Most Icelanders hold tightly onto their Christmas traditions and certainly no less when it comes to food, with recipes being handed down generations. The Christmas meal is the most special meal of the year so we go ALL OUT. Most families stick to the same meal every Christmas although this has changed in the last few decades.
If you are so lucky to be visiting Reykjavík for the holidays, we recommend booking a table at a restaurant in advance for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve as not nearly all restaurants are open those days and the once that are open book up quickly. Most restaurants that are open for these nights offer a set holiday menu which are usually a more festive version of their normal menu.
All our three hotel Restaurants will be open those days and you can view our holiday menus and make your reservations here below:
SKÝ Restaurant & Bar
SKÝ Restaurant & Bar is located on the top floor of CenterHotel Arnarhvoll and offers a spectacular view over down town Reykjavík and the mountain range beyond the Faxaflói bay.SKÝ Holiday Menus
Ísafold Restaurant is located at CenterHotel Thingholt and offers delicious food and fine drinks. Ísafold takes pride in offering guests tentative service and quality food which is locally sourced. The suppliers are handpicked by the head chef.Ísafold Holiday Menus
Jörgensen Kitchen & Bar
Jörgensen Kitchen & Bar is a casual dining Nordic fusion restaurant located in Centerhotel Midgardur. Jörgensen Kitchen & Bar specializes in offering a taste of traditional Icelandic cooking mixed up with modern and international flair. The outcome is delightful.Jörgensen Holiday Menus
The Icelandic music scene is thriving and has been for years. You probably heard about the big names such as Of Monsters and Men, Sigur Rós, Emilíana Torrini, Kaleo, and of course Björk! Although, there are many more Icelandic artists to discover and adopt! You can find many different venues and events, here in Reykjavik, to discover what the local talent has to offer! This article will help you chose the perfect spot for you to enjoy! Also, find at the end of the article some insights about CenterHotels off-venue concerts for the popular Iceland Airwaves Festival!!!
Punk Museum (Bankastræti 2, 101 Reykjavík)
Located in what was previously a public toilet, the Punk Museum opened its door in 2016. Dedicated to honour the Nordicpunk scene of the late 70’s to the early 90’s, this tiny museum is not lacking in personality! The host, Álfur, an original punk, will kindly present the different reliques from the area; posters, vinyls. instruments, clothes, pictures, name it! Interesting visit to do in Reykjavik to understand from where came several known artist of the Icelandic musical scene, such as Björk and The Sugarcubes.
Kaffi Vínyl (Hverfisgata 76, 101 Reykjavík)
Kaffi Vinyl is located on the new upcoming trendy street of Hverfisgata. They claim to be the first “Vegetarian Only” resto-bar in Reykjavik and for that matter, offer an appetizing selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes. Not only they excel in dreamy veggie food, but they also offer an impressive wine selection and on top of all, vinyl records and music prestations!
You really can’t miss it! With windows from one edge to the other, Kaffi Vinyl offers a very chic atmosphere, but mostly an excellent view for the ones passing by! Once you receive a feel of what is happening inside of the Kaffi Vinyl, you can’t help yourself but to enter and have a seat. Pouring an excellent vibe with records playing the whole day, the hip urban style of the bistro is clearly enhanced by the incredible record collection that the owner Ymir (DJ Sir Dance A-Lot) has been collecting through 40 years; and available for you to acquire! You can also catch live music performance on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and other special events! From Dj sets to live indie rock bands, passing by live jazzy jamming, the chic and welcoming atmosphere of Kaffi Vinyl will know how to charm you.
Húrra (Tryggvagata 22, 101 Reykjavík)
Near the old harbour, Húrra is a casual bar and concert venue in downtown Reykjavík. Metal fans know this is the place to be for a good concert. People enjoying electronic music, jazz, rock and burlesque shows will also find what they’re looking for. They even organize karaoke nights! They mostly welcome major locals bands and Djs during the weekend and always host great Jazz nights on Mondays! Known for its dark, yet hipping atmosphere, the cultural elite and hipsters visit this place frequently knowing they’ll find a good ambiance, a groovy feel as well as good prices of a large selection of tap beer and extended happy hour until 10 PM!
