THE GRAPEVINE'S BIG-ASS BAR GUIDE 2015! - The Reykjavik Grapevine



Photos by
Nanna Dís

Published June 12, 2015

Wow, can you believe our bar guide is five years old already? That means, in just 15 years, it will be old enough to go drinking downtown. And it’ll definitely know all the best places when it does. Over the last few weeks, we sent our team (who previously could have been described as “fresh-faced and intrepid”, but are now more “grey-faced and shaking”) to grab a beer, people-watch, and take in the atmosphere of Reykjavík’s many downtown bars, and report back accordingly.

In total, we went to just shy of fifty bars. This included a fresh look at all of the places we covered last year. And while that might seem like retreading old ground, downtown Reykjavík is actually a bar merry-go-round on which places are constantly opening, closing, changing spaces, changing floors, changing names, taking back a previous name, or even reviving a long-dead one. Bars here also regularly change hands, and when they do, the decor, drinks selection, staff and atmosphere often change too, according to the new owner’s taste. So, we took one for the team, you know. Once more into the breach…

Of course, you may not agree with everything we’ve written. Bars change feel according to the time of day you visit, or how familiar you are with their secrets, quirks and eccentricities. Or, maybe we just plain got it wrong in some cases – you can write us an angry letter about that, if so. We won’t mind. This guide is ultimately for the purposes of entertaining you, informing you, and inciting pub-table discussion. And if it helps you find a new bar you love, then all the better. All that said, there was some method to our madness. Here’s the criteria we used.

Reviewer Instructions:
These are the instructions we gave to our reviewers before they embarked upon their mission.

Define: Bar
A bar is an establishment that has ‘the sale and consumption of alcohol’ as its main purpose and goal. It can sell food and host events, but the emphasis must be on drinking.

Each reviewer was instructed to drink one beer at each bar reviewed. To ensure that all bars were reviewed under similar circumstances, they were asked to go there between the hours of 23:00 and 1:00 on a djamm (“party”) night – typically Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. At the bar, they were instructed to take notes in their fancy notebook, which they did not forget to bring (because forgetting that would be horrible). They noted the following:

What’s the vibe? How’s the decor, the setting, the general mood?

The cheapest price of a beer, glass of wine, and ‘single + mixer’.

What’s on the stereo, by type (DJ, playlist, live music) and genre?

Who hangs out there?

beer Beer
single Single + Mixer
wine Wine

music Music / Genre
age Age
clients Clientele
special Special feature
troub Troubadour Alert

Our Review Team:
Gabríel BenjaminHannah Jane Cohen, Helgi HarðarsonHildur María FriðriksdóttirJohn RogersJón Benediktsson, Larissa Kyzer, Mark AschRagnar Egilsson, Ragnar Hrólfsson, Rx Beckett, York Underwood.

American Bartroub

Austurstræti 8

The American influence on Reykjavík bar culture is already so widespread that “American Bar” is perplexing. Bjarni Fel (cheapish towers of bad beer; walls covered entirely in flatscreens), Kex (Edison bulbs; hardback books by the yard), and Lebowski Bar (named after ‘The Big Lebowski’) feel more ‘Murcan than this high-ceilinged space. The long, curving bar is how it should be, as are the several TVs playing 80s music videos, but the walls of neon liquor logo signs and NFL helmets are obviously alcohol-distributor giveaways. The bottled and draught beer list also skews heavily towards Icelandic breweries, which is no longer a novelty given Reykjavík’s maturing beer culture.

beer 1000 single 1500 wine 1200

music What’s more American than an acoustic cover of an old Icelandic rock song?
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Americans, despite having spent thousands of dollars to travel thousands of miles from America. Icelanders, despite having a culture of their own.
special Darts (not pool, pinball, shuffleboard, or a mechanical bull, but *darts*). Live Premier League football. You can order Icelando-American messy/upscale food from next door’s Dirty Burger and Ribs.

