Iceland was one of the coolest places that I have been to because it is so unique. They have been isolated for so long because they are on an island and most of the country is uninhabitable. We were there for about 5 days/4 nights, but we were definitely able to see everything we wanted to.
The airport (KEF) is about an hour drive to Reykjavik city center. *Book a premium bus in advance via FlyBus or Airport Direct. We booked Airport Direct at the airport when we landed in Iceland which was about $165 round trip for 2 people. They will pick you up/drop you off in front of your hotel. Other people have rented a car, but this seems like a hassle.
Basically, we had a mix-up and ended up staying in 2 hotels during our time in Iceland.
Center Hotel Klopp– Center Hotels was a chain of hotels which was nice because they have several locations throughout the city and we had access to Wi-Fi in each hotel. This was not the best out of all the Center Hotels, but it was in a great location and we had complimentary breakfast for the 2 days we stayed there. I would recommend doing research on Center Hotels and finding the nicer ones.
Alda Hotel– This hotel was AMAZING. It was a trendy boutique hotel that had great amenities (i.e. dry sauna.) They also gave you a working cellphone that you could use during your stay which came in handy when we almost missed one of our tours and making dinner reservations. It was attached to a great restaurant called Brassas well and they offered a breakfast buffet. Would recommend to everyone – and also in a great location!
- Islenski Barrin for a snack – got the tomato soup, vegan barley salad, BBQ wings, and waffle fries. Very good!
- Dinner at Kopar– This was amazing and on the harbor. We got fish of the day, zucchini noodles, duck spring rolls and spicy crab cakes.
- Grillmarket– Make reservations here! We got the meat gourmet, deep fried vegetables, pan fried vegetables, cheese platter and chicken skewers. The starter bread with 3 butters was amazing too
- Braud & Co– got an amazing cinnamon bun right out of the oven. Plus this place has really cool graffiti on the outside.
- Reykjavik Roasters– Good coffee and right down the road from Braud & Co.
- Baejarin– famous hot dog stand where the locals go. Right next to Restaurant Hornid on the map. In our opinion, it wasn’t worth it to go out of the way for
- Ostabudin– cheese platter and warm rhubarb cake
- Apotek– bread with truffle butter, waffle trio (duck, lamb, trout), black truffle lasagna from the Italian pop-up, and grilled salmon with broccolini. Got 3 mini macarons for dessert which never disappoints.
- Snaps Bistro Bar– We went here for dinner on our last night because someone told us it was the #1 restaurant in Iceland for a few years. It was a Saturday night and it was definitely on the fancier side. I don’t know if they take reservations but call ahead because it was packed. The beef ribeye with mashed potatoes, creamed mushroom barley, and duck salad was amazing. We also got the chocolate cake for dessert which was also very good!
- Brass– restaurant next to Alda hotel. Great breakfast buffet if you are hotel guests.
Other restaurants that people said were good (but we didn’t get a chance to try)
- Coocoo’s Nest– has a good brunch
- Glo– lunch place, healthy
- Tapas Barinn
- CaféParis– a local told me this was her favorite place
- Bergsson Mathus– for brunch
- CaféBabalu – Two minute walk from Hallgrí Someone said the coffee was OK. Nothing special, but good location.
- Rok – heard this place has a great atmosphere and it has a lot of Icelandic food. Good for lunch.
- Nora Magasin – gastropub from the Icelandic celebrity chef, Völundur Vö He also runs Borg Restaurant which is next door.
- Dill – this restaurant was right near Islenski Barinn and this restaurant changes its menu weekly based on what has been found. After the 2008 economic crash, ingredients became too expensive to import so they had to make do with what was available to them in Iceland.
*Ps – They don’t go out in Iceland until around 1:00 AM.
- The English Pub– we watched a soccer game here and they also had live music which was amazing.
- Jacobsen Loftid Bar– Speakeasy vibes. Older crowd, but great cocktails.
- American Bar– We met local Icelanders. They love the American Bar for the happy hour and to meet foreigners.
- Free walking tour of Reykjavik(City Walk) àLearned so much about the city on this tour and it gave us a great basic foundation of where everything was located in the city. It was 2 hours long. We saw the Prime Minister sitting in the window, the first street in Iceland, Basalt Pillars in the square, the lake/ City Hall, the first school, famous hot dog stand, and the main shopping strip.
- Our tour guide told us to go to the Swimming Poolsbut we didn’t get a chance to go. Locals go to these all day and they are man-made geothermally heated pools. He also recommended that we check out the Museums(Saga Museum and National History Museum) but we didn’t have time.
