Welcome to Reykjavík!

Travel Writer: Mary Michaels

Travel Guide –

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Reykjavik, on the coast of Iceland, is the country’s capital and largest city. It’s home to the National and Saga museums, tracing Iceland’s Viking history. The striking concrete Hallgrimskirkja church and rotating Perlan glass dome offer sweeping views of the sea and nearby hills. Exemplifying the island’s volcanic activity is the geothermal Blue Lagoon spa, near the village of Grindavik.

Weather: 44°F (7°C), Wind SE at 9 mph (14 km/h), 75% Humidity
Local time: Thursday 12:50 AM
Population: 123 246 (2016)

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Transportation

From the airport there is a bus service that will take you to Reykjavík, either to the BSÍ bus terminal, or drop you at the desired hotel. The ride to the bus terminal will cost you $17,50, and if you choosethe hotel option it will cost $22,50. Be aware that the hotel-option will take longer since the bus will stop at a few hotels- but in return it’s cheaper than taking a taxi from the bus terminal. You can buy the airport bus ticket online at www.re.is/flybus, or you can buy a ticket once you arrive at the airport, but the line might be long. It will take about 45 minutes from the airport to downtown Reykjavík.

In Iceland, our form of public transport is restricted to buses. A bus ticket costs $3.60, and you can re-use it within the span of 1 ½ hour. You can either pay with coins on the bus, or you can buy your ticket in the bus-app called “Strætó”. Once downloaded, you can switch the language of the app to English so you won’t be completely confused.

Buses

In Iceland, our form of public transport is restricted to buses. A bus ticket costs $3.60, and you can re-use it within the span of 1 ½ hour. You can either pay with coins on the bus, or you can buy your ticket in the bus-app called“Strætó”. Once downloaded, you can switch the language of the app to English so you won’t be completely confused. All the information regarding buses, trip planners and prices can be found on Bus.is

Accommodations

Kex Hostel

This hostel is very hip and in addition to serving as a hostel, houses events such as local concerts. Kex in Icelandic means biscuit; The building used to be a biscuit factory. They offer dorms and private rooms, but bathrooms and kitchen are shared. The hostel has a very retro decor and ambiance to it, and is full of life. My #1 recommendation.

Even if you are not staying at Kex Hostel, it is really fun going there for a local concert or their Tuesday jazz nights!

Price range: $38-$60

Loft Hostel

Located in the heart of Reykjavík, on the main shopping street (Laugavegur). This hostel also houses small events.

Price range: $37-$60

Von Guesthouse

A nice simple guesthouse on the main shopping street downtown. The bathrooms are shared and you have access to a common kitchen.

Rates $75-$120

4th Floor Hotel

Located close to Hlemmur bus station. Some of the rooms have private bathrooms but otherwise bathrooms are shared.

$90-130

100 Hotel

A small hotel at the top of the main street with several ameneties, such as laundry facilities, a backyard, restaurant, a bar, etc.

$110-$200

Restaurants and cafes

Kaffitár

Located at the bottom of the main shopping street, this cafe differs in the way that they serve quality coffee and their drinks always turn out perfectly. They also offer light meals such as sandwiches, quiches and bagels; perfect for breakfast or lunch. Try the bagel with the sundried-tomato cream cheese!

Mokka

On Skólavörðustígur (a side street parallel to it) is this small cafe which has been there since 1958 and hasn’t changed much since. Mandatory: Hot Chocolate and waffles with jam and whipped cream.

Babalú

Babalú is on the same street as Mokka. One of my favorite cafes. It’s very cozy and colorful, and it has a small rooftop porch where you can sit and enjoy your coffee and light meals or sweets.

Cafe Haiti

Breakfast, brunch and delicious coffee from Haiti. A hidden gem located by the harbor.

Reykjavík Roasters

A small offee shop that serves quality coffee. The decor gives a homey and cozy feeling

10 Dropar

This cute little cafe serves delicious cakes, light meals and beverages. At night, the place turns into a French wine bar. Very mellow atmosphere day and night with occasional live music.

Stofan

Stofan is popular at night for a beer, but during the day it is a cafe which serves pastries and drinks. Antique decor as it used to be an antique shop.

Bernhöftsbakarí

The first thing I do when I come home after a trip abroad is go to a bakery and buy their amazing delights. Icelandic bakeries usually all have the same pastries. The best sweet ones? Donut with caramel on top, a cinnabon with chocolate on top, a small marcipan cake, and the “coconut ball”. Also try the “Cheese-bow” which is twisted bread with melted cheese inside. At bakeries you can get various breads, pastries, drinks and sandwiches, and it’s always cheap. Bernhöftsbakarí is an oldie but goldie!

Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar (Búllan)

Classic and famous burger joint. Not too expensive, but really good burgers. Eat-in or take-out. One at the bottom of the main shopping street (Laugavegur), and one by the harbor!

