In this fast-moving city, if a shop, bar or restaurant has been around for years or even decades, they must be doing something right. Right? Here’s our Reykjavík guide about the top O.G. joints, from bookstores to bars to restaurants and more.
Iceland has no McDonalds, but if you’re craving a burger without any pretentious chilli jam or brioche buns, go here. It’s a no-fuss fast-food diner with cosy booths and 90s rock-star artwork that’s so old it’s gone full circle and become cool again. Except for Bono. Fuck Bono.
Iceland’s Indian cuisine mecca is Austur-Indíafélagið, offering tandooris, authentic local delicacies, homemade paneer, and veggie options. Unlike most Icelandic places, you can expect some heat from their freshly ground spices. Its modestly-priced sister restaurant, Hraðlestin, is a good budget backup.
This Reykjavík staple is famed equally for its seriously spicy Thai dishes and its long waiting times—so much so that one friend of the Grapevine takes along a chessboard when he dines there. But hey, they cook for the stars: Russell Crowe and Emma Watson are never wrong. Except doing Noah. That was wrong.
The sequel to the late, lamented, and currently undead-in-Seyðisfjörður Sirkus bar, Boston is a dark drinking room with and a huge heated terrace. So if you’re done listening to the DJ, you can go smoke your face off in absolute comfort.
This cool, dark, shady, art-filled basement café is only open until 3pm, and serves traditional, hearty English or American-style breakfasts. Why it isn’t also an evening-time diner is one of Reykjavík’s great mysteries.
An airy spot with big windows and old-school touches, Reykjavík’s O.G. pizzeria has been baking crispy thin-crust pizza since before it was cool. We recommend the seafood iteration with a glass of the house white for a leisurely lunch.
Through a narrow Laugavegur corridor lies Italía’s dining room, where you can choose from an extensive menu of Italian dishes. The Cacio e Pepe was a steaming plate of cheesy comfort-food perfection. A family-style place that harks back to when pasta was considered fancy.
Get away from the hipsters and munch on some Danish-style smørrebrød in the company of multitudinous old folks. Wash down your open-faced delights with dangerously smooth Akvavit shots. Off-the-radar boozy lunch fun guaranteed.
With a saloon-like atmosphere by day, when dogs and kids run around amongst locals and tourists, Kaffibarinn turns into an all-out party during the small hours. Whether you’re day-drinking or nighthawking, it’s an eternally amusing barfly institution.
Mál og Menning
Iceland’s flagship indie bookstore. The entrance area might look touristy these days, but upstairs there’s a nice selection of English-translated Icelandic literature, and there’s a quiet coffee shop to dip into the pages of your purchase.
This moody coffee joint was famously the first in Reykjavík to have an espresso machine. It still has a lot of the original charm, with retro decór, low-hanging lampshades and comfortable booths. There’s no wi-fi, so bring a book, or a fun companion.
One of the oldest coffee houses in Iceland, Prikið has been reborn in recent times as the epicentre of the local rap scene. By days, stop by for a burger, coffee and happy hour pint; by night, expect swinging lamps, big bass, and a packed-out party on weekends.
Some say the langoustine soup recipe has changed a little since the eponymous “Seabaron” passed away, but this harbourside diner remains popular. Get a cup of soup and a melt-in-the-mouth fish kebab, still smoking from the coals.
This old-school burger ‘n’ beer joint is right downtown, but it feels like a true neighbourhood bar. An unassuming exterior contains the cosy, no-frills dining room, where you’ll mostly be surrounded by locals. For once.
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