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Reykjavik Nightlife Guide

|October 13, 2023
Anthropologist, social media guru, Icelandic nature and food enthusiast.

With a growing variety of great bars and restaurants, Reykjavik's nightlife scene has managed to maintain its unique character, charm, and appeal. In this guide, everyone should find something from them! An extensive list of dance bars, cocktail bars, hipster bars, 40+ bars, beer bars etc. Find out more!

Bartender pouring drinks at the bar

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 to 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 that almost any bar, pub, or restaurant you find in downtown Reykjavik is within walking distance of each other and even on the same long road! For this reason, you can easily bar-crawl without worrying about public transportation or taxis.

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 cozy pubs to 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 select from. Cocktail culture has only recently become part of Icelandic nightlife but has grown in line with increasing numbers of tourists who fancy something a bit sweeter to drink.

Laugavegur – Reykjavik’s Main Street

Dating back to 1885, Laugavegur is one of Reykjavík’s oldest streets, known for its shops, fun bars, and variety of restaurants. Laugavegur is especially lively in the summer, as cars are banned and the street is reclaimed by pedestrians – shopping by the day, socializing by 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 brings to Austurstræti, making up one great nightlife walk that’s only a couple of kilometers (less than two miles) long.

5 Best Craft Beer Bars in Reykjavik

Group of smiling people saying cheers before drinking

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.

Discover these craft bars and more on a Reykjavik Tour.

1) Sæmundur Gastro Pub at Kex Hostel

One for 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

2) BrewDog Reykjavík

The international beer-bar brand of Brewdog has been a big hit in Reykjavík after opening in the fall of 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 collaborate with Icelandic breweries as well as international ones. BrewDog Reykjavik has fantastic food options and can even cater to vegans and the gluten-free both in drinks and dishes.

3) MicroBar

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.

4) Session Craft Bar

This 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 its beer, you’ll start to appreciate its philosophy and focus: quality over glam. A stop any beer lover visiting bars in Reykjavík should make.

Session craft bar in Reykjavik

5) Skúli Craft Bar

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 finds 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!

Skúli Craft Bar, Reykjavik

5 Best Cocktail Bars in Reykjavik

1) Jungle Cocktail Bar

Cozy but lively cocktail bar situated in Austurstræti 9 (second floor) 101 Reykjavík, which serves delicious cocktails, wine, and beer. During weekdays, the Jungle bar surrounds you with a comfortable and slower atmosphere, while during the weekends, it awaits you with a pounding music beat and a crafty cocktail. Don’t miss the opportunity to lose yourself in the Jungle!

Bartenders making drinks in Jungle Bar

Jungle bar Reykjavik, Photo by Art Bicnick

2) 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 American version – 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.

3) Apotek

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.

4) Slippbarinn

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 in 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 some live local music.

5) 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 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 and on. A true must-sip!  

Photo by Sushi Social’s Facebook

5 Best Dancing Bars in Reykjavik

1) Hressingarskalinn

Hressingarskálinn, also recognized as Hresso is a restaurant that serves delicious food by day and transforms into an alluring dance site by night. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to listen to some popular dance hits, remarkable DJs, and live bands. Situated at Austurstræti 22, this restaurant/dance club is ready to accommodate everyone no matter what time of the day it is.

2) Lebowski Bar

They 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 the drink and have a sit-down or 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! 

3) Paloma

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.

4) B5

This hip and upbeat place is a burger joint by day but a buzzing club by 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 90s and 2000s, making you scream and sing out! One of the few bars in Iceland.

This place is well worth the visit – perfect for a bachelor trip or a night out with the girls!

People hanging out in B5 club

5) Kiki

The winner! If you are looking for a good time, this place is a guarantee. It is a gay bar, but everyone is welcome. 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 LGBTQIA+ flag colors, go up a few narrow steps, and surprise – you have just entered a dance utopia!

5 Best 40+ Bars in Reykjavik

1) 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, perfect background music, and their main thing, the Icelandic Kaldi beer.

2) Vedur

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 on a side street with big windows so you can people-watch. 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!

4) Port 9

The city’s best wine bar hidden amongst charming little, corrugated iron houses. This is the perfect place 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 key, but its interior is not, as soon as you find it, you are in for a treat!

5) Snaps Bistro Bar

A French / Icelandic bistro bar, Snaps is an inviting, popular, and cozy establishment. The lighting is nice and dim; its windows are 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. Snaps is also 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: Kaldi Bar
  • Best Good-Weather Bar: Petersen Svítan
  • Best Rock Bar: Dillon
  • Best Bar for Smoking: Boston

Visitors to Iceland are always pleasantly surprised by the quantity and quality of places to eat and drink. Why not pop by our guide to eating in Iceland to find out more?

Check out more fun excursions in the capital on our Reykjavik Tours.

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