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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past several years, you know that Iceland is blowing up on the travel scene right now. The perfect storm of cheap flights, extreme activities, and the natural beauty the island is renowned for has catapulted this small country to the top of everyone’s bucket list.

Though Reykjavik is the entry point for travelers’ exploration of Iceland, it’s often treated as an after thought or simply a means to an end. Travelers focus their sights on rural areas around the country setting off for the Golden Circle or Ring Road, or their days are jam-packed with tours leaving little time to see the capital. And while it does have a bit of a transient feel as a result, Reykjavik is a cool and quirky spot deserving of your time.

Reykjavik also happens to be the heart of the Icelandic beer scene; one that has encountered tremendous growth in recent years, an especially impressive feat as beer was outlawed here until 1989. These days, microbreweries and beer bars are popping up all around town, and the inevitable spread to the countryside is well underway.

Icelandic Beer Reykjavik Beer Guide

Reykjavik has all of the components for a successful beer crawl: a high density of bars in a concentrated area, a constant influx of visitors eager to imbibe any day of the week, a cool local community that appreciates unique and vibrant spots, and a variety of drinking establishments each with their own charm – no cookie cutter bars to be found here. There is one caveat, though, and that is the cost.

Saying that Iceland is expensive might just be the understatement of the year, and drinking in Reykjavik might be one of the biggest wallet shocks out there. Although craft beer is a relatively new phenomenon, thankfully it’s leapfrogged a lot of the growing pains typically associated with a burgeoning craft scene and some pretty great beers are on offer as a result. And if you’re paying upwards of $12 for one, it better be a damn good beer.

This Reykjavik beer guide is a play-by-play of what to do, where to eat, and, most importantly, where to drink when you visit. Skál!

Reykjavik Craft Beer Guide

Day One

4:30am Touch down at Keflavik.

Early morning landings are the norm when taking a flight from the Western Hemisphere. Once you’re through customs, head to the Duty Free, which is conveniently open whenever a flight lands. Iceland is one of the only country’s to allow duty free purchases after you clear customs, and good thing too as buying alcohol in the state run liquor shops is extremely expensive. Meander the rows of intriguing looking booze, from the electrically bright Brennivín to the growing craft liquor and schnapps brands. Grab a few six packs of Icelandic beer before you head off.

7:15am Blue Lagoon          

There’s not much to do when you arrive so god damn early in the morning. Most things are closed in Reykjavik at this hour and you likely won’t be able to check in to where you’re staying until the afternoon. Heading to the Blue Lagoon for the first entry at 8am is a solid solution. The bus leaves Keflavik at 7:15, and after storing your luggage and figuring out the electronic lockers in the change room, you’ll be relaxing in the warm milky white waters. Bonus! The Blue Lagoon has a bar (swim up no less), where it’s never too early to sip a crisp Gull beer.

11:30am The Laundromat Café

After soaking for a couple of hours in the Blue Lagoon and taking the bus onward to Reykjavik, it’s time to get a solid meal in you. The Laundromat Café is a loveably quirky spot in the centre of town serving food all day long. The bar is built of thousands of books and the washing machines in the basement are fully functional too, in case you have some actual laundry to do. A decent Icelandic beer selection awaits you and a host of games are there to entertain you.

1:00pm Nap Time

Head to your hotel / hostel / guesthouse / Airbnb to check in and chill out.

3:30pm Skuli

Shrug off your post nap coma with an introduction to Iceland’s craft beer scene at Skuli, the outpost of the popular Borg beer brand. The bar’s minimalist and clean décor is Nordic design at its best. Place yourself at the bar and start with a ‘flugbakki’, or ‘flight’, for generous pours of a half dozen of Borg’s mainstay beers. Despite its newish inception, brewing only began in 2015, Borg produces some pretty knockout beers across a variety of styles. From the crisp Iceland Ale ‘Snorri’ and the floral Nordic Saison ‘Leifur’ to the dense but delicious ‘Surtur’ Imperial Stout, you’re in for an impressive showing. After you’ve had a taste, take advantage of Skuli’s happy hour deals.

6:00pm Micro Bar

A large and dynamic beer selection is Micro Bar’s appeal, though the one-minute walk from Skuli further solidifies its place on this crawl. With twenty or so taps and a large cellar holding hundreds of bottles from around the world, Micro Bar offers the best opportunity in Reykjavik to geek out on beer. The main bar is located on the lower level of a building, and its stone walls and dim lighting give it a bunker type of feel, which isn’t a bad thing. The daily happy hour from 5pm to 7pm provides a decent discount on a beer of the day. Micro Bar has a nice selection of boards and shareable plates so grab a snack if you’re feeling peckish.

8:30pm Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

With your wallet a little lighter, it’s time to indulge in Iceland’s favourite cheap food: hotdogs. Stands serving up delicious hotdogs can be found all around town, though the reigning favourite is Bæjarins on a busy corner in central Reykjavik. These hotdogs are made with organic meats are topped with ketchup, remoulade, and sweet mustard, with a generous sprinkling of raw and fried onions. Eat your dogs at one of the tables while marvelling at how Iceland has the whole beer food thing figured out.

