It may be surprising to learn that Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, is home to a thriving food scene that offers something for even the foodiest travelers. On my first trip to Iceland in 2016, I honestly had no idea what Icelandic cuisine would be like. My expectations weren’t high, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover there is so much more than fish in Reykjavik. I have traveled to Iceland six separate times, sampling new Reykjavik restaurants each time.

From traditional Icelandic dishes made with locally grown or caught ingredients to creative fusion cuisine with international inspiration, there's no shortage of delicious options to choose from. In addition to traditional restaurants, Reykjavik is home to a number of trendy eateries and food trucks that offer a more casual dining experience. And of course, no trip to Reykjavik would be complete without trying some traditional Icelandic fare, such as fermented shark, lamb, or skyr.

In this blog post, I'll tell you about some of the best restaurants and eateries in Reykjavik for each meal of the day, giving you a taste of the culinary delights that the city has to offer. So whether you're looking for a sit-down meal or a quick bite on the go, you'll find plenty of delicious options in Reykjavik.

Where to Find the Best Restaurants in Reykjavik

Breakfast and Coffee

Mokka Kaffi

Located on the rainbow road, Mokka Kaffi is the perfect spot to grab a cup of coffee and relax. Known for its cozy atmosphere with warm wooden accents and comfortable seating, you’ll see plenty of locals chatting over a latte or reading a magazine. You can also get coffee to go, if you just need a quick caffeine boost while exploring downtown. The espresso leans towards a dark, Italian style roast, but great quality nonetheless.

Kaktus Espresso Bar

Slightly off the beaten path, Kaktus Espresso Bar feels like a neighborhood secret – right in the heart of Reykjavik. There is a super cozy vibe, full of locals chatting and working on laptops. Espresso is Italian style with a super dark roast, which is not my preference. But it is hard to deny that the quality is good. 

Brauð & Co

The brightly painted exterior of Braud & Co is a Reykjavik landmark – and the delicious pastries inside are equally as beloved. This trendy bakery and cafe is located steps away from the Hallgrímskirkja church. Specializing in sourdough breads, everything in the clear glass case will entice you. I asked the employee what her favorite item was, and she said the cardamom bun, so I ordered that, along with a croissant and a cinnamon bun (I didn’t skimp out). Honestly, everything was delicious! The texture of the breads is really what shines with large sourdough bubbles and flaky pastry dough.

Sandholt

Everything about Sandholt is perfection. The aesthetic. The pastries. The vibes. I love it all. This family run bakery is in its 4th generation of artisanal baking, and the experience shows! Offering a wide range of patisserie items, breads and pastries, I can just about guarantee you will find an item (or 5) that you want to eat from Sandholt. I particularly like their savory items, such as the toad-in-a-hole breakfast croissant or their smoked salmon sandwich. Dine-in or take away options are available. They also happen to have fantastic espresso. The ambiance is impeccable. 

Lunch & Quick Eats

Cafe Loki

Located directly in front of the Hallgrímskirkja church, Cafe Loki is a lovely choice for a simple and affordable lunch. The humble restaurant was started by two sisters, who slowly grew the business to include multiple floors and the building next store. If the upstairs is open, choose to sit up there. It has a really nice view of the church! The menu focuses on Icelandic home cooking, and many of the recipes have been adapted from their grandmother.

One of the must-try dishes on the menu is the rye bread ice cream. It is a local specialty based on their family’s love for volcanic baked rye bread. Bits of bread are crumbled into a simple vanilla ice cream batter, which is traditionally made with milk in Iceland instead of heavy cream. The texture is denser and icer, but the flavor of the bread is delightful.

  • Address: Lokastígur 28, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
  • Website: http://loki.is/

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

After living in both Chicago and now Germany, I am something of an expert on all things hot dogs and sausages. So you can imagine my skepticism when someone told me that the best hot dog they ever ate was in Reykjavik. I knew I had to do some investigating. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is THE street food spot in Reykjavik, beloved by locals and tourists alike. Even Bill Clinton ate here once! It opens early and closes late, so you can come for a dog anytime of the day. On weekends or holidays, you’ll see a long line.

What is special about the Icelandic hot dog is the sausage itself – it is a lamb hot dog. Served in a soft bun, I recommend getting the works, which includes ketchup, mustard, remoulade, crispy onions and raw onions. I’m not going to say it is the best hot dog I’ve ever had, but it is a good one. The crispy onions and remoulade are especially nice additions.

Black Box Pizza

Cheap and cheerful is what you can expect at Black Box Pizza. This is a place perfect for take out or a lazy night in. Cooked in a brick oven on sourdough crust, the pizza here is actually pretty legit (and that’s coming from a bit of a pizza snob). The combination of toppings are creative, the sauce is flavorful, and the cheese is generous. I went with a large group and got to sample several different pizzas. I especially like the parma rucola and the meat me, but get whatever sounds good to you. The garlic bread is worth the calories too. Both take out and dine in options are available.