The American Bar has the authenticity of the English Pub mixed with the chilly high-ceilinged ambiance of an airport lounge. – MA


Austurstræti 7

Austur is one of the few bars in Reykjavík that might be considered a club. People go there to buy bottles of vodka for their reserved table, dance to insanely loud EDM, and show off their muscles/suits/tans. If that’s your thing, this place has it in spades.

beer 1090 single 1500 wine 1250

music Expect only electronic dance music if you plan on drinking at Austur.
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Bodybuilders, tan monsters, bankers, beautiful people.
special All the mirrors, oh so many mirrors.

When John saw how amazing his tan pecs looked in the mirror, he gave himself a wink and flexed just ever so slightly. – RJH


Bankastræti 5

B5 is made for grinding; it’s the closest thing to a Miami night club in Reykjavík, but not that close.

beer 1000 single 1400 wine 1000

music Pop music, Top 40, and occasionally something from the past millennium (if the DJ is feeling frisky).
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Professional athletes, would-be yuppies, young bankers, realtors, gold diggers.
tspecial They have a VIP section downstairs where you have to buy a bottle of hard liquor to get a table. There’s also a burger joint in the back that’s open during the day.

No hipster would ever say that this is their favourite bar, but a lot of other people do—and being at someone’s favourite bar is always fun. – JB

Bar 7

Frakkastígur 7

The bar has a certain desperate charm. If you show up early you can enjoy the cheapest pints in town and run into tourists with a similar eye for frugal drinking. However, nighttime gives it a darker shade. The threat of violence begins to permeate the air, which excites some and puts off others.

beer 550 single 1300 wine 800

music It sounds like they are playing whatever the bartenders have on their iPods.
age Older (40+)
clients Cheapskates, possibly underage drinkers, and the dentally lacking. Yet, amidst it all, there can be a rose in the concrete, and you could end up having a very interesting conversation.
special The bathroom has been broken for four months, so you need to cross the street to Obladi Oblada to use the facilities— which will cost you a beer each time.

Much like Zen, the only joy you get here is what you bring, and I recommend not coming empty-handed. – YOU

Bar 11

Hverfisgata 18

It’s like an amalgamation of every reality show about ink, choppers, the South, and nü-metal. Spanning three rooms on two levels (one of them being completely obsessed with Tuborg), Bar 11 unabashedly embraces the kitschier side of rock ‘n’ roll.

beer 900 single 1100 wine 1100

music Rock hits!
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Metalheads, punks, rockabilly types, tattoo addicts, people who just came to play and/or see the gig tonight, some token underage kids.
special The coffin-shaped DJ booth, the Tuborg basement, and the cigar store Indian behind the basement bar.

Whatever, Mom, you don’t understand. This is the REAL ME. Deal with it. *Devil Horns* – RX

Bar Ananas

Klapparstígur 38

Painted in bright yellows and greens and decked out with tiki decor and palm fronds, Bar Ananas is like the swim-up bar of a tropical resort in Cancun (minus the swimming up). It’s quite nice, but it unfortunately closes at 1:00 AM, so if you get there at midnight, they’re already cleaning up.

beer 900 single 1200 wine 1200

music Bar Ananas keeps it real with fashionable house music and hot summer tunes.
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Yuppies, artists, hip musicians, journalists, dreamers, schemers, slightly sketchy 101 rats, people who have never been to the tropics.
special The whole place is meant to look and feel like a tropical beach, which is pretty special and cool.

“Let me take you to my rocky island—it’s tropical!” – RX

Bjarni Fel

Austurstræti 20

A small sports bar with almost as many TVs as seats —it’s not the best in town but it still gets a lot of traffic due to its central location.

beer 1090 single 1500 wine 1490

music I believe they maybe play pop/rock music, but any tunes are completely drowned out by the sports programmes on the TV.
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Tourists and sports fans, small groups looking for somewhere quiet-ish to hang out.
special Bjarni Fel shares the best smoking patio in town with Hressó and you can order food from Hressó as well. They’ll show anything that’s on TV, from football and mixed martial arts to Eurovision.