9:30pm Kex Hostel

Kex might just be the most sophisticated hostel in the world. Housed in a former biscuit factory, the space has maintained its industrial feel. The hostel’s large restaurant and bar offer a mix of tables and bar seating, and a downright cool vibe. Live music is a regular occurrence, though the type and style varies from day to day, reflecting the diversity of Iceland’s music scene. The bar serves up a range of beers on tap and has a selection of wines and mixed drinks if you’re jonesing for something different.

12:00am Kaffibarinn

Cap off the night at one of Reykjavik’s longest standing bars. Boasting a London tube sign, Kaffibarrinn is immediately recognizable right off of the pedestrian friendly Laugavegur. Locals and tourists alike pack into this small bar, especially on weekends when a DJ or band is common. While the downstairs dance floor can get rammed, upstairs maintains its chill vibe. Kaffibarinn is open until 4:30am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Day Two

10:30am Bergsson Mathús

You’re going to need a hearty breakfast once you’ve arisen from your slumber and Bergsson Mathús fits the bill. This cozy restaurant serves up food all day long, though its breakfasts are renowned in Reykjavik. Strong espresso, fresh pressed juice, and delicious breakfast platters will give you an energy boost and sustain you for hours. The focus here is on fresh and local foods at Bergsson, which you’ll notice with each bite.

11:30am Shop the Town

Central Reykjavik may be small but it’s filled with interesting shops and independent businesses. From handmade wool sweaters to artisanal household items and gifts, you’ll have an enjoyable time perusing the many shops around downtown. Even Vogue took notice of Reykjavik’s hip Laugavegur street, which is your best bet to find cool and quirky souvenirs to commemorate your time in the city. Skólavörðustígur is another popular shopping street to take a saunter down as well.

1:00pm Reykjavik Walking Tour

There’s no better way to experience a new town than being shown around by a local. I Heart Reykjavik started as a blog highlighting local Audur’s favourite spots in town and has evolved to become the top rated tour in Reykjavik. The small team at I Heart Reykjavik are knowledgeable, a ton of fun, and are eager to give you the lowdown on their city that you won’t get elsewhere.

3:00pm Reykjavik Roasters

Pop into this lovely café after your tour for a damn good espresso and a nibble of something freshly baked. If you luck out with a seat, peruse The Reykjavik Grapevine for the latest and greatest in Reykjavik and beyond. If the weather is decent, take your coffee to the benches across the street and soak up some sun.

4:00pm Kaldi Bar

Time to shift gears from uppers to downers. Friendly and chill, Kaldi is the kind of bar you would make your local if you lived in Reykjavik. Kaldi serves its namesake beer from its brewery in Northern Iceland, which was established in 2005 making it one of the first micro breweries in the country, alongside other Icelandic and international brews. The daily happy hour offers beers for 750k, a great bargain so bottoms up.

6:30pm Hverfisgata 12

Located on the second floor of a non-descript building at the corner of Hverfisgata and Ingolfsstraeti, this unnamed restaurant is a gem. The heavily wooded restaurant is cozy and comfortable, and the service is efficient and friendly. The menu is a decadent array of small plates and pizzas, and the solid craft and Icelandic beer line-up and crafted cocktails take it to the next level. The potato pizza with rocket and truffle mayo is life affirming.

8:00pm Mikkeller & Friends

Head on upstairs after dinner to Mikkeller & Friends, Iceland’s outpost of the mega popular Danish brewery, which rolled into Iceland in 2015. About half of the twenty taps pour out limited batch Mikkeller beers while the rest feature unique and popular brews from other notable breweries such as Founders and Danish peer To Øl. The beer list strikes a healthy balance between obscure and sessionable brews, offering a range of styles from West Coast IPAs to citrusy Saisons and tart Sours.

10:30pm Lebowski Bar

Yes, that’s right. You’re headed to Iceland’s favourite themed bar, based on cult classic The Big Lebowski. This diner style bar is fiercely dedicated to its theme with elements from the movie infused into absolutely everything. The menu features burgers and milkshakes, while an extensive list of White Russians are, obviously, the house specialty. With its quirky and fun vibe, good times here are pretty much guaranteed.

12:30am Húrra

There’s no better way to close out your time in Reykjavik than at Húrra, one of the city’s best spots for live music. This alternative leaning bar is a favourite local hangout and brings in a crowd most nights of the week. It’s dark and mostly unadorned, but Húrra has a distinctive ambiance that will draw you in, as will the local craft Icelandic beers on tap.

Reykjavik Craft Beer Roundup

Brew Pubs:

  • Skuli
  • Kaldi
  • Mikkeller & Friends

Icelandic Beer Bars:

  • Micro Bar
  • Húrra
  • Kaffibarrin

Other Bars:

  • Kex Hostel
  • Lebowski Bar

Icelandic Beer Experiences:

  • Duty Free
  • Blue Lagoon

Where to Eat:

  • Hverfisgata 12
  • Laundromat Cafe
  • Bergsson Mathus
  • Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
  • Reykjavik Roasters

Lauren Barth

Lauren Barth co-founded Departful in 2012 is the Managing Director of Departful Media. Since then she has worked between North America and Europe and has published content in partnership with a variety of tourism boards and businesses based around the world. Lauren is currently based in Toronto, Canada.

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