Iceland has a very peculiar music scene. It’s well known for Secret Solstice, Iceland Airwaves, and many other music festivals, but the local shop scene is also well endowed. 101 is the hub of all things vinyl, LP, and old school. That being said, you can rifle through the stacks and find anything from 1960’s Icelandic Christmas music to the newest etherial band on offer.
My suggestion, roll up your sleeves and get flippin’. There’s plenty of records to check out, new and old. Here are my suggestions for finding the best records in town:
A relatively small shop just off Laugavegur, Reykjavík Record Shop has just a bit of everything and nothing more. This shop is like someone took highly curated Spotify playlists and put them onto the shelves, and the staff is so well educated on their collection, they’ll have no problem helping you find something specific. “What it lacks in size, it makes up for in selection and simplicity. Like Origami Vinyl in Los Angeles, what inventory is available is honestly curated” says Hearts Are Analog.
Owner Reynir Berg Þorvaldsson keeps about two to three thousand pieces in stock year round, about 1/3 new and 2/3 used. On offer are also tote bags only the coolest kids are toting their stuff in, turntables, and t-shirts.
12 Tónar – *Best place to run into an Icelandic musician*
On one of the most picturesque streets in Reykjavík, Skólavörðustígur, you can find 12 Tónar. It’s a community hub of sorts for Icelandic indie artists, as the shop is also a record label for many including Bjork, and Sigur Ros.Gramophone touts it as the best record store in the world saying “you’ll find a strange and wonderful world of recorded music, live music, passionate musical advocacy, charming domestic decoration…and free coffee.”
It’s also one of the best places for rare finds. Down a spiral staircase into their sub-level basement you’ll find all kinds of randomness to suit your fancy. When you’re done, head back up, try some of that great coffee, and strike up a conversation with the shop staff. More than any other shop, they’re most likely to chat music with you.
This record shop isn’t actually located within downtown 101. It’s technically just a couple blocks east in area code 105. Wether that ruins it for you or only makes it more hip, doesn’t matter. You’ll end up there anyway because their selection is the biggest in town, somewhere over 50,000 pieces.
When it comes to vinyl, everyone’s searching for and collecting the rarest pieces. Finding a rare LP here takes no luck. It’s all in the name.
Lucky Records is my neighbourhood shop, so I’m a bit partial to it, but I have to say I love going there because of the live shows they occasionally host and their old juke box. If you’re wondering… Reykjavík Record Shop was started by a guy who worked at Lucky, and Lucky started at Kolaportið Flea Market. Hey, it’s a small town.
If you’re planning a day in Reykjavík on a weekend and haven’t already planned to go to the flea market, you’re sincerely missing out. Not only can you try some fermented shark and try on some wool sweaters, you can also hit up some stalls for records. All in one place!
Usually there are 2 or 3 different stands with records, CDs, DVDs, and the best of other random media from someone’s basement. The market has a lot to offer, but just remember it’s mostly cash-only transactions. Luckily, theres an íslandsbanki ATM inside, and a Landsbanki nearby.
If your time in Reykjavík is limited with a schedule full of glaciers, waterfalls, and gorges, it’s best to stop quick at Bad Taste. It’s right on Laugavegur near Dogma and Sandholt Bakery, almost dead centre on the road. Parking the van might be difficult, but just head up a block to Grettisgata or down a block to Hverfisgata.
Inside, you’ll find a well organised collection and plenty of stories from Icelandic music history. There’s often a musuem-type exhibit of some story or another. Smekkleysa is also a record label and founder Ólafur Engilbertsson notes “from the beginning it was clear that Bad Taste [stood] for the same things that the photocopy poets and indie labels had – sticking out their tongues at the big labels, and creating a forum for work-in-the-corner and superhero types out on the street.” Read the full story here.
Kaffi Vinyl -*For Self-Actualising Your Hipsterdom*
Ever drink an oat milk latte or eat vegan sushi while record shopping and listening to an Icelandic DJ? At a new 101 Reykjavík café, Kaffi Vinyl, you can have all that cake and eat it too. As long as that cake is vegan. Go to listen or go to rummage and shop, but definitely stop by when hungry. It’s no joke vegan, the food is as good as the record selection.
Mengi -*The Not a Record Store Record Store*
Touted as a place for “creative & experimental music & art,” Mengi is the place to go if you want to get a record from none of these other places. It’s way different than those other places. But still has records for sale. So it counts, right? Directly translated from Icelandic, mengi means “set.” Like a music set. Or a set of paintings.
“Mengi is an operation created and managed by artists in Reykjavik, Iceland. Mengi hosts diverse art events, releases music by some of the nations most ambitious musicians, operates an art store and hosts art exhibitions on a regular basis. Mengi has no particular beginning nor an end.”
What does that mean? I’m not sure but you’ll have to go to find out for yourself.
Some of my other suggestions for perusing records include:
Canopy Coffee Bar
I know, a hotel? You’re campervanning, why am I recommending this? Well, it’s quite possibly the nicest hotel lobby in all of Reykjavík proper with a stunning fireplace and decked out café. Beneath the counter are tons of records to play if you’re sticking around.
Reykjavik Roasters Kárastigur
Reykjavík Roasters is one of my top picks for coffee. It’s also a great spot to listen to a record and zone out, as there’s no wifi at their most popular location.
In the Suburbs, Hafnarfjordur: Pallett Koffikompaní
Check them out, maybe when you’re done with a Reykjavík Food Walk or getting back from a long day INSIDE a volcano.
Ready to Record Shop in Reykjavík?
Some of Michael’s other posts include: