Nightlife in Reykjavík


Traveling is mostly about enjoying the local attractions of a certain place which has made it renowned in the world like Iceland is all about natural landscapes, sites, and wonder which can seldom be found anywhere else in the world. But, the not-so-little known fact is that there are a lot of other things that are not in the conventional description of the place but play an equal part in creating the aura of the place and making it the complete vacation package that these beautiful spots are. Iceland, especially the capital city or Reykjavik, has its amazing parties and nightlife that will have you rendered completely speechless.

Recent years have been very happening for the nightlife of Reykjavík. It has gained a lot of tourist attention as well as been featured in many tourist magazines. Reykjavík has several bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and lounges for the tourists to indulge in some material pleasure. From traditional settings to the contemporary ones and everything else in the middle, the city has everything which ensures that everyone can find something that suits their preferences. Chugging some beer, relaxing with some gourmet food, or doing some art and craft activities, there is nothing that you won’t in the beautiful busy streets of Reykjavík.

Hallgrimskirkja church at night in Reykjavik

The Culture

Several things make Reykjavík’s nightlife special and worth experiencing. While one may think that what a small city with very limited residents can offer for nightlife in comparison to metro cities around the world but it is this crudeness that makes Reykjavík special along with many other things. The small city means that every single thing is close by at a walking distance.

There are no queues or waiting lines and dress code is not a thing. You can throw on any kind of outfit but aim for something informal and chic. Most clubs and bars do not collect entrance fees and stay open till late. Iceland folks are all about late-night adventures and most of them do not even set out to party before midnight. Many joints stay open till 4 or 5 am on weekends.

There will always be a choice of a busy, music-busting place and the peaceful ones with mellow music and some great options for drinks. And since everything is packed so closely, you can jump from one to another in no time. While almost all international liquor choices are available, Icelanders choose beer as their go-to drink. Cocktails have been pretty popular in recent times among the tourists.

Parties can be wild in Iceland. Celebrations are always welcome in every form as long as they are safe and peaceful. Everything is appreciated in the spirit of fun. For example, it would not be considered weird or rude if you climb on the bar with a drink in hand to dance and add some more zing to that famous pop song.

bonfire on new years in Iceland

Partying in Reykjavík

Is it Safe?

Well, this question turns into a rhetorical one considering that Iceland is the safest country in the world with the lowest level of the crime rate. The locals are very peaceful and friendly. So, you do not need to worry about your safety when visiting clubs late at night. The chances of you getting robbed or assaulted are very unlikely. The presence of alcohol may make people a bit more outgoing than one may prefer to deal with but it will be nothing to worry about. If any unlawful or unethical behavior is witnessed by anyone, then the police handle it right away.

Age Limit and Dress Codes

While the dress code ceases to exist, the age limit to enter the bars of the capital city is 20 years. You will likely be asked for an ID if you are one of those blessed people who look younger than they are. So, make sure you are carrying something like your passport or driving license which can identify your age. Also, do not forget that Iceland is very cold and you need to wear warm layers even when dressing up fashionably. Include jackets, hats, and scarves in your outfit to make sure you are warm.

Timings of the Bars and Clubs

Bars and clubs close early on the weekdays. Almost every bar will stop serving drinks by 1 am but some may stay open till 2. Most clubs start functioning in their full capacity around midnight and gain life by 2 o’clock in the night on weekends and stay open till 5 o’clock or so. Friday, and Saturday are the days when Icelanders come out to party. Many bars and clubs may have some kind of after party going on and if you are lucky, you may even get invited.

The Pre-Party Spree

Almost every big city with clubs starts to get the crowd as soon as the evening falls but that is not the case in Iceland. Since the party begins at midnight, it is a good idea to make some pre-party plans in the capital city. Pre-party culture is quite a thing in Iceland. People often choose to gather at home, have a few drinks, and then head out to the clubs. So, it is better if you plan a trip across the famous party street of Reykjavík for a little shopping or food hunt.

