Bars, bars, bars: Barhopping in Reykjavik
Yikes, only a few posts into this blog and I’m already awful at it! It’s been over a month since I blogged, but in that time I went to Iceland, helped friends plan (and pack for!) a trip to Paris, and am now helping other friends plan a vacation in Iceland and France. So I have been keeping busy on the travel front; I just haven’t been sharing it with you fine folks.
Well, last time we left off at restaurants in Reykjavik, so this post let’s chat about a few of the bars — only this time I have the added bonus of in-person knowledge.
I got into Reykjavik on a Saturday at 5:30am. As a result, I was totally out of sorts all day and unfortunately didn’t get to appreciate the full Saturday-night pub crawl that normally happens (starts at 11pm, ends ????). So, most of my bar experiences happened midweek when Reykjavikers don’t normally hang out, and to be sure, I mostly met ex-pats on these adventures. Still lots of fun, still great people and good conversations, but less “authentic” perhaps. (I still met my fair share of Icelanders, though, so you can put your tiny violins away; I shall soldier on!)
Anyway, without further ado, let’s talk about bars!
Mikkeller and Friends Reykjavik: Mikkeller is a Danish brewery that I really wanted to go to when I was in Copenhagen, but didn’t have enough time. They brew a vast amount of beers and let you sample before you buy, which, if you’re a completist, can probably get you in some real trouble! I came here directly from my dinner at Dill (they share a building) and wasn’t ready to go home yet, and I’m glad I did.
It’s a dude-heavy atmosphere for sure (men at a beer bar, go figure) but very laid-back; I felt totally comfortable coming here on my own. I chatted with a Spanish guy who lives in the same town as my parents — small world, amirite? — and his Icelandic friend, so it’s definitely a great place to get a mix of locals and travelers.
Drinx Bar at Kex Hostel: Kex is not your typical youth hostel filled with young backpackers touring on the cheap. They have a variety of rooms at different price points, so all sorts of folks stay here. It’s also really well integrated into the town, and Reykjavikers often come here for a drink or two at Drinx. I spent my birthday in Iceland, which was a Monday night — not exactly a huge party night for Icelanders — and figured Kex would be a good place to grab a drink since it has an international “population,” if you will.
The bar is beautiful: it’s done up to look like the library in a manor home, and it faces the bay, so you have a view of the water and the mountains across the way. (How’s that for poetry.) They serve food and of course also have a decent drink selection — it was here that I tried Brennivín, one of the most famous Icelandic schnapps, and affectionately nicknamed “Black Death.” There was a ton of people there, even on a Monday night, so I was able to make some friends and properly ring in my new year!
Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar (or just Ölstofan): This was where I attempted a leg of the Saturday night pub crawl, mostly because I had heard that it was a good fit for the 30something crowd. Turns out it was just the thing for my jet lag; I was able to have a quiet drink while still feeling right proud of myself for managing to be out on the town. It’s very neighborhoody, very chill: when I first got there it was about half-empty but over the hour or so I spent it got calmly raucous. The bartenders will chat with you and you can also talk to your neighbors; if you’re feeling less social there are tables around the perimeter where you can hole up and do your own thing.
Snaps: I had dinner here my first night in town, still in a jet-lagged haze. In fact, I almost didn’t go here at all, but it conveniently was a 5-minute walk to my apartment, so it was my compromise with myself. It ended up being a fantastic spot with delicious food. I suppose it’s mostly known for being a restaurant, and a very popular one at that: if you don’t reserve in advance you’re probably going to be sitting at the bar, which is where I happily ended up. Almost the moment I sat down my two seatmates and I got to talking, and we more or less spent our entire dinner in conversation. The bartenders/waiters were awesome and really accommodating — good-naturedly humoring my neighbor when he asked about four different waitresses what the catch of the day was when he didn’t believe it was a type of catfish. Snaps was a fun and delicious introduction to the town, and it rightly earns its title of one of CNN.com – Reykjavik’s coolest bars.
