Iceland is a country of approximately 334,000 people, making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Two thirds of the population lives in the capital city of Reykjavik and this is where most of the tourists visit as well. In recent years, and with increased tourism, Reykjavik has seen a huge increase in high-quality restaurants with chefs flocking here to take advantage of its local seafood, meat and game.
It’s no wonder this city is becoming a haven for food lovers. Reykjavik is a prime destination for those wishing to sample New Nordic cuisine. But, being an island which relies heavily on imported goods and raw materials, Iceland is a relatively expensive place to visit.
We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite restaurants in Reykjavik that balance out the best and the most affordable. Whether you’re on a budget or looking to try some of the best the city has to offer, there is something for everyone; that is, of course, unless your favorite dining establishment happens to be McDonald’s (which is nowhere to be found in Iceland). When planning for dinner, be sure to make a reservation in advance or you most likely won’t get in.
Fiskmarkadurinn – The Fish Market
Aðalstræti 12, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 578-8877
Monday – Thursday: 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Friday & Saturday: 5:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Sunday: 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm
A trip to Reykjavik wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of Iceland’s world-class seafood. This is one of two restaurants we love specifically for this type of cuisine. We recommend the tasting menu that head chef Hrefna Rosa Saetran and her team have created from the best the restaurant has to offer. Rather than serving individual starters and main courses, the tasting menu is a combination of dishes that are designed for sharing and are brought to the table steadily and continuously throughout the meal. The meal consists of a variety of sushi dishes, cooked fish and other meats and a buffet of desserts. All of the food is beautifully presented and each serving is a generous portion. This won’t be a cheap meal, but it will be delicious! The staff is also friendly, efficient and helpful. Word of caution: Be sure to check the drink prices before ordering. A carafe of hot sake will set you back about $78!
Fiskelagid – The Fish Company
Vesturgötu 2a, Grófartorg, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 552-5300
Monday – Thursday: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm & 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Friday: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm & 5:30 pm – 11:30 pm
Saturday: 5:30 pm – 11:30 pm
Sunday: 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Our other favorite place for seafood is Fiskelagid, a cozy restaurant located in the basement of the Zimsen building, serving not only Icelandic seafood, but also dishes from around the world. The historic Zimsen building dates back to 1884 and was originally located a couple of streets away before it was moved to its current location underneath a quaint bridge. While the building was undergoing renovation, part of Reykjavik’s old harbor was unearthed and transformed into a work of art within the restaurant grounds by local artist, Hjorleifur Stefansson. They have 2 set tasting menus to try or you might relax in one of their comfortable booths while snacking on Icelandic salted cod with smoked potato foam & crisps or the slow-cooked Arctic Charr & fried Langoustines.
Grillmarkadurinn – The Grill Market
Lækjargata 2A, Miðborg, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 571-7777
Monday – Friday: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm & 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 6:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Grillmarkadurinn, or The Grill Market, resides in a faithful reconstruction of Reykjavik’s art nouveau Nyja Bio (New Cinema), which stood in the restaurant’s location from 1920 until 1998 when it was destroyed by a fire. There is a comfortable lounge area offering a range of cocktails and wines and top Michelin rated chefs, Hrefna Rósa Sætran and Guðlaugur P. Frímannsson, serve up a range of meat, fish and game dishes, all sourced from local farmers. We recommend the tasting menu here also. You can’t go wrong with the chef’s selection of dishes, served family style.
Mat Bar at Hverfisgata 26
Hverfisgata 26, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 788-3900
Everyday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
This tiny little place is located on the corner of Hverfisgata and Bergstaðastræti and is perfect for a quick bite at lunch or afternoon drinks followed by dinner. At Mat Bar, the focus is on small plates (tapas). Depending on how hungry you are, you can order 2-4 plates per person from their menu that includes such dishes as Cured Arctic Char w/ pickled cabbage and caraway seed emulsion, or for the adventurous palate, try the reindeer tartar with estragon mayonnaise and pickled shallots.
Hverfisgata 76, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 537-1332
Monday – Friday: 9:00 am – 11:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Kaffi Vinyl is dedicated solely to two things: first, their extensive collection of vinyl records, and second their devotion to serving delicious vegan food. In fact, Kaffi Vinyl is Reykjavik’s only vegan restaurant. They are perhaps most famous for their ‘Oumpf Sandwich,’ a truly life affirming snack made with Swedish soy and caramelized onions. The restaurant also serves as a small record store, selling electronica and groove LP’s and you may find a DJ or live performance at night. This makes it a great place to drop by for a drink, food and smooth sounds.
Laugarvegur 20a, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 552-2300
Sunday – Thursday: 11:00 am – 1:00 am
Friday & Saturday: 11:00 am – 4:00 am
We love this place for its movie theme decor! Yes, it’s themed for the movie, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, and their specialty drink is the White Russian. Their menu includes a variety of different burgers, milkshakes and other foods you might find in an American diner. They also have happy hour everyday from 4-7 pm, which is a rare find in Iceland.
The Laundromat Cafe
Austurstræti 9, 101 Reykjavík – Iceland +354 587-7555
Monday – Thursday: 8:00 am – 11:00 pm
Friday: 8:00 am – 12:00 am
Saturday: 9:00 am – 12:00 am
Sunday: 9:00 am – 11:00 pm
This is our favorite place in Reykjavik for breakfast and also a place where you can do your laundry! With its quirky coffeehouse atmosphere, The Laundromat Cafe offers a range of breakfast and brunch items, as well as sandwiches, burgers, delicious desserts, healthy juices and coffees. Guests rave about the restaurant’s homemade pancakes and chocolate cake. The concept for the Laundromat Cafe originated in Copenhagen in 2006 as an informal space where guests could meet and eat while doing their laundry. It also features an extensive library of around 6,000 books, which customers can enjoy in a friendly, laid-back atmosphere.
Have you been to Reykjavik and have a favorite restaurant? We’d love to know about it, please leave a comment below!