Iceland’s capital city may be small, but the Reykjavík nightlife is epic. Whether you’re up for some live music, want to dance, or are interested a classic pub crawl, you will not be disappointed. The main drag, Laugavegur, is ground zero for the hottest clubs and bars in town.
If you’re up for dancing, Kiki Queer Bar is your spot. If you fancy a whiskey bar, Dillon is the place. If you want to catch a hot Reykjavík band performing live, Húrra is your best bet. Be prepared for it to be a late night and for your wallet to take a hit. Locals don’t venture out until around midnight, and drinks are expensive. Expect to pay upwards of 1,000ISK for a pint of beer and 2,200ISK for a cocktail; for this reason, cocktail bars are scarce, and beer is the favored beverage. But, for such a small city, you can’t help but be impressed by the number of hot spots catering to different genres. Your biggest challenge will be narrowing down your options!
Austur (Austurstræti 7, tel. 354/568-1907, 8pm-1am Wed-Thurs., 8pm-4:30am Fri.-Sat.) was once the hottest club in Reykjavík, but a dress code and competition from other clubs have knocked it down a couple of pegs. It’s still a place to mingle with locals and dance the night away to trendy dance music.
Hressingarskálinn (Austurstræti 22, tel. 354/561-2240, 9am-1am Sun.-Thurs., 10am-4:30am Fri.-Sat.), simply known as Hresso, is a casual restaurant by day, serving up hamburgers and sandwiches. Free Wi-Fi attracts writers, tourists, and locals, who are known to spend hours sipping endless cups of coffee. By night, Hresso transforms into a dance club, with hot DJs and live bands. Expect trendy dance music.
Lebowski Bar (Laugavegur 20, tel. 354/552-2300, 11:30am-1am Sun.-Thurs., 11:30am-4am Fri.-Sat.) pays not-so-subtle homage to the Coen brothers movie The Big Lebowski. Inside there is bowling paraphernalia, posters from the film, and even a rug hanging on the side of the bar. It’s a casual eatery during the day, like many of Reykjavík’s bars, but at night it transforms into a pretty wild scene, playing the latest dance music. There’s a dance floor in the back of the room. The cost of a White Russian, the cocktail famously featured in the film, costs 1,700ISK.
Boston (Laugavegur 28B, tel. 354/577-3200, 2pm-1am Sun.-Thurs., 2pm-3am Fri.-Sat.) is best known as a hangout for local artists, writers, hipsters, and hangers-on. The bar has an unassuming exterior, but inside await good drinks and hot music, mainly rock. If there’s a concert on the night you go, expect to stand shoulder to shoulder. It’s a tight spot and doesn’t take too long to draw a big crowd.
The English Pub (Austurstræti 12b, tel. 354/578-0400, noon-1am Mon.-Fri., noon-4:30am Sat.-Sun.) is part English pub, part sports bar. There’s a nice selection of Icelandic and foreign beer, and Guinness is on tap. If there’s a soccer game being played anywhere in the world, it will likely be shown on one of the many screens in the bar. If there’s a Premier League game on, expect a crowd of expats, tourists, and locals.
Kaffibarinn (Bergstaðastræti 1, tel. 354/551-1588, 5pm-1am Sun.-Thurs., 3pm-3am Fri.-Sat.) has been a Reykjavík institution since scenes from the indie film 101 Reykjavík were filmed here. Damon Albarn, the Blur front man, used to own a stake in the bar. It’s a tiny space, with a rich red exterior that gets jam-packed during the weekends, but it’s one of those places that it’s cool to say you were there. Expect trendy dance music to be blaring as you enter.
Micro Bar (Austurstræti 6, tel. 354/847-9084, 4pm-midnight daily) is a beer lover’s paradise. The bar carries about 80 different beers from countries including Belgium, Germany, Denmark, and the United States. The big draws are the wide selection of Icelandic beers on tap and the number of Icelandic craft beers available. Stop by and try a local stout, pale ale, or lager. The atmosphere is relaxed and relatively quiet, with dim lighting and a large wood bar. You’ll find locals at the tables enjoying a beer and conversation with friends.
Reykjavík’s Gay Bar
Kiki Queer Bar (Laugavegur 22, tel. 354/571-0194, 8pm-1am Thurs., 8pm-4:30am Fri.-Sat.) is Reykjavík’s only gay bar and was a welcome addition to the scene. Many locals will tell you this is the place to go to dance because it attracts some of the best local and visiting DJs. You can expect music ranging from Lady Gaga to the latest Icelandic pop music.
Bar 11 (Hverfisgata 18, tel. 354/690-6021, noon-1am Sun.-Thurs., noon-3am Fri.-Sat.) has earned its reputation as Reykjavík’s leading rock bar by featuring a steady stream of up-and-coming rock bands as well as local favorites. The decor is dark, with skulls and black furnishings, but the attitude is light and fun.
Café Rósenberg (Lækjargata 2, tel. 354/551-8008, 11am-1am Sun.-Thurs., 11am-3am Fri.-Sat.) hosts jazz, pop, rock, and folk acts from all around Iceland. You have a good chance to catch local favorites like KK, Ellen, and Svavar Knutur here, as well as international acts. The staffers are warm and friendly music lovers who take pride in booking varied acts and running a laid-back café that serves classic Icelandic comfort food.
Dillon (Laugavegur 30, tel. 354/511-2400, 2pm-1am Sun.-Thurs., 2pm-3am Fri.-Sat.) looks and feels like a dive bar. Rockers, metalheads, and hipsters unite, listening to live bands and sipping from the fine collection of more than 150 whiskeys available. Guests can find Scotch and bourbon as well as small-batch Icelandic whiskeys. When there isn’t live music, locals DJs keep the music flowing. The interior is a little rough, with lots of wood and not many places to sit, and the music is always loud.
Húrra (Tryggvagata 22, tel. 354/691-9662, 5pm-1am Sun.-Thurs., 5pm-4:30am Fri.-Sat.) is a colorful spot featuring a steady stream of Iceland’s hottest bands taking the stage, playing everything from rock and dance to pop and hip-hop, depending on the night.
Kex Hostel (Skúlagata 28, tel. 354/561-6060) has become a Reykjavík institution over the past few years. The building, formerly a biscuit factory, is a great space, complete with mid-century furniture, vintage wall maps, and a lot of curiosities. A small stage in the entryway hosts up-and-coming bands while guests drink and hang out at the bar (11:30am-11pm daily). A back room serves as a venue for more formal concerts. If you’re in your 20s and aren’t bothered by hipsters, this is your place. Since this is a hostel, it’s open 24 hours, so check listings at www.grapevine.is for concert times.
Loft Hostel (Bankastræti 7, tel. 354/553-8140) has earned a reputation as a place to see and be seen. The 4th-floor bar/café hosts up-and-coming bands, established live acts, and DJs. An outdoor deck overlooks Bankastræti and is packed with locals and tourists alike when the sun is shining during the day, and filled with mingling concertgoers at night. Since this is a hostel, it’s open 24 hours, so check listings at www.grapevine.is for concert and event times.
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