The Best Restaurants in Iceland
Iceland’s culinary star has been on the rise thanks to cutting-edge chefs who focus on Nordic cuisine as well as innovative takes on other cuisines. The Michelin Guide has taken note, naming Dill Restaurant Iceland’s first Michelin-starred restaurant. From an Icelandic hot dog stand that’s a must-try to high-end spots that encourage diners to try new takes on classic ingredients through tasting menus, including fermented shark and salted cod, there’s a world of flavor waiting for you.
Lækjargata 2a, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
The award-winning Grillmarkaðurinn (Grill Market), known for working with local farmers and suppliers to create meals that are fresh, organic, seasonal, and delicious, is a definite culinary highlight for foodies visiting Iceland. The welcoming and impressive interior blends contemporary style with natural textiles, as well as elements like moss and basalt. The menu is generally centered around fish and meat, ranging from salted cod with lobster salad to grilled pork ribs and dry-aged rib eye, but there are vegetarian dishes available, too. Everything is grilled to perfection and artfully presented on wooden cutting boards. The wine list is expertly curated, too. Staff are professional and friendly.
Laugavegur 59, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Reykjavík’s Dill restaurant, run by chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason and sommelier Ólafur Örn Ólafsson, is the first venue in Iceland to win a coveted Michelin star. It specializes in New Nordic Cuisine, which means that the kitchen updates traditional dishes such as arctic char, pork belly, and lamb shanks in highly creative and ultradelicious ways—often pairing them with healthy ingredients like barley, berries, and kale. The restaurant is open four evenings a week, and the seven-course menu changes regularly based on availability of local ingredients. Food can be paired with a fabulous selection of champagnes and wines. It’s not the cheapest choice in town, but it is one of the best.
The name of this restaurant gives a fairly big clue as to its culinary specialty—i.e., fish. But the market part of the name is equally important, since the kitchen espouses a commitment to fresh ingredients, which are usually purchased from local farmers and fishermen. Spread across two floors inside one of central Reykjavík’s oldest buildings, this smartly decorated spot is run by head chef Hrefna Rósa Sætran (part of the Icelandic National Culinary team), and serves not just fish and seafood but also meat and vegetarian dishes, all prepared in an open kitchen that boasts the country’s only robata grill. There is a separate raw bar serving up sushi and sashimi, and a surprisingly funky cocktail and craft beer menu.
Hilton Reykjavík Nordica, 108, Suðurlandsbraut 2, Reykjavík, Iceland
Reykjavík’s upscale Vox restaurant lies within the lobby of the Hilton Reykjavík Nordica hotel. Decorated in the same style as the hotel—which means a design that is minimal but welcoming, with a color scheme of whites, beiges, and browns offset by paper lanterns and wooden floors—the venue is split between a casual bistro offering a range of light meals and a formal restaurant with a more ambitious menu in the evenings—plus a popular lunchtime buffet serving hot and cold dishes spanning Mediterranean fare, sushi, and Indonesian-style curries. The à la carte dinner menu features New Nordic dishes including lamb, fish, duck, and goose, with the option of a fixed-price, five-course seasonal service that can be accompanied by an impressive range of wine and champagne options from around the world.
Famed for its elegant, French-inspired seafood cuisine, Torfan is set in a 19th-century building (the restaurant’s name refers to Bernhöftstorfa, a historical part of the town) that’s decorated with traditional paintings on the walls, ornate ceramics, and classic wooden floors. Aside from the lauded Icelandic lobster it serves, the restaurant also offers up game, beef, fish, and even horse as à la carte options; set menus such as the Langoustine Feast and the Surf and Turf Feast; and vegetarian items like mushroom risotto and broccoli with oyster mushrooms—all of which balance tradition with modern techniques and influences. Service is friendly and professional.
Skólavörðustígur 14, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Founded in 2010 by chefs Gústav Axel Gunnlaugsson and Lárus Gunnar Jónasson, Seafood Grill serves up decidedly upmarket Icelandic seafood dishes alongside high-quality meat dishes and some vegetarian-friendly offerings, too, in a wood-heavy interior that casually straddles the hip and the trad. As well as à la carte options such as slow-cooked lamb, grilled chicken breast, and some deliciously rich desserts (try the crème brûlée), the kitchen offers set menus like the multicourse Big Grill Party and Fish Feast. The wine and beer list is top-notch, as is the warm and friendly service. If that isn’t recommendation enough, the restaurant is conveniently located between the city’s famous Hallgrímskirkja church and the busy Laugavegur shopping street.
Pósthússtræti, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Bæjarins beztu pylsur, which humbly translates as “the best hot dog in town,” is a simple stand in central Reykjavík whose popularity over the decades has given it a kind of cult status. Almost everyone in the country has eaten here, as have visitors including Bill Clinton and Metallica singer James Hetfield. In business since 1937, the stand has been instrumental in developing the specific Icelandic version of the American hot dog: a sausage made from a blend of organic Icelandic lamb with pork and beef, and includes toppings and condiments like ketchup, sweet mustard, fried (and raw, if requested) onions, and a special rémoulade made from mayonnaise, capers, and herbs. Unsurprisingly, the stall is at its busiest in the small hours of weekend mornings, after the bars and clubs close.
