Photo by Jórunn
Wondering what to buy in Iceland but uncertain about the best Iceland souvenirs? Searching for items that best represent the country and will serve as a valuable reminder of your time here? Read ahead for the top Icelandic souvenirs and the best places to look for something unique.
When you walk down the main shopping street in Reykjavik, Laugavegur, most souvenir shops focus on two things: stuffed puffins and stuffed polar bears.
Considering only one of these animals is native to Iceland, it's a bit telling that much of the market is going for a broad appeal rather than one which speaks authentically for this country. As such, that doesn’t necessarily mean these are the best souvenirs from Iceland.
Icelanders have a deep and rich culture, incredible nature, and a unique sense of humor, and there are a wealth of souvenirs that you can buy that represent these qualities.
There are even some Iceland gifts that you can find and take home free of charge.
While some of the Icelandic souvenirs you'll find are overpriced, low-quality, and designed and produced abroad, many others are steeped in Icelandic culture and tell a unique story of the country's character.
From knitwear to alcohol, literature to confections, you’re sure to find something that speaks to you when deciding what to buy in Iceland. Whether you are searching for the best gifts from Iceland for family and friends back home, or perhaps something for yourself, the following items make some of the best Icelandic souvenirs -- and most authentic!
Omnom Chocolate is one of Iceland’s leading chocolate brands, and its bars are excellent souvenirs.
Conceived and produced in Iceland, the company procures the best beans from around the world and blends them with unusual flavors to make some of the country’s most delicious sweets.
There’s a wide range to choose from, but the most traditionally Icelandic is without a doubt the one flavored with licorice (written over here as “Lakkris”) and sea salt.
Licorice is a national passion, and mixing it with chocolate and salt is considered the best way to consume it. If such a combination repulses you, there are many more palatable options, such as dried cherries and walnuts mixed with Nicaraguan chocolate.
You can find Omnom Chocolate in souvenir shops and larger supermarkets. You can also buy them at their factory, where they conduct tours. Why settle for purchasing something “made in Iceland” when you can see it being made too.
If you are looking for a more whimsical souvenir from Iceland, your best bet is probably a Nature Condom. When it comes to Icelandic gifts, this might just be the most entertaining of them all.
Both useful and hilarious, they come in six different phallic designs that reflect the country’s landscapes:
After winning the first Icelandic souvenir competition in 2010, the condoms have taken off as a classic gift representing the great sense of humor and openness regarding sex in “the Land of Explosions” (their tagline, not my phrasing).
While a more unusual souvenir or gift, they’re a lot more entertaining than a fridge magnet, a stuffed puffin, or a postcard.
Photo from Golden Circle and Icelandic Food Tour
Icelandic “delicacies” are not to everyone’s taste, but they’re a true reflection of this unusual country and make for great conversation topics when you return home. What better way to share the experience with your friends back home than by bringing back some edible souvenirs from Iceland.
One of the most palatable snacks is hardfiskur, or dried fish, even if it has a powerful smell. A staple of Icelandic cuisine for centuries, hardfiskur is most often made of cod, wolffish, or haddock.
Many visitors are surprised they enjoy it as it's supposed to be eaten, dipped in butter. For a more gentle taste, go for dried haddock. Or for something more robust, go for the catfish.
Another delicacy is hakarl, the aforementioned fermented shark.
Its smell is a revolting mix of rotted fish and ammonia that should not be underestimated. Though the taste is marginally better, it's still overpoweringly briny.
It takes the better part of a year to produce this product, and it's still prepared the way it has been for centuries.
Sharing this with friends and family when you get home will be an excellent way to remember your holiday and let everyone know a bit of this country’s quirky culinary culture.
If the above options do not appeal, then perhaps you could find longer-lasting and more tasty things to buy in Iceland, like a jar of Icelandic thyme. Otherwise, you might try one of the fancy Icelandic sea salts, which come in different colors and are brimming with natural minerals.
