Amazingly, beer only became legal in Iceland in 1989, and every weekend Reykjavik’s small population of 120,000 does its best to make up for lost time. An eclectic collection of bars and clubs have opened up across downtown Reykjavik, all of them oozing style and character. Skál!
Before diving right into an Icelandic night of Djamm (Icelandic for party), be aware that going out on the town in Reykjavik is expensive.
Be wily and take advantage of the happy hours first. Once they’re over, you’ll be left with wistful memories of the time when beer cost only a small fortune.
But it’s also important to pace yourself, because nights in Iceland start late – locals don’t even think about leaving their houses until their own stores of alcohol are depleted, usually at 1am or after.
The bar Bravó has one of the best happy hours in the city, stretching for a lengthy nine hours from 11am until 8pm. Gently lit tables and colourful cushions give this place a loveable charm, serving up beers at kr. 700 (US $7).
Another great place to pick up a happy hour deal is at Kex Hostel. From 3pm to 7pm you can grab a beer or wine for kr. 650 (US $6) in the suave hostel bar that is frequented by locals and travellers alike.
Beer fanatics should head to the cosily lit basement that is Micro Bar, renowned for its relaxed atmosphere and wide selection of Icelandic craft brews.
If you fancy a cocktail, check out Pablo Discobar. Upon entering, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into a tropical disco – jungle-themed walls and a ceiling made of mirrors help distract from the cold weather outside.
Pay homage to Reykjavik by jamming yourself in to Kaffibarinn, part of the old guard of bars in the city. Its London tube sign out in front is iconic. On the weekend the dance floor heaves with crowds, so get ready to be jostled.
Afterwards, head to Prikið, another Icelandic institution. Prikið feels more like a crowded house party than a bar. Hip hop blares out over two floors, perfect for frantic dancing and meeting the locals who will no doubt encourage you to drink the “Icelandic Black Death,” also known as Brennivín.
Húrra is one of the best bars in Reykjavik, and space on the dance floor seems endless. Nonetheless, this bar gets busy at around 2am with an enthusiastic and young crowd. Afterwards, head next door to Paloma, the best spot to dance till dawn.
Fortify yourself for the walk home with a stop at Nonnabiti. Possibly the final rite of passage before you can safely call yourself a Reykvíkingur, the tasty subs here always help to stabilise even the most beer-befuddled individual.
Want to know more about Iceland? Check out our podcast. We chat about where to capture the best photos in Iceland, how to speak like a Viking (almost), and how a social policy got the country to the World Cup.
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