Iceland Airwaves has taken many forms over its twenty years, from being a concert in an airport hangar, to a gritty 101 party, to a grown-up week-long festival with Harpa as it’s clean ‘n’ tidy hub. 2018 sees slight return to the late 00s model: Valshöllin is gone (yay!), and this year there are thirteen very different venues to explore, from an intimate 200-person capacity venue (Bryggjan Brugghús, Hressó) to the slightly-less-intimate-but-still-pretty-intimate-tbh Reykjavík Art Museum, which accommodates 1200 concertgoers.
1. Bryggjan Brugghús
A bar/brewery on the edge of the Grandi area, this venue sits amidst huge beer tanks, making it the only venue with the possibility of an actual, rather than metaphorical, beer flood.
This beautiful, traditional wooden church has a warm sound and a fantastic rarefied atmosphere. There’s no bar though. Thanks for nothing, god.
Accessibility: Limited. Steps to entrances.
3. Gamla Bíó
Picking up the slack from the late and lamented NASA, Gamla Bíó is a cinema-cum-theatre-cum-venue with high ceilings, fancy vibes and balcony seating.
Accessibility: Good. Balcony with elevator.
The queen of Reykjavík’s grungy bar scene, Gaukurinn is currently the dank home of the city’s queer and alt-culture. It operates a proactive safe space policy for LGBTQ+ gig goers. And it has a sweet vegan diner. Go Gaukurinn!
Accessibility: Limited. Stairs to 2nd floor.
5. Hard Rock Café
Don’t worry, you won’t have to watch music surrounded by Lemmy’s favourite toothpick, Slash’s boxer shorts and a sachet of Tina Turner’s eyelashes. The venue is in the basement.
The glittering Harpa concert hall is used to a lesser extent this year, which might actually be good news for the overall 101 festival party vibe. Still, Harpa is great, and there’ll be a show or two to check out there.
7. Hressingarskálinn (Hressó)
A diner-by-day and a bar-by-night, Hressó is a long-lived normcore staple in the heart of downtown. They have a pretty excellent sheltered and heated smoking area for when the weather is a total shitshow.
Húrra won the music venue category in our Best of Reykjavík mag this year, and for good reason. It has a great stage, atmosphere and sound system; it’s fun, cool, colourful, and always where the party is at.
Accessibility: Limited. Two steps into venue.
Iðnó is a classic 101 concert hall which has recently become a rejuvenated centre for Reykjavík’s art community. Great acoustics, great stage, great people and spacious as heck. Certified: fresh.
10. National Theatre of Iceland
A theatre-turned-concert hall, this is a good place to come if you wanna sit down in peace and gather your energy while taking in some mellow music on a historical Reykjavík stage. Don’t fall asleep and miss everything though.
Accessibility: Good. Wheelchair area.
11. Reykjavík Art Museum
The Art museum’s roofed courtyard once again becomes the festival’s biggest stage. It has a certain prison-block atmosphere, with white multi-tiered balconies, but it always has a big-name lineup that attracts a buzzing crowd.
Accessibility: Good. Balcony & elevator.
This wildcard venue is a basement function room beneath Bonús. We last remember it being an Airwaves venue in 2007. Benny Crespo’s Gang played. It had carpets! Who knows what it’s like now. Only one way to find out…
Accessibility: Good. Elevator to downstairs.
13. Sundhollin (off the map)
Barónsstígur 45a, 101 Reykjavík
On Saturday November 10th from 3pm-7pm, Reykjavík’s classic swimming palace will host a concert. Get your fanciest swim shorts and that statement bikini and head down for some soothing soaks and top tunes.
Airwaves tickets are on sale now.