How to make the most of Reykjavík during the five-day festival
—Words by R.X. Beckett
While some may think of Iceland Airwaves as a festival of locals and devotee tourists, we know that the city welcomes hundreds of first-time visitors and hardcore music fans into its arms every year. And though a lot of those people have probably been to other music festivals, ours is one unlike most others!
There is a sort of magic that changes the feeling in the air and a sense that anything can happen. Yet within this electrifying spontaneity one still wants to feel ready for whatever’s about to come. We are here to assist you with some helpful suggestions to get you through your Airwaves sojourn.
Reykjavík Roasters (Kárastígur 1)
If you just want to grab a cup of joe to-go, nowhere will get your engine running as well as these caffeine experts. They were known up until recently as Kaffismiðjan and the name change only reflects their dedication to delivering finely crafted coffee, roasted on premises and brewed to perfection. Take it away and feel the buzz.
Prikið (Bankastræti 12)
This classic and cool catch-all diner is great any time of the day, but early birds should hit up their long running Airwaves Rock’n’Bacon breakfast concert series. Get yourself geared up with good music and hefty servings of bacon, eggs and American style pancakes and some of the best coffee in the biz.
Búllan (Geirsgata 1)
The only restaurant in town lucky enough to have its own street sign, this burgerjoint in the old harbour area is beloved for having introduced the real American-style burger to Iceland. It’s a sure-fire spot to pick up a quick grilled meal (meaty or veggie), perfect to soak up last night’s party or prep your stomach for the madness of the night to come.
Nóra Magasin (Pósthússtræti 9)
This fairly recent addition to the city’s dining scene is a perfect mix of casual comfort with a unique, upscale menu. Their short menu offers a taut selection of fresh dishes that combine elements of French and Asian cuisine made with fine local produce. It’s a great place to start the night, with an intimate date or with your entire festival party group.
Sundhöllin (Barónsstígur 45a)
Nothing is more local than a trip to the local pool for a communal shower and then some good ol’ hot tub gossip. It’s also a proven hangover killer! Take part in this timeless tradition at the oldest pool in Reykjavík, conveniently located in 101 just behind Hallgrímskirkja church. Make sure to follow those shower rules—no one is looking at your junk, but they’ll notice if you don’t wash it!
Hafnarhús (Tryggvagata 17)
If you’re not up for off-venue daytime concerts, take in some great Icelandic art at this branch of the Reykjavík Art Museum (it is also an official Airwaves venue at night). Not only does it hold temporary exhibits by cutting edge artists from the world round, but it officially houses the collection of Iceland’s great modern artist Erró. The permanent exhibition of his work is completely breathtaking and gives a glimpse at one of our biggest cultural influences.
Iceland Expo Pavillion
Even though everyone wants to get out of the city and see some of those iconic landscapes, it’s not so easy to pull off between the concerts and the parties and the hassle of car rentals. If you can’t make it happen, head to this giant 360° panoramic film that was originally made for the 2010 World’s Fair in Shanghai. The fifteen minute long film is a complete immersion into the intensely enigmatic power of Iceland’s nature, without all that extra raingear and emergency supplies.
Kraum (Aðalstræti 6)
Since you’re coming for Airwaves, you’re most likely going to want to grab some of the official festival merch (available at the visitor’s centre), but you might also want to grab some of that great Icelandic design you’ve heard so much about. Kraum is the perfect spot for all your design needs, covering a massive range of styles, sizes, prices and practical purpose. Even if you’re not in the market to buy, drop in to check all these creations out, gallery style.
PARTY ALL THE TIME
Loft Hostel (Bankastræti 7)
What better way to start an evening of shows than by socialising on a forty-foot square deck overlooking the city’s main drag? Not too much, honestly. This bar on the top floor of a fine hostel is both an off-venue and just a generally great place to hang out. It’s also high up enough that you can maybe get a view at how bad the line-ups are outside venues! Okay, maybe not, but it’s a really nice place for a drink.
Bravó (Laugavegur 22)
This location has had many names, but it’s always been a great place to have a drink. Now the downstairs neighbour to gay bar du jour KiKi, this cosy corner is ideal for the beginning of a night or for the very end. The friendly bar staff have a secret cocktail recipe that will loosen up your bones to get you moving at the shows.
Dolly (Hafnarstræti 4)
It’s one hundred percent pure house at this funky little shack named after Mrs. Parton herself. If you’re not all danced out after all the great hip-shaking sets at the festival, come work out that extra energy here where you’ll be surrounded by like-minded grinders. Who knows who you might find to grind on there, too. Hmm…
Kaffibarinn (Bergstaðastræti 1)
Of course, you can’t go wrong starting or ending (especially ending) your night at this Reykjavík stalwart. It has its up and downswings, but in the end, this place is like the beating heart of the local nightlife, immortalised in classic movies and raved about by locals and bloggers. Go there to find out why and have an unforgettable, or an unforgettably forgotten night!