You’ve made it through harassing airport security, scrutinising border guards and cramped, smelly planes and here you are. Congratulations! Welcome to Reykjavík. Is it your first time doing this festival? Oh man. You’re probably going to need some help. And don’t tell me you are here with friends and they have done it before because you are going to lose them at some point amidst all the partying fun and you’ll need our help! So take it now! We care about you having the best time and not leaving penniless.
Filling up your tummy
Food prices have taken the biggest hit in post-crash Iceland so eating is where your pocket will get dented the hardest. Your best bet for some decently priced, body-friendly food is to hit up the Bónus supermarket (Laugavegur 59, Hallaveigarstígur) as soon as you get here. Grab lots of yummy, protein-rich on-the-paw snacks like trail mix, skyr shakes and bananas and you’ll be set to keep your energy up in the day. Also get some grilled cheese sandwich fixings for late nights.
The daytime is okay for finding cheap sustenance. For morning through mid-day healthy snacks we recommend the new one-man show in town Litli bóndabærinn (Laugavegur 41) for delectable, organic, veggie-friendly lunch foods and killer coffee. You won’t shell out more than 1.200 ISK here to be full to the gills. If you’re in need of something greasier, the good folks at Prikið will be doing their ‘Rock’n’Bacon’ breakfast every day and, as always, have a great daily burger deal for 1.000 ISK.
After dark it’s a whole other ball game. Your options for cheap food basically get widdled down to pylsur. The most popular Icelandic hot-dog stand in town, Bæjarins Bestu on Tryggvagata, slings them out for 300 ISK a pop and 170 ISK for a Coke. Not a bad boost while you’re running between Faktorý and Hafnarhús! Then on Lækjatorg you will find a bunch of food trucks offering up standard burger fare and sticky-sweet waffles in whipped cream. Worst case, you’ll end up at the 10-11 on Austurstræti at 4:00 in the morning buying a styrofoam burger and soda!
Getting boozed up
Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat: there is really no such thing as “cheap” booze over here. This is a small island and import taxes are high on deliciously decadent items like alcohol, so prepare to always pay at least a fingernail. But here’s the best you can do.
If you were flying in from abroad, you better have taken full advantage of the Airport Duty Free, not just for yourself but for all potential friends you’re going to make here. Getting to an after-party empty is a bit gauche. But you’re a long way from Keflavík now, so we won’t berate you.
Alternatively, once you get into town, hit up the Vínbúð (liquor store) on Austurstræti as soon as you can (on your grocery shopping excursion, perhaps?). There you can stock up on as much pre- and post-show libations at the best prices available in town. Beer in bars is always cheaper so we suggest going for wine and harder stuff if you’re into that whole scene.
Luckily, a lot of places have nice drink specials in the early evenings—especially at the off-venues! They want to lure you in, see. Check out some great unofficial programming and happy hours at places like Barbara (Laugavegur 22), KEX Hostel (Skúlagata 28), Dillon (Laugavegur 30), Hemmi & Valdi (Laugavegur 21) and The Laundromat Café (Austurstræti 9). The modus operandi goes as such: the earlier you start, the less you’ll pay. Flasks are also super helpful but you didn’t hear that from us. And seriously: pre-drink.
Doing the horizontal mambo
You are all grown up by now and know who you are and how you like to operate when it comes to nuding up with another person—or persons! But you are in a new place with new social customs so you might be feeling a bit shy. All we can say is: don’t be!
While concerts can sometimes be an awkward place to meet potential mates, there are some pretty sure-fire spots to go on the prowl. Bakkus on Tryggvagata, nestled between four of the festival’s venues, is a two-floor madhouse where people from all walks of life gather for wild antics and often get what they were coming for if they play their cards right. The classic and incomparable Kaffibarinn (Bergstaðastræti) has also been known through its lengthy existence as a place that has helped conceive a few babies.
If long-haired, leathery rocker types are your thing, head over to Bar 11 (Hverfisgata 18) where there’s a regular crowd of gruff hotties. For those into a more refined type, suited up and fancily dressed, check out Næsti bar (Ingólfstræti 1A) where there’s a ‘classy’ crowd, dim lighting and nice cocktails. If you’re looking for a same-sex hook-up environment, the city’s one and only queer club Barbara is your safest bet. The music is fun and the kids are way cute.
You should also keep in mind that, unlike a lot of other cities, everyone goes everywhere regardless of orientation so don’t expect places to just be straight or gay. If someone hits on you and it’s not your cup of tea, just be nice and respectful and move along. And vice-versa if the unwanted attention is coming your way! Remember kids: NO GLOVE, NO LOVE.
The morning after
Surviving the endless hangovers the festival provides is the key to your Airwaves success. If you’ve forgotten to bring aspirin along with you, hit up the pharmacy for some Treo, Alka-Seltzer-like pain-killer tablets with a caffeine kick and drop on in some OJ. Then get yourself to Sundöllin pool (Barónstígur 45A), sit in the hot tub for a while and be amazed at how your hangover has disappeared. Top it all off with a killer burger at Vitabar (Bergþórugata 21) and a quick nap and you’ll be rearing to go.
If all else fails, do as the Icelanders do and start drinking again! HAVE A GREAT FUCKING TIME! WOO!
By Rebecca Louder