Hverfisgata, the street that runs parallel to the main strip of Laugavegur, used to be considered the “Reykjavík ghetto,” but has recently been smartened up, with new shops and restaurants springing up on a regular basis. Here’s a guide to the places you should check out on the city’s up-and-coming second street.
This fancy new restaurant has a decadent interior, a cocktail bar, huge windows and an Italian-themed menu. It’s quiet and relaxed during the week, but becomes pretty packed with the older Reykjavík crowd at peak time, so make a reservation if you go at the weekend.
Hverfisgata (you guessed it) 12
This cosy restaurant has become a firm locals favourite. Downstairs, the restaurant serves creatively topped pizzas, with a bar room to perch at for a pint or a cocktail. Upstairs is Mikkeller & Friends, a craft beer bar pouring imported brews like sour ales, double IPAs, and dark-as-night stouts and porters.
Julia & Julia
Julia & Julia took over the café of the city’s Culture House this year, giving it a bottle-green facelift and introducing a daily menu of homemade soups, snacks, and—the star of the show—the cakes. It’s the perfect spot for a glass of bubbly (on offer on Wednesday and Sunday).
Mat Bar opened earlier this year, and was an instant hit. The interior is a departure from the reclaimed-wood-and-animal-fur trend, with big mirrors, a deli counter, and a shiny ‘n’ new vibe. The menu is Italian-themed, but with a worldly feel—try the basil and pisco cocktails, arancini balls, smoked almonds, and the excellent tasting menu.
If any place in the city could rival cocktail megaliths like Death & Company or Employees Only, it’s Geiri Smart, where the bartenders let you smell their handmade bitters before dipping your glass in absinthe for extra pizazz. The music is chill, and the couches cushy, so settle in for a night your tastebuds won’t forget.
Wind & Weather Gallery
This eye-catching street gallery is a large window with regularly changing exhibitions, visible day and night, whatever the weather. Sometimes you’ll see odd sculptures peering out onto the street, and others you might catch a live performance, a video projection, or an intriguing installation.
Hverfisgata 50 & 78
Húrra Reykjavík (not to be confused with the music venue Húrra) changed the game of Reykjavík fashion. They were the first in Iceland to offer á la mode streetwear like Stüssy, Champion, and Adidas, and by doing so, created a fashion frenzy. Kids have camped in front of the store for new Yeezys. Trump might not have “made America great again,” but Húrra Reykjavík has made Reykjavík streetwear great again.
Options used to be limited for Reykjavík’s vegans, with one or two menu items here and there. Enter Kaffi Vínyl. With mismatched chairs and crates full of records, it’s the Portland dream in downtown Reykjavík. Standouts include the lasagne and Kawaii sandwich—order one with extra Oomph. You won’t regret it.
The newest kid on the block is Bismút, a new gallery café right at the top of the street. It’s a family-run place—the owners live upstairs—and with gourmet coffee and big windows, it’s the perfect spot for a bit of chilling and taking in Hverfisgata street life.