From Iceland — Iceland Airwaves Survival Guide

Iceland Airwaves Survival Guide

Published October 31, 2016

First things first, the absolute beginning: Keflavík Airport. That’s where you can buy some:

Buy all the alcohol you can at the Duty Free store. Booze in Iceland is ridiculously expensive, and can only be bought in bars or at a select few state-owned liquor stores that usually close at 6pm. (Don’t buy the cans/bottles that look like beer at the grocery store! It is light 2% beer.) Maybe you’re thinking: “But I’m not gonna be drinking at my Airbnb/hostel/hotel room, I’ll be seeing shows all the time!” Wrong answer! That may be your intention, but you’ll thank me when you want to invite all the cool people that you’ve met during the evening to an afterparty, or when a crushing hangover on the fourth day can only be cured with a couple of beers so you can handle going outside to see said shows. A well-placed hip-flask can be handy, but you didn’t hear it from us!

Pro tip: If you’re staring at the beer shelf in confusion, try something Icelandic. Bríó is a good local lager, and Einstök or Kaldi are flavoursome choices.


Airwaves happens fast, so you’re gonna need a plan to make the most of it. As you probably know from other festivals, conflicts in the schedule can be a headache for music enthusiasts. The “Off-venue” program is crucial here. This is the daytime programme of music that runs from around noon until the evening programme begins. Many bands play several day shows during the festival, so if you catch one of those, it might solve a troublesome clash later. There are Off-venue concerts in nearly every bar, coffeehouse and shop in the downtown area. Check them out!

Pro tip: If there’s a particular show that you absolutely don’t want to miss, get there super early, as there are sometimes long queues.

It’s the foundation of life on the planet, it flows straight from our taps, and it is delicious and refreshing. Do not buy it in bottles! It’s no better than Icelandic tap water, and all that unnecessary plastic isn’t exactly good for Mother Earth. But water is not only good for drinking: it’s also great to soak in. Our geothermal swimming pools are the best hangover aid one can ask for, whether you wanna swim laps, soak in the hot tubs or detox in the steam bath. The downtown pool is Sundhöllin, but Vesturbæjarlaug is also walkable from downtown. So is Laugardalslaug, a big pool with a gazillion hot tubs and a water slide.

Pro tip: Trust me on this. Pools in Iceland are very different to that chlorine-filled puddle back home.

Occasionally you’ll need nutrition in another form from liquid. Here are some recommendations:
Hverfisgata 12: The pizza place with no name (except the street address) offers quality pizzas and a cosy atmosphere. The potato pizza kicks asses in all continents and the cocktails are to die for.
Vítabarinn: A cosy yet sleazy burger joint, popular amongst locals.
Kaffi Vínyl: A hip coffeehouse/restaurant with great vegan food at affordable prices.
Bæjarins Beztu: The infamous hot dog stand is located within a two-minute walk from most of the venues, so if you need some hot dog fuel, it’s quick to run over and then go on with the show.

Pro tip: If you’re on a tight budget, Bónus is the cheapest grocery store. Their main downtown locations are Laugavegur and Hallveigarstígur, the logo is a pink pig on yellow background.

Pylsa by Páll Hilmarsson

At this time of the year, we face the endless challenge of dressing to be neither too cold outside, nor too hot inside. There’s no way to predict the weather here, but my advice is built on the fact that most of the venues are within five minutes’ walking distance from one another, and you will be spending more time inside than outside: so, don’t dress for a glacier trip.

Pro tip: if you’re too weak to face the cold and rain, Harpa is a great place to spend the evening, as there are three venues inside the same building.


Kaffibarinn: A staple in the scene. Good coffee and an affordable happy hour in the early day, banging techno and house music in the after hours.
Paloma: A miniature version of a Berlin techno club. Seedy, packed and just the right amount of decadence. Try the basement if you dare.
Bravó: An unpretentious bar. Has all the adjectives you need: small, cramped and cheap.
Prikið: A café/restaurant by day, Iceland’s finest hip-hop club by night-time.
Party with the locals: We are your friends! There are lots of after parties during Airwaves—chat up some locals and try to get invited to some, or host one yourself. The best location for scouting/planning afterparty action is outside the adjacent bars Húrra and Paloma.

Pro-tip: Icelanders don’t take the concept of “personal space” very seriously, especially under the influence. So you’ll have to get used to sometimes feeling cramped and having people push into you. Try not to let it get on your nerves—or even use it to your advantage and elbow your way to the front!


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