Bjarni Fel is an extension of Hressó, just smaller and with sports. – HMF


Laugavegur 28B

Decorated like a Palladian-style sex dungeon with less comfortable chairs—mock flock wallpaper, rococo bric-a-brac, sultry light, an erotic print whose symbolism 101’s finest minds have yet to fully parse—Boston is appealingly loungey even on party nights. Their “dance floor” is not the typical sweaty mess, but instead has people dancing sexily/dorkily around tables where it’s still possible to sit and have a conversation.

beer 900 single 1400 wine 900

music House music, in which the house is large enough to contain a roller coaster, of love (say what).
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Hipsters, backpackers looking for love, clean-shaven guys in suits, women who drink on their tabs, Pétur Jóhann Sigfússon.
special A capacious, summery patio; an upstairs seating area everyone always forgets; the occasional pop-up kitchen; the aforementioned erotic art photo, purportedly a gift from Björk (most people just bring wine to a housewarming).

It’s a long-lived bar that’s on the right side of dingy. – MA

The Grapevine's Big-Ass Bar Guide 2014


Laugavegur 22

A dark room with amber-toned light, simple furniture, and cosy bohemian pillows tossed along the window seating, Bravó feels like it should always be filled with fragrant wafts of strawberry tobacco. There might be candles and black paint abound, but the mood is light and lovely.

beer 700 single 1400 wine 800

music To please their cool clintele, Bravo curates a playlist of well-manicured electro, indie and retro-pop.
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Whoever got a table first, lots of young cool couples out on double-dates with other young cool couples making new friends with other young cool couples, nice tourists, one random loudmouth drunk jerk.
special Nothing particularly special, but they do occasionally host poetry nights and vinyl parties.

No one is seeing and no one is looking and no one is putting on airs; you can just sit with your drink and forget all your cares. – RX

Best Of Reykjavík - Café Rosenberg

Café Rosenberg

Klapparstígur 25

With low lights, bookshelves, and dark wood, this place is class. It’s a mix of cosy pub and spacious, old-timey living room.

beer 700 single 1350 wine 900

music These dudes have live music every night: folk, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, and jazz to flamenco, tribute bands, singer-songwriters, acoustic acts; even a ukulele night.
age Older (40+)
clients Regulars, live music junkies, nouveau beatniks, wine drinkers, banjo enthusiasts, jolly groups of middle age/ middle class arty types, tourists, folks who like a good sing-along.
special The live music, of course. But aside from that, this place just has a really nice vibe. Good people, good music, and a good (but pricey) menu.

There’s a lot of live music vying for your attention in this town, but if you want to close out the bar while listening to the sweet, sweet strains of a mandolin, this is the place for you. – LK

Celtic Cross

Hverfisgata 26

Celtic Cross has the trappings of an Irish pub, but it’s too scatterbrained in its delivery, with Christmas lights and brass instruments hanging on the walls, and a leather-cushioned downstairs section that’s completely out of place.

beer 1090 single 1300 wine 1000

music It sounds like they are playing whatever is on the bartender’s iPod.
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Graduating students, people in their 30s and 40s, suits, leather-clad folk, birthday party people, stars that don’t want to be seen out by anyone that matters.
special There is a smoking area, and a secluded side room with a coffin in it. Whenever there’s a game on, it’s projected onto a wall. Despite their priding themselves on being an Irish pub, serving both Guinness and Kilkenny, my bartender still managed to pour my drink the wrong way, turning what was supposed to be a delicious pint into unserviceable goop.

Celtic Cross is a watered-down and unremarkable watering hole. – GB

Den Danske Krotroub

Ingólfsstræti 3

Ironically, this place is as Icelandic as they get—it’s like an extremely corny house party.

beer 1000 single 1500 wine 1200

music I hope you like “Wonderwall,” ’cause they have troubadours every night!
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Students, professional drinkers, people who like troubadours, weekend dads.
special They have darts, and live sports when they are on.

This place is good enough if you’re really drunk, but not one of the bars you would go to if you only had one night in Reykjavík. – JB


Laugavegur 30

Tough as nails, stripped down to the support beams, Dillon is a badass kind of joint. It’s got that unpredictable vibe that can go from waiting-for-the-bathroom to getting punched-in-the-face in a split second. Good for seeing long-haired, leather-clad dudes topple off their bar stools and for getting scowled at by women with the best dye jobs in town.

beer 900 single 1350 wine 900

music Through those horns up with a mix of rock, punk, metal and classic rock—don’t worry, there’s a minimum of three AC/DC songs per night, guaranteed.
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Old school badasses, punks, hardcore kids, goths, Amma Rokk (Andrea Jónsdóttir), legendary musicians, potheads, whiskey lovers.
special An extensive and impressive selection of whiskies for distinguished palates.

