Iceland’s eclectic capital may have seen a surge of visitors in recent years, but while most people use Reykjavik as a base for exploring the country’s impressive collection of waterfalls, gushing geysers and dramatic landscapes, there’s more to this city than its epic scenery. Still more famous for its monuments than its menus, underneath its picture-perfect exterior, Reykjavik is fast becoming a gastronomic paradise, with a line-up of incredible eats popping up around every corner. Here are the city’s best bites to have on your radar.
Sugary, soft and with just the right amount of spice, cinnamon buns are a Reykjavik staple and you’ll find the very best around at artisan bakery Braud & Co. Step through the wooden-framed doors of this busy bakeshop and you’ll be greeted with a waft of cinnamon as staff line up rows of freshly baked buns at the art-adorned window, tempting guests in from the cold. Best served straight out of the oven and sprinkled with lashings of sugar and a cup of coffee on the side, this mouthwatering treat is sure to satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth.
Souped up snacks
As its name suggests, Iceland can get pretty chilly in the winter months, and what better food to warm you up in sub-zero temperatures than a steaming bowl of soup? There are plenty of fuss-free soup joints to pick from in the city, but none will leave you feeling as warm and cosy inside as Svarta Kaffid. This family-owned eatery was the first Icelandic restaurant to serve the now popular soup-in-a-bread-bowl combo, and dishes up a rotating menu of two homemade soups each day – a meat and a vegetarian option. With full tables, a friendly atmosphere and service with a smile, the whole experience is guaranteed to warm your cockles.
Craft beer generation
Once a hipster trend confined to basement brewers, craft beer is having a major moment across the globe and Reykjavik is no exception. Craft beer culture is rife in the city, with a slew of bars and breweries pouring pints of hoppy IPAs and malt-infused ales to locals and visitors alike. While booze has a reputation for being eye-wateringly pricey here, don’t let that put you off as most bars have a nightly happy hour offering deals at select times in the early evening, so you can get your fill of your favourite tipple pre-dinner.
What clotted cream is to Cornwall, Skyr is to Iceland. A cultured dairy product that’s been a staple of locals for over 1,000 years, a visit to Reykjavik isn’t complete without tasting this much-loved delicacy for yourself. Like a creamier, thicker yoghurt, it’s made by adding active cultures to heated milk to give it a whole host of gut-boosting properties and a super creamy taste, before being combined with fruits like strawberries or blueberries for added flavour. Icelanders take their Skyr seriously so you’ll find plenty of places that serve up this delicious treat around the capital, often as a dessert, drizzled with evaporated milk for a splash of syrupy sweetness. You can even take a tour of a Skyr factory to see how it’s made.
While there may not be any Michelin-star eateries in Reykjavik anymore, the city still has its fair share of fine dining restaurants which have been steadily climbing the culinary ranks over the past few years. The cream of the crop is Fish Market (or Fiskfélagið to the initiated), a stylish-yet-cosy tavern-style space serving locally-sourced seafood and fresh meat dishes, from melt-in-your mouth cuts of lamb to decadent oysters, all beautifully presented with a fanciful flourish, making for an elegant experience from start to finish. Book ahead of time to nab the best table in the house.
You might be surprised to learn that hot dogs are everywhere in Reykjavik, and we mean everywhere. With kerbside vendors popping up throughout the city, this cheap, no-frills dish is the perfect fuel for a day of sightseeing but indisputably, the best can be found at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a globally-lauded recipe that’s been tried and tested by Bill Clinton and Ben Stiller no less. Topped with a fragrant blend of raw and fried onions plus generous helpings of ketchup, mustard and remoulade, it’s not unusual for a queue of tourists to snake around the block to get their hands of one during busy season. Trust us, one bite and you’ll be hooked.