- In the city:
- The main road is Laugavegur– this is where the shops are
- Harpa Concert Hall – it was finished in 2011. It is green on the outside to represent the northern lights, the exterior represents fish scales, and it is shaped like a ship to encompass the city of Reykjavik
- Hallgrimskirkja church – cost 1,000 kronan to go to the top, which we got great views of the city from
- Sea Voyage statue – also a great view of the water
- Harbor– I went to this cute plate/porcelain store called Boho along the harbor as well. The Saga Museum was also near this.
- Secret Lagoon– We didn’t do this, but we heard from a few other people that this was great to drive to if you rent a car.
We didn’t do the food tour but we met people from Chicago who did and I took a picture of her notes! You could basically do the food tour for yourself.
- Islenski Barinn– Icelandic Meat Soup, Einstok white ale
- Ostabudin– Cheese board: black gouda cheese, gold cheese (Gull Ostur), blue cheese, cured Icelandic lamb, cured horse, smoked Icelandic goose
- Café Loki– rye bread ice cream with whipped cream and caramelized rhubarb syrup
- Messinn– Artic char cooked in honey and almonds, fish stew (cod, potatoes, onions, butter, cream, garlic, celery, white wine, and lime)
- Baejarins Betzu Pylsur– the Icelandic hot dog
- Apotek– Skyr fromage, skyr mousse, strawberry and lime gel, lime sponge
We did 2 days of tours outside of Iceland. See below trips we did. The South of Iceland Tour was on a big coach bus with 40 people and the 2ndwas a smaller group with about 20 people.
Also, go to the supermarkets Bonusor Kronan for snacks for these day trips.
- Got an Icelandic traditional “pancake.” Crepe rolled up with sugar at gas station
- Saw wild horses and sheep
- Take route 1 down the coast
- Katla is a volcano that should erupt every 60 years, but it is 40 years overdue
- 2010 a volcano in Iceland erupted and it grounded all air traffic in Europe
- Skogafoss– climb stairs next to waterfall
- Glacier Sólheimajökull
- Vik: Stopped in this small town for lunch – there are only 2 food places and they are owned by the same person. We ate at Ice Cave.
- Mountain of Reynishver (Black sand beach with cave) These waves were crazy
- Seljalandsfoss– The waterfall that you walk behind
- Kaldiis a microbrewery in northern Iceland. Started in 2006. They have a bar in Reykjavik as well.
- National Park – Saw the waterfall. This is also where you can snorkel between the two tectonic plates
- Geysir– saw the original Geysir that other Geysers are named after. It is 10,000 years old and it stopped erupting in 2000.
- Strokkur is the geyser that erupts every 10-15 minutes
- Gullfoss– this was a massive waterfall that fell into a canyon
- Vaki Waterfall– on the left side of the waterfall, they created a place for the fish to swim down so that they wouldn’t get hurt by the powerful water
- Kerid Crater– walked around the perimeter with crazy winds. Kind of dangerous but we survived.
- Blue Lagoon– This was amazing. I know people say it’s a tourist trap, but its honestly so worth it.
- **BOOK THIS IN ADVANCE – we spoke to a few people that tried to book it when they were there and they said the Blue Lagoon was sold out.
- We also saw the northern lights from here when we were leaving because we went from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM.
- Make sure you use the conditioner in the showers BEFORE you go into the lagoon! The water is known to make your hair stiff because of the silica.
Northern Lights– We didn’t do a Northern Lights tour because it didn’t seem very worth it. People that had tours said they were canceled for 3 nights in a row if the weather wasn’t ideal. A local said not to see the lights by boat because you can’t take good pics since you see the light from the city. They said the best way to see the lights is by land. If you want to see it by land, someone told us to go to Grottá for the best view.
- Iceland has 300,000 people in the country and 220,000 people live in Reykjavik
- Reykjavik is the northern most capital in the world. Reykjavik = “Smoky Bay”
- They still speak Old Norse/Icelandic – they can still read the textbooks from thousands of years ago perfectly. They are the only country that speaks this language, so they adopted English as their 2nd
- They don’t have an army or military – they are very safe
- Last name is the father’s first name (Son of Thomas= Thomasson)
- Always get the catch of the day – it is always the freshest and the cheapest
- They are known for their Lamb Soup as well
- Beer was banned in Iceland until 1989
- When we were there à19,980 ISK = $166 USD