Contrary to what you may have heard, Iceland’s most popular dish is not fermented shark. (At one point, possibly, but now it’s more of a homage to the country’s resourceful history.) Reykjavik’s food scene is one not to be missed, with innovative spins on traditional dishes and some of the freshest fish you’ll ever have.
Whether you’re looking to splurge on a meal that will be among your best ever or grab a quick bite without sacrificing on flavor, Reykjavik's restaurant offerings stretch much further than its borders.
These aren't just restaurants; they're integral parts of the equation that will make your trip to Iceland one you won't be forgetting anytime soon. In fact, some of these spots will even tone down the stress of an incredibly early arrival time (pro tip: head to Bergsson Mathús for breakfast straight off your flight — their early hours are a lifesaver for red eye flights.)
And don't forget dessert. Skyr, Iceland's milder take on yogurt, makes for an incredible dessert. You won't find anyone who works with it better than the chefs in Reykjavik.
Another tip to keep in mind is that tipping isn't expected, but it is appreciated.
One of the best parts about Bergsson Mathús, aside from the great food, is that it’s open really early, making it the perfect spot to visit after an overnight flight into Keflavik. The daily soups are always a good choice, but the Bergsson Brunch is the way to go. Think of it as the ultimate European breakfast, with a spread of hummus, cheese, prosciutto, yogurt, sourdough bread, and more.
If you're planning on driving straight out of Reykjavik and to one of Iceland's stunning national parks, grab a loaf of fresh baked bread as a road trip snack. You'll be thanking yourself all day long.
Located on a cozy corner near Hallsgrimkirja, Rok is known for taking traditional ingredients (reindeer, for example) and presenting them in a modern dish. You can also try plokkfiskur, or fish pie, at this restaurant.
And don’t miss the cocktail menu — the bartenders are especially skilled at incorporating Brennivin, the national schnapps, into delicious drinks. Rok also hosts a champagne brunch, where they pair bubbly with liquorice and cantaloupe.
At Grillmarkaðurinn, you’ll find a menu full of local ingredients, from quail to skyr. The chefs at the restaurants work with the farmers to find the freshest ingredients and plan the menu using the guidance from the farmers.
You can choose from the full menu or opt for the tasting menu or a “Trip to the Countryside,” which consists of three appetizers followed by a steak with fries and vegetables and a tasting of the restaurant’s desserts.
Fans of soup must add this place to the trip itinerary. While the atmosphere is cozy, this is not a spot that requires your best outfit. You'll find locals sitting next to geared-up hikers alongside a family of tourists. Half the fun here is meeting someone entirely new.
Every day, Svarta Kaffið makes two soups fresh, usually some sort of meat soup and a vegetarian soup. You have two options: bowl or bread bowl. The restaurant is simple and the menu is short, but it’s the perfect stop for what may be the best bowl of soup you’ve ever had during a day of shopping in downtown Reykjavik.
The charming townhouse setting of this restaurant is reason enough to come visit, but you’ll stay for the unique pizzas. Walking through this restaurant truly feels like exploring the halls of a friend's home.
Hverfisgata 12 is run by the same owners of Mikeller & Friends and Dill — two more spots to add to your must-eat list.
As the name suggests, Tapas barinn serves meals in small, easy-to-share plates. But the reason they made this list is for the Icelandic Gourmet Feast they offer. If you’re interested in trying some of Iceland’s most traditional dishes — minke whale, puffin, Icelandic lamb — this seven-dish option will not disappoint. The best part: You also get a shot of Brennivin to kick it off. The dining area is split into two rooms and they're both equally spirited.
The restaurant is located in the older section of the city, meaning a post-dinner walk toward the harbor is a must.
Chances are you may have rumors of a fantastic club sandwich to be had in Reykjavik, and Snaps Bistro is the place to get it. The interior itself is French inspired, but the menu picks are all Scandinavian.
If you like gin and tonics, you’ll be pleased by an entire menu dedicated to the mixed drink.
Aside from potentially being the most Instagrammable restaurant in Reykjavik, Mat Bar’s Nordic take on Italian food is something you won’t experience anywhere else. According to local news site Reykjavik Grapevine, owner Guðjón Hauksson sought out a specific Italian cheesemaker to provide the restaurant’s mozzarella.
The fun part about Mat Bar is that you’ll be seeing the same ingredients throughout the year, but they always take a new shape or form depending on the weather or season.
Matur og Drykkur
Like with many other chefs in many other restaurants, the kitchen at Matur og Drykkur goes to great lengths to source all kinds of Icelandic cookbooks. But they always take the recipes a step further, finding new ways to innovate on tried-and-true favorites.
The restaurant website boasts a motto of “Let tradition surprise you!” which is surely a promise given a quick look at the menu: cod’s head cooked in chicken stock, brussel sprouts fermented in caraway seeds, and baked garlic mousse, to name a few menu items.
This small space is located on the quiet Hverfisgata and styled as a 1950s cafe. Grai Kotturinn, which translates to “The Gray Cat,” is the ultimate breakfast stop with American breakfast staples like pancakes, bagels, and eggs, but the specials are not to be underestimated. If you're truly hungry, the Truck breakfast special that has a little bit of everything.
While the food is great, the atmosphere is notable, as well. This cafe is a hot spot for local artists, with tourists few and far between. The walls are covered in books — both in Icelandic and English — and guests are encouraged to grab one for a bit of pre-meal entertainment.