After driving the ring in Iceland for several days (read about that HERE and HERE), we ended our trip exploring Reykjavik for the weekend. Reykjavik is the northernmost capital of the world and such a unique little city. I didn’t expect to see as many colorful homes as I did (super happy about that). I also didn’t expect to see the hefty prices on the menus (not so happy about that). Here are some tips for your 48 hours!
What I learned about Reykjavik
- Everyone speaks English.
- The currency is very difficult to understand.
- It’s the most expensive city I’ve ever visited.
- They have a lot of happy hour options.
- They have a great cafe culture!
- The city is incredibly safe. Iceland has been voted the safest country in the world multiple years in a row.
- We went in May and it was still cold, but I’m always cold. The temps ranged from 35º- 50º.
- You don’t need a car to explore the downtown area if you’re staying nearby. The city is very walkable. We had an Airbnb near Hallgrímskirkja church.
How I saved money on food
As I mentioned, Reykjavik is the most expensive city I’ve ever visited. From what I’ve learned the food costs so much because importation is expensive, so is labor, and so is farming. Liquor is especially expensive! One cocktail could cost you $20-$25. I quickly had to figure out a way to not blow my entire month’s budget on this one weekend. So we had a light breakfast, stuffed ourselves during happy hour, then ate the famous (and cheap) hot dogs for dinner!
A cafe crawl for breakfast
For breakfast, we would just have coffee and a pastry. They have several great local bakeries, and we were never disappointed with the sweets. Our first morning there we splurged and created a “cafe crawl” of our own. We tried Reykjavik Roasters, Mokka Kaffi, and Cafe Babalu. We were going to do a fourth (Stofan Cafe), but couldn’t handle any more caffeine. Our favorite was Reykjavik Roasters! Mokka Kaffi did have really good waffles though, so I recommend giving those a try.
A heavy lunch for happy hour
There’s actually an app you can download to see what time restaurants have their happy hours in Reykjavik—that’s how popular they are! The funny thing is, they usually offer 50% off their prices which equals a regular priced meal in Chicago or NYC. We tried Solon Bistro and had a good experience. Make sure you also take advantage of half off cocktails during this time. We visited Apotek Restaurant for drinks. Try Brennivín, Icelandic’s signature beverage also known as “the black death”. It’s seriously not that bad, especially when it’s in mojito form. Another happy hour spot we didn’t get to try, but I’ve read great things about is Slippbarinn.
Hot dogs for dinner
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is the place to be! Hot dogs are only a few bucks, and they are delicious. A lot of celebs have visited, and it was also on Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations.
source: flickr.comsource: bostonglobe.com
Snap some photos at Harpa concert hall
Across the street from the yummy hot dogs, you’ll find Harpa. It’s a concert hall and a conference center. It has a glass facade and makes for some fun photos inside.
See the city from above at Hallgrímskirkja
The best view of the city is definitely from the top of the Hallgrímskirkja church. It’s the largest church in the country, and right in the city center. You’ll get a 360º view over all of Reykjavik from the top of the tower. It costs $15 for two tickets.
Don’t forget the colorful homes!
Of course, my favorite part of the city was all the color! Iceland isn’t the sunniest destination, but the colorful homes really brought it to life. There’s also tons of cool street art and plenty of fun shops.
How cool is this building?!
Reykjavik is a great base if you don’t plan to drive the ring around Iceland. There are plenty of tours offered that take you to the blue lagoon, the waterfalls, northern lights chasing, etc. If you want even more tips, check out this blog that I enjoyed reading before my trip >> LOCAL BLOG.