One of the greatest things about travelling to a new country is the opportunity to taste unique and unusual food and visit the good places where not just the tourist but actually the locals go to experience the different regional cuisine. So when it comes to Iceland, I’m sure that many of the visitors are very curious to try and taste the dishes it has to offer, given the relative isolation of the country and the small population it has developed some unique foodstuffs. It is clear that there are influences from Scandinavian and European cuisines, and with the rise of the New Nordic cuisine some experimental chefs have drawn large crowds of followers in restaurants in Reykjavik.
One of the best things about food in Iceland is the freshness and wholesomeness of the local ingredients. The small population and lack of intensive farming, have contributed to preserving the traditional methods of rearing domestic stock. Icelandic lamb, for example, owes its tastiness and lean texture to the fact that the animals are left to roam free around the highlands all summer where they graze on grass and many other wild plants, which contributes to the texture and flavour of the meat. In addition, the fresh fish that can be had all year round ensures that you always have a choice of many sea dishes, from cod, plaice and halibut to Icelandic salmon, shrimp, lobster and many others.
So in this post we’ve tried to give you a real mix of the good places and ways to experience the food culture of Iceland as a visitor. Eating out in Iceland is definitely a luxury as prices are above the average for Europe, but with some good planning and prior knowledge, you can definitely have a good time and a full stomach at the end of your visit.
If there’s one place that you have to visit in Iceland this is Suður-Vík restaurant, Cafe and Bar. If you are driving alongside the South Coast of Iceland, Vik is definitely a nice destination with a lot to see and do in and around the are. Once you are there, Suður-Vík is a must. Everything on their menu is fresh and prepared with loving care and skill, the staff is friendly and the place is buzzing with locals and visitors alike. If you have to wait to be seated, you can enjoy a drink at the bar and there are often bands playing so you are guaranteed a good time. The standard is definitely high and compared to Icelandic standards the place is a good bargain for a restaurant.
It’s always great to try street food in a new place and we Icelanders are crazy about hot dogs. Once you’ve tasted the Icelandic hot dog made with fresh lamb’s meat and served with a variety of mouth watering sauces such as raw and fried onions, sweet mustard, ketchup and remoulade, you’ll be a convert. For the best experience you must go to Baejarins Beztu Pylsur the famous chain of hot dog stands in downtown Reykjavik. The line is usually very long but if you are a hot dog lover, you will not be disappointed. And for around 3 Euros per hot dog it’s a truly tasty bargain in Iceland.
Another thing to try while in downtown Reykjavik is Hlemmur Food Hall the hip and cool indoor marketplace. Just like many of the European capital’s food halls, there are many vendors in one place and you can taste and experience a huge variety of fare from many Icelandic producers. From artisan baked goods, to Mexican food from fresh local ingredients, smørrebrød (open-faced Danish style sandwiches), experimental Nordic food, freshly roasted coffee, locally grown vegetables and tasty snacks, to juicy steaks and even Asian street food, you can find it all under one roof.
As in most vibrant capitals, Reykjavik has its fair share of international cuisines. If you want a nice fresh burger at a good price, why not head to Tommis . The founder and owner, Tómas Tómasson, fell in love with burgers while he was a student in the States and on his returned founded the burger joint. It has now expanded not just in Iceland but across Europe too, but the quality has remained unchanged and you can be sure to have a great meal there - with excellent food and cool atmosphere.
If pizza is your thing two of the best places to visit in Reykjavik are Eldsmiðjan or Devito’s pizza . This last one is a true find where you can have delicious pizza by the slice and if you are a garlic lover, don’t miss their excellent garlic sauce to go with your pizza.
Talking about Italian, another great place to visit, and reputedly the best in town, is Italia on Laugavegi 11 in downtown Reykjavik.
Finally, Matstöðin or the ‘food station’ is renowned for its home cooked meals and also does delivery all at a very good price.
If you are really on a budget, you must check our article about IKEA and Costco, where we give some tips for the price conscious visitor too.
Whether you like cozy cafes and places that serve snacks or more extravagant dining, Iceland can offer a great variety for most budgets and tastes. Don’t be afraid to experiment and you will not be disappointed as the food is of the highest quality and tastes delicious.