The drinks may be expensive in Reykjavik, but the bar culture is something to be experienced. And plus, there are plenty of happy hours around the city that make heading out well worth it and a little easier on the wallet. Despite Reykjavik’s relatively remote location, bartenders, brewers, and mixologists are coming up with creative cocktails and brews that would rival those of any big city around the world.
And Iceland's bar culture is still growing: a decade ago you would have been hard-pressed to find a wine bar with more than a handful of options or a cocktail or liquor you've never heard of before (aside from Brennivin, of course). Today, take a stroll down the street during happy hour — generally sometime between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. — and you'll find more bar options that you could possibly visit in a day. In a matter of hours, you could have an inventive Brennivin cocktail, a White Russian topped with cereal, and a glass of Iceland's only local wine. Whether you’re looking for a late night of dancing to late-'90s hip-hop or a White Russian straight out of "The Big Lebowski," Reykjavik does not disappoint.
Best Bar for Beer Nerds: Skúli Craft Bar
The first thing you should know about Skúli is that they have a daily happy hour from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., which is notable when you’re looking to taste some of the best (and most expensive) beers in the country. They have 14 beers on tap, which more often than not are all made by Icelandic brewers. If draft beer isn’t necessarily your thing, you can opt to choose from the menu of more than 100 different canned varieties.
Best Gay Bar: Kiki Queer Bar
If you’re looking to dance until you can’t feel your feet while making a few friends along the way, head to Kiki Queer Bar. Located on one of the busiest streets in downtown Reykjavik, it’s central location makes it perfect for grabbing a post-bar snack. Expect a steady stream of pop hits on any given night, which a few throwback favorites for good measure.
Best Bar for Cocktails: Snaps Bistro
Gin and tonics are the thing to order at Snaps, where an entire separate menu is dedicated to doing this mixed drink right. If G&Ts aren’t what you would usually order, Snaps makes a mean classic cocktail (think: Tom Collins and Kir Royal).
Best Bar for Meeting Locals: Prikid
If you’re a fan of hip-hop, especially Icelandic hip-hop, Prikid is the place to be at night. During the day, you’ll catch a crew of regulars taking advantage of the cheap burger special and at night, you’ll find it full of locals playing — and sometimes performing — their favorite lyrics. Plus, it’s also one of the oldest bars in the city, which is enough of a reason to visit on its own.
Best Bar for Live Music: Húrra
Located in the older section of town near the harbor, Húrra has the perfect ratio for live acts: a long, easily accessible bar and tons of space for dancing by the stage. You can catch both local and international acts at this venue. This is one of those special, chameleon-like places with an ambiance that changes depending on the act of the night.
Best Theme Bar: Lebowski Bar
This is exactly what it sounds like: a bar based off of the cult classic film "The Big Lebowski." The interior of Lebowski Bar is decked out in decor you would just as likely spot in a bowling alley or a diner. It all makes total sense, given that the bar is split up into four different themes: 1960s lounge, a porch straight from the Southern United States, a bowling alley, and a '50s style diner. Oh, and it has an entire menu dedicated to White Russians.
Best Bar for Fun-Loving Bartenders: Kaffibarinn
During the day, you’d never expect that the quiet, sandwich-selling cafe would turn into a packed nightlife hotspot complete with some of the friendliest bartenders you’ll ever meet. Kaffibarinn offers all of the expected drinks — beer, mixed drinks, house wine — and is known as one of the best places in the city to catch a DJ set.
Best Bar for Meeting Fellow Travelers: Kex
Kex is a hostel located by the harbor walk with a bar even a few locals would call their favorite. The hostel, which was once a biscuit factory, offers shared and private rooms, bringing in travelers from all around the world. The bar serves fantastic food alongside local beers and mixed drinks. The long wooden tables make it an easy place to meet a new friend or two.
Best Bar for for Fancy Happy Hour: Rok
Rok is first and foremost a restaurant — and a very, very good one at that — but its champagne happy hour cannot be left off the list. If you’re looking to treat yourself to an unforgettable meal with an uncommon twist on champagne (it’s served with liquorice and cantaloupe), this is the place to visit. After spending a few minutes in the cozy restaurant and you won’t want to leave.
Best Wine Bar: Port 9
If you’re looking for options, head to Port 9. Whereas most bars and restaurants offer a few options of house wines, Port 9 covers everything from bubbles to grenache. Ask for the full wine list for a true look at their offerings and if you’re celebrating something special, check out the fine wine list. It presents itself in a handwritten, gold-leaf booklet, which is a sight to be seen.