Three Weeks in Europe - Iceland through food

One of our favorite things about traveling is getting to try local cuisine! Since we were only in Iceland for a day and a half, we didn't get to try too many different things, but what we did eat was delicious!

While wandering down the main shopping street in Reykjavik, Laugavegur, we stumbled across the Public House Gastropub, where they had sort of an Asian-Iceland fusion menu. This menu included many things you wouldn't necessarily see in America (like local seafood), but nothing was too crazy looking. Also, the names of several dishes were either punny or pop-culture references! We very much enjoyed it here, even down to the beautifully assembled wooden tables!

I also needed a caffeine boost, so I went to Kaffe & Te, which seems to be a little chain in that area.

For dinner in Reykjavik, we relied on Anthony Bourdain's expertise (always a solid choice), and went to Prir Frakkar, which translates to "Three Frenchmen" or "Three Overcoats" (because I guess a Frenchman is a type of overcoat...?). In the Iceland episode of "No Reservations", he went to this restaurant, and in the past he's steered us right, so we thought we'd give it a go. This was definitely a bit pricey, but we enjoyed the authentic Icelandic seafood dishes, and would definitely recommend it to anyone going through the city.

Both restaurants we went to in Reykjavik had the same brand of local beer, Einstök, so we had that, as well 🍻

Also, we got to experience an Icelandic continental breakfast at our hotel, where they had meats, cheeses, crackers, cereal, veggies (cucumbers and bell peppers for breakfast? ok), fruit, and... caviar in a tube. Odd, but at least it gave us a literal taste of what's normal on this island.

The next day in Keflavik, we had a hard time finding something open that was an actual restaurant, and not a convenience store, but we eventually stumbled upon a Thai buffet, where we stuffed our faces, since we were about to leave for the airport and didn't really know how soon dinner would be. This meal was very satisfying, and, while not local cuisine, all of the ingredients were fresh and local, because they don't import food products to the island (at least according to a nice woman we met and chatted with).

In the airport, we decided to try Brennivin, the local liquor of choice, which was also recommended by Anthony Bourdain. It's kind of like Schnapps, flavored with caraway. Pretty easy to drink, but they call it the "Black Death". I also found Kinder Eggs at the duty free shop in the airport, which was super fun!

On our way home from our big adventure, we had another (smaller) layover in Iceland, where we just ate at the airport. That restaurant was called Nord, and they had delicious pizzas! I got lobster on mine, while Nathaniel got chorizo and truffle. 😋 I also got a coffee at Joe & The Juice where they had a funny tip jar, which I think was poking fun at Americans...

While I know this is not a lot to go off of since we had such a short stay, I can say that we enjoyed the food at each place we stopped, but the restaurants in Reykjavik were our favorites.

And now I'm hungry 😉

"Nigiri" at Public House - made with beef, garlic crisps, and truffle!

Fish in a tube...?

Perfect pre-flight libations

Pizza & coffee at the airport

Tip jar at the Airport cafe😂

Three Weeks in Europe - Iceland Sights and Attractions

In researching flights for our trip, I found that IcelandAir has more reasonably priced flights than many other airlines, and they have a feature they call #MyStopover, which basically means you can make your layover in Iceland last a few days, rather than missing out on a whole extra country during your layover. We landed in Iceland around 6:30 AM and left around 4 PM the next day, which gave us one full day in Reykjavik, and a morning in Keflavik, where the airport is located.

On our day in Reykjavik, we walked and walked, seeing as much as we could by foot. Our first stop was Hallgrímskirkja, a church made to look like a viking ship, complete with a Leif Eriksson out front. We walked all around it, and each angle is quite stunning. Inside the cathedral, there is a huge organ, which hangs out into the room. We also went to the top of the bell tower, which had lovely views of the city, and all the multi-colored rooftops.

We walked along the coast, seeing a large ship in dry dock being repaired, a large yacht with smaller boats going in and out of it (think James Bond), and we saw a huge glass building that ended up being the Harpa Concert Hall. The pieces of glass are arranged in an almost honeycomb pattern, and a few pieces here and there are different colors. Seeing the sun shine through onto the floor was just beautiful! And the ceiling was made of mirror in a similar pattern - it was fun trying to find our reflections! If/when we come back, I think we'll try to see a concert here!

We also walked past the Government House, where the prime minister’s office it. We also walked to Höfði, which is the house where Gorbachev and Reagan met in 1986. There is a statue of Gorbachev out front, too.

For a brief break from the chilly sea breeze, and to get off our feet, we wandered into the Volcano House, where they’ve got rocks, geodes and ash you can actually touch, and two short documentaries about how volcanic eruptions have impacted their island. It was a bit overpriced, but it was a place to sit in the dark and relax 😜

Eventually we got to City Hall, which is home to a huge topographical map of Iceland. Right next to City hall is a pond and a park with lots of birds. We wandered a bit there, sat and watched a fountain get fixed, and watched some rowdy ducks and swans.

We were absolutely exhausted by the end of this day, but we felt very good about how much we saw in one day!

Our morning in Keflavik was very quiet. I don’t think the town gets started as early as we did (around 10 am)! We walked along the coast there, and made it to the marina where we stopped for Nathaniel to take pictures. The marina is right next to a hiking trail, which we decided to explore. The trail goes along a cliff overlooking the water, and the views were very pretty.

After our hike, we saw another path near the beginning of the trail. This one had huge painted footprints on it, and it led to a little hut/cave in the cliff. This was home to a Giantess, who is asleep in the cave. She is a character from a popular children’s book in Iceland. Totally random, but a fun surprise that we just stumbled into.

On the Baldur

They’ve also got a boat called “Baldur” on display not too far down the coast. This was the first fishing boat in Iceland with the bridge on the front. The more you know.

Getting to see these two cities showed us that we can very effectively see a lot of things in a short amount of time, but if/when we come back, we think we'll spend a bit more time in Iceland. Perhaps we'll rent a 4-wheel-drive car and explore the terrain of the island, and also save our pennies to go to the Blue Lagoon. It's a hot spring warmed by the lava. You have to book way in advance ($$$) to get a time you actually want to go, and if you don't have a car, it can be a bit pricey to get there. Side note: all energy on the island is green, geothermal energy!

We went to Iceland with basically no idea what to do, but ended up having a blast just exploring on foot. We used that philosophy for the rest of our trip, and I’d highly recommend it for anyone looking for some random adventure.

Hallgrímskirkja

Harpa Concert Hall

Höfði

Topographical map at City Hall

Feisty water birds

At the Keflavik Marina

On our hike

The Giantess