Overall, this bar full of surprises offers bands playing a more alternative and out of the box music. The staff is friendly and welcoming, and it’s a good place to meet new people.
If you enter Húrra and see mostly men’s clothes, then you’re in the wrong place! There is also a clothing store called Húrra Reykjavik selling mostly men’s clothing!
Mengi (Óðinsgata 2, 101 Reykjavík)
Mengi is a small concert venue and art center located on Óðinsgata operated, created and managed by artists. Their focal point is experimental, contemporary and classical music. You can go there for live music, performances, art, exhibitions and conferences. It’s a meeting ground for creative minds, and often shows hosted at Mengi are an amalgam of different genres and art forms. Mengi also runs a recording studio, record label and record store.
Harpa (Austurbakki 2, 101 Reykjavík)
Harpa is a large concert hall and conference center housing the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the offices of the Icelandic Opera, who also perform there. It has four concert halls, and meeting rooms for groups of all sizes. It’s a popular venue for classical performances, but Harpa also hosts all kinds of live concerts, art exhibitions and theater shows. Located on Reykjavík’s coastline, it is an impressive landmark with a beautiful light show in winter.
Gaukurinn (Tryggvagata 22, 101 Reykjavík)
Gaukurinn is an inclusive bar, welcoming people from all walks of life. Go here for rock and roll, electronic and pop concerts, drag shows, poetry nights, pub quizzes, karaoke, and stand-up comedy. Their program reflects their general motto of celebrating diversity and ensuring a friendly and open space for everyone. And if you’re hungry, you can grab delicious vegan junk food at Veganæs, a small joint serving burgers and more inside Gaukurinn until 21:00 on all days except Monday.
12 Tónar (Skólavörðustígur 15, 101 Reykjavík)
12 Tónar is a small record store that has so much to offer! You can expect not only an impressive knowledge from the friendly, cultured staff and, but you can also enjoy a coffee while browsing through their diverse selection of music, magazines, rock litterature and discover some art exhibitions. Opened in 1998, they have been producing growing locals artists and bigger figures of the music scene.
They released, since 2003, more than 70 albums of different musical genres and have been licensed also in Japan, US and South Korea! Every now and then, the special record store also hosts concerts, especially during the summer, when their charming garden turns into the ideal venue for all kind of music!
Not surprising that the store has been made the Number Two record store you must see before you die by BuzzFeed! “While it might not be impressive in size, it is incredibly influential and serves as a meeting place for musicians like Björk and Sigur Rós. PSSSST.. Also, Björk is a fan of this place!
Airwaves (more than 15 different venues)
Half way between North America and Europe, the Iceland Airwaves Festival has been bringing together the most northern emerging local talents and established progressive international artists in a diverse selection of venues around Reykjavik. Celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, the 4 days and nights festival starts officially on Wednesday the 7th of November until the 10th.
This year, the festival will host more than 240 acts from 25 different countries in 15 official venues. Within the official venues you will find, amongst others, Gaukurinn, Húrra, and Harpa.
For those who want to participate in the music festivity but do not wish to purchase the festival pass, you can also find some amazing off-venue concerts. CenterHotels is a proud partner of the Iceland Airwaves and will host three off venue concerts this year at Ísafold Restaurant, Jörgensen Kitchen and Ský Restaurant & Bar. See our Off-Venue Schedule and Line-Up here.
Come by and enjoy some good Icelandic music and fun bar offers.
In Iceland, surprisingly, beer was prohibited during most part of the 20th Century. Once the precious beverage was made legal again, it became the most popular beverage amongst locals, and let’s be honest… amongst travellers.
Beer always had an important place in the hearts of Icelanders, no wonders since many locals had their own brewing equipment at home during the 19th Century! Nowadays, the Icelandic beer brewing industry is prospering rapidly and several new breweries focusing on craftsmanship beers started their operations offering the widest selection of local beers Iceland ever had! The deliciousness of the Icelandic beers is not only due to the use of their pure and high quality water but also to their ingenuity and rigor.
In recent years, the beer market has flourished to give the drinkers an extended possibility of choices. Rather you are a beer lover or not, here are some beers you should definitely try before leaving this dreamy northern island. Some microbreweries, such as Ægisgarður are even offering tours allowing visitors to understand the process of beer making and taste many different products!
