Beer ban gone
If you thought craft beer was big in the UK, that’s nothing compared to how it’s taken off in Iceland, and particularly in Reykjavik.
It’s almost certainly an act of rebellion against the fact that beer was banned from the country until 1989. To mark the day that prohibition was lifted, 1st March is celebrated as Beer Day in Iceland, which can take the form of runtur, or bar crawls, until as late as 4am the next morning.
Nowadays beer is Iceland’s number one alcoholic beverage and there are a number of craft breweries serving strong ales at specialist bars. Two firm favourites are Skuli Craft Bar and Micro Bar, with Skuli being slightly trendier and playing old-school hip hop, whereas Micro Bar tends to be busier. They each have a line-up of Icelandic IPAs on tap, as well as international craft beers by the bottle.
Meanwhile, Bjoorgarourinn – meaning beer garden in Icelandic – has the widest selection of draft beers in Iceland, 22 taps altogether, plus swathes of bottles. This more upscale venue is a gastropub and the staff will be happy to tell you which gourmet sausage goes with your tipple of choice.
Uber-cool music venues
Any fans of the band Blur will want to make a beeline for lead singer Damon Albarn’s bar, Kaffibarinn. Naturally, it’s located in the hip 101 district, where he also owns a house. Adding to its kudos, Albarn co-owns the bar with Baltasar Kormakur, the Icelandic director of the film, Reykjavik 101, for which Albarn composed the soundtrack.
With a nod to its ownership by the Blur singer, the sign for the bar is in the style of a London Underground station, plus you’ll hear indie tracks playing, alongside electro-house numbers. During the week it’s a cafe but come the evenings and weekends, Kaffibarinn has a dancefloor with high-energy DJs plus a seated lounge upstairs for chilling out in.
For a more intimate vibe, Rosenburg has live music playing Tuesday to Saturday every week – it’s the place to listen to jazz and all sorts of other genres while indulging in some great food. You might just find the new Bjork here as they have singer-songwriters playing their own vibe as well as tribute acts like David Bowie wannabees. And it’s all accompanied by plates of lamb, shrimp or Arctic char.
Dress up and stay out
Although nights out in Reykjavik on the whole tend to be pretty laid-back, there are a couple of options for big nights out and places to really dress up for. In fact, one of the only place with a dress code in the whole city is the upmarket cocktail bar, Loftid. Don your glad rags and head there for whiskies and cocktails galore. And, as with so many bars in Reykyavik, the interior is glam but with some serious edge.
The most popular nightclub in the city has to be Austur, in downtown Reykjavik. This sleek club puts top Icelandic DJs behind the decks to pump out music to revellers on the large dancefloor. They serve all the usual drinks, plus you can get Opal vodka liquor, which tastes less like alcohol and more like sweets.