Beautiful sunset just before we land in Reykavik.
Our first entry into Iceland was via Reykjavik, which is the most natural first stop, before our adventure in Iceland began. We were here for 3 nights but effectively we probably only had one proper full day to really explore the eats and shops, as we also did our day trip to Akureyri from here too! So here’s a list of my feedback on where to shop and to eat mainly, with also a preview of Blue Lagoon, another day trip we took to soak our aching bodies after all that travelling.
Central town of Reykjavik for shopping and eats.
The good thing about Reykjavik is you could pretty much cover the whole shopping area on foot. We stayed at boutique hotel – Hotel Borg, which had such a central location to everything. A good landmark location on where the start of the shopping street is Stjórnarráðið Government House which is like the cabinet office of Iceland. From there, just walk upwards along Bankastræti which connects with Laugavegur, home to cafes and some cool shops. Here’s a list of my favourites we managed to explore.
66°NORTH Bankastræti 5 & Laugavegur 17 (2 shop locations)
This native Icelandic brand since 1926, is probably one of the best discoveries for high quality, outdoor wear that’s still managed to balance a cool utilitarian chic design with function. We ended up spending so much time here, trying on good windbreaker jackets, thermal sweaters and trekking pants.
JS Watch Company Laugavegur 62, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
We were all definitely intrigued by this shop, having read about this tiny watch shop, which has tons of celebrities like Ben Stiller, Tobey Maguire & Quentin Tarantino as their clients. So we decided to pay a visit to the shop, even saying we weren’t going to buy anything but oops Y and AL each ended up buying a watch! We met the owner Gilbert O. Guðjónsson who is as happy to spend time in the shop talking with clients like us as much as behind the scenes putting together a watch, and he told us his son Sigurður Björn Gilbertsson is the watchmaker for the brand these days who works in a shop down the road. The watches aren’t as crazy expensive as some of the big brands and many of the watches like the one Y purchased can go up to 1000 metres deep in sea, plus the leather strap is made of shark which means it’s super hardy!
iglo + indi Skólavörðustígur 4b, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
If you are looking for cute, quirky baby and children’s clothing, you gotta check out this shop. As Y and I had to buy a nice baby present for a friend that just popped, it was a great discovery, as I even got myself a cute Panda bear blanket, and yes their shopping tote bags from their shop has a panda face on it, so extra brownie points!
Celebrity hall of fame in JS Watch shop.
Close up shelves in JS Watch.
Feeling Christmas-y along Bankastræti.
When it comes to eats in this Icelandic city, honestly not to sound too critical, I do think some places I read about fell short of my expectations, definitely some overhype for sure. And why I would write it here is because these places are reviewed highly in many websites, but I think it’s my duty to manage other travellers’ expectations.
The overhypes for me were:
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur Tryggvatagata 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
This is like the most famous hot dog stand in Reykjavik. Am not sure why, given there’s hot dogs sold everywhere around town in this city. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but definitely surprising to get a long queue like that. The sausage was decent, but I have had better ones in Australia and United States, that’s my verdict, but maybe it is the best in this town compared to the rest.
Seabaron Geirsgata 8, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland, Tel: +354 553 1500
This super casual place serves up grilled seafood as the main specialties on skewers, and their lobster soup. You pick the choice of fish from the cold display and then order it at the counter before grabbing a seat. It’s probably the best chance of trying whale meat if you wanna keep it simple. I personally don’t really like to eat fish and seafood in skewers, it’s not exactly a yakitori joint, nor am I eating BBQ in someone’s house. Perhaps it’s their way of introducing fresh seafood and fish in an accessible way, but it’s not for me. And the lobster soup, was a little thin in flavour for me, and not enough meat. My verdict of the whale meat was it was super gamey surprisingly, and I don’t think I would eat it again.
Waiting in line for that famous hot dog.
Can’t wait to try.
Outside of Seabaron.
Medley of skewers.
And then there are the ones worth trying.. here’s my list.
Sandholt Laugavegur 36
One of the best bakeries in Reykjavik, it’s a great place for a casual breakfast, lunch or tea time – dine in or takeaway. We came here for some takeaway pastries just before dinner time for our next day’s breakfast, and was pretty happy with the quality of the baked goods. Plus it’s conveniently located on the shopping street!
Matur og Drykkur Grandagarður, 2, Iceland, Tel: +354 571 8877. Reservations a must.
This restaurant located in the Saga museum offers a modern take on Icelandic food in an approachable way. The interiors are casual and comfortable, and they present their creative dishes in 3 different choices of menus – Icelandic Menu (which was a Christmas menu when we dined there), Seafood Menu, Vegetarian Menu. Us gals opted for the Seafood Menu, I would have loved to try the Christmas menu except there were some things that erm… I didn’t really eat like the lamb. The dishes were all very well-executed in taste and presentation, no wonder they have a Michelin Bib Gourmand, but the star of the Seafood menu had to be the Cod’s head cooked in chicken stock – one of their signature dishes! I think the seafood menu is a good way to experience the Icelandic food, given fish is a big part of their diet.
Dill Restaurant Hverfisgata 12, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland, Tel: +354 552 1522. Reservations a must.
We dined here on our last night which pretty much also marked the end of my Nordic trip. The food here is best described as New Nordic fare, and I liked the casual unpretentious set up. The dinner menu changes weekly with three, five and seven courses available. I think the only pity was the superbly dim lighting during dinner, so it was pretty hard to capture any of the dishes on photo.
Red wine to begin our meal at Matur og Drykkur.
Amazing codhead at Matur og Drykkur.
Starting the meal at Dill.
Super tender pork at Dill.
And to end off this post, one can’t leave Reykjavik without checking out the Blue Lagoon, about a 45 minutes drive from the city centre of Reykjavik, this is a fun half day trip to come to. Some even come here on route to the airport, but I personally don’t think it’s necessary to stay around here.
So there’s a lot of news bites on the web about why it is blue, and I have to qualify to you, the Blue Lagoon is not exactly a natural wonder, and I think the Landlopers Travel Site explains it pretty well. In a nut shell, the blue water is due to the geothermal plant found right next door. So it’s a manmade pool, not a natural one but to be fair it still possesses a lot of minerals which is good for skin issues etc. I just wished it was warmer, since I am used to the Japanese hot springs. But I think it was good fun ‘walking’ in the pool to the mud kiosk and drink kiosk.
Despite Blue Lagoon being a huge tourist trap, I think it’s still worth a visit, and given the number of tourists who visit daily, I was amazed at the efficiency of the system in terms of their lockers, checking guests in and out, etc. Our tour guide helped us pre-book everything, but just as a tip, be good for you to visit their website and prebook your packages. The packages determines if you need a towel (very basic but necessary unless you wanna bring one from your hotel), get a facial mud and algae mask and top it up even with a drink while you ‘stroll’ around in the blue lagoon, and they give you a colored wrist waterproof to wear according to your package. Check them out here. We had the Premium package, but I personally don’t think it’s necessary to dine at Lava Restaurant (food isn’t that great and it’s expensive), unless you want to make it a worthwhile half day trip.
The highlight if anything is to visit the shop. The must buy products are the Body Moisturizer – it’s amazing for those with sensitive skin, the algae and mud masks of course and the lip balm which is so moisturizing!
Algae and hot steam observed as we approach the blue lagoon.
Getting closer! Seeing sights of the blue.
First sights of the blue lagoon as we enter the main building.
Gazillion tourists in the blue lagoon.