Once a year, we like to take a step back and celebrate our little city. It’s not that Reykjavík is a city without problems, or that it’s a place that doesn’t have plenty of ways in which it could improve. This probably goes without saying. We at Grapevine spend a lot of time being critical, after all, and by and large we’re a bunch of cynics. But once a year we like to set all that aside and appreciate the things that make Reykjavík a pretty great place to live.
As ever, our BEST OF REYKJAVÍK! issue is about big-upping stuff, giving out mad props and patting people on the shoulder. Our list is, of course, not a scientific one, and it is certainly contestable. It should be used as a starting point for a conversation; something for you to read, verify, distrust, totally disagree with, argue over, send us angry rants about and enjoy.
HOW WE DID IT: We’ve polled readers on Facebook, we’ve discussed in bars, we’ve consulted our resident experts, we’ve argued, revised, and argued some more. And we think we’ve come up with a pretty great representation of the finest that Reykjavík has to offer. Now, of course, not everyone is going to agree with our choices, and that’s perfectly fine—variety in opinion and taste adds spice to life and anyway, we love a good debate. Enjoy, and remember to send your suggestions to email@example.com for consideration in our 2015 edition.
Best Place to Shop for Touristy Stuff: Giftstore / Rammagerðin
Whether you’re looking for a lopapeysa, a sheepskin stool, a puffin mug, a runic necklace, jar of volcanic ash, a knickknack handcrafted in Iceland or anything in between (really, they have a lot of cool stuff), Iceland Giftstore is the place to go. Their huge variety of stock will satisfy the needs of souvenir purchases both cheesy and practical, both luxurious and kitschy.
Best Place To Stock: Up On Local Design: Kraum
Don’t underestimate this little wooden mid-1700s house. Kraum may be the oldest house in Reykjavík but it features the most modern work from over 70 designers from all over Iceland. You’ll be able to find the coolest Icelandic designs of almost anything from textiles and jewellery to bowls and chairs. We heard that all items are actually selected by a special committee to make sure you get a feel for what some of Iceland’s best designers are up to.
Best Place To Stock Up On Local Fashion Design: Kiosk
Kiosk is a co-op owned by a few talented, young Icelandic designers. You’ll be able to get unique, quirky and creative pieces at a very reasonable price. Not only do you get to purchase work by local designers, you get to meet them too as they take turns to work in the store.
Best Bookstore: Nexus
This award has bounced back and forth between Mál og Menning and Eymundsson, but the moment that Nexus was mentioned, all of our panellists were onboard. Not only is Nexus well-stocked in contemporary fiction, but they have an amazing selection of fantasy and sci-fi novels, as well as teen fiction, comic books, graphic novels and manga. The place also avoids the negative stereotype about comic book stores, putting a lot of effort into making sure it has a very female-positive attitude. If they don’t have the book you want, they can hunt it down and order it for no extra charge.
2013: Eymundsson, Bankastræti
2012: Mál og Menning
2011: Eymundsson, Austurstræti
2010: Eymundsson, Skólavörðustígur
Best Place To Get A Trendy Haircut: Rauðhetta og úlfurinn
It turns out that restaurants and stores in Reykjavík aren’t the only businesses benefiting from Iceland’s tourism boom. Apparently, we’ve heard, hairdressers are getting a lot of drop-ins from tourists. “I want Icelandic hair,” they say. “Give me Icelandic hair.” While many (if not most) people go to the same hairdresser, and our hairdresser admitted that she would never just drop in somewhere random while vacationing in Rome, people apparently have great faith in Icelanders wielding scissors. Now, you don’t have to go somewhere completely random though. Go to Rauðhetta og úlfurinn (‘Little Red Riding Hood’), a three-time Grapevine winner that has stood the test of time, consistently delivering new and trendy haircuts.
2013: Rauðhetta Og Úlfurinn
2012: Rauðhetta og úlfurinn
2011: Barber Theater
2010: Rauðhetta og úlfurinn
Best Second Hand Shop: Spúútnik
If you’re at all into second hand shopping, there is no place you’ll enjoy more than Spúútnik. It has a wide variety of clothing, shoes and accessories for all genders and ages and definitely has the largest selection of vintage dresses, denim and printed shirts, and leather jackets in all of Reykjavík. Items are also pre-selected and arranged neatly so you’re not going to have to spend hours going through piles of junk!
Best Shop For ‘High Fashion’: KronKron
Does the word ‘Acne’ make you think of something more than a skin condition? Do names like Marc and Vivienne make your heart skip a beat? If you’re a fashionista with a deep passion for designer labels, KronKron is the place for you. You’ll find clothing by the biggest international designer brands such as Sonia Rykiel, Marc Jacobs, and Vivienne Westwood and also the storeowners’ very own stylish label KRONbyKRONKRON. Prices are a little on the high side but what do you expect for high fashion?
Best Haberdashery: Herrafataverzlun Kormáks & Skjaldar
Tucked under the Bónus on Laugavegur is a classy gentleman’s heaven. Herrafataverzlun Kormáks & Skjaldar sells everything for an elegant man’s wardrobe, from leather shoes and top hats to tailored suits and bowties. The store carries many great brands such as Barbour, Loake, Hackett and Filson. There is also a great barber who’ll give you a stylish haircut and beard trim.
2012: Herrafataverzlun Kormáks& Skjaldar 2011: Herrafataverzlun Kormáks & Skjaldar
2010: Herrafataverzlun Kormáks & Skjaldar
Best Place to Buy Activewear/Gear: Fjallakofinn
Conveniently sharing a store with Arctic Adventures, Fjallakofinn is the answer to all your hiking and camping needs. Featuring top brands such as Marmot and Arc’teryx, you’ll find an abundant supply of outerwear, hiking boots, and all the equipment you could ask for. If you’re not exactly sure what to look for, their friendly staff of expert campers will help you find what you need. Also, if you happen to have travelled to Iceland without your trusty hiking tent or sleeping bag, they’ve got you covered. They offer equipment rentals on tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, boots, ice axes, pots, and more.
Best Place to Buy a Wool Sweater: Handprjónasambandið
Founded in 1977, the Handknitting Association currently has around 200 active members who utilise the finest materials for their handmade goods. In addition to selling a plethora of lopapeysas, they offer mittens, hats, and more, all made from lightweight, water-repellent, and breathable authentic Icelandic wool. Though far from cheap, Handprjónasambandið is the best place to shop to avoid purchasing a sweater that has been made in a sweatshop. With a mastery of countless patterns and an array of yarn for sale, the friendly staff will even help you make your own. If you’re in the market for a lopapeysa to rep that Icelandic style wherever you go, look no further than this slightly overwhelming woollen paradise on Skólavörðustígur.
2013: Handprjónasambandið (Kolaportið)
Best Place To Shop Organic: Frú Lauga
This charming pair of stores, one in 101 and the other in 105, is perfect for those who really care about where their food comes from. The purveyors of Frú Lauga look to promote tradition as well as innovation in food, and often have samples of the wine and food to prove it!
2013: Frú Lauga
2012: Frú Lauga
2011: Frú Lauga
Best Record Store – Lucky Records
Though Lucky Records has been bestowed with countless accolades, we had no choice but to pile on another. With a huge store, extensive Icelandic music section, and a trove of hip-hop vinyls, it’s possible to spend hours exploring their inventory. Also, keep on the lookout for live shows, as they periodically host local acts.
2013: Lucky Records
2012: Lucky Records