Iceland is quickly becoming a huge tourist destination thanks to its Viking history, bustling cities and unique adventures for visitors. Its isolated location means that it has a culture all its own and with that comes plenty of specialised local dishes that you have to try!
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and has a population of about 123,000. The city is currently going through a food revolution and getting back to its culinary roots after a financial crisis overcame the country in 2009, which forced the city to quit importing as frequently and turn to its own resources instead. What they found and came up with was fresh fish, warm soups, tender lamb, succulent langoustine, and so much more. Let us take you on a culinary tour of a true up-and-comer to the foodie world; Reykjavik, Iceland.
We are starting our list off right with the Grillmarkadurinn or Grill Market, which specialises in Icelandic food. This modern restaurant works closely with local farms and even cooks with a custom-made coal grill that heats up to 1,200 degrees Celsius! Some of the must-tries on the menu include the langoustine tails and grilled reindeer. Then there’s the unique trio of Minke whale, puffin and reindeer mini burgers, this is controversial for many but a traditional food here, so you might need to make a conscience call on this one. Large portions, a warm and cozy atmosphere and delicious food all await you at the Grillmarkadurinn, located at Lækjargata 2a.
9. Kaloportid Flea Market
Now that you’re in Iceland you’ll want to try some of the traditional foods you have heard about, so make your way to the Kaloportid Flea Market. Some of the foods are not on our usual diet, like fermented shark, but some are tasty, like pastries and lots of cheese! Either way, many of these items are a must-try to get in the Viking spirit and to take on Iceland right. The food section of the market is located indoors and is next to a huge flea market full of unique non-food finds. You can find both markets at Tryggvagötu 19, Old Harbour, Grófin.
8. Lebowski Bar
If you are a fan of the film “The Big Lebowski”, the Lebowski Bar is a must for you to pay homage to while in Reykjavik. The bar is also perfect for fans of the White Russian drink, because they have them in many quirky variations here! What better way to beat the cold than to drink delicious creamy cocktails with coffee liquour in a unique and hip atmosphere? The bar also serves typical bar food including burgers, onion rings and french fries, so you can keep hydrated and keep full while hanging out here. Lebowski Bar is located at Laugavegur 2a.
7. Icelandic Fish & Chips
We know and love our fish and chips at home, but imagine eating them as fresh as possible right beside the ocean. Icelandic Fish & Chips is located right in the harbour and serves several types of fried fish everyday. The fish are actually fried in organic spelt batter, with no eggs or milk and are served with your choice of a side dish, which includes crispy potatoes, onion rings, bread and more. Langoustine tails, oven baked fish and fisherman’s stew are also available on the menu. The Icelandic Fish & Chips is located at Tryggvagata 11 and if you happen to be in America, it has even opened a location in New York City at 28 7th Ave South.
6. The Noodle Station
Whether you have the chills from exploring the beautiful city or need to recover from a night out, the answer is The Noodle Station. This Thai-inspired soup restaurant is super simple, but completely delicious, plus it’s a cheap option in a town where many things are expensive. Basically all you do here is pick whether you want chicken, beef or vegetarian, then that is mixed with a secret family recipe and you have a perfect bowl of soup. Cost efficient, warm, filling and healthy, there really is no reason you should not visit here while in Reykjavik and taste the delicious bowl of magic for yourself. The Noodle Station is located at Skólavörðustígur 21a.
5. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
This is a slightly strange one, but we promise it is worth the hype. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is a tiny hot dog stall located on a side street near the harbour. The stall always has a huge line and has once been named as the best hot dog in Europe. Its name translates to, “The Best Hot Dog in Town” in Icelandic. You will not be disappointed after you taste your hot dog and be sure to get it with, “the works” or, “eina með öllu” which means all the condiments, including tomato sauce, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remolaði, a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish. Visitors to the hot dog stand include Bill Clinton and Metallica’s James Hetfield, so get in line! The stand is located at Tryggvagata 1 in the harbour area.
4. 3 Frakkar
If you want a truly traditional Icelandic meal that some might find unappealing or controversial, make your way to the 3 Frakkar restaurant. Dishes such as fermented shark, horse, whale, puffin and seal take the stage here. It mirrors a time when Icelanders had to eat for survival and didn’t have access to imported produce. These foods may be harder to swallow now, but they are what was eaten in the olden days when food was more scarce, and 3 Frakkar honours that legacy. Whether you choose to eat these dishes or not, it is worth noting the importance they hold to the country. The 3 Frakkar is located at Baldursgata, 14.
3. Reykjavik Roasters
If you are a coffee lover and want to have the best cup in Iceland, you must go to Reykjavik Roasters. The co-owners are award-winning roasters and view their jobs as art work and the results are fantastic. While here, be sure to have a cup of your go-to caffeinated beverage, including espresso, cappuccino, macchiato and many more, and also have a small scone or croissant to really bring it all together. Enjoy the cozy atmosphere and at-home feel of this shop and even enjoy a good vinyl while sitting and enjoying your cup of warm happiness.
Never underestimate the power of a good, warm bowl of soup, especially when it’s lobster (langoustine) soup and you’re in Iceland having walked around outside all day and ready to warm up! At Sægreifinn, or Seabarin, you will not only enjoy one of the best bowls of lobster soup around, but you’ll also have the option of several kinds of skewers of fish including cod, shrimp, salmon, monk fish and many more. If you’re in a group, we suggest ordering a few bowls of the lobster soup and some fish skewers and going to town on this nice warm meal sure to energize you for more adventures! Sægreifinn is located at Geirsgata 8. Please note that Sægreifinn only accepts reservations of 4 people or more.
Dill could actually be given a lot of credit for transforming the culinary arts in Reykjavik. The chef of Dill, Gunnar Karl Gislason, and Dill’s Sommelier, Ólafur Örn Ólafsson, came together to open its doors in 2009, right after the country had befallen one of the biggest financial crisis in history. They chose to use classic Nordic ingredients from local farms and areas to create a menu that showcases Iceland at its most authentic. The restaurant offers 7-course, 3-course and 5-course meals that can be paired with wine and change weekly! You should expect to pay a bit more for dining at Dill, even by Icelandic standards, for example the 7-course meal is around AU$160 per person. Dill is located at Hverfisgata 12.
If all this talk of Iceland and its amazing local food has whet your appetite for a Nordic adventure, then browse our website to see Gate 1 Travel’s selection of tours and independent packages that include the stunning landscapes, mind-blowing geysers and glaciers and wondrous Northern Lights!