During the second World War when the British invaded Iceland in 1940, many soldiers thought that an important element was missing to their life… Beer! This is the reason why, Ölgerðin Brewery was allowed, only during that period, to produce beer for the British Navy. You can still find this beer until today under its original name; the Polar Beer. For the time being, beer consumption continued to be illegal for Icelanders and remained in that state until the close end of the 20th Century!
You would think that Icelanders went on high beer production after 1989, when the cherished beverage finally made its way back into the northern country. Surprisingly, up until very recently, very few breweries were producing a certain variety of beers, mainly pale lagers and lagers. The two major breweries are Ölgerðin Brewery and Vífilfell. Amongst many beer produced, you should try the Ölgerðin classics; Egils Gull, Egils Premium and Egils Sterkur. Oh! And don’t forget to try Vífilfell’s classics for the second round; the Viking Classic (Vienna style beer with a touch of caramel and roasted malt in the taste), the Viking Sumaröl (belgian style summer beer spiced with coriander and orange peel), Viking Páskabjór (Most popular Dunkel beer in Iceland with rusty tones and flavors of coffee, chocolate and caramel) and Thule.
In recent years, many smaller, creative breweries got inspired from popular beers around the world. One is the beer Bríó, which won several prizes for their distinct taste obtained by adding German hops and Pilsen Malt in their recipe. Once you try its sweet perfume, it is hard to let it go.
Lastly, you shouldn’t leave Iceland without trying the fruit of the first microbrewery that opened in 2006; Arskógssandur, getting inspired by Czech traditional ways to brew. Kaldi, their pilsner beer offers dry and fresh taste with flavours of roasted barley and hops. In the same family, the Kaldi Dark beer is fermented with burnt malt, giving an additional dark colour, intense flavours and winning the hearts of the icelanders! You should definitely visit their Kaldi bar in the middle of Reykjavik, making it easier for you to taste more than one of their treasures!
Here is a list of others beers worth your time and money:
Lava (Black Ale): Like wine, it ages very well and reaches its optimal taste quality after 3 years in a cold storage! It won many championships, mainly the “United States Open Beer Championship” and is now also available in North America.
Einstök Beers: White Ale, Pale Ale, Toasted Porter, DoppelBock etc. The Einstöck brewery offers a great selection of beers for all tastes and it is most likely to find them in the UK and the USA. A question of keep the travel alsting a little bit longer!
Borg Brugghús Beers: Úlfur (Indian-styled Pale Ale), NR 8.2 Surtur and NR 8.4 Surtur (imperial stouts with respectively vanilla and oaky aromas and liquorice, dark chocolate and coffee aromas) and Leifur Nr. 32 (Belgian White with arctic thyme and heaters flavours).
Get ready for the most happening Saturdays of the year in Reykjavik this Saturday, August 18th.
This Saturday we celebrate the birthday day of Reykjavík city and it brings almost a third of the entire population of Iceland onto the streets to celebrate.
The day starts with Reykjavík Marathon which kicks off at 9:00 on Lækjargata, downtown Reykjavik. Following the marathon, Reykjavik Culture Night will take place with a long program of cultural events throughout the rest of the day and night. The events take place all throughout the city, on the streets and squares, in art exhibitions and in peoples backyards. You will come across art, food and live music events all through central Reykjavík. The public parking lot at Hverfisgata 20 will be turned into an LA style lounge top bar, there will be a Hip Hop festival on Ingólfstorg square and DJ Margeir (one of the countries most popular DJ’s) will host his yearly Karnival party on the corner of Hverfisgata and Klapparstígur.
The event peaks with a concert by Arnarhóll at 20:00 and ends with a ‘not to be missed’ fireworks show over Harpa and the old harbour at 23:00.
For those who would like to observe the festivities from a comfortable distance, SKÝ Restaurant & Bar, located at Centerhotel Arnarhvoll has an incredible view over Harpa and the old harbor.
Keep in mind that most streets in and around downtown Reykjavik will be blocked off, but who wants to leave the city during the cities greatest celebration of the year.
Street food and Food Halls have been more and more prominent in Reykjavík in recent years. After all street food is the heart and soul of international cuisine and food halls offer the convenience of having selection of food from all over the world in one place.