No one gets between me and my windmill headbanging along to Judas Priest. – RX


Hafnarstræti 4

Dolly is cool with an edge, celebratory to the point of hedonism. You feel like everyone knows everyone or at least knows of them. It’s glam-electronic-hip-hop with a smoking section that looks like a silent film: everyone’s jaws are moving but no one is talking. It’s the type of place you’d recommend to people who are looking for things to get a little bit weird. Earlier in the day, its old furniture and low lights give it a lounge-ish feeling, but, if only those walls could talk.

beer 700 single 1350 wine 1000

music Dolly played glam-electronica with slices of hip-hop and rave culture.
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Local partiers, unrepentant pleasure seekers, and those few tourists looking for a weekend of fear and loathing.
special A thin dingey smoking section that’s fenced in. Think post-apocalyptic Kaffibarinn.

You don’t decide between the blue pill or the red pill: you take both. – YOU


Hafnarstræti 4

A large Irish-style pub with music and loud, merry customers. The interior is exactly what you would expect from an Irish pub and the place even smells distinctly Irish (that is, of alcohol, as the wooden furniture is probably marinated with it).

beer 900 single 1400 wine 1000

music Only troubadours or live Irish music here, and why any of this would attract anyone, I don’t know…
age Older (40+)
clients A lot of happy and normal-looking people who seem to just want to sit down and talk to their friends by trying to shout louder than the extremely loud music (fuck, I sound old…). Don’t get me wrong, though— the people seem to really dig the music too.
special They have a great outdoor seating/ smoking area, but the best part of it all is the taco truck!

Dubliner’s loud and Irish with no frills. – HMF

English Pubtroub

Austurstræti 12A

This is a comfort-zone bar. Yeah, it may be themed, but it lacks any eccentricity, giving Americans, Canadians, and inhabitants of Great Britain a sanitized pseudo-pub for the sports-obsessed and listeners of simple music. Sing along with ground-down troubadour favourites or try spinning a wheel to win a round of pints for your table of philistines.

beer 1100 single 1500 wine 1300

music The difference between the music played at English Pub and the table of contents of a “Learn Guitar in 4 Chords” book is slight, very slight.
age Young (20s – 30s)
clients Tourists, armchair football coaches, and lost couples trying to reignite a long burnt-out flame.
special A surprisingly enjoyable patio facing Austurvöllur in the afternoon.

This is a great afternoon pub with a sunny patio, and a great beer-and-go walkthrough on your night out. – YOU

Frederiksen Ale House troub

Hafnarstræti 5

It’s an airy, wood-panelled downtown bar room with large windows, basic furniture, and a spacious feel. There’s table service in the daytime—it’s positioning itself as a bar restaurant.

beer1000 single1550 wine1100

musicThe small stage area seemed to threaten the troubadours, and they played only classic soul and rock’n’roll standards.
ageYoung (20s – 30s)
clientsTourists, groups of girls, regular dudes, the occasional rock guy—like a quieter English Pub.
specialFrederiksen has successfully exorcized the ghost of the previous bar occupied this spot, Cafe Amsterdam—one of the grimmest dives in Iceland. No mean feat. Also, Grapevine’s food critic recently gave this place 5/5, which doesn’t happen super-often.

Frederiksen Ale House is a no-frills watering hole that does what it says on the tin. – JR


Tryggvagata 22

Gaukurinn is a spacious dark venue that loves to please. We especially recommend their karaoke nights where you can go up on stage and sing any song you want (they just look it up on YouTube).

beer900 single1300 wine900

musicIt depends on the night, considering they have live music sometimes, karaoke, open mics, stand up, game nights…
ageYoung (20s – 30s)
clientsThe crowd varies, depending on what’s on that evening. Rockers frequent the concerts but a younger, poppier crowd frequents the karaoke evenings.
specialThey have events every day, whether it’s a live band, pub quiz, karaoke night or something else.