Nordurljosavegur 9, 240 Grindavik, Iceland
The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of Iceland’s most visited attractions, and its Lava restaurant has become a big part of making the experience memorable. Set into a lava rock face, the restaurant offers stellar views over the lagoon and serves international food created by Ingi Þórarinn Friðriksson and his team of experienced chefs in a modern, refined environment. The menu features traditional Icelandic dishes such as arctic char, lobster, and slow-cooked lamb, all updated with modern techniques and ingredients. There are also vegetarian dishes and an array of tasty desserts, set menus at lunchtime, and special menus for kids. The drinks list is impressively broad, with a good selection of cocktails and fine European wines should you want to make an evening of it.
Þórsgata 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
This French-style bistro is a perennial favorite for locals, who come here for breakfast, brunch, dinner, or just drinks. The menu has a Scandinavian focus with some international offerings—hence regular dishes like catch of the day and a hearty fish soup can be found alongside high-quality steaks, club sandwiches, and moules marinières. Lunch specials keep the place busy during the week, and the weekend brunches are a big draw too. The bar’s offerings are equally balanced, with a range of beers, wines, and cocktails as well as fresh smoothies. Pleasant service, a classic, upmarket interior, and a generally convivial atmosphere conspire to make this bistro a great all-rounder.
Templarasund 3, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
The man behind this simple but popular café, which is located close to Tjörnin Lake, is Þórir Bergsson—an experienced chef with a commitment to local and seasonal cuisine. His focus is on food that’s both hearty and healthy—what he calls honest food—spanning chia porridge, oatmeal muesli, and smoothies at breakfast, and then homemade breads and cakes as well as hearty soups, oven-baked tandooris, Vietnamese pancakes, and lasagnas for lunch and dinner. Daily lunch and brunch deals and occasional two-for-one offers keep the colorful interior busy. There are always vegan and vegetarian dishes available, and the coffee and service are both great too. (A second location, Bergsson RE, down at the harbor, serves fish and seafood dishes.)
Laugavegur 20b, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Not so long ago, Reykjavík’s restaurants focused almost exclusively on meat and fish dishes. Nowadays there are a growing number of vegetarian and even vegan spots, plus several places with a focus on healthy eating—such as the pioneering Gló, which opened back in 2007 and now has several other branches throughout the city. Gló's menu changes daily to reflect the season and the market and features four main dishes, one of which is usually raw. Besides the entrées on the main menu, the compelling list of desserts provides further proof that it’s possible for healthy food to taste great too.
356, Íþróttahús Snæfellsbæjar, Engihlíð 1, 355 Ólafsvík, Iceland
About a two-hour drive from Reykjavik, Hotel Budir’s remote location makes it popular with visitors hoping to spot the Northern Lights. Situated near a windswept beach beside the mighty Snaefellsness glacier, the property’s raw natural surroundings contrast beautifully with its romantic interiors, which pair features like leather and velvet furnishings and polished wooden floors with decorative touches that include sepia photos, stocked bookshelves, and picture windows perfect for enjoying the scenery. The rooms skew more modern, with earthy tones and contemporary furniture. The hotel restaurant is by far the best in the area, and the bar is cozy enough to encourage lounging. Upstairs is a common area with sofas, a fireplace, and yet more great views.
Vogafjós, 660 Myvatn, Iceland
Situated close to the otherworldly Lake Mývatn in northern Iceland, this unique café and restaurant—heralded by a simple wooden sign on the roadway—is located in a glassed dining room inside a working farm’s cowshed. Vogafjós offers homemade local food like smoked trout, breads baked in underground geothermal ovens, raw smoked lamb, and cheese that comes from the very cows you can see through the venue’s windows. (Guests are welcome to visit the herd before or after a meal.) The farm also runs a cozy bed and breakfast, and the lake’s geothermal spa is in the vicinity, should you want to make more of an experience out of it.
Skipagata 14, Akureyri, Iceland
Strikið, one of the finest places to dine in Akureyri, is spread out between two dining rooms on the fifth floor of an office building. The restaurant’s menu—created by owner and head chef Robert Hasler—features traditional Icelandic dishes such as lamb shoulder and seafood soup as well as modern fare such as sushi and reindeer burgers. The terrific food is matched to wonderful views of the fjord and mountains from huge picture windows and, on the long sunlit nights of summer, from an outdoor terrace.
Gilbakki, 360 Hellissandur, Iceland
This charming, unassuming café in Rif is marked with a simple wooden sign, befitting its authentic decoration (laminate floors, wooden tables) and small and traditional—but fantastically tasty—menu. The two women who run the café, the wives of local fishermen, offer, among other dishes, a fish soup made from the day’s catch and flavored with peaches and vegetables, a variety of homemade breads, pastries, and cakes, and surprisingly modern coffee from national roaster Kaffitár. There are also tables outside from which you can admire the pleasant surroundings if the weather’s good, and the lovely proprietors are keen to offer local travel tips as well. Open from June to August only.