The only proper way to start your morning in Iceland is with freshly baked bread from a local bakery. Bernhoftsbakari, dating to 1834, is the oldest of its kind, having been owned and operated by the same family ever since. Although it has had various locations around town, it’s now close to the coast, making it a smart stop before visiting the Harpa or Sun Voyager.
BTW: Get the hazelnut croissant for dessert and float around town on a pink cloud the rest of the day.
Bernhoftsbakari, 3 Klapparstigur, Reykjavik, 101
A homey little spot in the cellar of an old house, just across the street from the national theater, Grai Kotturinn (or the Gray Cat) serves only breakfast. Whether you want a full brunch with eggs and bacon or just a cup of coffee, this place will gently wake you up and ease you into the day. This small restaurant fills up quickly: Grab a table if one is available, but be prepared to wait at the bar until something opens up. No need to fret, though: Shelves and shelves of books can entertain you while you wait.
BTW: Ask them to mix you a blend of malt and appelsin, the traditional local holiday drink.
Grai Kotturinn, 16a Hverfisgata, Reykjavik, 101
This French bistro was a hit right from the start, undoubtedly thanks to an extensive menu of fresh, elegant dishes such as escargot and Norwegian eggs. Serving delicious food in a beautiful setting, this place has become the go-to spot for Sunday brunch with the family or a proper lunch with your date. Part of the space is just glass windows, allowing natural light to flow in. With white tablecloths, hanging lanterns and living plants all around, the result is a romantic mixture of greenhouse and terrace.
BTW: Ask to sit by the window.
Snaps, 1 Thorsgata, Reykjavik, 101
Hlemmur Matholl (food hall)
Serving as the main transportation hub for decades, Hlemmur is pivotal to the city’s structure. For a long time, this bus terminal was a den for Reykjavik’s social misfits, shabby and run-down and mostly avoided by other locals. After sticking out like a sore thumb for years, Hlemmur was finally given a makeover, and today it’s a funky food hall, offering affordable yet excellent food in a laid-back market atmosphere.
BTW: Fish tacos, bahn mi sandwiches, grilled steaks and Danish smorrebrod are some of the mouthwatering eats you can find here, but sharing a few gorgeous dishes at Skal with a friend and washing it down with a glass of natural wine is especially recommended.
Hlemmur Matholl, 107 Laugavegur, Reykjavik, 101
This restaurant with deep roots is known for its traditional local cuisine, specializing in fish but also serving the renowned Icelandic lamb and more eccentric — maybe, to outsiders, controversial — dishes like whale and puffin. The setting is warm and welcoming, with wooden interiors and fishing decorations. You’ll feel like you’re over for dinner at somebody’s house — or on someone’s boat.
BTW: Order the hashed fish with black bread, an everyday meal in Icelandic households.
Thrir Frakkar, 14 Baldursgata, Reykjavik, 101
Passing by, you might think this small pub is closed. The atmosphere isn’t much, but here you can dig into a juicy steak and burger. On weekdays, the place is quiet, with mostly solitary day drinkers reading their paper. But on Saturday and Sundays, you’ll see hung-over zombies crawling through the door in packs, getting the secret cure to their ailments: a Vitabar burger. If you want a little hair of the dog instead, Icelandic beer is on tap and spirits are behind the bar.
BTW: Get the blue cheese burger. It’s a local favorite.
Vitabar, 21 Bergthorugata, Reykjavik, 101
Baejarins Beztu Pylsur
Whether you like hot dogs or not, this place is one you shouldn’t miss. With a name that literally translates to “the best sausage in town,” the stand has been open in this downtown harborside location since 1937. Boiled in beer-infused water, these dogs are probably unlike anything you’ve ever had. Their signature is “one with everything,” which includes onions and rémoulade, a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish that’s a common condiment. The hot dogs that burst in the pot are put to the side and kept for dog owners looking to treat their furry friends.
BTW: Ask for a “double barrel” if you’re hungry, and you’ll get two dogs in your bun.
Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, Posthusstraeti & Tryggvagata, Reykjavik, 101
In a little timber house in the middle of downtown, this bar is usually packed with its loyal regulars who come every weekend for the hip-hop scene and DJs. Because of its size, you will have to squeeze into the pulsating crowd for the best experience, but for a calmer vibe, move to the upper floor. When it closes, head on home for a nap and return for their extensive menu of burgers and “hangover killers” when you wake up.
BTW: Hold onto the railing going up and down the stairs. Or, if you want the local experience of falling down them at least once, don’t.
Prikid, 12 Bankastraeti, Reykjavik, 101