While compiling our BEST OF REYKJAVÍK list, we consulted with a large group of people from all around town. Some of them were very detailed in their preferences, and some of what they like about our fair city is very likely some of what you’ll like about it, once you try it out for yourself.
In that spirit, here are some excellent folks and their excellent thoughts on Reykjavík.
Ólöf Arnalds, musician
“One of my favourite places in town is Café Flóra in the Laugardalur Botanical Gardens. It’s incredibly restful to sit down there and enjoy some coffee surrounded by plants and goldfish. I am also very happy with the area that’s in formation down at the harbour these days, that started with Sægreifinn but has now turned into a cluster of restaurants and shops.” .
Egill Spills His Beans
Favourite place to sit down and eat? Við Tjörnina serves real traditional Icelandic food. It’s also healthy and stylish.
Best place to grab a coffee? Mokka. They do great lattes and cappuccinos that are not made from a machine but an old authentic coffee grinder. I once asked them where their coffee beans were from and they won’t tell me. A family secret apparently.
Best bar? I like the English Pub as it has a great cultural influence.
Best kept secret? Öskjuhlíð is very beautiful and you can see the remains of the WW2 military base.
Þorvaldur Þór Þorvaldsson
Best café? Kaffitár. They have consistently great coffee and food. I recommend the bagel with hummus, olives, feta and cheese.
Best place to grab a bite? Austur-Indía Félagið. Best Indian restaurant around. Actually, in the world. I recommend the lobster appetiser with the salmon entrée.
Best bar? Boston. The music’s not too loud, just at the right volume so you can talk with your friends.
Favourite swimming pool? In Seltjarnarnes. It’s the easiest place to swim because the water is often overflowing so it pushes you along. I like the lounge pool also.
Best kept secret? At Grótta by the lighthouse, there is a hole in the ground with hot water in all year round. A great place to soak your feet and look at the beautiful view.
Dagný Ósk Aradóttir Pind, student
Hidden streets and late nights
Kaffibarinn. Excellent music and everyone I like to hang out with. No other bar is a candidate, even though this might mean I need to expand my horizons a little.
Favourite Restaurant? Á Næstu Grösum. A fair price, you get some great bread and hummus with your meal and the food is always spot on. So are the cakes.
Favourite Street? Haðarstígur, 101 Reykjavík. It’s a totally hidden street within Þingholt, which is uniquely quiet and beautiful. I definitely intend to live there in the future.
Favourite Store? Brynja. They have everything, and fools such as myself that don’t know anything about equipment and hardware supplies receive some great service, whether we’re purchasing a light bulb or a jackhammer.
Favourite Favourite? Walking home from town after a good night, with the sun rising. It’s hard to explain. It’s just such a great feeling.
Frímann Frímannsson, professional hipster
Picnics with girls
Best restaurant? Hornið, because it is straight up delicious and fun to watch the emo kids leaving Café Rót.
Best bar: Bakkus has reasonably priced beer and a lot of shit you can climb.
Best coffee: Kaffismiðjan, it’s close to my house so I go pick up smokes at Drekinn and go to Kaffismiðjan and lie on the bench, hobo-style.
Best kept secret: The picnic table hidden in the woods by Tjörnin is fun. It’s a good place to take a girl.
Birta Guðjónsdóttir, Director of Nýlistasafnið
My favourite things about Reykjavík are not very original, but they are good and classic. For instance:
Kjarvalsstaðir: It’s always nice to attend exhibits there, the café is an excellent place to read up on some art magazines and the building itself is especially beautiful, human-friendly and open to Reykjavík’s Central Park (Klambratún).
Norðurmýrin: Where the streets are all named after Njála, Landnáma and Laxdæla characters. The neighbourhood is like a little village on the outskirts of downtown, a quiet neighbourly paradise. The architecture is basic “concrete functional” from the forties and the hood itself is full of cats, large trees and moss.
Elliðaárdalurinn: Where the salmon play within city limits. Where the distant traffic roar blends with the hum of the river and song of the birds, and you bid all passers-by a good day. It is most certainly a place to ponder ones existence, to enjoy being a city kid in nature, not too far from ones next latté.
Múlakaffi: Where you can get Þorri-food well beyond the season, Icelandic home cooking in an institutional diner environment. It’s the kind of place I would love to visit as a tourist elsewhere, basic mom-food and no fancy stuff. It isn’t very healthy either…
Favourite art-space: Aside from Nýlistasafnið, where I am director, I would like to mention the art-book store Útúrdúr, which shares a space with the music shop Havarí, right in the middle of downtown in Austurstræti. Útúrdúr was founded around 2007 by a group of artists, and they use the space to honour artists’ work by displaying their art books (“paper art”). Útúrdúr also publishes books and has linked in to a large network of similar entities in Europe and the US that are all oases’ in the cultural deserts of their towns.
