What to do, see and eat in Reykjavik
I'm a couple of weeks removed from spending 5 amazing nights in various places around Iceland's south and east coast, even after having time to reflect I am still in awe of some of the sites which I was lucky enough to see, although there were no northern lights this time!
In this post I will talk about the two nights I spent in Reykjavik, which happened to fall on a Thursday and Saturday night, with a post covering the rest of the trip to follow.
Before the trip everyone I had spoken to seemed to have the same two things to say about Iceland; 1. It was one of, if not their favourite place they’ve been 2. It is ridiculously expensive. Both turned out to be true for me, and with the Icelandic Krone becoming ever stronger compared to the nose diving pound there is the potential Iceland may become prohibitively expensive.
Arriving in Reykjavik
If you’re flying from the UK I’d recommend getting as early flight as possible, the flight from Bristol only lasts 2.5 hours and we found airport security to be fairly painless, so if you’re not waiting on a bag you could be out and on the streets of Reykjavik within 90 minutes of landing and still have the majority of the day.
Renting a car in Iceland
We had rented a car as we knew we would be doing a lot of travelling during our stay, I would seriously recommend getting a 4x4/SUV as opposed to a regular car or relaying on coach trips (I hate coach trips; always mega expensive, you are told when and where to be and what to look at. Hell.) We rented with ProCars, who were nice enough to upgrade us to the delightful Hyundai Tucson from our entry level 4x4. Honestly, I can’t look at my Fiesta the same way. All I would say is that you read up on the levels of insurance, as you will probably need more than basic if you want to go on the many gravel roads.
Our first night in Reykjavik was spent pretty much around the main street of Laugavegur, with our apartment with Room with a View being on the same street. Parking in Reykjavik can be a bit tricky so if you are driving spend 10mins locating decent parking spots on GPS before you arrive in to the centre. (Top tip: Room with a View does have their own parking, fairly rare in the centre, and if you have to pay look for P2 or P3 parking, it is much cheaper!).
Roaming around the centre of Reykjavik is an interesting experience, everything is really well maintained and clean but it absolutely does not have the feel of a capital city, there are cottage style houses all over the place which look like the type you would find in small town England – which is nice to be honest, while busy it helps the city maintain an air of calmness.
Eating and Drinking in Reykjavik
As evening set in we decided it was time to bite the bullet and how much it hurt to get a beer! If you are heading out pre 21:00 you will most likely be able to find a bar which has a Happy Hour on, which means you might get a beer for the very reasonable £6!! (Top Tip; Download the ‘Appy Hour’ app, it tells you which bars have happy hour offers, cost, proximity and what time it runs til). After a couple of *discount* beers at Boston we settled on the Lebowski bar to eat and take part in the quiz!
The food is simple American dirty burgers and wings here, really well made though and a good option if you’re content on spending the night in one place with a good atmosphere – there is a good mix of locals and tourists as well, which is always a good sign!
A great little spot for breakfast and coffee is Reykjavik Roasters, located close to the below Bus Hostel and with a second shop right in the centre. The first one is a bit quieter and for me made the best mocha I've ever had! So well worth the walk out if you've got an hour time to sit down and enjoy a cofee!
Bus Hostel - Just outside the centre of Reykjavik
After a couple of nights travelling around Iceland we returned for our second night in Reykjavik, a little more comfortable in what we wanted to do and with more time to spare as we did not need to be on the road early we decided to see what was going on with the nightlife
We stayed at the Bus Hostel, which is about a 10 minute walk to Laugavegur. Bus Hostel is cheaper than the majority of places in Reykjavik with a private dorm on a Saturday night coming in at £90. Very much a traditional hostel with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, it is very clean and would happily recommend staying there if you don’t mind not staying in a hotel! The bar is really nice, and a cheaper than a lot of Reykjavik also! They also do a breakfast offering for 800kr, which is pretty good going!
Fine dining in Reykjavik
By far the most luxurious meal we had during our 5 nights in Iceland was at the highly rated ‘Old Iceland Restaurant’, while it is on the main tourist street, it ticks all the boxes really, highly thought of and proper Icelandic food. I had their take on the seafood soup which you see on a lot of menus and a cod dish served with mash and parsnips. The total bill was not hugely expensive for this kind of food, even when you consider it against UK prices, so I might be a good excuse to pay a bit of a premium for something a bit special - you might just have to limit yourself to one drink each!
Another restaurant I would highly recommend is Kaffivagninn which is located on the old port, about 15 minutes walk from Laugavegur, I had the fish in the pan as seen on Rick Stein's Long Weekends and it was delicious, potentially the best meal I had in Iceland, the place also offers free coffee and soup if you go before 3pm! Kafffivagninn was frequented by more locals than most of the places we ate at - especially from an older generation so you know you're getting the real Icelandic experience! The mains were pretty much standard price to what we had experienced else where; if nothing else proving that there isn't a tourist tax - they're just the prices!
Reykjavik - in summary
As I mentioned we broke up our time in Reykajavik, and it was nice to be able to see the vibe on a weekday and a Saturday - on the Saturday night there was a lot of people about, the night life does seem to be as lively as is made out, especially as there is a steady stream of tourists and American kids taking gap years (god knows how they can afford the shots they we're knocking back). The people are very chilled and accommodating, Reykjavik strikes the perfect balance of having the conveniance of a city while maintaining a small town charm - a very rare find and something I hope they manage to keep hold of with all the money pouring in!
Cheers for reading.