Gaukurinn is one of the most versatile bars in the city when it comes to events. – HMF


Tryggvagata 20

It kind of gives you the feeling that you’re in a friend-of-a-friend’s massive loft area instead of a bar. There’s a lot of space to either dance or just sit and drink.

beer1090 single1500 wine1400

musicA not-so-impressive YouTube playlist.
ageYoung (20s – 30s)
clientsThere are a lot of groups of young people there, probably taking advantage of the bar’s late happy hour. The place is mostly frequented by young college and university students.
specialThe bar is an island in the middle of the loft, so really it’s easy to get to, which results in there being less crowding than often happens at other bars. The happy hour lasts until 2am!

Glaumbar is basically a big dark loft with happy hour until 2am. – HMF

Hressingarskálinn (Hressó)

Austurstræti 20

Go here if it’s your first night in Reykjavík and you can’t decide between sitting, dancing, or chain-smoking in a fullycovered gas chamber. It’s a place to get everyone on the level they want to be on, but definitely don’t stay all night.

beer1090 single1500 wine1450

musicIf there’s no band playing, it’s chart pop, hip-hop and dance music.
ageYoung (20s – 30s)
clientsIt’s a mixed bag of young locals, tourists, and the confused elderly. You’ll probably meet three or four aspiring filmmakers and a solo traveller trying to find himself. You will end up in the middle of no less than two dance circles. Put those Ukrainian dance lessons to use. Baba would be proud.

This is a great bar for big impersonal groups to drink together, but not necessarily hang out together the entire time. – YOU



Big, loud, dirty, spilling drinks, grinding bodies, sweat everywhere—it’s like meat before it gets to the market, just jammed into a crowded space with little light and lots of commotion, hoping to get out unscathed or maybe with a new boo. It’s also nearly impossible to get service here.

beer900 single1100 wine1100

musicReykjavík’s leading gig venue; during the weekend it’s party time, via dance remixes, electronic hits, house music, pop etc.
ageYoung (20s – 30s)
clientsHip musicians with complicated shoes, artists with unchanging wardrobes, yuppies, hot dancers, overzealous bimbros, girls’-night-out groups, long-term volunteer ecotourists, hippies, desperate lonely lovers.
specialIt has an excellent smoking area.

Húrra is a mild-mannered, wellgroomed professional by day; a laid-back, effortlessly cool artist by evening; a debauched, disrobed charlatan by night. – RX


Hverfisgata 20

A big, dark dance club that used a smoke machine (a bit too much for our taste) to try to make the empty dance floor look a bit fuller. As we were about to leave, the floor started filling up so maybe this club doesn’t peak until quite late in the night…

beer600 single1000 wine1000

musicA extremely sweet DJ playing pop music encouraged us to ask him for requests (which I’m sure he later regretted).
ageYoung (20s – 30s)
clientsYoung people there to dance the night away. The average age is probably 21.
specialThey have one of the best dance floors in town, and it’s usually pretty spacious, so you can bust all the moves. Plus, their drinks are cheap!

Hverfisbarinn’s got cheap drinks, semi-current pop music, and a dance floor just for you. – HMF

Íslenski Barinn troub

Ingólfsstræti 1

A spacious gastropub with delicious food and a lot of tables to sit down and chat at, the place is emblematic of rustic Icelandic style. The staff is great and very knowledgeable about their large selection of beers. The only downside is that the drinks are on the expensive side.

beer950 single1300 wine1100

musicThey’ll play anything as long as it’s Icelandic, and sometimes have troubadours and a pianist.

ageYoung (20s – 30s)

clientsAll sorts. Mostly groups of people in their 30s as well as tourists who come there for the traditional Icelandic food (you can usually spot them from the shark smell coming from their table).

specialThey have a wheel that you can spin by the bar and one of the best selections of Icelandic beers in town. I’d say Íslenski Barinn and Frederiksen Ale House tie for the best gastropubs in Reykjavík.

