Iceland is a country you really want to experience in-and-out from its cuisine to finding the right cozy places to get comfortable in. If you’re planning a trip to Iceland but are overwhelmed by the number of options there are for places to eat and stay, look no further. I have noted down (and experienced these) places I recommend that you’d probably love to check out for yourself.
Places to eat in Iceland
As you know Iceland has its own national dishes that you will want to try out for yourself. The dishes in Iceland are also influenced by a mixture of other cultures too like American food (to satisfy the many American tourists) and England (such as their fish & chips). The food everywhere in Iceland is almost so good… and expensive, but they do not disappoint at all! If you plan to stay at some of the hotels mentioned below, you will most likely get free breakfast to go (yay!!).
1. If you want to eat by the Old Harbour in Reykjavik: Try Kopar Restaurant.
This restaurant was arranged by Guide to Iceland. It is by far my most favorite stop for food from my trip. Kopar is located right on the Old Harbour in Reykjavik, the capital city, and it is noticeable from the outside with its turquoise-colored building (that lights up with its twinkle lights at night). It is beautiful on the inside and it is outside.
As my friends and I were seated on the 2nd floor, we were greeted by our waitress and the window view of boats hanging out on the marina. The service was very friendly and we were served the dishes according to their deal with Guide to Iceland and they were amazingggg.
I tried the crab soup, black cod fish, and then the daim cheesecake. We also had fresh bread served to us with butter laid on top of a volcanic rock (for aesthetic reasons that work). The black cod fish was really savory and perfectly grilled. I would say the daim cheesecake, topped with raspberry sauce, was the best dessert I’ve tried so far in Iceland. It had a sorbet made out of Skyr (Iceland’s popular brand of their “yogurt”) and caramel next to it.
2. If you want to eat somewhere downtown in Reykjavik: Try Matarkjallarinn-Food Cellar.
Before our tour company arranged dinner for us here, my friends and I walked around a bit downtown and I saw this statue of a “sad person” outside, which stood out to me. The restaurant called Matarkjallarinn-Food Cellar has that right outside! The restaurant is a 160-year old building and as you come inside here, you will see how elegant the place looks from its bar to its fine decor (like their angel-winged light bulbs). This restaurant is known for their great selection of cocktails and the dim setting takes you back to the old times.
We were served pretzels (as appetizers), beef-pepper steak, and chocolate lion bar, which is a very tasty dessert with hot salted caramel, raspberries, and raspberry sorbet. Their menu also offers vegan options. Since I no longer participate in drinking alcohol, I went and ordered a drink with yuzu and elderflower. My friends on the other hand had ordered brennivin, a schnapps brand that has a distinguished Icelandic taste to it (also called ‘Black Death’).
3. If you’re driving on the highway of the South Coast and need to stop for gas: Try Shell Freysnes / Veitingasala Restaurant.
This stop was a spontaneous stop as our tour guide had to stop by to fill our van with gas. It’s also a good spot to stop by after a long hike in Skaftafell. This gas station is not only attached to a convenience store that sells a variety of Icelandic souvenirs and chocolates, but it also has a buffet-style restaurant.
Their food is amazing as our tour guide knows and all of us tourists had dinner there. We had couscous with lamb meatballs and mushroom sauce over it (and rice if you want it as an option) and we also had the option to drink tea or latte with our dessert, which was a vegan pistachio cake. You may also be mesmerized by the alpine mountains in the background.
4. If there’s one thing you really need to stop by to try: Try the street food of Iceland.
One thing you may hear or watch about the food of Iceland is how they have the best hot dogs (and highly suggest putting on all the toppings). I must say, they are right! I was lucky after hiking to see Fagradalsfjall Volcano that I found a food truck called “Helgi’s Street Food” and it had lamb and pork hotdog on their menu and fish and chips. I watched some YouTubers before who traveled to Iceland and they had fish and chips (which is not a traditional Icelandic meal but imported from the UK), and the fish I must say is phenomenal.
