The Land of Fire and Ice might be renowned for its natural wonders, but its capital city of Reykjavik is a destination in its own right—with a thriving bar scene, a swimming lagoon, charming boutique properties, and more.
Where to Stay:
This centrally located boutique property places you right in the middle of the action in downtown Reykjavik—making it easy to wander off-property for an afternoon coffee, or wander back into the hotel past midnight after drinks. The hotel occupies a charming, historic building, but its interiors are classically minimalist and Scandinavian in feel. Rooms are separated into three sections “Big, Bigger, and Biggest,” and most have built-in kitchenettes, while some also boast balconies.
Another boutique property located in a historic building (it was once an apothecary), Apotek is known not only for its clean, contemporary rooms and suites but also for its chic and buzzy namesake restaurant and cocktail bar downstairs. There, find one of the best breakfast buffets in town each morning, and a backlit wall of pharmacy shelves that nod to the building’s former use. For the full experience, try to nab a stay in Apotek’s unique multi-level Tower Suite.
Where to Eat:
If you’re looking for a NOMA-esque tasting menu experience during your stay in Iceland, Dill is the place to be. The intimate restaurant is known for using hyper-local and hyper-seasonal ingredients for its ever-evolving dining experience, enticing and surprising guests with dishes that are often inspired by the otherworldly Icelandic environs that surround the capital city.
A trip to Reykjavik is simply only complete with a trip to this small but mighty hotdog stand. Locals and visitors alike line up daily to taste their iconic dogs—featuring distinctly Icelandic garnishes such as crispy onions and creamy remoulade, served on the bun underneath the dog.
This charming bakery serves up some of the best cinnamon and cardamom rolls this author has ever tasted, who, during trips to Iceland, pursues a near-daily morning pilgrimage to Brauð and Co. for their aforementioned freshly baked pastries. The next stop is always Reykjavik Roasters, just a block down the road, for a tasty latte.
Where to Drink:
An intimate tapas restaurant known for stellar cocktails and a stylish ambiance, Mat Bar is a must-visit in Reykjavik. Though bites are Mediterranean in style, we love that they change seasonally and call upon Icelandic produce.
Over the years, Iceland has come to be known for its craft beer scene, and Skúli is a great place to start for the curious imbiber—thanks to its ample offering of locally produced brews. In fact, it has one of the largest beer selections in Reykjavik, and friendly bartenders who are more than happy to suggest one to fit your liking.
Where to Visit:
The famed Blue Lagoon has finally found a rival in Sky Lagoon—a spa-experience swimming hole complete with ocean views, a waterfall, a swim-up bar, and more. We love that Sky Lagoon is actually located in Reykjavik proper (whereas Blue Lagoon is just under an hour’s drive away, closer to the airport), making it quick and easy to head there for an afternoon dip.
This beautiful, Brutalist-style church in the heart of downtown is hard to miss, especially as the tallest building in Reykjavik. Commissioned back in 1937, it was designed to resemble the mountains and glaciers of Iceland’s otherworldly landscape. Make sure to take a tour inside, and don’t forget to journey up to the top to get an amazing view of the city.
Some of the best things to do in any good city are the most fundamental: shop, dine, and drink. Reykjavik is no different, and the hip waterfront neighborhood of Grandi is the perfect place to do all three and more. The neighborhood encompasses the old harbor and is industrial, with a buzzy food hall (Grandi Mathöll), the must-visit Om Nom chocolate and ice cream shop, and interactive attractions such as FlyOver Iceland, Lava Show, and the Whales of Iceland museum. Boutique shops dot Grandagarður Street and are worth popping into. Two of our favorite places to shop include Kiosk — expect minimalist-contemporary womenswear here — and STEINUNN — a store that stocks knitwear and finely-crafted accouterments by designer Steinunn Sigurðardóttir.
Besides taking a stroll along Reykjavik’s beautiful docks, we suggest taking it a step further and hopping into a boat for some quality whale watching. Available between the months of April and October, tours take off from Old Harbour and give you the opportunity to spot Minke Whales, Humpback Whales, Harbour Porpoises, and White-beaked Dolphins.
Shop One of Iceland’s Best Streets, Laugavegur
Laugavegur is one of Iceland’s best streets to walk down. Grab a warm coffee & artisanal loaf of bread at Sandholt Reykjavik. Dive into Iceland’s rich literary history at bookstore, Mál go Menning. And lastly, head into Spúútnik for well-cared-for vintage clothes from all over the world.
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