The pandemic restrictions certainly shook up the Reykjavík bar scene in 2020, but that doesn’t mean that our favourite drinking institutions didn’t do everything they could to create a safe environment to assuage COVID-19 anxieties. In fact, the past year saw a plethora of new spots opening and old classics keeping the spirit of the city alive. Because let’s be real: Icelanders love to drink. In fact, there is probably nothing Icelanders like doing more than drinking, which could be why this country doesn’t have a space program. But hey—we’ve done pretty well at vaccinations.
Best Newcomer Bar
It’s rare that a bar elicits as much excitement as new jazz haunt Skuggabaldur. But since its opening, it’s basically blown up and was unanimously voted the best Newcomer by our rather diverse panel. “It’s a great place to sit outside; they’ve got really nice jazz music. You need to go on Monday, when they have Mánudjazz, which used to be at Húrra. It’s so nice,” said a panel member. “Yes, they’re bringing something that Reykjavík needed,” another panellist agreed. “We needed a jazz bar that was committed to doing jazz (and all that that entails) well, but this place has cracked the code. [The building it’s in has] been a rather cursed spot, but I remember when I first walked in, I thought ‘This is what was born to be here.’”
Turning a large, shuttered book store into a cosy music venue and bar was a rather bold choice, and it’s not a stretch to say that many doubted the team behind the revamped Mál og Menning would do it well. That said, naysayers were proved wrong by the fantastic bar, which has already proved itself with a fantastic lineup of acts—and a great selection of novels. “It’s a great addition to our venue scene,” the panel declared. “And it’s so beautiful and classy. It makes sense.”
Ahh—Mikki Refur. It’s a place that can do it all. The bright café/bar has got an expert selection of beer, wine and appertativos and a prime location that makes it a great place to start the night—or bring a date. “I didn’t know what to expect when I went there,” one panellist recalled. “But I do know when I sat down I thought, ‘This whole place feels like the next step in Icelandic bars.’ It’s what we needed downtown. It’s friendly.”
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