Reykjavik's Nightlife Guide
Northern countries often have the best nightlife, as people shake off their winter coats and trade the outdoors for candles, cozy décor, and tasty craft drinks.
Reykjavík is a fascinating, small city that’s evolving nicely: Iceland has become a lot more popular with tourists in recent years and is enjoying newfound prosperity, which means new bars and restaurants have begun springing up to cater for the growing numbers of visitors. And yet, somewhat miraculously, the city has maintained its unique character, charm, and appeal during this cultural Renaissance.
Here’s the ultimate guide to Reykjavik’s thriving nightlife scene, starting with some local quirks, followed by tips on where to go and what to do!
The City and Culture
Reykjavik obviously wouldn’t have the same number of bars and restaurants as major cities like New York or London, but it has some clear advantages over bigger cities. For a start, Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, which results in a far, far safer than average nightlife.
Another great thing about Reykjavik’s nightlife is the almost any bar, pub or restaurant you find in downtown Reykjavik is in walking distance of each other, and even on the same long road!
And, since the city is so compact, it’s very bar-crawl-friendly! And another advantage of its cute size is that your bed should just be a stroll away from your watering hole of choice – no waiting for public transport, jostling for taxis or crowding into late night buses and trains!
Entrance fees and dress codes are rare (aim for informal, but chic). And, like many countries West of the Atlantic, Iceland has a late-night lifestyle ingrained into its culture: Many locals don’t go out until after midnight, and some venues stay open as late as 4:30-5:30 am on weekends.
Bars range from chilled out, cozy pubs to the louder party venues. And the city has more than its fair share of restaurants. Beer is the beverage of choice for most Icelanders, with plenty of local brews to choose from. Cocktail culture has only recently become part of Icelandic nightlife culture but has grown in line with increasing numbers of tourists who fancy something a bit sweeter to drink.
Photo from the Reykjavik Bar Crawl Tour
Laugavegur – Reykjavik’s Main Street
Dating back to 1885, Laugavegur is one of Reykjavík’s oldest streets, and one renowned for its shopping opportunities, fun bars, and varied restaurants. Laugavegur is especially lively in the summer, as cars are banned and the street is reclaimed by pedestrians – shopping in the day, socializing at night.
Just beside Laugavegur lies Hverfisgata, which has a lot to offer, but is quieter than the main street. Laugavegur also leads to Bankastræti, which then leads to Austurstræti, making up one great nightlife strip that’s only a couple of kilometers (less than two miles) long.
5 Best Craft Beer Bars in Reykjavik
At this rate you’re probably getting thirsty thinking about all of these great night spots, so we have put together a list of the best pubs in Reykjavik.
5) Sæmundur Gastro Pub at Kex Hostel
One for the true beer lovers, this gastro-pub is part of the popular Kex Hostel. Built in a former biscuit factory, this rustic, cool pub has a wide selection of local lagers, craft beers, and ales, as well as wines and spirits. Its food is sourced from local producers and foragers, and they’re especially proud of their high-end bar snacks which will help fuel your night-time adventures.
Photo from Kex Hostel Facebook
4) BrewDog Reykjavík
The international beer-bar brand of Brewdog has been a big hit in Reykjavík after opening in fall 2018. Located at the up and coming Hverfisgata street this two-floor enticer is sure to provide you with a great time and proper beer. They do collaborations with Icelandic breweries as well as international ones, which are a welcomed blend into their menu of famous Brewdog beers. BrewDog Reykjavik has fantastic food options and can even cater to Vegans and the Gluten-Free both in drinks and dishes.
MicroBar is quirky, distinctive and small, not unlike Reykjavík itself! Its range of local and international beers is vast, but they do offer 5 or 10-beer samplers if you don’t know where to start. This place is a little bit off the beaten track and behind a small door that you might miss if you’re not paying attention, so keep your eyes peeled! With a legendary atmosphere and strong word of mouth behind it, Microbar is worth seeking out.