With its pristine water and unrivaled natural beauty, Iceland has developed a reputation as a refreshing, replenishing, and pure destination.
The country is also rich with herbs, algae, and Icelandic silica mud, some of the best quality mud in the world. (Think Dead Sea mud only Icelandic.) All of these are common ingredients in beauty products.
One Icelandic brand that has gained an international reputation for quality is Blue Lagoon, made with -- yes, you guessed it -- natural silica mud from the world-famous Blue Lagoon. They also make an algae mask sourced from the same waters and a variety of other products.
Skyn Iceland and Feel Iceland are two other local beauty product brands well-known and respected for their quality, but these are far from the only ones.
However, the best deals on these and other high-quality Icelandic beauty and skincare products are usually found in the airport’s duty-free shops.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Haukurth No edits made.
The Sagas are incredible works that detail early Icelandic society’s history, culture, and folklore.
They’re also a perfect example of Icelanders’ deep, long-held appreciation for the written word. This is a nation where the greatest heroes are poets, not warriors. Not exactly what you would expect from a country first settled by Vikings; Iceland has a way of surprising visitors like that.
There are dozens of Sagas to choose from, and the most popular can be found in souvenirs and book shops all around the country.
Several texts have a compilation of many of the best ones, which is perfect for those seeking to learn all they can of the history of early Iceland.
These are widely considered the best written and the most influential and were both compiled at the height of medieval writing in Iceland, in the 13th century.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by the Arni Magnusson Institute. No edits made.
Nobody is sure who compiled them; the events documented occurred centuries before and were passed down through oral tradition.
Many suspect Egil’s Saga could have been written by Snorri Sturluson, probably the most important European writer in the medieval era.
Snorri is most famed for writing the works Heimskringla and Edda. Without these works, we would not know a massive amount about Nordic, Celtic and British history, nor about the details of Asatru, the Old Norse Religion.
Photo by Lance Anderson
Although beer has only been legal in Iceland since 1989, the industry and its production have boomed ever since.
Brewing craft beers has become somewhat of a national pastime in Iceland, and now there is a wide selection to choose from.
Einstok, Skuli, Borg and Kaldi are some of the most popular brands. All of these are brewed in Iceland and flavored with local ingredients.
A more historic Icelandic beverage is a caraway flavored spirit called Brennivin. Its potent flavor is usually used to overpower the taste of Hakarl, the traditional dish of fermented shark and #9 on our list of the best things to buy in Iceland.
While this does not seem to speak much for its taste, it's increasing in popularity, both at home and abroad.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Paglop-commonswiki. No edits made.
It is highly recommended that you buy all alcohol souvenirs at the airport duty-free shop, as you won’t be paying taxes and can save nearly half the cost.
Icelandic fashion is forward-thinking, practical, and stylish, with many established and up-and-coming designers producing beautiful and original pieces.
Walking down Laugavegur and the surrounding area, you’ll see many boutiques selling garments that reflect this chic perspective.
For example, the store Herrafataverzlun Kormaks & Skjaldar, on Laugavegur 59, features the high-end men's designs of Kormakur and Skjoldur.
Maria Lovisa Design, meanwhile, caters only to women and offers pieces that stylishly combine fabrics not conventionally put together, such as mixes of leather and wool. It can be found on Skolavordustigur 6b.
Another place to buy classic Icelandic designs is the Geysir store. There’s one at the Geysir Geothermal Area itself, in the Kringlan shopping mall, in Akureyri, and there are two on Skolavordustigur in Reykjavik, at numbers 7 and 16.
There’s a wide range of stylish pieces to choose from, from hats and gloves to coats and blankets.
Photo from Richard Chapman
Iceland has more writers, books sold, and books read per capita than any other country in the world.
Therefore, works of Icelandic fiction are a souvenir that encapsulates the literary tradition of this nation.