Scout the Happy Hours

Iceland clubs are big on happy hours so you need to scout the places with happy hours before you go out. Apart from the places which keep aside a few hours every day as happy hours, every club and bar has separate days when they put on happy hour. One way to track these is the Appy hour application.

Light up Outside

Smoking inside the clubs and bars is strictly prohibited in the country. If you plan to smoke, stepping out will be the right and respectful thing to do. There are a few places that allow smoking inside the building so you can choose to visit them if you prefer smoking inside.

Tipping is Optional but Appreciated

One of the most important parts of the food and beverage service industry is tipping. While it may be a common thing in countries like the United States, Icelanders are not very used to the gesture. So, when we say tipping is optional it means that servers, bartenders, and other staff members are not expecting a tip from the customers. But as it is in the service industry, a tip is always appreciated so go ahead if you feel like that you should tip your server, wait staff, or anyone else.

What About Cabs?

You will not be able to find an Uber in Iceland so the best chance of getting a cab back to the hotel is by standing the queue for the local cabs. Yes, there are queues for cabs as so many people come out to the party. This is the quickest way to get the cabs. If you are sober enough and your hotel is close enough then you can also take a stroll back to the hotel.

Getting Over Hangover

The not-so-fun part of partying is the hangover that most of us get the very next morning. Luckily, Iceland is filled with hot spots that offer a relaxing time. If you do not prefer to stay in bed and drink lemonade when hungover than try taking a dip in one of the geothermal pools,  or taking a stroll in the street, finding a cute coffee shop, and enjoying a nice warm cup of americano.

Restaurant in Reykjavik

Top Places for your Night Out in Reykjavík

Laugavegur – The Street That Has It All

Laugavegur street is one of the oldest and busiest streets of the capital city dating back to 1885. The street is full of shopping spots, restaurants, bars, and clubs which are always crowded with tourists and locals. Summers especially rewarding for the area as vehicles are banned in the street so that tourists can have full access and mobility in the street.

Hverfisgata and Austurstræti

Even though this street is quieter in comparison to Laugavegur street, it still has some great places to hang around. It is located right beside Laugavegur street. Another great street that Laugavegur street leads to is Austurstræti which is known for the lively nightlife joints.

Top Bars in The Capital City

  • Kaffibarinn: Popularly known as KB, Kaffibarinn is one of the best-known bars in Reykjavík. It was also featured in a movie 101. The club mostly plays electro and other alternative music is frequented by a lot of Icelanders. If you like hip and happening places that are loaded with people all the time then this could be your place to be.
  • Sæmundur: This Gastropub is located in Kex hostel and is heaven for all true beer lovers out there. The pub was built in a local factory so the appearance is quite rustic and the reservoir of liquor is quite big. From draft beer to local lagers, craft beers, and ales, the selection is never-ending. The best thing according to the owners is the bar snacks so make sure that you try them.
  • Húrra: This is the place to be if you plan in drinking and dancing like Vikings. Húrra has it all – a sit-down area, a louder sit-down area with music, a very busy and big dance floor, live performances, and even a smoking area. Even though the place has a sitting area, people will be surprised to see someone going to Húrra and then sit. This place is all about letting loose.
  • Kiki: This is the only gay club in the city and it is open for everyone to join in. Kiki is quite well-known for its dance-spirit, colorful drinks and a beautiful rainbow painted building which can be spotted right off the bat. As far as dancing bars are concerned, Kiki could be the winner. The music played here is from the top hits around the world so you will soon find yourself vibing with it.
  • Microbar: Another great pick for a bar with a good choice of beer, Microbar is known for its wide collection of both local and international beers. They also offer samples the customers seem to be confused. The place is quirky, popular, and small so, if you like off-the-beaten-track pubs then this is it for you.
  • Skúli Craft Bar: Another place with a wide collection of beers, Skúli is could be the top on the list of best beer bars around the city. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable about the liquor that they serve so when in doubt, you can always approach them. Local breweries are the focal point of this bar so get ready for a treat.
Harpa concert hall at night

