Once again we come to the time in the year where we do the hard task of assessing which bars and clubs are worthy of a place in the limelight. Reykjavík’s bar culture is quite vast and diverse, ranging from the smallest three-table hole that serves one beer and where regulars threaten you for taking an extra chair, to huge vast glittering bottle-service rooms lined with leather and mirrors. Unfortunately for our panel, selecting these bars doesn’t mean an actual field trip, but it does require a certain—how shall we put it politely—expertise. They range from former bar staff, to performers who find themselves in bars all the time, to writers who sometimes write, and sometimes just drink about it. So here are the results that our ragtag team of (ahem) experts came up with. Now get out there and have a few!
Winner: KEX Hostel Skúlagata 28 KEX Hostel is a great place to kick off an evening. It’s a hostel bar, but it kind of transcends that description, with an amazing sea view over Faxaflóí and Mount Esja, beautiful decor, spacious tables, and a large wraparound bar with stools to perch on. It’s especially fun if they’ve got a live show booked—they’re almost always free, with great local and visiting bands. KEX just has a cool atmosphere, with the bonus of great food and a good beer selection (now improved with a happy hour). It can get crowded with the after work crowd, so get there early to find a seat.
Kaffi Vínyl Hverfisgata 76 Off the beaten path from the main Laugavegur drag, this excellent café was once a discount shoe shop that was literally never open. It has a great selection of beers, wines and cocktails, lovely décor that feels like a hip living room, and tasty vegan food. It closes early, but it’s adorable.
Bíó Paradís Hverfisgata 54 Bíó Paradís is a cinema. But wait—their lobby has a comfortable, decently priced bar, and you can bring your drink into the cinema or just hang out and get nicely lubricated before hitting the town, especially after taking in one of their Friday night throwback screenings.