Markús Bjarnasson, AKA Markús & the Diversion Sessions, musician
Best Bar? It’s nice when you go out to start up Laugavegur, maybe around Boston. It’s a sure bet if you go downhill. It’s all downhill from there! If you get bored you head down to Karamba or then Bakkus. It’s a combination of those three places.
Favourite Pool? Vesturbæjarlaug. I was raised there. People like to talk in the hotpots because they are round. You meet the same people over and over. I recommend going and paying extra for the dry sauna. They have one but they don’t want you to know about it! Supposedly it’s a gay hot spot for one day a week.
Best Place To See A Show? Hemmi & Valdi. It’s the old wooden house on Laugavegur that used to be the Hljómalind record shop. A rock show there is the best.
Best Kept Secret? A walk out to Grandi or Grótta.
Hannah Hjördís Herrera, student
Rolling down Arnarhóll
Best Restaurant? Ban Thai, especially no. 19, if you want to burn your mouth with spice!
Best kept secret? Rolling down Árnahóll at ungodly hours in good company, and dancing to live African drums at Baðhúsið.
Lana Vogestad, yoga instructor
Favourite Restaurant? Nauthóll in the summer, because you can sit outside, it’s near airport and there’s a great view of the ocean.
Favourite Pool? The Seltjarnarnes pool. It’s a little secluded and by the sea. I love being by the sea! It’s new and clean and it has minerals in the water, which is really nice.
Favourite Walk? Around Hljómskálagarðurinn, the park by the Tjörnin pond downtown.
Favourite Ice Cream? Ísbúðin Ísland. They have a local ice cream maker and sorbets. Lots of nice options, like the coconut frozen yoghurt.
Best Kept Secret? Coffee at Café Haiti and good healthy food at Maður Lífandi. It’s great. They have all kinds of wonderful juices and organic foods.
Dóri DNA, rapper
Drunk actors, poets and journalists
Favourite Bar? I think I’m a bit of a cliché! I like Prikið because I’ve been to clubs all over the world and I’ve never experienced anything like the madness that happens there. It’s really small and it has fireworks when the mood is right. Afterwards, I like going down to Næsti Bar to visit some drunk actors and poets and journalists as they hang out.
Favourite Restaurant? The new pizza place, Gamla Smiðjan. It reminds me of something from back in 1997 when Iceland thought it had developed into something culturally diverse. Back then we cherished pizza places.
Best Kept Secret? There are a lot of good theatre productions in town. Some have a real international feel about them. The new theatre in Seltjarnarnes, The North Pole, is really great. It’s a hidden gem for now.
Mundi, clothing designer
Favourite Bar? Kaffibarinn, Bakkus and Boston. Those are the only bars I go to, because of the crowd and the atmosphere. I wish we still had Sirkus but we don’t. I also like Prikið, but only during the day.
Favourite New Clothing? Kron Kron definitely has the best clothes and brands in Reykjavík. I also like GK, where I sell my brand.
Favourite Ice Cream? Ísbúð Vesturbæjar, maybe just because I lived there for a long time. They really stick to an old fashion way of making ice cream and there’s an old charm to it that you can’t really fake.
Favourite Gallery? Kling & Bang, because they are all good friends. I know they aren’t doing it for the money, because they’re all fucking poor. They have had some of the greatest artists I’ve been able to see.
Best kept secret? The Sweat. It’s a Native North American style sweatlodge in Elliðaárdalur run by a gay couple. It’s a five hour affair with singing and dancing and you sit in a super hot tent with a fire. It’s really great.
Megan Herbert, designer
Favourite Bakery Treat? The tower-shaped chocolate soufflés with the gooey fudge centre from Sandholt.
Favourite Place For An Aimless Rummage? Friða Frænka
Best Hot-Dog Experience Downtown? That little hole in the wall milkbar on Laugavegur just down the hill from Kaffibarinn. Always fresh, always good. Especially in the wee hours.
Favourite Thai Place? Ban Thai. Particularly their giant, come-one-come-all tom-yum soups.
Best Sushi? The new sushi bar in the Kringlan food court. I’m pretty sure it’s called Zusushi. The chef’s special is sensational.
Best Yoga Class? Lana Vogelstad’s Hot Yoga.
Árni Vilhjálmsson, musician, FM Belfast
Best Pool? Sundhöll Reykjavíkur. Because of their hot pot. It’s great.
Best Burger? Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar. The hamburgers are ALWAYS good, and the staff is great.
Best Ice Cream? A chocolate shake at Ísbúð Vesturbæjar. Made with the “old” ice cream, of course.
Best Restaurant? Saffran. Ridiculously good and healthy food at a fair price.
Best Sauna? The sauna at Vesturbæjarlaug. Excellent location and environment. Peace and quiet and some great conversation.
Best Coffee? Kaffismiðjan. The best coffee, excellent location and a fabulous environment. They also serve great cheese and jam scones.