Íslenski Barinn is a rustic Icelandic place with good food and a great selection of Icelandic beers. – HMF

The Grapevine's Big-Ass Bar Guide 2014


Bergstaðarstræti 1

What can we say? Kaffibarinn is 101’s living room, and your best shot at having a great night out in Reykjavík.

beer850 single1150 wine850

musicCool, fresh tunes by day; house music by night.

ageYoung (20s – 30s)

clients101 rats, tourists.

specialGood beer selection with a great guest tap, local legend says Damon Albarn used to part-own it.

A legend of the scene, Kaffibarinn holds the title of the best place to party in Reykjavík. – JB

The Grapevine's Big-Ass Bar Guide 2014

Kaldi Bar

Laugavegur 20b

A packed little bar, this is the place to have beer with friends. It’s focused on serving the Icelandic microbrew Kaldi.

beer1100 single1600 wine1200

musicUnless someone decides to let loose on the out-of-tune piano, they played low volume background music.

ageOlder (40+)

clientsAging bohemians, creatives, highfunctioning alcoholics, randoms, occasional tourist.

specialFairly large outdoor area, out-of-tune piano, nooks, crannies, bronze color scheme, plenty of Kaldi beer, competent staff.

Gets ludicrously crowded and the crowd is aging fast, but Kaldi’s a solid place for a pint earlier in the evening. – RE

Karaoke Sportbar

Frakkastígur 8

This is the quintessential group outing dive bar. You’re not there to talk or socialize. You’re there to dance obnoxiously and sing your heart out. This is the perfect place for a surprise karaoke champion, so sit back and time your performance wisely. You want to come after a poor rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing,” and before anything Metallica. Appreciation ranges from high fives to the threat of violence, so be warned.

beer700 single1000 wine1000

musicIt’s up to you! Fancy that!
ageYoung (20s – 30s)
clientsOld recently widowed men and tables full of sexually repressed accountants—not to mention spillage from Bar 7 and Obladi Oblada.
specialThere’s a foosball table, one of the only ones in town. It also happens to be near the single tiny fire exit, so it’s well-placed in case of a fire.

You can walk in a nobody, but leave as a hero—unfortunately, this wears off once you are outside again. – YOU

Kíkí queer bar

Laugavegur 22

It may be Reykjavík’s only queer bar, but you don’t have to be gay to enjoy it—a great place to have fun.

beer900 single1400 wine1200

musicCome here for glam, pop, disco, rock, and Eurovision songs.

ageYoung (20s – 30s)

clientsQueer people, unconfident women, lovers of life.

specialOccasional quizzes, karaoke nights and concerts. If you don’t like thinking about the darkness in your soul and just want to have a good time and dance, go to Kíkí. – JB


Laugavegur 2

It’s a small and cosy place with chairs and sofas. Before midnight, it’s a great place to sit down and chat. After midnight, there’s usually a DJ playing and that’s when they clear the floor and the place gets a more club-like atmosphere. The pub quizzes on Fridays are a lot of fun, but the downside is that there’s often not enough room for people in the bar.

beer900 single1400 wine1490

musicDepends on the DJ, but usually they play current pop music during weekends.
ageYoung (20s – 30s)
clientsTourists and chilled regulars.
After midnight, people in their 20s-40s tend to fill the place with extravagant dance moves. They have popular pub quizzes every Friday and one of those wheels you can spin to possibly get beers and shots.

It’s a cozy basement-type place that turns up the party after midnight. – HMF


Lækjargata 6a

Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to this bar. Sorry!

It sits where illegal strip club Strawberries used to be, and offers a cocktail lounge bar upstairs and a nightclub on the lower level that plays everything from R&B to electronic music.

Lebowski Bar

Laugavegur 2a

It’s quite American—think a classy sports bar with a theme based on the Big Lebowski. That’s what it is. It gets pretty loud and rowdy late on the weekends.

beer1100 single1500 wine1100

musicThey rarely have live music, but a mix of soul, rockabilly, funk, 80s pop, and 90s pop.
ageYoung (20s – 30s)
clientsIcelandic bros, gangs of foreign bros on the prowl, a handful of attractive local women looking to score free drinks, people in their 30s, regular Joes and Janes, second-third-tier local celebrities.