From Iceland — Fear and Loathing in Reykjavík

Fear and Loathing in Reykjavík

Published July 29, 2008

The low-down on pubbing in the cove of smoke

Fear and Loathing in Reykjavík
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The low-down on pubbing in the cove of smoke

In our constant quest to help you, the average consumer, we sometimes have to dive deep into the denizens’ of Reykjavík’s underbelly. This article is the chronicle of one of those dangerous journeys. What started as a rather mediocre joke about visiting every bar in Reykjavík and writing an article about it somehow became a mission. The editor warned me that there was a distinct possibility that I may not have enough brain cells left to write a cohesive article after my “research” but I had a duty to fulfil. Although drinking at every bar in Reykjavík may sound like fun, it’s actually… well actually it’s the most fun you could possibly have short of meeting your soul mate in a jacuzzi filled with gold. That is, until you wake up the next morning and realise that your soul mate was actually a rather unattractive senior citizen, the jacuzzi was the gutter and the gold, well let’s just let it suffice to say that it wasn’t gold after all. But this article is not to frighten you away from visiting Reykjavík’s hallowed downtown area after midnight, but rather to steer you in the right direction. Whether it is affordable drinks, masterfully made cocktails or just great fun that you’re looking for, this guide will help you decide where you want to go.

Most Affordable Drinks
With the recession in full swing and the government taxing alcoholic beverages to the hilt, it sometimes becomes necessary for those of us with a little less in our wallets to put the pride on the shelf and visit the “cheap places”. It’s considered a given that if a place is cheap, it’s more likely to be seedy and if a place is seedy it’s more likely to draw shady customers. While I would not have the guts to frequent this type of place all alone on a Saturday night if I was a scantily clad school girl, it turns out that drunk and/or high poor people are no more dangerous than drunk and/or high rich people. Go figure. Cheap places (or “affordable” places in the interest of political correctness) are places like Belly’s, Uncle Tom’s Cabin as well as places which aren’t necessarily cheap on a day-to-day basis but offer two-for-one offers and things like that on drinks, such as Victor or Bar 11. The honourable title of Affordable Drinking Hole goes to Belly’s who not only serve the cheapest pint in town (450 ISK) but also what might be the cheapest single-spirit-in-soda drinks in town (750 ISK), as well as offering great offers on shots (350 ISK for a shot of Jaegermeister if bought with beer). If you’re looking for a place to warm up your livers and wallets for a long night of drinking, this is the place to go.

Best Cocktails
If you’re looking for great tasting drinks, you’ll have to accept the fact that they’re going to cost a little bit more. Finding a good cocktail at rush-hour on weekends might also take some work on your end, due to the lack of time and materials needed for the bartender to do his or her thing. There are a handful of bars with really good mixed drinks such as Q-Bar and Vegamót, but there is one bar which stands out as the best. B5, a classy (stuck-up) bar on Laugavegur complete with whiskey room and nouveau riche comin’ out the woodwork. Be warned, however, a beer on tap might cost as much as 850 ISK and cocktails can cost more than 1.500 ISK. You get what you pay for, but boy do you have to pay.

Best Party
It is of course a matter of opinion and taste as to what makes a good party a good party. Drunkenness, high spirits, lots of sweat and dancing are all pretty agreeable though. Since the destruction of Sirkus, which was pretty much accepted as the hippest, most enjoyable party in Reykjavík, people have been looking for the next big thing. They haven’t had to look far however, just a few metres down Laugavegur and left on Bergstaðastræti to Kaffibarinn. Always full to the brink of bursting and always the last to close, Kaffibarinn is a place where locals, regulars, hipsters, rappers, metal-heads, punk rockers, models and posers can all co-mingle in a boiling pot of sweat, beer and human flesh. Now that’s a good party.

Special Mentions
On one of my field trips I set my sights on Thorvaldsens bar (for the sake of science) but was told by a pudgy doorman that there was a dress code and that I was not fancy enough. Thoroughly outraged that all of a sudden a 60.000 ISK Raf Simons Jacket is not considered fancy enough and that I was being told so by a man wearing what looked like a 5.000 ISK suit, I gave the place a one finger salute and left with my pride in shambles. Thorvaldsen therefore gets a dishonorary mention for being a bunch of squares. The Dubliner, however, receives an A+ for authentic atmosphere. If you want to pretend you’re one of the characters in Boondock Saints, go to the Dubliner.

In closing, I want to remind you, dear reader, that alcohol is not a toy and can kill you. More importantly even if it doesn’t kill you it might make the morning after a living hell so act responsibly and drink with care

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