Noodle Station

Everyone’s favorite. Doesn’t take long to pick from the menu, as it consists of two things; Chicken noodle soup, and beef noodle soup, both are family recipes. Filling, healthy and cheap. Warning: very limited seating!

Bónus

I want to throw a supermarket in here since you can buy snacks and drinks or whatever you desire. Bónus is a budget supermarket so if you’d like to pick up some snacks for the road or to bring with you to the hotel, this is the best place.

Bæjarins Beztu

This is a hot-dog stand close to the harbor. It serves delicious hot-dogs; Iceland’s national dish. Bæjarins Beztu means “The town’s best” and this stand has been there since 1937. You can get hot-dogs in a lot of places in Reykjavík, I usually go to either Bæjarins Beztu or a place called “Aktu-Taktu”, which is close to the Kex Hostel. A hot dog comes with ketchup, remulade, raw onions, crunchy fried onions, and Iceland’s delicious hot dog mustard. Of course you can choose what you want on it, but I always get “one with everything”.

Gamla Vínhúsið

This is a nice restuarant which is decently priced for what you get. If you want to go to a nice dinner I’d recommend this one. Beef steak with potatos and bernaise for $26 is very reasonable. Warning- the pepper steak is actually horse- meat. I usually order the pepper steak but ask them to switch it to beef, since the pepper steak comes with a baked potato and that delicious pepper sauce.

American Style

Close by the harbor- delicious burgers. This is more of a dine-in place but you can get it to go too.

Icelandic hamburger always come with a special hamburger-sauce which is delicious. Also, try the fries, which are sprinkled with a spice-blend used on french fries in all restaurant in Iceland. Make your meal complete with the addicting “coctail sauce” for the fries. (Not the red American one, it’s completely different.) Burger, fries and soda with free refill for $15!

Grillhúsið Tryggvagötu

This is a dine-in restaurant close to the harbor which has been around for a long time. It serves hamburgers, sandwiches, fish, salads and snacks. It’s more expensive than the other places I’m mentioning but the food is  good.

Osushi The Train

A sushi-train spot. It has really good sushi and a divine chocolate mouse. You pick what you want when you see it rolling right in front of you. You stack your plates which are in different colors and bring them to the cashier when you are done. Each colour of plate corresponds to a specific price which is added together in the end.

Bars and Nightlife

Icelandic Nightlife is very rich and crazy at times. In most bars the price range of beer is $6-10, and simple mixes (for example gin&tonic) $8-15. Make sure to hit those happy hours, they have them in most places usually from 4pm-8pm. There are so many bars downtown, so spending the night in one place is something you just don’t do. You’ll always stumble into a place you didn’t plan on going to. A side-note: Icelanders usually meet up and drink before going downtown, and don’t hit the bars until around 01am.

Here are a few places I recomend!

English Pub

Exactly what the title describes. It shows sports from time to time, and they have live music every night. In any case it is a great spot for a beer or ten. Remember to spin the wheel of fortune inside!

Kaffibarinn (KB)

Extremely popular, very hipster. Expect a long line on weekends. When the second floor is open I recommend going up there, it’s nice and cozy.

Prikið

A classic, and a favorite of many. It’s an old place with its original decor. They often play hip hop but it varies. This one is also popular on weekdays to go grab a beer there. They close at 4:30am on weekends and open up at noon the next day as a cafe for the rest of the day. Icelanders often go there the morning after a wild night to devour on their hangover-breakfast along with their hangover-milkshake which comes with a tablet of Treo!

Kíkí Queer Bar

Gay or straight, this is the place to dance and go crazy. Colorful, energetic and awesome music.

Stofan

I’d say this is the perfect start to the night. This house used to be an antique store, but it closed a few years ago. Stofan is a coffee house and a bar. They kept the style of the old shop so you can enjoy sitting on comfortable antique couches or lounge chairs. I recommend going down-stairs, sitting in one of the corners and ordering your choice of the Icelandic beer “Einstök” (on draft of course).

Cheers!

Slippbarinn

This place is a bit fancy but they have really good signature cocktails and a unique selection of beer. If you’re on a budget, I do not recommend going to this place for more than one drink. I’ve sometimes started out my night with a “Judas Hobo” there and then gone on to other places. It’s right on the harbor so it’s a lovely location. $15-25 for cocktails

$10-12 for wine by the glass

$6-$14 for beer Very reasonable happy-hour from 3pm-6pm every day!

Bar 11

A great place if you like classic rock and indie music. This place is perfect once you’ve had a few and aren’t shy to sing your lungs out to Queen and The Pixies.

Boston

Bodega feeling downstairs, cozy living room with comfortable seats upstairs!

Kaldi

Kaldi is actually an Icelandic beer brand. At this bar you can taste all their different delicious beers along with ones from other Icelandic breweries. The place is pretty small so it can be crowded, but it’s very cozy.

