A Pocket Guide To Reykjavik
A Pocket Guide To Reykjavik

A Pocket Guide To Reykjavik


With its exciting food scene, modern architecture and geothermal landscape, Reykjavik makes for a cool winter city break. Our pocket guide is here just in time to give you the best places to stay, eat, drink and visit in Iceland’s capital.
Photography Nikolas Koenig

Reykjavik Edition


Reykjavik is a small capital whose hotel scene has been quietly evolving over the last few years. In addition to a string of cheaper hostels for younger travellers, the city now has luxury hotels and family friendly homestays. The big newcomer two years ago was The Reykjavik Edition. Set beside the harbourside and opposite the towering Harpa (the city’s famous concert hall), the hotel has impressive mountain views. There are over 250 rooms, all with slick Nordic design features, plush decorative accents, and furniture made by local craftsmen. There’s a state-of-the-art gym; a spa with its own geothermal pool; and numerous places to eat and drink, including a rooftop bar, Icelandic restaurant, and a newly opened late-night basement bar and club that attracts big-name DJs. Another good choice is 101 Hotel. The 1930s building has been updated with ultra-modern interiors and artwork by local designers. Monochrome rooms are light and bright, while the restaurant-bar serves excellent Nordic dishes.

Kvosin Hotel in downtown Reykjavik is set in a converted townhouse, with Scandi-style interiors across its rooms, which have separate living areas and kitchens. If you don’t stay, check out its bar Klaustur, which has the city’s largest selection of wines and spirits. This one’s also a good option if you’re travelling with kids, who can play with toys, books and boardgames – and even use the snowman kits in winter (complete with a pail and shovel). The nearby Ion City Hotel is equally smart. Some of the suites even have private saunas on the balconies with views of the sea and mountains. The main draw is the restaurant Sumac, a buzzy spot serving North African dishes in its striking dining room. The Reyka vodka cocktail is a favourite among locals.

101 Hotel

For a more affordable break, try Exeter Hotel near Harpa. It’s got standard doubles or spacious suites with views of the old harbour. The décor is industrial and masculine, with deep colours and oak panelling. There’s a small gym, sauna, on-site bakery and all-day restaurant for relaxed meals. If you want to live like a local, there’s House of the Snowbird, a traditional Icelandic house in the old town with a small double room, kitchen, dining area and bathroom. 


Most of Reykjavik’s restaurants naturally serve Nordic fare. Open from Wednesday to Saturday, Michelin-starred Óx is one of the city’s most celebrated spots. With just 16 covers, it showcases top Icelandic produce in a smooth dining experience: guests are served drinks in the lounge before moving to the counter (made to look like a modern home kitchen) to try delicately inventive dishes. Sister restaurant Sumac in downtown Reykjavik is also worth a visit, as is Dill, a fine diner that holds a Michelin star and a Green one for its commitment to low-waste cooking. Everything’s made with the island’s best seafood, meat and veg. 

Nikolas Koenig

For something more casual, book a table at Matur og Drykkur, a modern restaurant adjoining the Saga Museum. Fusing traditional Icelandic techniques with quality ingredients, it offers a six-course tasting menu alongside snacks and low-intervention wines. Brút in the city centre has a similar vibe, with a stronger emphasis on local seafood. The brunch buffet includes seafood platters and freshly baked breads, while lunch and dinner menus might feature the likes of scallop carpaccio, grilled pollock with tarragon, or marinated wolffish – a meaty fish native to Icelandic waters. The nearby Mikki Refur is a natural wine bar that does small sharing plates and burgers with local beer and wine from small producers. It’s a great date-night spot, as is Vínstúkan Tíu sopar, another buzzy wine bar serving cured meats and cheeses. 

Don’t miss Iceland’s first food hall: Hlemmur Mathöll is home to vendors including Fuego for tacos and cocktails; Tivoli, known for its hearty smørrebrød (open sandwiches); and Fjárhúsið which does organic lamb in the form of burgers, pitas and wraps. Skál!, the market’s contemporary restaurant and bar, is a great spot for veg-centric dishes. In the morning, head to Brauð & Co bakery for freshly baked rye bread and kanilsnúður (moreish iced buns), or visit Brikk, another top bakery where locals queue for sweet pastries and coffee. 

Mikki Refur



Reykjavik has an impressive nightlife scene, perhaps because the country gets such limited sunlight during the winter months. Start at Kaffibarinn, one of the city’s oldest bars. Don’t let its London Underground-inspired façade put you off – the bar attracts cool DJs at weekends while barmen serve local beers and cocktails. Jungle Cocktail Bar is another fun spot, with tropical décor and a laidback atmosphere, while Slippbarinn, a quirky cocktail bar, makes its own spirits and drinks from scratch. 

Whisky lovers should head to Dillon Whisky Bar to try a range of bottles from around the world. It also has live music throughout the week. A great afternoon can also be spent at Bryggjan Brewery by the old harbour. Visitors can learn how the Icelanders brew their beer, then try a pint with a steak at the on-site restaurant. 

Yanshu Lee/ Unsplash


No trip to Reykjavik is complete without visiting the famous Blue Lagoon. It’s an hour outside of the city at Reykjanes Unesco Geopark, but it’s worth the journey. Visitors bathe in turquoise geothermal seawater pools. Rich in minerals and microalgae, the natural water source is believed to help with various skincare concerns. There are swim-up bars as well as a spa and restaurant for post-treatment lunches. Another option is Hvammsvík Hot Springs, an hour to the north of Reykjavik. Here, visitors can try eight hot springs, then try the steam room.

Back in the city, you could easily spend an afternoon gallery hopping between the city’s cultural hotspots. Start at Marshall House, a centre home to the city’s biggest museums, including the Living Art Museum, locally known as Nýló and filled with contemporary artwork. Then there’s Thula, another contemporary gallery, and Kling & Bang, an artist-run community space. Once you’ve done the galleries, visit Harpa Concert Hall – home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra – and the Sun Voyager, a cool sculpture. Finally, spend an hour at the bizarre yet unquestionably interesting Icelandic Phallological Museum – the world’s only penis museum, it explores the ancient science of phallology.

If you want to extend your trip, book a guided tour to catch the Northern Lights. From September to April, visitors have a chance of spotting the light display during clear days when there’s better visibility. Get Your Guide offers four-hour tours departing from Reykjavik, but we like the idea of visiting a remote campsite for an authentic experience.  

Gashif Rheza/Unsplash


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