Halldor Laxness is Iceland’s only Nobel Prize winner, and the quality of his literature, even in the translations, speaks instantly as to why.
A man of many intrapersonal conflicts and an ever-changing ideology, Laxness’ works painted detailed pictures of Iceland throughout the 20th century when it underwent the pressures associated with urbanization, industrialization, globalism, and the Cold War.
His most esteemed work is undoubtedly “Independent People,” but each of his novels is revered.
If you like to read or know someone who does, Halldor’s books are one of the best souvenirs from Iceland. The most popular ones are available in most souvenir shops around the country and in book stores, where you can also find translations from a wealth of other Icelandic writers.
Photo from Richard Chapman
At Laugavegur 11, the main street in Reykjavik, you can find the Mink Viking Portrait Studio.
Here, Gudmann Thor Bjargmundsson has developed quite the name for himself, dressing his patrons in traditional Viking regalia and taking incredible photographs.
A solo shoot takes 45 minutes to an hour, with group sessions being up to two hours. This includes time for changing, modeling, and choosing the six photographs you want to go home with.
Gudmann is experienced in photography and filmmaking, having worked on Game of Thrones and many other projects.
He is also an expert on old Norse life. The setting, costuming, and weapons are all authentic, and he’ll tell you all about the pieces, their uses, and their history as you dress and pose.
These Viking portraits are increasingly popular, so it’s an excellent idea to book in advance.
Photo by Jórunn
The lopapeysa, or Icelandic wool sweater, is probably the most classic, authentic souvenir you can get from Iceland -- so long as it’s Icelandic made, of course.
Although they only became a symbol of the Icelandic national identity following the nation’s independence from Denmark in 1944, they’re now an integral part of the culture and owned by everyone here.
The appeal of lopapeysas in Iceland’s cold, wet climate is due to the unique quality of Icelandic sheep. Their wool has two different fibers; the outer layer is tough, long, and water-resistant, while the inner layer is soft and insulating.
The sweaters are therefore perfect for keeping you dry and warm.
Nowadays, there are many different colors and designs from which to choose.
Traditionally, however, the wool is undyed, thus either black, white, grey, or brown, and each sweater has at least two colors.
The lopapeysas are knitted in a “yoke pattern.” This means there’s a patterned ring around the neck opening, and the most classic ones have the same motifs around the hem and wrists.
Although they initially did not have hoods or zippers, many do today. You can find lopapeysas in most souvenir shops and many clothing shops.
Of all the things to buy in Iceland, an authentic lopapeysa is easily one of the most iconic souvenirs -- and most useful, provided you live somewhere with a winter.
However, when shopping for lopapeysas in Reykjavik, there are a few things to watch out for.
First, some companies outsource work to China. Therefore many of the sweaters on sale are not authentically Icelandic (some not even made of Icelandic wool) and are very overpriced.
Secondly, the cost can vary greatly depending on where you shop.
Iceland's music scene is incredibly diverse and increasingly popular internationally. It isn’t just Bjork anymore.
As a result, there are many record shops around Reykjavik where you can browse Icelandic music.
Other names to look out for include Vok, Mr Silla, Kiasmos, Emiliana Torrini, Reykjavikurdaetur, Samaris, Retro Stefson, MIMRA, Olafur Arnalds, Hjaltalin, Svavar Knutur, Emmsje Gauti, Svartidaudi, Amabadama, Olof Arnalds, Mum, Valdimar, iRiiS, Hildur, Audur, Solstafir, Glowie, Aron Can, Ragnheidur Grondal and the list goes on and on.
Regardless of your taste in music, you’re sure to find an Icelandic singer or band excellent at performing it.
This is a nation full of musicians, and thus you can easily find Icelandic folk, metal, reggae, jazz, electronic and country music, and the expected pop and rock genres.
Those working in the record stores are passionate about the incredible sounds of this nation and will be more than happy to help and recommend.
