Iceland’s capital has seen an influx of tourism over the past few years, but the city of Reykjavik still holds some secrets for those looking to truly experience the city. The trick is to finding places that the locals love in the middle of the tourist hotspots. If you know the right places to go, you’ll have the trip of a lifetime.
For Food: The Fiskmarkaourinn
One of the greatest ways to experience a culture is through its food, and the Fiskmarkaourinn offers traditional flavors with a modern touch—just like the city of Reykjavik itself. Boasting a tasting menu with minke whale, puffin, mussels, sushi, and almost everything else you could dream of, the Fiskmarkaourinn is a favorite among those living in Reykjavik because it has the tried-and-true tastes of the culture, but it also includes some new flavors and presentations.
You’ll want to order the Chef’s Tasting Menu. A full seven courses, you’ll be stuffed before you even make it to desert—usually a beautiful bowl of fruit grown in the greenhouses not too far away from the capital.
The Fiskmarkaourinn, Aoalstraeti 12, 101 Reyjavik, Iceland. +354 578 8877
For View: The Hallgrimskirkja Church
Representing the Icelandic peoples’ history as Vikings, the church wasn’t open until 1986. Designed by Icelander Gujon Samuelsson, it is by far the largest church in Reykjavik. Inside, it is pretty sparse—you won’t find any religious relicts or elaborate frescoes. However, the Hallgrimskirkja does provide the best view of the entire city from its top. You can take an elevator (about two floors) up to the top for a small fee.
You won’t find the top crowded, but you will find an expanse of charmingly-painted houses and the Pacific Ocean. Painted bright colors so fishermen and sailors could them from far out to see, they now create a colorful city and a beautiful view.
Hallgrimskirkja Church, Hallgrimstorg 101, Reykjavik Iceland. +354 510 1000
For Relaxing: Landmannalauger
Everyone knows of the Blue Lagoon, but that makes it part of the problem if you want to see the real Reykjavik. Located a short distance away is Landmannalauger, or “the people’s pool.” It’s a hiker’s paradise not only for the gorgeous scenery, but also for its changing temperatures. As the Icelanders know, nothing is more relaxing than resting in the hot springs after a few hours of hiking some of the nearby mountains.
Because it is slightly hidden away, you should consider looking into hiring a tour company to take you. Those who are feeling intrepid can rent a car to make the short drive from Reykjavik, but for a truly relaxing experience, treat yourself to a cheap tour where you can also learn about Iceland’s every-changing landscape.
For Nightlife: Snaps
Hidden within a hotel in the city center, Snaps has become the secret meeting place for the Reykjavik elite. Though it doesn’t look any different from the many cafes and bars lining the city’s streets, it has a quiet reputation for delicious food, some interesting imported wines, and unique beers.
Its cozy interior makes it difficult to find a seat, so if you are planning on a late dinner, make sure to book a reservation beforehand. Between the excellent bar snacks, many choices of cheap and imported brews, and atmosphere, it’s no wonder that Snaps has made a name for itself as the local celebrity hotspot. (It’s also a favorite hangout of the Icelandic pop star Bjork.)
Snaps, Dorsgata 1, 101 Reykjavik Iceland. +354 511 6677
Have you found any favorite spaces in Iceland?