Tiu Dropar / Le Château de dix gouttes: I didn’t expect to go to Tiu Dropar, only because it’s a French restaurant and I was mostly looking to keep to more Icelandic spots. But, having just spent 10 hours on a tour bus careening through drizzly weather, I was chilled to the bone and in desperate need of coziness. This is a basement-level spot, a bit dark but cheerily lit by candles: it’s the kind of place you want to hole up in on a dark winter evening (or a summer evening that’s 45 and rainy). The bar is quite small so it’s more a spot where you grab a table and read, or write, or just gaze off into the middle distance and contemplate life. That is, of course, when you’re not eating waffles and whipped cream. Which should really happen more often. In fact, I’m not quite sure why I’m not eating them right now.
Well, it hopefully will not be as long between posts from here on out. Like I said, I’ve been working on a lot of travel-related things, so I just need to get them up here!
Verði þér að góðu! Or, this is how the Internet told me how to say “bon appétit” in Icelandic
At this point we’ve done a lot of groundwork: we’ve talked about why making fantasy itineraries can help you beat FOMO, what kinds of resources to check out when you’re planning these trips, how to figure out what kind of traveler you are….
And, well, I’m pretty talked out right now! What I’m envisioning for this site is to share itineraries, to crowdsource awesome trips, to have a collective space to brainstorm — and ultimately, to get y’all fired up enough to take these vacations yourself!
So let’s get to some of the good stuff today. Since I’m taking a vacation in Iceland this summer, I’ll share some restaurants I’ve scouted. Now, I only have a week in Reykjavik and there’s no absolutely no way I can eat at all these places, but remember, this is a wish list! I always like to find way too many places and have them on hand: that way, I can do dinner according to my location and mood. Just want to make that clear in case any of you break out in hives thinking I’m just eating eating eating my way across Reykjavik.
Not that I’m too good for that. I am packing these after all.
- Fish Market (aka Fiskmarkaðurinn) and Grill Market (Grillmarkaðurinn): These are owned by the same people and were a favorite with my vegan friend who visited. Everywhere I read, peole are raving about the Grill Market bathroom being really cool?? Per a Tumblr post that’s not letting me link to it (but this is the original author), “it made you feel like you were underwater with the lighting and the waterfall for the sink.”
Dill: Right now this is regarded as one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik; it puts a new spin on traditional Nordic dishes and the menu changes weekly. I have a reservation here and this is going to be my Treat Yo Self 2015 meal.
Bæjarins beztu pylsur: You know what I’m also not too good for? Street meat. (Ok, here’s where I out myself as the world’s worst vegetarian; don’t worry, my stomach punishes me plenty for my sins.) Scandinavia is famous for its hot dogs and these ones are apparently the best!
Cafe Loki: All I know about this place is that a Twitter friend had rye bread-flavored ice cream here. That’s all I need to know, frankly.
Chuck Norris Bar: Seriously?? This is apparently your standard burger/fries/milkshake fare, only…Chuck Norris-themed.
Forrettabarinn: This was recommended on Fathom, one of my new favorite travel blogs. They serve Icelandic tapas, basically: you can get a taste of a lot of the local flavors. The menu right now says they serve seahorse??? I’m hoping that’s just a clever name for a totally normal fish, like how people in Miami eat “dolphin sandwiches” and they’re really just mahi-mahi. Because otherwise D: D: D: BUT! They also serve other totally normal- and tasty-sounding dishes, so I mean, just make sure you’re reading the menu thoroughly I guess!
Kaloportið Flea Market: Ok, this place is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, this is supposed to be a really cool flea market where you can browse through vintage clothing and Nordic tchotchkes for hours. On the other hand, this is where you can find traditional Icelandic foods like pickled lamb testicles and hákarl, fermented shark. Now, there’s no way in H-E-double hockey sticks I’m going to try any pickled lamb testicles, but I am curious to try shark, if only as a feat of strength. It did Bourdain in, it almost conquered Andrew Zimmern; I’m horrified but I can’t look away. Wish me luck (or sanity), I guess.
Of course there are tons and tons more. I have a whole other list of restaurants that are also famous for having great bars, so I’ll work on getting that up sometime this week as well. Until then, verði þér að góðu!