The Best Bars in Iceland

Whether you’re searching for a spot to sip a craft beer while watching the Northern Lights or a popular bar that serves up au courant cocktails and electronic music, Iceland has you covered. Reykjavík is, easily, Iceland’s most popular city for those who like to pair drinking and dancing, but it also offers plenty of places to perch if you’re more in the mood for conversation with locals over a nightcap. One of the city’s coolest trends: many of the coffee shops turn into buzzing dance parties during the evening hours. Of course, many of Iceland’s most-celebrated restaurants also go to town when it comes to cocktails. Worry not, you’ll never go thirsty.

Mýrargata 2, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Located down on the harbor and hidden inside the chic Reykjavik Hotel Marina, this vintage-cool bar is run by master mixologists who create dapper cocktails from fresh, local ingredients and house-made syrups. Behind the handsome wooden bar there are also several types of beer (including Icelandic brews) on tap, a bunch of wines, and a wide choice of liquor—including ten different types of rum. The food menu is pretty good too, with steaks, fish, lamb, and vegetarian options.
Vesturgata 2, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
The selection of beers in this artisanal spot is unbeatable, ranging from Icelandic brews like the local Kaldi (available on draft) to international classics such as Tactical Nuclear Penguin from Scotland. The bottled beers are supplemented by up to 10 beers on tap, all served in a welcoming interior with simple wooden chairs and tables and white walls adorned with murals by dark-humored Icelandic cartoonist Hugleikur Dagsson. If you’re not sure what to order, plump for a tasting tray or try a Gæðingur, a beer made by the owners of the bar in their small northern Iceland brewery.
101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Mellow café by day, raucous party bar at weekends, Kaffibarinn is one of Reykjavík’s quintessential nightspots. Marked with a London Underground logo on the outside, it boasts celebrity associations including Blur’s Damon Albarn (who rumor has it once owned shares in the place) and filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur (director of 101 Reykjavík, among others). Open since the 1990s, Kaffibarinn certainly knows how to throw a party, especially when tables and chairs are pushed aside to create a makeshift dance floor and local DJs (and the occasional live show) make the crowds go wild.
Laugavegur 20b, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
This craft beer joint set on the high street Laugavegur might be small in terms of size, but it’s big in personality. Having grown from the local Kaldi brewery—famous for creating a tasty line of less chemically laden Czech-style beers, including a very popular unfiltered brew—in 2011, it serves a range of great international artisan beers as well as its own brews. On top of the friendly service, there’s light pub food on offer, comfy couches to relax on, and even a piano to play should you feel the urge (or drink enough). Generally popular with a young, arty crowd.
Hafnarstræti 96, 600 Akureyri, Iceland
Götubarinn—the name simply means “Street Bar"—is one of Akureyri’s friendliest and most atmospheric local pubs. Located in the heart of the city, it features cozy nooks for intimate conversations, a quirky interior design that includes old street signs and a piano that plays a central role in the bar’s occasional sing-alongs.
Bankastræti 12, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Rekjavík’s oldest coffee shop, Prikid’s brightly-painted exterior makes it look like it could be an ostentatious Bavarian beer garden. However, the popular pub is perfectly grungy and divey—and surprisingly diverse—on the inside. A popular venue for local music, you’ll see customers from all walks of life: stoic retirees drinking coffee in the morning, families with toddlers in the early afternoon, 30-something couples on a date in the early evening, and the city’s norm-core and punkish teenagers who come out late at night when the DJs start spinning. Best of all, in a city where alcohol can be staggeringly expensive, the cheap beers at Prikid, are a welcome relief.
24 Laugavegur
A perfect happy hour spot, Public House’s hip, funky rock-and-roll interior (complete with neon signs, fake animal heads, and chandeliers made from recycled Paiste cymbals) make it look far more raucous than it really is. And sure, the patrons will occasionally sing along with a rousing chorus of “More Than a Feeling” from over the loud speaker or Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” but the extensive beer list and the quirky Icelandic-Japanese fusion menu are anything but divey.
Hverfisgata 50, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
This legendary downtown location has been through a variety of guises, including Harlem and Bakkus, all of them bringing some extra buzz to the city’s nightlife in one way or another. Húrra does the same, offering a diverse and generally alternative entertainment policy ranging from jazz shows and experimental electronic music to occasional art-film nights and stand-up comedy events. It has a decent range of beers on tap, a daily happy hour between 7-9pm, and tacos and other snacks and basic meals for sustenance. Up until midnight the space has more of a pub-like atmosphere, but from midnight on at weekends regular DJs create more of a party vibe, which is enhanced by its late opening time. until 5am at weekends, a very welcome couple of hours longer than most places in town.
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