Box Street Food
Box Street Food is a great place if you would like to get a taste of different street food in one place. It’s open Thursday to Sunday June 1-June 29th and is located in Skeifan shopping area (a bit outside of downtown). The vibe is very raw with pallets, trucks and raw metal containers offering street food, pop up shops and a large screen that will be showing all the World Cup matches along with a music stage where musicians perform for all the hungry and thirsty people. Dishes are sold for low prices, and guests are encouraged to try different dishes, instead of buying one meal at one restaurant.
There are many other popular street food and food trucks in Reykjavík like Bæjarinsbeztu, the famous hot dog stand that offers one menu item only and Fish and Chips Vagninn located by the old harbour.
Hlemmur Food Hall opened in August 2017 and is located inside the legendary ‘Hlemmur’. Hlemmur used to be the main public bus stations/terminals in Reykjavík and a regular hangout for many punk kids and other interesting characters. The food hall is inspired by the great European food halls, offering 10 different vendors. So whether it may be Vietnamese street food at Bành Mí, Mexican burritos at La Poblana, freshly baked bread and cinnamon buns at Brauð&Co or cured meats with a glass of french wine or champagne at Kröst, you can be sure to find it there. You can also be sure to find many locals visiting Hlemmur Mathöll, mostly for the delicious food but also because of the history of the building.
Doesn’t look like much on the outside but it’s awesome on the inside. This new Reykjavík culinary treasure, located in a refurbished fish factory at Grandi Harbor District, celebrates Icelandic culture and industry. Grandi Mathöll offers a great sample of the best street food Iceland has to offer. You will find both traditional Icelandic cuisine like smoked Icelandic lamb from Fjárhúsið (The sheep stable)or fresh Icelandic vegetables from Rabbar Barinn and also dishes from elsewhere in the world like KORE a grub-delicious Korean street food.
Icelandic summer may not be the warmest or sunniest but that doesn’t stop Icelanders from celebrating it in various ways.
There are tons of festivals, big and small, held throughout the country every summer. The bigger once you may have heard of but the smaller local festivals probably not, but they can be just as fun. It’s a good opportunity to meet and mingle with the locals of the town.
The list of summer festivals is long but here you can learn about a few of our favorites.
Fisherman’s Sunday, held the first Sunday in June to celebrate and honor the hard work and sacrifices of the Icelandic fisherman and importance that the fishing industry has had on the Icelandic culture. Each town has a celebration by the harbour with sea related entertainment for the whole family.
The Secret Solstice Music Festival takes place in Reykjavik over the summer solstice during the brightest part of the year. With over 150 acts both local and international, performing on several stages this festival has become one of the biggest music festivals in Iceland.
A BBQ festival held in Selfoss, a town in the south of Iceland, with the focus on Icelandic meat and barbecuing. In addition to the presentation of Icelandic food there is an impressive program for the whole family from morning until night.
An Irish festival held in Akranes, a port town located on the West coast of Iceland. The town was supposedly settled by the Irish in the 9th century so every July, the town celebrates so-called Irish days to commemorate their Irish heritage and celebrate the summer at the same time. It’s a family festival with Irish themed entertainment from morning until night.
FJARÐARBYGGÐIN HIKING WEEK
This is one of Iceland’s biggest outdoor recreation events held in Fjarðarbyggð located in the East fjords of Iceland. It is 8 days of entertainment and organised activities to suit the entire family which spans from family walks to historical walks and even to challenges for hiking mountaineers, as well as categories in between.
A metal festival held in Neskaupstaður a quaint little town located on the Norðfjörður fjord on the Eastern coast of Iceland. Eistnaflug is held annually on the second weekend of July each year.
A fun annual music festival held the last weekend of July in Borgarfjörður Eystri which is located in East Iceland about 70 km from Egilsstaðir. The line up is usually mostly local bands. Most people camp and many bring their whole family.
VERSLUNARMANNAHELGIN / LABOR DAY WEEKEND
The first weekend of August is the Icelandic Labour Day weekend, a three day long weekend and the most travelled weekend in Iceland. Icelanders pack their camp gear and wool sweaters and flock out of town to set up camp at various festival sights around the country. The main festivals are Þjóðhátíð in the Vestman Islands, Neistnaflug in Neskaupsstaður and Innipúkinn in Reykjavík to name a few.
