Reykjavik Food WalkPublished: 19. June 2017
It should come as no surprise by now that I love food. I’ve already shared my favourite budget eats around Reykjavík as well as my burger experience on Vestmannaeyjar. What if I told you there was an epic tour named Reykjavík Food Walk dedicated to traditional foods of Iceland? And what if I also told you the tour consisted of eating your way through downtown? If this isn’t a dream tour, I don’t know what is!
So I had to get in touch with the owners of Wake Up Reykjavík who kindly accommodated Happy Campers in the morning. Now you’re probably thinking, “Lea, you ate rotten shark, sheep’s head, and Brennivín in the morning?”. Although it’s correct to say these are traditional fare, Wake Up Reykjavík chooses to take a different approach and share what locals love to eat today, showing family-run businesses, unknown hangouts, and the newest shops on the block. All of these food destinations take pride in their creations, so it was of utmost importance we arrived with an empty stomach and open mind.
First and foremost, the food tour experience wouldn’t have been as fun as it was if our tour guide wasn’t with us. Bára exuded confidence like a ray of sunshine and made her 6 guests forget about the grey and cloudy skies hovering above Reykjavík. We first met her inside Harpa Concert Hall (our meeting point) right on time. In terms of our camper, we parked across the street and paid for a few hours, but you can easily walk from the main campsite in Laugardalur on a nice day. Bára quickly introduced herself and didn’t hesitate to learn about each and every one of us. Learning she was a mega foodie like myself, I knew this was the perfect tour for me and anyone who enjoys trying new food!
Júlia og Júlia
After a short walk from Harpa to Hverfisgata, we made it to Safnahús (Culture House) where the charming café was located. We were promptly served large bowls of country-made skyr (like yogurt, but thicker, like cheese) sourced from a local farmer rather than the store bought stuff. It’s important to note I’m not the biggest fan of skyr, but absolutely adored this version due to the creaminess!
All satisfied, Bára and the rest of us continued the chatter as the smell of baked goods wafted through the air. Out came personal sized chocolate chip cookies baked into the tiniest cast iron skillets I ever laid eyes on. Who knew we’d be eating both a nutritious breakfast item and delectable dessert at 10 in the morning?!
Menu: Country style skyr with blueberries, sugar, rjoma & skillet cookie
Verdict: This new café has cute written all over it and I will definitely return for that ooey-gooey skillet cookie (and more than likely try everything else!).
Another quick walk up Skólavörðustígur we found ourselves in front of a modest storefront: “The Cheese Shop”. Instead of sitting in the dining room, all of us walked straight to the deli counter where one can order for take away. Our sample platter consisted of unique meats and cheeses. Most I loved and others, well, I did try everything!
On one hand, the black gouda, smoked goose breast, and dare I say, cured horse made my taste buds go wild with all the incredible flavour, especially with the addition of the raspberry vinaigrette and champagne vinegar accompaniment. On the other hand, the other cheeses were slightly strong for my liking, but rather enjoyable.
Menu: Black gouda, gull ostur, mild and creamy blue cheese & cured horse fillet, cured sheep, smoked goose breast with raspberry vinaigrette and champagne vinegar
Verdict: If I’m looking for unique and local cured meats, Ostabúðin will be my go-to shop to impress. I also heard about the chocolate cake, which is now on my to-eat list!
This family-run establishment of traditional fare can be found across the way from Hallgrímskirkja and just so happens to have a great view of the church façade and Leifur Eiriksson statue. While we waited, Bára described the colourful mural on the one side of the room, depicting sagas of Loki, his enemies, and lovers. It was a bit complicated to follow at moments, unlike the plates we were served.
I couldn’t resist digging into the one-of-a-kind ice cream first, the highlight of my tour. Now imagine a scoop of rye bread ice cream sitting on a fresh skillet cookie from Júlia og Júlia. Drool! The creamy plokkfiskur and salmon on top of rye bread were also tasty and impressed on their own.
Menu: Rye bread ice cream with dark chocolate bits topped with rhubarb syrup, rye bread with plokkfiskur & rye bread with graflax and cottage cheese
Verdict: Café Loki is definitely going onto my list of top ice cream destinations in Iceland. The plokkfiskur worked rather well on the rye bread, too!
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
As we took the corner onto a familiar street, I knew exactly where our next stop would be. If someone asked me what the classic street food is in Reykjavík, hands down it would be a hot dog with everything (ein pylsu med öllum) found at the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. Bára noted this vendor has stood in its place since 1937! That’s 80 years of delicious lamb based hot dogs topped with onions two ways and a bunch of savoury sauces. Even Bill Clinton made it to BBP when he visited Iceland during his travels as president (see timeline beside the building).
Menu: Hot dog with everything
Verdict: Expect a line up any time of the day, but it’s worth the wait for this excellent, yet, yummy bite on the streets.
Stefan B. Chocolatier
Bára led us to our 5th destination, which was more of a snack and great way to follow the hot dog. The chocolate scene in Iceland is always growing and Stefan B. Chocolatier is a great example, showcasing a simple treat with a unique twist. A twist of flavours, that is. The cola pop rocks and grape pieces surprisingly worked well against chocolate. And my favourite aspect was the suggestions board where customers can write their fun ideas for a new flavour. It’s obvious this company knows a lot about their product considering they’ve been around as a brand for ages, but only just opened their flagship store a month or two ago.
Menu: Cola, grape, bubble gum, almond & banana
Verdict: This new flagship shop is the ideal souvenir destination for local products and exclusive tastes. They even have beer-infused chocolate if that's your thing!
It paid off to wear a pair of stretchy pants over the course of this tour, because at this point, I was bursting. But we had one more dish to sample and I wasn’t going to give up that easy! Our group was seated in the cozy corner of Kopar by the staircase and right before we dug into our creamy shellfish soup, I asked our kind waiter to snap a group photo to remember this lovely moment.
After Kopar, we said our goodbyes. But not without a surprise from Bára! She left us with the best gift ever: Icelandic milk chocolate bars so we could take it on the go. It was a thoughtful treat to end our food journey around the city.
Menu: Sourdough bread with sea salt whipped butter & seafood soup with bean sprouts and spinach
Verdict: A stylish, cozy, and family-friendly atmosphere located right on the old harbour. Expect only fresh seafood and stylish décor.
This really is the perfect way to explore Reykjavík if you enjoy walking around and want to sample some of the tastiest Icelandic cuisine. Not only are you able to indulge in foods you may otherwise not of had without the helping hands of Reykjavík Food Walk team, you are also able to experience the different neighbourhoods and scenery of charming Reykjavík. By the way, the tour also runs in the afternoon where the destinations and tasting menu varies. Be sure to choose the right time of the day for your taste buds. Or better yet, take all the tours (I would if I could!).
Until next time, eat lots and be happy!