I don’t tend to write many “Where to Stay” and “Where to Eat” posts, because frankly I’m usually staying in total dumps and eating a monotonous diet of whatever is cheapest. But as I’ve mentioned before, this trip was a total treat because it was sponsored by My Generous Mom™. Reykjavik was the absolute perfect destination for such a luxe trip because we really got to experience some of the style, design, and flair for the unique that makes the city famous.
While Reykjavik is brimming with accommodation options, two really stand out as “design hotels” — Hotel 101 and Centherhotel Thingholt. Both boast similar amenities and style, though Thingholt is about 60% of the price, which made our decision infinitely easier!
Um, can you say gorgeous? I was completely enamored with Thingholt’s sleek design and innovative use of materials like leather floors and cork side tables. This might be one of the most chic hotels I’ve ever stayed in and reminded me slightly of the brilliant Witt Hotel in Istanbul — though, you know, they’re both mainly competing with threadbare hostels in Southeast Asia.
We stayed at Thingholt for four nights and it’s downtown location was perfect for exploring Reykjavik on foot. As three of us were sharing a room, so we stayed in a split-level Loft Suite. By American standards, the room might be considered a bit cozy but I think it was a fair representation of Icelandic sizing! A major plus at Thingholt was a delicious hot breakfast was included, which seems to be a rarity in Iceland.
One thing to keep in mind for any downtown hotel in Reykjavik in the summer months is to bring an eyemask and earplugs. The sun is 24 hours and blackout curtains are hit or miss, and on Friday and Saturday nights downtown Reykjavik turns into one massive nightclub and revelers will go until at least 6am. My mother, who is very sensitive to light and sound, was reduced to waking my sister and I up in the middle of the night and asking us to do shots of vodka with her. We responded with polite refusals and furtive smartphone searches for the Betty Ford Clinic. Highly recommended.
Centherhotel Thingholt, On Aðalstræti, 101 Reykjavik, +354 595 8500
After a three day roadtrip around the Northwest coast of Iceland, we swung back through Reykjavik for one final night and decided to shake things up by staying somewhere new. Our selection, Hotel Borg, is less of a boutique-y design hotel and more of a historic landmark. The art deco style is accented by enormous rooms and luxurious bathrooms.
Best of all, the blackout curtains and noise insulation were the best we experienced in all of Iceland, which meant we were well-rested for our flights out the following day. Recommended.
Hotel Borg, On Posthusstraeti, 101 Reykjavik, +354 551 1440
We had read ahead of time that dining in Iceland is a costly expenditure, but wow — they weren’t kidding. Across the board, our meals in Iceland featured small portions (fine with us!), high quality ingredients, creative presentation, and high prices.
We were lured into Höfnin by the brightly colored turquoise exterior — and we weren’t disappointed.
The charming upper and lower dining rooms provide excellent views over the harbor and a setting for the most delicious homemade bread in all of Iceland. The menu was, appropriately for the location, heavy on fish, but also had standout chicken, beef and lamb dishes. Highly recommended.
Höfnin, Harbor front, +3545112300
Yes, we are the kind of family that goes to an Italian restaurant in Iceland. What? With fresh and familiar homemade pastas and relatively reasonable prices, this place won us right over.
The incredibly adorable and cozy interiors didn’t hurt the case, either! Recommended.
Hornið, On Hafnarstraeti, +354 551 3340
Iceland has a kind of hilarious obsession with their own special brand of “fast food” — mostly hot dogs, which are the food-of-choice for late night revelers or those on a budget. Before hopping on a whale watching boat, we sampled a similar level of cuisine — burgers, fries and shakes to go — from this charming little one room hut in the harbor. For value and convenience and yes, charm! — Recommended.
Hamborgarabullan, Harbor front, 011-354-511-1888.
Blogger-favorite cafe Laundromat was on my list before we even landed in Iceland. Though a long wait and huge crowds could have been a turn off, we were still swooning post-brunch thanks to a cheerful and colorful interior, and indulgent breakfast menu and a jovial atmosphere. Highly recommended.
Laundromat, On Austurstræti, +354 587 7555
Perlan was our big dining splurge. Sitting atop the city’s water tanks, Perlan won us over with it’s revolving dining room and beautiful views over all of Reykjavik. Don’t worry about getting motion sickness — the entire rotation takes two hours.
The setting was sublime, however our service experience at Perlan kind of summed up all of our dining experiences in Reykjavik. When we walked in the servers all kind of stared at us like, “What are you doing here?” until we awkwardly asked for a table. I know there are a lot of flaws with the American tipping system but I do appreciate the ensuing service with a smile!
The dining room was very formal, not at all like the more casual and funky places we had been dining. But the food was delicious and the chef sent out complimentary appetizers, which was a nice touch.
Throughout the meal, however, we could barely tear our eyes away from the view! After dinner we sprinted out to the deck for a photo shoot before our cab arrived (this was the only instance of our entire stay in Reykjavik that we took a cab — it’s a super walkable city!)
Perlan is definitely a splurge and a tad stuffy for my taste, but worth it for the fun experience of the revolving dining room and the superb views. If you don’t feel like dining there, you could always have a drink from the bar instead! Highly recommended.
Perlan, Outside town, 011-354-562-0200
Have you been to Reykjavik? Where did you stay and eat?
glad to see that the Betty Ford Clinic is highly recommended!
That’s what you meant, right?
It was either that or the vodka shots.
But seriously: as someone who lived six years in Alaska, I can completely relate to the need for darkness and quiet, however you can do it.
For any traveler to the North, eyemask and earplugs are a GREAT tip…
They are definitely a must in the summer in Iceland! I can’t imagine what its like in the flip side… I think if I went to Iceland in the winter I would need a sun lamp.
Have enjoyed every pic. Looks like an entrancing site. Gram E
Thanks Gram! We definitely got to experience some luxury on this trip 🙂
great photos of some super swank places. those hotels rooms look amazing. can i live there?
I would have been more than happy to move into either of these hotels! Thingholt was especially right up my alley 🙂
These photos are spectacular!!!!!!! If I hadn’t been to Iceland already, I would have just bought a ticket!
Thanks Andi! I think if you ever return to Iceland you’re going to have to check out Thingholt… it’s your kind of place!
Perlan looks like an amazing resturant. I want to go just for the ambiance and view, just sipping on great wine!
I can’t imagine sunlight 24 hours in the summertime. Even with blackout curtains or a mask, I would think your body would still be confused? You mom was on the right track…drink until you pass out and can’t hear the noise! lol
How long does summer last in Iceland?
Someone asked me this question on an earlier post and I said I thought June-August, but a local popped in and said that August is actually almost fall time!
Would definitely use this guide if I visit Reykjavik! Though would love to know more about the prices though coz I’ve heard from friends how expensive the city could be
Amer, this is definitely a pricey city. These hotels are well out of my own personal price range, but I know that there are some great hostels in town if I return again on my own!
Your photos look great! I can’t wait to go to Iceland myself!
Thanks! It’s definitely a buzz country right now, it feels like half the bloggers on the internet are there!
Hey, nice hints. I ate Plokkfiskur in Höfnin Restaurant a few weeks ago. It was so delicious. But in the Westfjords this tastes still better. 😉
Unfortunately we didn’t make it far north enough to fit the Westfjords! I’d love to return someday and do the Right Road, and I hope to visit then…
Can’t wait for our trip to Iceland in early June. We already have reservations for Centerhotel Thingholt so I was really excited to hear your review. We’re also planning a self-drive tour of the Golden Circle and yours was the first blog I read about self touring rather than a guided tour. I’ m not much of a bus tour type of person.
Awesome Diana, you’re going to love Centerhotel! And I hope this gave you some inspiration for the self-drive tour… definitely the best way to go! Enjoy Iceland!
In Reykjavik we Couchsurfed (just out in hafnarfjörður actually), ate at Seabaron, the hot dog place and Hamborgarafabrikkan).
That sundial (??) thing is pretty cool!
This comment reminds me how much I love the place names in Iceland! What a crazy wonderful place 🙂
I went to Iceland for my 26th birthday last year and 3 of stayed at the Icelandair Marina Hotel in Reykjavik. It was such a great budget stay. It felt like a trendy college dorm room with an extremely large comfy lofted bed and couch seating area. The whole place was quirkely decorated and they had a great ‘library’ room as well as a very lively bar that even the locals partied at. I highly recommend it. I would stay there again.
Thanks for the recommendation, Kristen! I will check that out when I eventually return 🙂
Hi! Great pics! My family and I have lived in Reykjavik for almost three years and to answer the summer question, well it’s really like a long, drawn out Autumn (which suits me fine) but the winters are really, really mild. Best time to visit (and unfortunately the busiest time) is from late May to Sept. The weather is still suitable for camping and such right until the end of October or early Nov. The worst of the winter is now, January/Feb. I joke that is not called winter but winder…very windy here..
I like that term, winder 🙂 You live in a beautiful city!
Good tips and great pictures! 🙂
Thank you Eirik! I loved these spots, loved gushing about them even more!
Looks like you tried some great places. Have to say we enjoyed Grillmarkadurrin a lot for some higher end local flavours, we were stuffed half way through the tasting menu but had to carry on because it was so tasty. The famous hot dog stand (Baejarins Betsu Pyslur) where Bill Clinton and various other celebrities have eaten was a bit overrated but I guess it’s a must-try. And the Icelandic pizzas with cream cheese toppings are a great idea!
Thanks for all the suggestions — I’ll definitely try them out next time I’m around!
We absolutely must see Perlan on our next trip to Reykjavik. We were in Iceland for two nights – so little time for such a wonderful place. There is so much to see.
Absolutely! But hopefully you got a little taster and are now inspired to go back for longer next time 🙂
Of course you’ve been to Iceland! I just booked a 1-night stopover coming home from Zurich this summer and took to Google to find travel blogs on what to do…this is a great list, thanks!
Convinced my mom and sister to go a few years back and did not regret the manipulation 😉 Neither did they in the end… they loved it!
My favorite dining experience in Iceland was a restaurant called Fish! Delicious!
I’ll add that to my list for my next trip 🙂 Thanks for the tip!