Cocktail Bars

  • Bar Ananas: A beach-themed bar, the set up of Ananas is like a beach of Bahamas with sand all over the floor and a bench themed sitting arrangement. Mellow weather adds to the charm of this place and the fabulous cocktails that they serve complete the picture.
  • Pablo Discobar: If you like the wordplay here, then it is a sure thing that you would love the funky but stylish ambiance of this pub. The minimum age to enter here is 25 but only occasionally. The cocktails served here are a bit pricier than other bars but worth it. And it is also a great spot for dancing.
  • Bryggjan Brewery: Homebrewed beers, delicious food, quirky cocktails, and a beautiful view are the brand component of this beautiful bar. Bryggjan is located a little outside the central area near the harbor which means that it hosts a gorgeous view from the sitting area. Choose this particular place if you prefer this kind of set up for your
  • Apotek: This bar was designed by the state architect of the capital city and is named after the pharmacy that used to be in its place before. Apotek means pharmacy in Icelandic. This beautiful place is one of the pubs in the city with the fanciest of interiors. The presentation alone will win your heart before you get to taste their fantastic cocktails.

The 40+ Bars

These particular bars are for the people who are more mature like fine wine and would like to spend their evenings relaxing in a lounge rather than partying in a club or pub. Most of these bars are frequented by middle-aged people and also serve as the mating and dating grounds for the same group. The food and drinks that you will find here are exquisite in every sense and the ambiance is very refreshing and calm at the same time. If you like dim lighting, cozy surroundings, a scrumptious menu, and delicious drinks then any one of these places can be your spot to be.

  • Kaldi Bar: You will see many businesswomen and men taking full advantage of the happy hours.
  • Vedur: Another popular spot among working professionals, choose this for long happy hours and a cozy atmosphere.
  • Snaps Bistro Bar: The food here is especially well-known for its amalgamation of Icelandic and Gallic influences. The dim lighting, relaxed vibes, and large windows take you back into the vintage time for a nice evening with friends and family.
Nightlife in Reykjavik (6)

The Occasion Special Joints

  • Hipster Bar: Kaffibarinn – The top bar in the capital city is also the best bar to find some hipster culture.
  • Hip-Hop Joint: Prikið – This is one of the oldest establishments of the capital city which combines diner and saloon in one. The dance nights are all about hip-hop here and food is as greasy as it gets.
  • Happy Hour Bar: Bar Ananas – Happy hours combined with a beach-themed decor means nothing but fun.
  • Good-Weather Bar: Petersen Svítan – An open-air bar that is perfect to enjoy the nice mild weather of Icelandic summers.
  • Rock Music Bar: Dillon – A premium whiskey bar with live performances from several rock bands.

Special Events

  • Sónar Reykjavík

Sónar Reykjavík is an art, design, and electronic festival that takes place in the city annually. The festival happens in Harpa concert hall which is packed with locals and tourists alike. There are several events in the festival related to art, culture, designing, and music. Young artists represent and exhibit their work in the initial stages of the fest and the end is marked with a fabulous live music concert featuring several top artists – both local and international. The nightlife of the capital becomes several folds amazing with the arrival of Sónar every year.

  • Secret Solstice Festival

This festival takes place in June and is held in the Laugardalur area of the city. This particular festival is held under the midnight sun every year on the day of the summer solstice which usually falls around 21st June. This music festival is no short of food, banter, live performances, and drinks.

Almost all the bars which function mainly at night and the festivals are free of entry charges so you will never have to worry about spending more than you should have. The experience you will have is all that matters here and given the availability of options and the ambiance of the places, it is guaranteed that you will have the time of your life here.

Icelandic food
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