FISKIDAGURINN MIKLI / THE GREAT FISH DAY
An annual festival held in North Iceland in a town called Dalvík, held the first or the second Saturday in August. Fish producers invite guests to a sea food buffet between 11:00 and 17:00 at the harbour in Dalvík. The reason for this generous offer is to get as many people as possible together to taste fish and enjoy a good day in Dalvík. In the evening there is a big concert down by the harbour.
Gaeran, which means lambskin rug, is a music festival held in Mid-August in the northern part of Iceland, in the town of Sauðárkrókur. The festival focuses on offering a wide variety of genres, from folk to rap and everything in between.
Another annual event held in Reykjavík on the Saturday on or around August 18th, the anniversary date of Reykjavík city. It is by far the biggest celebration in Reykjavík and brings almost a third of the entire population of Iceland onto the streets to celebrate with music, arts and more.
Icelandic people are overall very fashion conscious.
One of the reasons may be that we vigorously seek information and updates through media on all the latest and the newest whatever it may be. That is most likely due to the fact that we live on an isolated island in the North Atlantic Ocean and this is our way of staying connected with the rest of the world. Another reason may be that there are only 330.000 of us; and because we are so few, we always thrive to be bigger and on par with other metropolitan cities. Also because of the small population the chances of running into someone you know is very big, which is why we always make an effort to look decent, even when just running to the local store for milk.
The downfall of being such a small and trendy bunch is that when a new trend gets discovered, it spreads out quickly and soon enough you’ll see everyone wearing the same outfit.
There are many talented Icelandic designers and you will find many of them in the below boutiques. Some of these stores are located on Skólavörðustígur; a trendy shopping street located within walking distance from all six CenterHotels.
Kiosk This is the place to stock up on Icelandic design. This co-op shop is owned by four Icelandic designers and has won the award “Best shop to buy local fashion design” seven years in a row.
Geysir You get a warm country feeling when you walk into a Geysir store. Geysir designs are inspired by a balance of a Scandinavian city life as well as Iceland’s particular history of craft from natural materials and knitwear using locally sourced textiles and yarns.
Kron Kron A beloved Icelandic fashion label that is particularly known for their shoe design and joyful color usage.
Want to stay warm but yet look fashionable while in Iceland? Look no further..Cintamani offers quality, nicely designed Icelandic outerwear. You can also find the Icelandic street-wear brand Inklaw at Cintamani..a favorite of celebs like Justine Bieber.
Kirsuberjatréð / The Cherry Tree
One of Reykjavik’s hidden secrets and only two minute walk from CenterHotel Plaza. This contemporary store full of local art, design and handicrafts is owned by 11 artists, all ladies. A unique and happy addition to your visit in Reykjavík.
Kormákur & Skjaldar We love this store. Primarily men’s fashion that’s inspired by traditional British fashion staples, focusing on quality wool and clothing that is suitable for northern climates while holding a timeless elegance that never goes out of style.
Farmers Market If you’re looking for Nordic design with a minimal modernism..this is the place.
Ígló + Indi Most loved Icelandic children label, that is all about crisp colors, unique prints and playfulness.
When planning or packing for your Icelandic vacation, there are few things that you may want to reconsider. For example, don’t bother to…
BRING YOUR UMBRELLA
Sure, it does rain in Iceland..however, the wind blows even more frequently and an umbrella and the wind do not go together.
BUY BOTTLED WATER
Icelandic tap water is about as clean as water can be. But not just clean, it’s delicious.
Just run it for a few seconds, get it nice and cold and you will never want to buy another bottle of water again.
CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST IN ADVANCE
Weather in Iceland is way too unpredictable. Just be prepared for any kind of weather condition, rain, wind, snow, fog, sun. You could actually experience all the above in the same day.
SAVE LUGGAGE SPACE BY LEAVING YOUR WARM JACKET OR COAT AT HOME
Bad idea, because of the above comment.
LEAVE YOUR BATHING SUIT AT HOME REGARDLESS OF THE SEASON
Winter or summer you don’t want to miss out on visit Iceland without taking a dip in a naturally heated thermal pool or in a natural hot spring.
