Upon my return to Reykjavík last weekend from Denmark, I was pretty surprised to be greeted by a decidedly Danish addition to the downtown bar scene in the form of Tivoli Bar.
If you’ve ever been to Copenhagen, you’ll know Tivoli Gardens as the second-oldest amusement park in the world. It’s a vaguely terrifying place—sort of like “It’s A Small World” meets ‘Children Of Men’. There are lots of imprisoned wooden robots that sing Christmas songs with handpainted eyes that seem to beg for the sweet release of death. It gives me panic attacks.
Point being that I was immediately suspicious when I saw Tivoli Bar emerge, fully formed, out of the ashes of its former occupant, the beloved trash-heap Dolly. Half-empty most of the time and borderline dangerous the rest, that bar’s drugged-up barnyard vibe was famous for injecting more than a bit of grit into the city’s nightlife.
I would not have gone to Dolly, nor its new Danish-sounding replacement, out of choice. In this world, though, choice is an illusion—and I am lucky that this is so, because ending up at Tivoli Bar on Saturday night is something I do not regret whatsoever.
Reykjavík has long been famed for its total dearth of affordable, tasty, and well-made cocktails. Sure, good cocktails are out there, but they cost an arm and a leg and you’re unlikely to write home about anything you get at, say, Bar Ananas.
Tivoli Bar mixes things up in this regard. Its cocktail menu is short and sweet, but it’s given pride of place on the bar. Their margarita is a little on the small side for 1000ISK and it could’ve been the fact I was already half-cut, but it was possibly one of the best margaritas I’ve ever drank—and I’ve been to Mexico.
Even if you don’t end up buying a cocktail, the squad of handsome, ponytailed men constantly doing Cocktail Stunts at the bar really adds to the atmosphere which, incidentally, is pumping. I was there on a Saturday, which may not be representative of the entire week, but everyone in the bar was dancing.
This is in part thanks to the management’s skilful poaching of frankly excellent DJs from across the city. The aesthetic of the place is Kaffibarinn meets Húrra, with the music evocative of a slightly less weird Paloma. There are nice, plush booths scattered around the bar if you want to sit down, but this really is a place to “shake it,” in the parlance of our times.
The one thing I didn’t really like about it was the smoking area. Smoking areas are the lifeblood of after-dark social life in this city, and maybe it was the rain, but standing outside by the dumpsters and a fire escape is pretty depressing. There’s also a rather deep and small trench by the door, which I was able to fall into and graze my ankle on. If they fixed the trench and built some rain cover, it would really improve.
I didn’t get the chance to go upstairs, but I have also heard whisperings of a VIP area with booths and, presumably, a lot of used 1000ISK notes lying around. That’s not my game, but if you’re a young wannabe Danish dad who’s into shirt collars and spunking an obscene amount of money on a bottle of liquor and a chair and a table at somewhere like Austur, Tivoli Bar is a grungier (and more affordable) alternative, if you’re looking to mix things up a bit.
Tivoli Bar really has something for everyone—except small children, epileptics, and metalheads. But, well. Those guys are never pleased.
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