Here’s the deal. I hate it when articles are geared toward tourists. Best bars for foreigners? What makes them different than the best bars in Reykjavik for locals to get their alcohol fix at?
Well, two things:
- They are at least somewhat typical Icelandic. Locals enjoy English pubs, too. But you are not in Iceland to go to an English pub, right?
- These bars are a great place to meet fellow travelers. Which, as you know by now (or as you will soon find out), is essential when you are taking a trip by yourself.
And there you have it, my excuse for doing this article. Shall we?
7 Best Bars in Reykjavik
#1: Kex Hostel
Alright, bear with me.
Hostels around the world are known for the quirky crowd they attract. When a hostel has a bar, that bar is the place to be, whether you are staying there or not. The Kex hostel is a perfect example of this.
Hiding behind a simple door, an invisible sign, and a stairway that could easily lead to an abandoned backyard, the Kex was actually a biscuit factory once.
If you are looking for a place to stay and you can’t afford too much extravagance – the Kex.
Fancy a cheap drink in a fun, whimsically decorated bar? The Kex.
They also do coffee.
You can literally spend the entire day here and not be sorry about it. And if you think it could not get any more hip than that, what if I told you they also do live music? Nothing fancy, of course, just local artists gathering a bunch of friends at gigs.
There is a reason the Kex made it into the best bars in Reykjavik without even being a bar.
#2: Kaldi Bar
The Reykjavik Grapevine named this tiny cosy bar ‘the best place to start the night’ and I could not agree more.
They are known for their original line of craft beers. The Kaldi beers are locally brewed, free from a lot of the chemicals ‘mainstream beer’ contains, and the bottle would look cool in your collection.
Relax and chat over some beer as you plan the rest of the night.
A coffee shop by day and a club by night, the Kaffibarnin is welcoming and fun. They invite a lot of international DJ’s but their regular Friday night guy is pretty great as well.
The Kaffibarnin might not have the ‘it place’ value of other bars on this list but it definitely makes up in the after-dark fun you get to have. It helps that it’s also a cult favourite.
Why is the Kaffibarinn one of the very best bars in Reykjavik for foreigners?
It fits the two criteria. Authentic and a place to meet other travelers.
On the weekends it does get quite crowded. So much so that it’s kind of disgusting when you think about it. On the plus side, Icelanders are a very attractive bunch. I bet you would not mind having them in close proximity all that much.
But if you do, hey, there are wine nights during the week and you could also grab a coffee by day.
In short, the Kaffibarinn has something for everyone and that is why every single Reykjavik…er? knows the place.
#4: Micro Bar
The name might say micro but the beer selection is anything but. In fact, this is probably the best beer bar in town. From small Icelandic brands to international favourites and everything in between, the Micro bar will definitely satiate your thirst. In more ways than one…
The murals on the walls are by Hugleikur Dagsson.
You might not have heard of him but he is a pretty big deal here in Iceland. His simple funny cartoons have won this artoonist (artists and cartoonist, and yes, that is what he calls himself) universal love and a couple of Boredpanda viral articles.
I highly recommend checking him out, even if you don’t end up at the Micro Bar (or even in Reykjavik).
(You Know It’s Fancy, With A Name Like That)
One of the things you will love (and hate) about Reykjavik is there is always something new.
A new bar, a new band, a new trend. In the midst of all this, b5 has managed to stay relevant and that alone should spark your interest. With simple Scandinavian (or shall we say Nordic?) design, top-notch cocktails, and prices that … are definitely not as fun as the cocktails.
The name b5 comes from the street address.
It is Bankastræti 5 and ironically enough, the street is named after a bank. And guess where the bank was? Exactly, at number 5. You can see that quite clearly in the downstairs room.
The heavy bars that used to guard the entrance to the vaults are authentic. Of course, now the vaults are loungerooms and one of them was even turned into a toilet. Talk about spaces evolving!
As for the food and drinks, well you get what you pay for and you do pay a lot.
Don’t miss the hamburgers, courtesy of Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar, a legendary burger joint that b5 brought into its’ kitchen.
The burgers are simple and classic. In fact, they are so popular that the original joint was invited to London (as well as b5) and they have a branch there.
The mojitos are legendary here, although the trend did subside in recent years. Try the more whimsical alcohol creations, too. I can definitely vouch for the barman’s skills at b5.
Oh, and of course, the music. It isn’t very dance-y, really. Think hip chill-out sets rather than Steve Aioki throwing cakes style jams.
#6: Hresso Hressingarskálinn
This one really has a funny story behind it. Hressó, as locals know it, is located in the ‘Svenska’ house. Why ‘Svenska’? It means Swedish and it is because the building itself was imported from Sweden.
It changed owners through the years and at one point it was the first (and only) coffeehouse in the city. Then, in the 90s it became a McDonalds, but that did not last too long.
In 2003 they closed down the McDonald’s (in fact, Iceland has no McDonald’s restaurants at all – a blessing if you ask me) and Hressó came back.
The turbulent history doesn’t end here. In 2007 the building miraculously survived a fire that destroyed the rest of the neighbourhood, including a club next door. Clearly somebody was looking out for this establishment. Which brings me to my next point.
What is Hressó? Here is a list of all things you will find here:
- Coffee shop
- Concert venue
By day, it is full of students sipping their morning (or afternoon) cup of Joe as they cram for an exam or chat with friends (study groups are as unproductive as in all other places in the world).
There is a courtyard behind the building where you can eat, drink, and smoke freely. Which apparently people do enjoy, as the Hressó backyard is the place to be for a summer concert.
On weekends, the place becomes a bona fide nightclub complete with all the top 40 pop hits and dolled up, half-drunk girls (plus suited up, half-drunk guys, of course).
Weeknights are significantly more relaxed. The bar does not close until late in the night but it is more of a hangout place than a club you go dancing. Weeknights are slow in Reykjavik, there is no getting around that.
Located in the iconic Marina Hotel, this bar is the city’s first real cocktail place. They are still one of the best, although they do attract an older, calmer crowd now.
Their specialty are cocktails featuring seasonal herbs. The ingredients are always fresh and local, even if the guests are usually travellers staying at the hotel. Locals do acknowledge the legend status of the bar, though.
I have found it is one of the first places people recommend. Well, that is if they don’t already know your trashier side.
The cocktail craze is huge in Iceland, by the way. More than a couple of establishments (although I have only mentioned Slippbarinn and b5 here) have become popular this way.
The competition is fierce, though. Expect ever so whimsical creations and barmans calling themselves mixologists.
To be fair, they do make some pretty damn good cocktails, so I am not even mad at the hipstery.
Bear in mind that cocktails are an expensive treat. Iceland as a whole is pricey but if budget is something you mind, there are cheaper ways to get drunk. Just a friendly reminder, that is all.
And there you have it. Our 7 Best Bars in Reykjavik but then again, you get to have a say here, too. Share your thoughts and suggestions for this list in the comments down below. We will be sure to respond (and go check out the place, of course). Happy travels!