Here are places you can find this street food aside from Helgi’s Street Food:
- Icelandic Street Food
- Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
- Fish and Chips Vagninn
- Lamb Street Food
5. Grocery Shop in Kronan
If you really want to save since Iceland is pricey, but you also want to have food to eat, consider grocery shopping. There are a few grocery stores in Iceland, but I really enjoyed shopping at Kronan. They have SO many items to buy from and they are freshly stocked. If you’re American, you will find a lot of familiar things here to eat too if you are on a specific food diet.
6. If you are at the international airport or need to stop by somewhere in the city on the west: Try Joe and the Juice.
Joe and the Juice did not originate in Iceland (it did in Denmark), but you will see this place a lot in the west side of Iceland. I never had it before until I came here, but I highly recommend this spot for their various menu items on smoothies, shakes, tea, and coffee. I ordered their spicy tuna sandwich (with tuna mousse, jalapenos, tabasco, tomato, and pesto) and it was amazingly delicious! If you are on the go, like on the road or even at the international airport, make a stop here.
Places to stay in Iceland
There are sooo many places to stay in Iceland. One thing you will notice upon looking for places in Iceland is they will be expensive (because it’s an expensive country). While visiting Iceland, I stayed in 3 different hotels. They are:
1. Hotel Island in Reykjavik
At first, I thought this was Hotel Island like “an island in the sea”, but Island is actually short for “Islandia”, which means Iceland in Icelandic language. Although, you can see how Iceland is also an island. This hotel is simple from the outside and the moment you walk in, but it has a welcoming lobby with cozy seating and in their restaurant areas too.
The hotel serves free breakfast for their guests (very good breakfast where you can find Skyr, English sausage, a variety of cheese, and more). Their rooms are definitely the epitome of Scandinavian design! It’s sooo minimalistic-looking but so cozy. As you see below, you can see why.
I suggest that if you want to make the most of your stay around Hotel Island is to rent a scooter (download the Hopp app) and bike to the Reykjavik botanical gardens since it’s only about 10 minutes away from the hotel. You can also check out the zoo and park, the ice skating hall, and sports center.
2. Hotel Klettur in Reykjavik
Also known as “Hotel Cliff” since klettur means cliff in English. Hotel Klettur is a wonderful and modern hotel to stay at and it is inspired by Iceland’s natural wonders.
It was part of my tour package to stay here but I also booked an extra night there on my last day, which was not part of it. I got to experience both their superior room and standard single room. Their customer service is one of the best I’ve experienced because of how understanding they are and their kindness. In the lobby, you can also find a few souvenirs you can buy from there and then downstairs where the breakfast area is, there is a chill lounge and an aurora wallpaper backdrop you can take a selfie with to say you “saw” the Northern Lights.
3. If you are traveling around the Southeast of Iceland: Try Klausturhof Guesthouse.
This hotel was such a surprise stay but it had the best views since it’s in the countryside of Iceland! It was accommodated by my tour package while we were touring around the South Coast. Located in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Klausturhof Guesthouse has stunning views all around it with the Systrafoss waterfall falling near it and with the riverside of Skafta. My room had river views right across it! I almost felt like my room was half a cabin, half a little dorm and it was peaceful. Free breakfast is served at the restaurant by the office and it has amazing service there too.
Find more places to stay in Iceland!
Within South Coast
Pro tip to getting around the city
If you’re in Reykjavik as I’ve mentioned a lot in this blog post, I highly recommend using this Icelandic taxi cab service called Hreyfill to get around in the city. There is a taxi app by them that’s free (and available for iOS and Android) that you can download if you want to book a Hreyfill taxi because I understand getting on the phone in a foreign country can be difficult. If you do want to get in contact with them through phone, their number is +354 588 5522. It’s a cost efficient way to go from one location to another and even more so when you share a ride with your friends/family.
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