Happy hour from 4pm-7pm

Austurvöllur

A favorite of many. This is a small square, packed with people during the summer. People meet up there to hang out, chat, people-watch, bring food, coffee or wine and sit on the grass.

 Swimming Pools

We have several swimming pools, usually they are outdoors but some include an indoor one. They often consist of a large pool, a children’s pool, a few hot-tubs and a sauna. Icelanders go to the pool any time of year, even when it’s snowing and freezing. Going to the hot-tubs no matter what the weather is like is always a great way to relax. There is one close to Hlemmur downtown, built in 1937. The pool is inside but the hot-tubs are outside. A side-note: You must shower in the locker room before you put your swim-suit on and enter the pool area. This is a rule in all swimming pools in order to keep them clean.

Nauthólsvík

In Iceland, all our beaches have black sand and ice-cold water. So you don’t exactly go there for anything but the view. So we figured, why not make a beach where you can hang out? So basically we have this small beach, covered with yellow sand that was brought from someplace else, and marked off a small part of the ocean which is heated up a bit! There is also a hot-tub there, a cafe and changing rooms. It takes 25 minutes to get there from Hlemmur, you can take bus 18 towards Spöngin and get out at Veðurstofan, but then it’s an 18 minute walk from there.

Listasafn Reykjavíkur

Reykjavík Art Museum is located by the harbor. There you can find paintings, sculptures, photographs and other artwork by domestic and international artists. See their web-page for information on current exhibitions:   Listasafn Reykjavikur

The harbor

Over the past few years, a lot of galleries and cafes have opened in the old boat shacks by the harbor. It makes a really nice walk.

Valdís

This is the most amazing ice-cream shop located by the harbor but a little further down. It might take you a while to pick a flavor, but you’re guaranteed to love it! It takes about 15 minutes to walk there from Lækjatorg bus station.

Grandagarður

This is the harbor area where Valdís is located. In that area, a few galleries and small shops have started to open in the old boat shacks. I sometimes go to Valdís, get some ice-cream, and walk around the area, checking out the shops. Once you’ve walked passed them, you’ll see benches where you can sit and enjoy the view of the mountain Esja, the ocean and Reykjavík city.

Kolaportið

The large indoor flea market is in full action on Saturdays and Sundays. It is very big and you are guaranteed to find some treasures there. They also have a food section with some Icelandic delights such as shark and dried fish.

Itenerary Ideas

If you want to save some money, here are a few tips!

When it comes to going out for drinks, make sure to take advantage of the happy-hours. They usually last from 4pm-7pm, but Kíkí Queer Bar’s happy hour lasts until 10pm!

Check out the website www.2fyrir1.is which means 2 for 1. There, you can find all kinds of 2-for-one offers. You might have to google-translate it since it is in Icelandic. Be aware that the offers usually only work on certain days and certain times.

If the weather is nice, skip lunch at the cafes. Instead, you can go to the supermarket or bakeries, pick up a sandwich, and sit on the grass at Austurvöllur. At night, as I mentioned, Icelanders pre-game at home before going downtown. Another way to pre-game is to go to the liquor store (located behind Austurvöllur), get beer, wine or breezers for a low price and sit on the benches at Austurvöllur. Don’t worry, it is legal to drink alcohol outside.

Practical

Average Prices

Swimming pool entry: $7

Latte: $4

Sandwich/Sub: $7

Hot dog: $3

Dinner, inexpensive: $10

Dinner, medium: $40

Dinner, expensive: $80

Glass of wine at restaurant: $10

Beer at a bar: $8

Cocktail at bar: $17

Single beer at liquor store: $2,50-$5

Bottle of wine at liquor store: $8-$40

Bread at supermarket: $2,50

Cheese: $4

Milk: $1,50

Whole grilled chicken at supermarket: $11

Candy: $2

Soda: $2

Cigarettes: $11

Bus website: www.bus.is

Map/Directions: http://en.ja.is , then click “Maps”

Taxi Phone number: 588-5522

Emergency hotline: 112

Common Phrases

English Icelandic Phonetically; emphasis is in bold
Good morning/Hello Góðan daginn Go-thahn dah-yin
Goodbye Bless Bless
See you later Sjáumst Sch-ow-uhmst
Thank you Takk  Tahk
How are you? Hvernig hefuru það? Kvehr-nig heh-fuh-ruh thah-th?
Fine thank you. You? Fínt takk. En þú? Feent tahk. Ehn thoo?
Where is… Hvar er… Kvah-r ehr?
How much does it cost? Hvað kostar þetta? Kvah-th cost-ahr theh-tah?
I want Ég vilGMPRFO Yea-gh vil
Yes Yow
No Nei Nay
Maybe Kannski Kahn-sk-ih