I’ve been to Iceland so many times, it’s ridiculous. I’ve been there, seen the Northern Lights, bought the big wooly jumper and hungout in all the best places.
So here is a best-travel-blog-worthy guide to Reykjavik and Iceland’s best cafes, Reykjavik’s best bars and hangouts.
We’ve also included our guide of the best places to the see the Northern Lights which you’ll find halfway down the page.
Don’t forget to listen to our Iceland Travel Music Playlist whilst hanging out or travelling around Iceland too. Music in the land of fire and ice is incredible!
Reykjavik’s Best Bars & Best Cafes:
Kex – Possibly the coolest hostel in existence. I’ve seen some great bands play here whilst Iceland Airwaves festival was on. I’ve not stayed here yet but it would be a very social place to bunk down in Reykjavik. It has a great ambiance. Visitors are welcome in the bar and eatery. When = in the evenings or at the weekends.
Braud & Co Bakery – A take away baked goods joint that is so so sweet. You’ll spot it from the colourful exterior and amazing smell. Just follow your nose. When = in the morning.
Stofan Kaffihús – I couldn’t find this place last time I was in Reykjavik. I thought it had closed. Turns out they have just moved to slightly bigger premises due to their success. It hasn’t ruined the place though – it’s still a laid back café by day with a comfy bar feel at night. When = in the afternoon.
Reykjavik Roasters – Turn up, get a coffee, maybe a pastry, pick a nice vinyl record from their collection, put it on and maybe read a book. Not a bad record collection at all. When = all day.
Kaffibarinn – For years I believed this place was owned by Damon Albarn – it’s not. It is one of the best bars in Reykjavik though. Quiet early in the week but hotting up with progressive house and cool beats at the weekend. When = evenings and weekends.
Prikid – Not every place in Reykjavik is cute and cozy. Prikid is an edgy burger joint with hip-hop soundtrack and loud customers. Go here if you like a great milkshake and some US import culture. When = for dinner.
Sandholt Bakari – This bakery is equally great to walk in and take away some baked delights, or if you’ve got time, sit in and enjoy a plate of vegetarian deliciousness, served to you. When = for lunch.
Smekkleysa / Bad Taste Records – Home to Bjork, Sigur Ros and loads of other Icelandic music. A great record store and historical part of the Iceland music scene. When = in the day.
Babalu Café – I’d recommend you head upstairs at this place, to find a cosy mishmash of furniture and board games on the first floor. Another café that’ll serve you a nice cold beer as you relax next to the choice portrait of two old Icelandic men kissing. When = afternoon or for a quiet evening.
Mokka – The oldest café in Reykjavik, this place is also one of the best cafe’s in Icland. It features on the cover of one of John Grant’s albums and is worth visiting just for that but the coffee is good and the environment, peaceful. When = in the afternoon.
Grái Kötturinn – This tiny café is worth popping in for breakfast one morning for great pancakes. It takes ages to get served, is under-staffed and the open whenever they feel like it but it’s the kind of casual place where people with relaxed attitudes love. When = in the morning.
The Laundromat – Everyone comes across this diner, due to its prime position. It doesn’t detract from it being a great value eatery with nice food and lots of options. Pop downstairs for a look too – it is an actual Laundromat. When = for lunch or dinner.
12 Toner Records – They offered me a coffee when I walked in. Browse the wonderful music of Iceland in this friendly record shop. When = in the day.
I also made a video on my last trip to Iceland which features a lot of these places. Check that out below.
For this video, we hunted down the Reykjavik’s best cafes, restaurants, bars, stores and lesser mentioned places in Iceland. The video doesn’t shout about these places however, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled to see them. Let’s keep this our little secret, okay!
The Best Places To See The Northern Lights:
Iceland is a magical place and most people head there with one thing on their minds. It took me several visits to see the northern lights.
During my multiple visits, I built up a selection of go to spots close to Reykjavik, which I would head out to hoping to see the aurora.
Of course you need to keep an eye on cloud cover and aurora activity but when that is all in place, the final thing you need to think about is where is best to see them. Below are a few maps of my favourite spots depending on the conditions.
- Fans of cannabis culture will want to head south out of Reykjavik along route 41, towards the airport but not as far as that. Turn off when you get to route 420 and drive along into the darkened wilderness until you get to a church called Kalfatjarnarkirkja. This is a great spot and can be seen in the video on this page.
- If the weather is really bad, then head to Grotta Lighthouse, which is on the end of the Reykjavik peninsula. This way, if you need to get home easily or its really late, you haven’t far to go. I think this is where my brother proposed to his now wife.
- Another great spot is to head out, as if you are going on the golden circle and turning off near to Mosfellskirkja church. In this area, you are starting to climb into the mountains, so its a bad idea if the conditions are poor but a little elevation and complete darkness will help you see low-level displays.
Take care on the roads if you are driving. Stay safe guys and have fun.