With a thriving nightlife and café culture, Reykjavik, the world’s most northern capital, is seeing a surge in tourism, coupled with Iceland’s breathtaking scenery and outdoor adventure, it makes for an exciting unique escape.
Once not so accessible, the food scene is now fast becoming acknowledged as a strong part of a new Nordic kitchen revolution. Talented home-grown chefs mixed with outside influences are creating thoughtful dishes in exciting venues. Only eight years ago the economic crash forced Icelanders to look at their internal food resources, the present now sees fresh, and more importantly, intriguing ideas from a vast array of local and diverse produce from their own doorstep.
Nestled behind Reykjavik’s main street Grillmarkaðurinn (2a, Lækjargata) is owned by two of Iceland’s most inno-vative chefs Hrefna Rosa Saetren and Gudlaugur Frimann-sson, they also own Fiskmarkaðurinn (Aðalstræti 12) a specialised fish restaurant located nearer the harbour. This two-floor grill restaurant is designed around the elements of rock and water and includes an open kitchen with strong counter culture. Sample the best local produce Reykjavik offers, matched with thoughtful and well balanced dish innovat- ion. Puffin, Minke Whale steak, and charcoal grilled Reindeer can be tried on the menu, all a first for me and by no means the last.
Located at the top of the new marina is eatery Matur og Drykkur. (Grandagarður 2) simply translated as ‘Food and Drink’, it serves small plates in a cosy, relaxed atmosphere and is one of the city’s most popular local lunch hang outs. On recommendation from the latter’s chef, we visited The Food Cellar (Aðalstræti 2) – a basement eatery situated in the heart of downtown Reykjavik. Pianists, unmissable roasted pork belly, cosy low beamed ceiling and a warm seasonal menu, after all the exploration make this perfect for a chilled Sunday evening.
Looking for food on the go, then close by is the famous Icelandic hotdog stand Baejarins Beztu Pylsur (Tryggvatagata 1), frequented by many a celebrity over the years, claims to be ‘the best hot dogs in town’, try ‘The Clinton’s, classic with mustard, aptly named after Bill Clinton’s personal favourite.
Aim to use Reykjavik as a base and search the island. Iceland is a photographer’s utopia and it’s all about the outdoors, trekking, sledding, lagoons and spotting the infamous Northern Lights. You can expect just a few hours of daylight in the winter months in Iceland so it’s paramount you plan your day and activities well.
Feeling confident? Then rent yourself a car from the airport which will keep your trip spontaneous and ready for the next adventure and will save the hefty taxi fare from then airport. Most cars are equipped with snow tyres and pre- pared for the elements ahead.
Geysir and Gullfoss Falls are two reasons why Iceland is one of the most sort after outdoor tourist destinations in the world. Both stops are on the Golden Circle Tour lasting around 8 hours. Along the way there is also a secret lagoon and a family tomato farm called Fridheimar (Reykholt). A quick stop off here cannot be ignored – sample the tomato soup which the farm has become famous for while sitting
in the very greenhouses that produce it.
If you do have longer than a few days, head down to Iceland’s south coast for some breathtaking waterfalls and black beaches. Tourist Information Centre (Aðalstræti 2) has information on all of the exhilarating tours.
If you’re searching for the Northern Lights then download the aurora forecast app and prepare to be patient. Try Seltjarnarness area for one of the key sighting spots near the city or find the darkest place possible away from any artificial light.
If clothes are always high on the agenda (or someone who has forgotten their trunks for one of the lagoons) then head downtown to Geysir (Skólavörðustígur 7) for the latest styles, or for the fashionable male out there check out the new independent store Akkruki (Kringlan 8) located in the indoor shopping centre 1 mile out of town and do not forget that items are tax free.
As the proximity of the city centre is limited the atmos-phere changes quickly. Downtown Reykjavik gets wild at the weekend, which is no surprise for a country who only legalised beer around 25 years ago, as much of the city’s patrons descend on an area of no more than a few streets.
Cocktail culture is slowly becoming part of Reykjavik’s night scene and the new kid on the block Pablos Discobar’ (Veltusund 1) is one of the best named bars around, although I believe it shares this wealth with an establishment in Brighton. Head to the top floor for a lively loft style cocktail bar – it’s a young party atmosphere and there’s a healthy cohesion of locals and tourists.
Looking to unwind then head over to the slower paced Slipbarrin (Mýrargata 2) located in the stylish Icelandair Hotel (Mýrargata 2) on the old harbour. Bartenders are attentive and knowledgeable, and with an array of in house infused spirits, grab a stool around its island bar and work through the menu. Try cocktail ‘We don’t do mojitos’ – a phrase I know only so well.
Apotek Hotel Bar (Austurstræti 16) is another lively table service style venue, again adjoined to a trendy hotel and Argentinian restaurant, where award winning ‘pharmacists’ mix together an array of exciting cocktails, from painkillers, stimulants and even placebos. If mezcal is your poison, then try the Smokey Pomegranade.
Finally, end the night at Jacobsen Loftið (Austurstræti 9) recommended by the bartenders and locals alike. Enjoy the brennivín schnapps until 4am and see the sun comes up – although you could be drinking for some time for that in Iceland.
Eyja Guldsmelden Hotel (Brautarholt 10) is a new eco hotel from the popular Danish hotel group. A cool boho hang out located in an up and coming neighbourhood just up from the main shopping street (Laugavegur) and far enough away from the downtown noise. A first-class organic breakfast, warm reception area and decadent four poster beds come as standard. Staff are extremely accommodating for any tours or local guidance. Reykjavik Roasters (Brautarholt 2) is also located on the corner of the same street and is arguably the best coffee in town, after all the above you will probably need one! EJ
Travel (E)(A)(T)(S) aims to provide an informative quality food and drink information travel piece for the discerning traveller looking for the local spots and hangouts. Follow writer Matt on Instagram: @fazmangoes