2) Mikkeller & Friends
Located in the same building as the Nameless Pizza Place this cozy charming old house has everything you might want – yummy food and a wide selection of delicious ales and brews. The restaurant being on the first floor and the bar on the second. Mikkeller and Friends Reykjavík make their own beer, they have local beer, they have gluten-free beer and even weirdly tasting beer – recommended only for the bravest of drinkers!
1) Skúli Craft Bar
The winner! Skúli Craft Bar is where you sit down with a group of friends, have a date with yourself or in a duo to indulge in some delightful sips. The bar has a strong focus on the rewarded Borg Brewery, a local favorite but mix into the menu some rare find from all over the world. Treat your taste buds and ask away – the staff is super friendly, helpful and last but not least knowledgeable about what they offer!
Let’s add one more…
6) Session Craft bar
This newly opened pearl is located above Subway where the streets Laugavegur and Bankastræti meet. Its rough interior might not be welcoming at first but once you sit down and start enjoying their beer you’ll start to appreciate their philosophy and focus: quality over glam. A stop any beer lover visiting bars in Reykjavík should make.
5 Best Cocktail Bars in Reykjavik
5) Jacobsen Loftid Cocktail Bar
One of the few bars in all of Reykjavik city which enforces a dress code (“neat and classy”), Loftið is a handsome, old-fashioned establishment, with worn leather armchairs, a hardwood floor and bar and – because it’s on the first floor – a view of the street below. While a little pricier than some other establishments in the area, Loftið offers an impressive cocktail and whiskey menu.
4) Pablo Discobar
For someone looking to experience Reykjavik by night, Pablo Discobar is a great pick. This place is obviously inspired by Latin and Disco culture but with a splash of Hawaii and some sparkles from the ’70s and ’80s. If you imagine Saturday night fever – the South America version and you might be getting close. The Pablo Discobar cocktails are not only tasty and unusually strong but the bartenders are not shy with their talents when mixing them.
You will likely have a hard time believing this due to the majestic and impressive interior of the building but this restaurant & bar is situated in an old pharmacy – Apotek means pharmacy in Icelandic. The building was designed by the same architect as the one who did Hallgrímskirkja church and later redecorated to the A-class standard it holds today! But, onto their cocktails, their award-winning cocktail menu is truly something else – mixed with metropolitan spirits and local bestsellers, sometimes even both. Presented in the most dazzling way possible. Apotek’s Happy hour is between 3 pm and 6 pm every day and the cocktails are half price so if you are looking to drink fancy but spend rationally then this is the way to go.
Depending on who you ask, this modern, stylish bar might be Iceland’s first cocktail joint. It can be found in the Reykjavik Marina Hotel by the Old Harbour area. This place is popular with visitors (both hotel guests and those passing through), and serves up quirky cocktails, beer, and hearty food. Depending on when you visit, you might be landing in the middle of a happy hour or in time to enjoy for some live local music.
1) Sushi Social
This sushi based restaurant was originally called Sushi Samba but was sued and needed to change its name after appearing in numerous gossip magazines worldwide when the last photo of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise was taken leaving this very place! After the scandal, they changed the name to from Samba to Social and have just gotten better and better, their cocktails being the cherry on top. These colorful mixes are in every way amazing; look, texture, flavor, richness, realness and I could go on an on. A true must-sip!
Photo by Sushi Social’s Facebook
Let’s add one more…
6) Miami Bar
You won’t know what hit you. From the outside you can’t tell at all but once inside you have entered a club in Miami in the ’70s. Fluorescent lighting, furniture in pastel colors, palms, pelican birds and an occasional boob lamp (yes, I said boob lamp). Their amazing cocktails range from a tasty Pina Colada to their signature La Vida Loca, and the best thing if you are feeling bored there is a ping pong room downstairs!
