Through compiling our second annual best of list back when, we reached the conclusion that some of these places are so firmly established as local favourites that naming them “best of” anything is sort of redundant.
Furthermore, we thought having to compete with local favourites was almost unfair to all the new places trying to make their name. There will only ever be one Ísbúð Vesturbæjar, and it will probably remain Reykjavík’s favourite ice cream joint for as long as they don’t mess up horribly. That shouldn’t mean we can’t get excited and dish out props to other ice cream vendors.
We came up with a solution that would give us a chance to honour some of the perennial local favourites while still giving props to new and exciting places. We simply made a category that we call REYKJAVÍK INSTITUTIONS.
What makes a ‘REYKJAVÍK INSTITUTION’? By our definition, a ‘REYKJAVÍK INSTITUTION’ is a place or entity that’s time and time again proven itself as one of the best of its kind, and has remained a must-visit through the years. When achieving INSTITUTION status, an establishment is automatically disqualified from winning any ‘best of’ categories, because you’re beyond being ‘best,’ having been all consistently awesome for a long, long time.
A REYKJAVÍK INSTITUTION is a must-visit for tourists to Reykjavík.
A REYKJAVÍK INSTITUTION will retain its status as such until it starts sucking, in which case we will ceremoniously remove them from our list next year.
Without further ado, here are our REYKJAVÍK INSTITUTIONS, along with some choice reader and specialist quotes that argue their status:
“Despite some ups and downs, Kaffibarinn has remained the undisputed reigning champion of Reykjavík nightlife and drinking for well over a decade. They are a true nightlife institution.”
“Everyone goes there. All the time. For over 70 years now. Not exactly gourmet dining, but a really freaking great snack nonetheless.”
“It’s hard to explain the charm to outsiders, just tell them to go there. The ever-present queue speaks for itself.”
“For a restaurant to remain so consistently on top of its game for over thirty years is one huge achievement. They are cosy, dependable and ever-tasty.”
“They brought ‘coffee’ to Iceland, pretty much”.
“Quintessentially Icelandic in every way. The coffee, the cake, the vibe. If I were to point a visiting friend to ‘the essence of Iceland,’ this is where I would send him.”
“If Kolaportið weren’t around, we’d need to establish it immediately, lest we vanish back to the dark ages of commerce.”
Bókin – Bókabúð Braga
“It’s hard to imagine Reykjavík without it. So let’s not.”
“This neighbourhood hardware store almost predates Laugavegur, and they always serve you with a smile (and don’t mind throwing in some good advice when needed).”
“Probably your safest bet for fine dining in Iceland, period.”
“This Danish ‘smørrebrød’ house provides a unique atmosphere and taste you won’t find elsewhere in town… or in the world for that matter.”
“Serving old men their morning coffee since way back, and somehow combining that with serving beer and hip hop to young folks since the late ‘90s. And burgers. And milkshakes. A one of a kind place with spirit and soul.”
“The Guðjón Samúelsson designed Sundhöll Reykjavíkur with its maze of locker rooms is a beautiful building, and the nude sunbathing facilities, soothing hot pots and an atmosphere that has remained relatively unchanged since the 1930s all add to its appeal. While some of Reykjavík’s other pools might offer more diversity, Sundhöll Reykjavíkur remains a unique and enduring local favourite.”