Intro to Reykjavik

What’s there to do in Reykjavik, Iceland? Well, a lot. I have no doubt that Iceland is at the top of your “countries to visit” list. And, if it’s not, it’s most likely on a friend’s. Why? Iceland is a phenomenal country with extremely diverse nature – from glaciers to forests to black-sand beaches – kind, welcoming people, a form of government that seems to work more than most, and endless opportunities for adventures both near and far. In short, Iceland is a must-see country. And, if you’re going to Iceland, you’re most likely making Reykjavik your first stop. Whether the city is as awe-inspiring as you’ve heard is entirely up to you to find out.

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Beautiful streams shooting from above the Gljúfrabúi waterfall in Iceland
Beautiful streams shooting from above the Gljúfrabúi waterfall in Iceland

Places to eat in Reykjavik

Glo – Glo is a vegan / vegetarian’s delight. But, you’ll certainly enjoy it even if you’re not one (they offer meat dishes). The brightly lit and well-organized restaurant is a “take what you want and pay at the end” place. According to Visit Reykjavik, Glo is the “most popular health food restaurant in Iceland,” and does its best to source majority of its ingredients from Icelandic farmers. In fact, the restaurant says that 50% of its ingredients are organic.

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Address: Laugavegur 20b, 101 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: 11am – 9pm daily

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Café Babalú – This little cafe is located inside of a yellow house, and definitely gives off the homey, cozy feel. Once inside, you can grab a table in the first floor living room, or head upstairs and play board games, read magazines or journal a bit as you sip on your coffee or munch on one of their delicious vegetarian delights. I went to Café Babalú on my first day in Iceland, and returned many times; either for a cup of tea or a little tomato soup and grilled cheese to warm me up on a windy September day.

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Address: Skólavörðustígur 22, 101 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: 11am – 11pm daily

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An artsy and ingenious way to block off roads in Reykjavik, Iceland
An artsy and ingenious way to block off roads in Reykjavik, Iceland

Lebowski Bar – If you’ve done any research on Reykjavik, you’ve certainly heard of Lebowski Bar, which is exactly what it sounds like: a tribute to the movie, The Big Lebowski, in the form of a bar. I usually think themed restaurants like this are a bit cheesy, but this place was awesome. It features an “American” centric menu, and the food is delicious. I had a vegetarian burger with fries and went back two more times, just to enjoy it again. The bar features a full bar, checkered black and white flooring, a diner style countertop (think milkshakes in the 40s) and typical diner booths. It also has a white fence (yes, a fence), which acts as a border to the main dining area. Definitely worth a look.

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Address: Laugavegur 20b, 101 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: 11am – 1am Monday – Thursday, 11am – 4am Friday – Saturday, 11am – 12am Sunday

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Prikid – Prikid is an Icelandic word that means, “The Sticks.” I don’t know why this large barn-like restaurant / bar on the corner of Bankastræti is called, “The Sticks,” but I’m sure anyone in Reykjavik can explain it. I went here twice. Once for a quick meal (it was decent) and another as a last stop during what was a long night out on the town. It was somewhat late, so it wasn’t too crowded but a nice place to hang with friends. It’s supposedly the oldest bar in Iceland, if that matters.  

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Address: Bankastræti 12, 101 Reykjavík

Hours of operation: 8am – 1am Monday – Thursday, 8am – 4:30am Friday, 11am – 4:30am Saturday, 11am – 12am Sunday

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Prikid, the oldest bar in Iceland
Prikid, the oldest bar in Iceland

Taqueria Lucha Libre at the Paloma – This little Mexican food truck had the best food I enjoyed in all of Iceland (you’ll notice I didn’t eat anything Icelandic, as it’s mostly seafood-based). It’s located next to Paloma, which is a cool nightclub worth a visit. But, back to Taqueria Lucha Libre. It’s supposedly the only food truck that offers vegetarian options in Reykjavik, and while I don’t remember exactly what I ordered, I know that it was delicious. Delicious enough to make my mouth water at the thought of it. Go! Go! Go!

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Address: Next to Paloma

Hours of operation: 12pm – 10pm Sunday – Wednesday, 12pm – 2am Thursday, 12pm – 4am Friday – Saturday

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Vöffluvagninn – The Waffle Wagon – I stumbled over to Vöffluvagninn on one of the post-bar / club late nights I had in Reykjavik. I was walking around downtown, and spotted this yellow truck that seemed to grow out of the ground (or maybe descend from heaven above) right in front of me. I was magnetically drawn to it, gliding over on my feet, and ordered a Belgian style waffle with caramel. It was out of this world. But, if for some reason you’re crazy and don’t like Belgian style waffles, you can order them Icelandic style (strawberry jam and whipped cream) or American style (maple syrup). You can also order nutella on top. Now, it’s important to note that there are other wagons (donut wagons, etc.) in this same area, so don’t get confused. There’s only one Vöffluvagninn.

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Address: Hallgrímskirkja Church / Lækjartorgur Square (the one I went to)

Hours of operation: Hallgrímskirkja Church 11am – 7pm Tuesday – Sunday, Lækjartorgur Square 10pm – 5am Friday – Saturday

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Rainbow road to Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik, Iceland
Rainbow road to Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik, Iceland

Summary of Reykjavik

Reykjavik, the “Smoke Cove,” has been through a lot in order to get to where it is today. From Irish hermits to norsemen to the literal plague, the capital of Iceland has certainly earned its reputation as one of the most sought after destinations in the world, and it’s likely not to disappoint. Whether you’re in the mood for a delicious meal, fancy a night out on the town, or just want to use it as a starting point for your amazing Icelandic adventure, Reykjavik is the place to be.

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Mateo is a writer who quit his flashy job in NYC to live life on his own terms. He’s done everything from working at an orphanage in Nairobi to building a new university in Abu Dhabi to sleeping on volcanos in Guatemala. And right now, he’s writing his second novel. His writing has been featured internationally in publications including Matador Network, GoAbroad, Víkurfréttir, Caribbean News Now and Black & Abroad. Regardless of where he is, he’s always working. To keep up with him, follow him on Instagram & Twitter at @AskMateo and read one of his elaborate stories at SwagPapi.com

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