time in Reykjavik) to give us some recommendations.
ICELANDIC STREET FOOD:
It’s no surprise that Icelanders face some culinary challenges, thanks to the country’s climate and isolated location. But Icelandic food is surprisingly diverse and very, very tasty. And seasoned travelers know that the best place to start when you want to understand a country’s cuisine is right in the streets. Food trucks and wagons are becoming more popular in Reykjavik, and a trip to the city isn’t complete without sampling their wares.
Best things to order:
– Plokkfiskur, a simple stew with three basic main ingredients—cod, potatoes, and onions—is a popular staple. Versions of it can be found everywhere, from small street carts to the city’s most exclusive restaurants.
– Feeling extra adventurous? Head to the BSÍ Bus Terminal downtown; the charred sheep’s head is a local favorite.
– Grab a hot dog. And don’t feel bad about doing so: one of Reykjavik’s best-kept secrets is that they serve one of the best hot dogs you’ll ever eat. Called the pylsur, the Icelandic hot dog is made with three different varieties of meat—lamb, pork, and beef—and served with a variety of great condiments. Stop by the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (English translation: the best hot dog in town) but be prepared to wait with the locals. They’ll tell you to order one “with everything.” Trust them, apple-sweetened ketchup on a hot dog really is delicious.
FINE DINING IN REYKJAVIK:
There are a number of world-class restaurants in Reykjavik. Here are a few of our guides’ favorites:
Fiskmarkadurinn (Fish Market)
Atli recommends going straight to the tasting menu. “A great variety of the best in Icelandic cuisine, with paired wine. A two-hour food adventure.”
Matur og Drykkur
Both of our guides recommend Matur og Drykkur if you’re looking for expertly prepared authentic Icelandic food. The menu may change, but if it’s available, Atli says to try the cured puffin.
Matarkjallarinn (Food Cellar)
“BIG yes,” says Atli. “More ‘local’ than most, the main clientele is Icelanders. Great lamb and beef!”
This local favorite is touted for its ever-changing menu, fusing local Icelandic tastes with international dishes. Atli says to “go for the pasta and the fish!
REYKJAVIK NIGHT LIFE? THINK ARCTIC-CASUAL.
If you’re looking for an after-dinner drink, Reykjavik’s bars range from low-key pubs to thumping dancehalls. The common thread—thanks in no small part to the weather—is “come as you are”. You’ll be fine walking into most places wearing your snow boots and wool sweater. Here are three Reykjavik bars you should check out:
Say it aloud, and you’ll get a hint as to the nature of what’s arguably Reykjavik’s most famous bar. Kaffibarinn is a coffee shop during the day, but at night it converts to a full-service bar. It’s popular among locals and travelers alike, so get there early.
Often referred to as Reykjavik’s first true cocktail bar, Slippabarinn offers a Happy Hour from 3:00 to 6:00 every day of the week.
Iceland has a burgeoning craft beer scene; Kaldi was the country’s first microbrewery, and their bar offers up a few of their creations. Raise a glass of Kaldi’s unfiltered ale (the original) and say “skál!” (That’s Icelandic for “cheers”!)