Power Trip: Reykjavik

19 things to do in Europe's most underrated drinking city

By Evan Bleier

 
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04 December 2017

This is Power Trip, a recurring series on hard-to-find but always sophisticated experiences in our favorite cities around the globe.

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As described by Robert Plant in “Immigrant Song,” Reykjavik, Iceland, is the land of the ice and snow, the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow.

The temps tend to be cold, but the hospitality is anything but: the locals are warm and welcoming, and the city itself is extremely walkable and easy to navigate. That said, it's home to just 120,000 people, so you’ll want to plan on venturing out to coast and countryside if you're in town longer than 48 hours.

Below, our guide to navigating the city and its surrounds, from hot dogs and grilled puffin to craft beer and a local liquor called Black Death. 

Canopy (4 images)

HOTEL: Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre
Offering boutique-style rooms with amenities like 48-inch TVs, mini-fridges, local wall art and bedding designed specifically for the site, this centrally located hotel is a perfect home base in Reykjavik. Bookings include a complimentary local artisanal breakfast, bike rentals, evening tastings of local food and drink, and the option to bring a record player up to your room to spin some vinyl.

ALTERNATIVE: Room With a View
This four-star apartment hotel offers fully serviced accommodations for short or long-term stays. None of the apartments in the hotel are alike, though many of them offer great views of the city.

RELAX: Fontana Natural Steam Bath
Located along the almost mandatory Golden Circle tour route which is serviced by Reykjavik Sightseeing, the geothermal baths at Fontana offer a number of different heat levels and bathing options. There are also hot spring-sourced steam rooms and the chance to really, really, chill out — in an Icelandic lake.

TO GO WITH YOUR COFFEE: Brauð & Co
There are plenty of places nearby to grab coffee, including Reykjavik Roasters, but you’ll want to get your cup to go and head to Brauð for an accompanying pastry. The menu is only in Icelandic, but be sure to order the vínarbrauð.

REFUEL: Geiri Smart Restaurant
The in-house restaurant at Canopy, Geiri Smart's always original menu changes based on what its award-winning chefs are able to secure from local farmers. The extensive breakfast buffet has local offerings as well as traditional fare, and there’s a daily happy hour as well.

INSTAGRAM: Harpa
Located on the edge of the harbor, this glass-heavy concert hall and conference center offers exhibitions and ample picture-taking opportunities. The ever-popular Sun Voyager is also nearby.

COUNTRYSIDE EATS: Geothermal Bakery at Fontana
If you have pot-baked lava bread served with cheese, fish and salt-rich local butter, you will not regret it. The on-site kitchen also offers a delicious lunch and dinner buffet with eclectic options.

Blue Lagoon (3 images)

SPLURGE: Blue Lagoon
For a luxurious Icelandic spa experience, head to this gigantic geothermal pool about a half-hour outside the city. One of Iceland’s most well-known attractions, the Blue Lagoon gives you the chance to get a mud treatment, relax with a cocktail, or do both at the same time. If you get hungry, head to Lava Restaurant and enjoy a decadent meal in your robe and slippers.

RECHARGE: The Icelandic Bar
Serving up a menu of local specialties (meat soup, grilled puffin in a jar, fermented shark), this local favorite has reasonable prices and only offers Icelandic beers on tap.

DRINKS HIGH-END: Slippbarinn
Located within the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavík Marina, Slippbarinn was the first bar in the city to focus on serving high-quality cocktails. Offering fresh food as well as drink, the cocktail menu includes standard favorites as well as a rotation of new specialty drinks.

DRINKS ON THE CHEAP: Lebowski Bar
The Dude would abide this fun-loving theme bar. Take in multiple rooms filled with Big Lebowski-themed decor and make sure to spin the wheel of drinking destiny at the front bar.

DRINKS ON THE WEIRD: Pablo Discobar
Located above Mexican-themed restaurant Burro, Pablo Discobar serves an array of margaritas and cocktails while a disco ball spins and ‘70s tunes pulsate in the background. If you end being served a chalice filled with Cocoa Puffs, enjoy.

CRAFT BEER: Bryggjan Brugghús
Offering both flights and bites, this independent brewery can get you acquainted with local flavors in a number of ways. And if you want some learnings with your libations, the Brugghús also offers an hourlong brewing course.

ATTEND ...

A Northern Lights Tour:
The options here are numerous, but you may want to play it by ear based on the weather. Only book once you know the sky is going to be clear.

Bæjarins Beztu: There are many imitators, but go here for an authentic Icelandic hot dog. We recommend going all in and getting one with mustard, gravy and crispy onions.

Saga Museum: Sharing its premises with the equally attractive Matur og Drykkr restaurant, the Saga Museum details Iceland’s rich anthropology, with room upon room of lifelike wax Vikings.

Hallgrimskirkja: Take the elevator to the top of this 244-foot-tall Lutheran church to take in stellar panoramas of Reykjavik and the downtown harbor.

66 North: You’ll see this brand nearly everywhere in Iceland — and for good reason. Their clothes are warm, wearable and built to last. The locals enjoy it as much as the tourists do.

Duty Free: Prices in Iceland itself can skew a bit toward the steep side, so save yourself a couple bucks by waiting until the grocery store-size Duty Free shop at Keflavík International Airport to load up on wool clothes, candy and bottles of Brennivin schnapps — aka The Black Death.

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