EXPECT SEEING POLAR BEARS, PENGUINS OR IGLOOS.
Because if you do you’re in the wrong place. The name Iceland may be a bit misleading because temperature in Iceland are quite mild thanks to the Gulf Stream. However approximately 11% of Iceland is covered by glaciers so glacier related trips and activities are very popular. You can see some of them here.
Unless you are arriving from countries that suffer from certain infectious diseases. But Iceland is a very safe country to visit and infectious diseases aren’t a problem.
BE A VEGETARIAN
Well..most restaurants in Reykjavík do cater to vegetarians and have vegetarian options on their menus but it is almost a crime visiting Iceland without trying the Icelandic lamb, fish and of course HOT DOGS. We shouldn’t leave out other Icelandic delicacies like fermented shark but that may actually turn a meat lover into a vegetarian.
GET A HOT DOG FROM ANY OTHER PLACE THEN ‘BÆJARINS BEZTU’.
They are simply the best.
GET UPSET WITH THE HOTEL STAFF BECAUSE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS WEREN’T VISIBLE
Although the Northern Lights are active all year round; you can only spot them in the dark and when the sky is clear. Which means that they are NOT visible in the summertime when the sun never sets and only when weather conditions are favorable.
So don’t come to Iceland with the main or only purpose to see the Northern Lights, there are plenty of other things to see and explore.
On the other hand, if you are visiting in the summertime we can guarantee you plenty of Midnight sun. 🙂
The days are finally getting longer in Reykjavík with more sunlight, and the city is as vibrant as ever, offering two spectacular events this weekend.
Design March is Iceland’s most important annual design event and celebrates it’s 10th anniversary this year. The event will take place March 15-18th and will be the largest and most significant yet.
Design March offers a unique chance to see and experience Icelandic design, spiced with a handful of the most interesting international names.
From fashion to furniture, architecture to food design, the festival showcases the best of the local design scene alongside exciting international names.
So for four days, Reykjavík, the most northern capital in the world will host dozens of openings, exhibitions, workshops and other events. There are over 100 events-exhibitions, workshops, seminars and parties spread across the city. Usually, these sort of fairs are only open for professionals, however we Icelanders like to have fun, so everybody is invited to join in.
Another event that is taking place this weekend AND celebrating it’s anniversary is Sónar Reykjavik music festival which will take place for it’s 25th executive year on March 16th and 17th at Harpa music hall.
Sónar is a well known music festival featuring mostly electronica, hip hop and advanced music both from the vibrant Icelandic music scene as well as international talent. The festival will be spread out across 4 different stages, all located indoors within the walls of the beautiful Harpa Concert House and headlining the SonarClub stage will be long-standing electronica innovators Underworld.
If you’re planing to going to Sónar Reykjavík, remember that SKÝ Restaurant & Bar is located right across the street from Harpa concert hall at CenterHotel Arnarhvoll and is the perfect place to grab a pre show dinner or a cocktail while enjoying a spectacular view over Harpa and the bay. And the best part is that CenterHotel guests receive 10% discount of the a la carte menu. It’s a win win win.
Pink Party, Queer Bingo Extravaganza, Northern Lights Hunt, Masquerade Ball and plenty more fabulous fun is on Rainbow Reykjavík Winter Pride’s agenda this weekend February 8-11.
Going on for the 7th year in Reykjavík, this small pride festival has been a great success as it combines amazing nature, northern lights and nightlife. It is the perfect winter getaway and a great introduction to Iceland.
Guests are welcomed from all over the world so if Iceland is on your bucket list; the Rainbow Reykjavik Program covers it all. You will be walking along the Continental Divide between the tectonic plates of Europe and North America, seeing geysers, beautiful waterfalls and nature of unparalleled beauty. You will also relax in the Blue Lagoon and dine in world-class restaurants, sit in cozy cafes and of course party until the wee hours of the morning with LGBT people from all over the world.
CenterHotels works closely with Pink Iceland, the coordinators of Rainbow Reykjavík and this year, like every year, we proudly offer accommodations for visitors of Rainbow Reykjavík Winter Pride Festival.