5 Best Dancing Bars in Reykjavik
This liberal place will always pleasantly surprise anyone who came for a sit-down, as soon as you hit the dance floor there is no getting off it’s as simple as that. This free-spirited watering hole has a sit-down area on the ground floor, a “louder” sit-down area on the 1st floor, a smoking area and then the best of best, a great big dance floor where you can really break loose. Húrra often has live music and band playing – mostly with no additional cost – No dress code, just you and the dancefloor!
4) Lebowski Bar
The might have given you a hint but this place is decorated in accordance with the famous movie, the Big Lebowski and as in the movie the signature drink is a White Russian. They even have one with Coco Puffs cereal! Grab one and have a sit-down or just right ahead and hit the dance floor situated deep in the building. You will feel hugged by the colorful walls, safe and sound to shake it and the DJ is sure to keep you flying high. Lebowski bar for a good time!
Paloma is located right above the chill bar Dubliners but as soon as you walk into Paloma the raw interior and rave music will set the tone for the night. There will be nothing chill about a night at Paloma, it’s where you dance the night away, grab a quick drink and go dancing again. The electro house music is sure to keep you on the dance floor and the long and wide bar is also known to be a good place to meet locals.
This hip and upbeat place is a burger joint by day but a buzzing club in the night. No worries, the burger-smell is well gone by then. During the weekend, around midnight the line starts to form and cheerful people flock there for a great time. The music ranges from all the latest hits with an occasional blast from the 90’s and 2000’s making you scream sing out! One of the few bars in Iceland with an actual coat hangers where you get a number when stored, for FREE:
This place is well worth the visit – perfect for bachelor trip or a night out with the girls!
The winner! If you are looking for a good time this place is a guarantee. It is a gay bar but everyone is welcomed. Grab one of their colorful drinks and get with the beat. Their music is something everyone will know and you will soon find yourself singing at the top of your lungs. Kiki is easy to spot right off Laugavegur as the building is painted in the Gay Flag colors, go up a few narrow steps and surprise – you have just entered a dance utopia!
5 Best 40+ Bars in Reykjavik
5) Kaldi Bar
The classic! And to be honest, the mating grounds for 40+ in Iceland. You will often spot businessmen and women taking a Happy Hour a step further and people chatting up newly found friends. Kaldi has plenty of tables, good drinks and their main thing the Icelandic Kaldi beer and the perfect background music!
A newly opened bar but loved from its opening day. Perfect for a good chat with a friend, they always have great music on and the atmosphere is cozy. A popular hangout spot during Happy Hour and after-work drinks. Veður is located at a side street with big windows so you can people watch away. An unpretentious, little bar worth visiting!
3) Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar
The same owners as the famous Kormákur og Skjöldur clothing stores in Reykjavík. This old charmer has been on the scene for a long time and is simply a classic. The bar is situated in the middle and all around are plenty of tables, reaching out into every corner. Perfect for a night-cap!
2) Port 9
The city’s best wine bar hidden amongst charming little, corrugated iron houses. This swanky delight is perfect to sit down for a sip or ten of some of the most delicious wine Iceland has to offer. Don’t be afraid to ask the waiters about the menu – they are absolute experts. Port 9 is low key but its interior not, as soon as you find it you are in for a treat!
1) Snaps Bistro Bar
A French / Icelandic bistro bar, Snaps is an inviting, popular and cozy establishment. The lighting is nice and dim; its windows large; and the atmosphere is relaxed and chatty. Snaps’ food has a good reputation too: Like its decor, it combines Icelandic and Gallic influences to create something special and new, yet also familiar. Appropriately enough, Snaps is located in a relatively quiet part of downtown Reykjavik.
Best Reykjavík Bars for Each Occasion
- Best Hipster Bar: Kaffibarinn
- Best Hip-Hop Bar: Prikið
- Best Happy Hour Bar: Bar Ananas
- Best Good-Weather Bar: Petersen Svítan
- Best Rock Bar: Dillon
- Best Bar for Smoking: Boston
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