Sæta Svínið Gastropub

Sitting on the corner of Reykjavik’s bustling city square, Sæta Svínið is known for its innovative cuisine and cozy atmosphere. I would describe the interior as eating inside a stylish fisherman’s home. There are quirky paintings, nautical light fixtures, and polaroid photos adorned to the pillars. With a focus on locally-sourced ingredients prepared with modern techniques and international inspiration, there will be several dishes that appeal to you. I wound up ordering three different things – truffle fries, bang bang cauliflower and fish tacos – and loved them all! The gastropub also boasts an impressive selection of craft beers, making it a great choice for a casual lunch or fun evening out.

Food Halls

Pósthús Food Hall

Food halls are such a great option for groups, especially when everyone has different tastes and budgets. Thankfully, Reykjavik has two recent food hall openings in the city center. Pósthús offers an elegant aesthetic, especially the wine bar. It is adorned with a tree! With options like Korean and Italian, it stands as a testament to the Reykjavik's culinary diversity and social vibrancy. There is always a buzzy atmosphere here, in no small part thanks to its three different bars. Pósthús Mathöll beckons you to explore, indulge and enjoy!

Hlemmur Mathöll

This locally beloved spot doesn’t get a lot of tourist activity, but it definitely should. You can find it at the end of Laugavegur street, the major shopping and pedestrian area that runs through central Reykjavik. The food hall isn’t huge, but with its small size, it packs a punch. From pizza and wine to gelato and Japanese, there is a little something for everyone. There is a Michelin-recommended restaurant INSIDE the food hall called Skál. Featuring a seasonal array of Icelandic dishes, I loved the open-faced zucchini dish, and the arctic char was perfectly cooked.

Dinner

Fish Market

Dim lighting, swanky styling and intimate tables set the stage for an excellent seafood-forward meal at Fish Market restaurant. Every dish here is a knockout! The Japanese inspired menu features a range of options, from nigiri and sushi to more elaborate dishes like grilled salmon and seafood platters. Every dish is plated beautifully with creative flavor combinations and sauces. The restaurant also has a well-stocked bar with a full list of cool cocktails to accompany your dishes.

Monkeys

I am obsessed with the aesthetic and general vibes of this restaurant. The decor is a quirky mix of Victorian accents, brightly colored prints, and jungle decor. Focused on small plates, the kitchen at Monkeys follows Nikkei cooking, which is a unique fusion of Japanese and Peruvian food. It combines the best of each cuisine, such as the respect for the raw ingredients and strong seasoning & flavors. I especially loved the mushroom soup and salmon tiradito.

Tapas Barinn

The restaurant pitches itself as a Spanish eatery that crafts Icelandic tapas with an Iberian flair. Fully decked out in Spanish decor, music and art, it does have a feeling of a small tapas or pintxos restaurant in Madrid or Pamplona. The menu, however, is stocked with Icelandic favorites like arctic char, lamb and root vegetables. With a variety of tasting menu options, I did the ‘Journey into the Unknown’ menu. Offering 8 courses, I can guarantee you will leave absolutely stuffed but deeply satisfied. Wash everything down with a pitcher of one of their housemade Sangrias.

Íslenski Barinn

This laidback gastropub is THE place to come if you want to sample some of the iconic Icelandic dishes, such as fermented shark, puffin, whale, and herring. I’ve tried the shark a few times and…. it’s not for me, but it’s one of those things nearly everyone tries on their first trip to Iceland. You’ll want to make a reservation, because it is always packed and there is usually a wait. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and the vibe is always cozy yet lively.

I feel obliged to point out that there is a lot of controversy surrounding puffin and whale hunting. Please do your research before ordering! You can read up on puffin hunting and whale hunting – it’s your choice whether to eat them or not, but it’s important to make it an informed one.

Fjallkonan

With an excellent happy hour menu, this is a place where you will accidentally find yourself spending hours. The staff is friendly and the vibe is fun. Plus the location is super central. The stewed lamb shoulder flatbread is one of the best things I ate my entire time in Iceland. Slow cooked to perfection, the meat is rich, fatty and incredibly satisfying. It is served with a carrot puree, pickled onions, and a bright horseradish chimicurri to cut through the richness. The arctic char pancake is another great choice. Lightly cured arctic char and roe rests on a chickpea pancake with a yuzu elderflower dressing drizzled over the top.

Messinn

If you want to sample flavors that make Icelanders nostalgic for home cooking, Messinn is unbeatable. The mismatched furniture and rustic decor immediately makes you feel like you are dining in someone’s home. Specializing in traditional fish dishes, the food comes out family style in a hot skillet. Plokkfiskur is their signature dish. Flakey pieces of cod are mashed together with potatoes, onion, garlic, and celery into something resembling a fish cake. It is served with a white wine béarnaise sauce. This is a rich dish that will immediately elevate your mood. I also love the pan seared arctic char with cherry tomatoes and almonds in a honey butter sauce.

KOL

For a swanky date night in Reykjavik, Kol is a great choice. There are several set menus to choose from, each highlighting different inspirations and techniques from the kitchen. I would describe the food as Icelandic fusion. Local ingredients such as salmon and lamb, grace the menu but prepared with flavors from Thailand, India and all around the world. The langouistine soup here is to die for! The cocktails are excellent too.

This post was originally published in November 2022 and updated in January 2024 after return trips to Reykjavik.

Have thoughts or questions about this Reykjavik food guide? Tell me in the comments!

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