07 April 2013

Reykjavík Guide and Excursion Ideas

My trip to Iceland was fantastic and since there seems to be a lot of interest in my trip there, here is a little guide based on my experience. Since I only went for 4 days, this is geared towards travelers taking a long weekend or a short trip. No matter how long you plan to stay, these places are not to be missed on an Icelandic adventure. Hopefully I'll be back soon and can add to it.

Hotel Fron
Laugavegur 22a, 101 Reykjavik
For a short trip, finding a deal that combines air-fare and hotel together is best. It made the planning simple and there are always deals for travelers on a budget. We stayed right in the heart of the city on the main street within walking distance of all the shops, bars and cafes. They offer rooms with kitchens and a complimentary breakfast that really helps when you have a very early start time for excursions. The beds are super-tiny, so if you are looking for a romantic love-nest, look elsewhere.

Eat, drink, dance:
Laundromat Cafe
Austurstræti 9, Reykjavik, Iceland
A cozy bar with walls lined with books and maps feels a bit more like a student lounge or bookshop. What's really cool is that there is an actual laundromat downstairs. The amenities like wi-fi, books, magazines and a self serve water station and of course a full bar were all designed for comfort while washing your clothes. Such a cool idea to be able to hang out and grab a drink while finishing a chore.
Vesturgotu 3b, Reykjavik 101, Iceland (Miõborg)
Set back in a square and a few steps below street level it feels like a little secret. We were wandering the streets late on Thursday night in the city and someone overheard us being turned away from yet another dinner spot. They told us that Tapas was the place to go. It worked out perfectly because not only is there is something for everyone on its massive menu but it has an entire tapas menu for traditional Icelandic dishes. For example thre is a fixed dinner of puffin with blueberry sauce, minke whale and Icelandic lamb and a sample of the local liquor, Brennivín. I wasn't quite that adventurous, but the other Icelandic dishes like lobster tail, baked potato and lamb samfaina were delicious.
A really nice place to grab a quick coffee and where I first encountered the Icelandic cafe culture. Almost every table was occupied by people working at open laptops and full coffees. Also, there are no Starbucks (or really any American chains) because they pulled out of Iceland when the economy went bad a few years ago. This sustainability-minded shop has several locations throughout the city for a quick coffee fix. I hardly drink coffee but the late sunrise left me groggy, so I recommend having a cup to get going.
Hereford Steikhus
Laugarvegur 53b 101 Reykjavík
A very fancy place to have dinner on Laugarvegur. They have a fun system for ordering meals by giving each person a ticket that you fill out to choose all your options. We ate lamb, steak and the lobster bique was heaven-sent. Its always nice to have a dress-up fancy dinner at least once on vacation.
Bæjarins beztu pylsur
Bollagarðar 4 -170 Seltjarnarnes
It literally translates to, "Best Hot Dogs in Town," and lives up to the name. Its a tiny shack that serves late night lamb-dogs with Icelandic mustards and crispy onion bits. The sauce wasn't for me, but it was a tasty treat in the end of a long night.
(A few blocks away in Lækjartorg square there were other late night food trucks with fries, pizza, waffles and hamburgers. That perfect extra meal for when you stay out all night like a local.)
Dillon Whiskey Bar
Laugavegur 30 101 Reykjavík
This is THE place for drinking Icelandic beers and dancing to classic-rock hits all night long. I was partial to the upstairs section because it felt like an indoor beergarden but in an oversized attic. Hands down one of the best bars I've ever been to thanks to friendly bartenders and a welcoming crowd.
Country Hotel Anna
Route 1, Hvolsvollur, Iceland 861
A cozy spot for lunch with an interesting story. It was the childhood home of Anna of Moldnúpur, an Icelandic weaver and dairymaid who wrote beautiful and exciting stories about her adventures outside of Iceland in the 1950's. There is also a tiny hotel that I would love to stay at for a night out in the wild countryside. Our lunch here was included on our glacier hiking excursion and to warm our insides for the climb we were served delicious, traditional kjotsupa (meat soup).

Icelandic Red Cross Store
Laugavegur 12, 101 Reykjavík
A perfect secondhand that sells classic Icelandic sweaters, hats and other clothes at reasonable prices. The money goes to a good cause and is an affordable way to pick up your best souvenirs.

Rokk Og Rósir
Laugavegur 17, Reykjavík
A beautiful jewel of a store filled with outstanding handpicked vintage. Most of the items were very girly and feminine. Think glittery dresses, floral blouses and sparkling baubles. The decor and the clothes gave one the feeling of being in huge pink closet filled with treaures. This is the kind of store I would visit on the regular to search for those perfect one-of-a-kind pieces.

Icelandic Travel Market
Bankastræti 2 - 101 Reykjavik
Spend an hour or so here planning excursions to get out of the city and into the incredible countryside. There are so many tour options to choose from, but the staff here is knowledgeable and willing to feel out the kinds of things you're interested in doing and make recommendations. For example, our large group was torn between two trip packages and we only had two days to fit it all in. They offered us substitutions for certain activities to fit our interests. It worked out perfectly, and they were able to book us a superjeep and a tour guide for two whole days of Icelandic adventures.

To see where we went and that I highly recommend since I spent most of the time stumbling around in awe, see my posts Iceland Day 2, Iceland Day 3 and Last day in Iceland
I think that this is the most fun way to get around and you shouldn't miss it. When else will you get to ride in a mini monster truck? You can drive out into the moonlike terrain on trails that normal cars could never handle, the giant tires put you right in the middle of stunning landscapes that can't be reached by paved roads. Ours happened to be a van because we were such a large group, but they are available for groups of 4 and 5 too.

My two favorite sites in Reykjavík
Miðbær, Reykjavik
Ever wonder where the aerial pictures of the city on Pinterest come from? They come from the tallest structure in the city, the modern steeple of the Hallgrimskirkja. Inside the church itself is a very bright, clean space though when I visited it was under construction. From here you pay a few kroner and take an elevator to the top where you can see for miles over the brightly colored houses and white mountains.
Settlement Museum
Adalstraeti 16, 101 Reykjavik
The site of a 10th Century longhouse, uncovered almost 1,000 years after being built when the owners of the building above were digging in order to build a basement for their bar. Its below street level and you can walk a loop around the foundation of the house while seeing interactive displays that explain the history of the settlers in Reykjavík.

Bon voyage!


  1. Wow what an interesting post and great photos! I'd love to visit these places especially the Laundromat cafe! Love that the books are all in colour order as well :)
    Kerry x

  2. Thank you for this, it sounds amazing!

    Maria xxx

  3. I must go there, the houses look cute <3

    Once I saw a movie called 101 Reykjavik and I'm pretty sure this movie scenes were so dark but in your pics it looks so bright, amazing!

  4. You're making my heart hurt with this post! I want to go BAAAACK!

  5. Rebecca PerrielloApril 11, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    Thanks so much for sharing! I'm going back home to the UK for a week in July (the first time since immigrating to the US in 2011) and we decided to stop off in Reykjavik for a couple of days on our way back. So excited!

  6. My grandma says Iceland was her favourite place she has ever visited and from these photos I can see why; looks amazing!



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