While the above choices reflect the diverse culture of Iceland, they’re not the only options of what to buy in Iceland -- or where to buy it. There are many locations across the country where you can browse and find Icelandic souvenirs more suited to your taste and budget.
Continue reading for the best places to find other trinkets that will keep Iceland in your memory.
As mentioned above, Iceland’s nature is there to be appreciated, not to be broken into pieces for everyone to take a part home.
However, there are some things you can take that will not damage the environment.
Taking a bottle or jar and filling it with this sand is completely fine and represents the dramatic geological processes of the country as well as its stark, barren nature.
Something else you can bottle for free in Iceland, without doing any damage, is the fresh mountain air.
This is sold in souvenir shops as a gimmick, but so long as you are happy missing out on the admittedly amusing packaging, you can save yourself some money.
Outside of Iceland, this air is becoming very popular. In the polluted streets of Beijing, it sells for 8 USD a bottle to those desperate for clean, fresh breath, and it has been sold much higher to eccentric millionaires.
Another quirky, free option is taking a bottle of tap or spring water. The country's naturally filtered water is some of the cleanest in the world.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Karl Gunnarsson. No edits made.
Kolaportid, the Icelandic flea market, is cluttered with a hugely diverse array of goods. If you are not sure what to buy in Iceland, this is just the place for you!
With everything from Icelandic sweaters to fishmongers, it's the perfect place to go for the eclectic traveler. It is also a great source of authentic gifts from Iceland for those “hard to shop for” friends and family.
Here, you are likely to find less-known Icelandic books and music, a wide array of clothes, as well as unique and beautiful works from local artists.
Kolaportid can be found on Tryggvagata 19, by the Old Harbour.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Bryan Ledgard. Adaption note: photo cropped from the original image.
For the house-proud looking to bring a sense of clean, unique Nordic style to their home, Hrim is an excellent option for Icelandic souvenir shopping.
It has kitchenware and houseware designed right here in Iceland and chic pieces from other parts of the world.
The prices here are also a lot more reasonable than in the rest of the country. For example, an Icelandic frying pan designed for pancakes can be bought at half the price than in competing stores.
Their shops can be found at Laugavegur 25 and the Kringlan shopping mall.
Puzzled by Iceland is one of the country’s leading design companies. Its products make perfect souvenirs for those seeking something practical and authentic that will always remind them of their time here.
What they have for sale depends on the time of year. You can, however, expect to find an extensive range of clothing items, accessories, and bags.
What makes every product unique is that all bear spectacular images of Iceland’s natural phenomena and wildlife, such as the northern lights, volcanic eruptions, Atlantic puffins, and Icelandic horses.
These souvenirs are designed by the CEO and one of the company founders, Gudrun. Puzzled by Iceland is a family business, with her partner Hoskuldur acting as the “numbers man.”
The items for sale are created with reusable materials for sustainability reasons. This means your souvenir will not have a needless environmental impact like it would if you purchased something mass-produced in and shipped from China.
You can purchase Puzzled by Iceland products online or at their store at Austurstrond 4, 170 Seltjarnarnes (in the greater Reykjavik area).
The Icewear shop on Austurstraeti 5 is a fascinating place to hunt for such garments, as it's somewhat of a historical site.
The lower level used to be a bank vault, and the signs of its past make a shopping experience here more than just about what you are buying.
Regardless of whether you have come to Iceland for its nature, history, capital, or culture, you’ll undoubtedly want some physical memory of the country to take home with you.
The souvenir industry has developed as tourism has boomed, and now you can find a vast range of authentic goods that promise to reflect your personal experience here.
Whether it be as long-lasting, functional, and historic as the lopapeysa or as whimsical, cheeky, and disposable as an Icelandic condom, you’ll no doubt find something that suits your tastes.
We hope you find this guide helpful when searching for the best souvenirs to buy in Iceland! We’d love to hear the best souvenirs you’ve taken home with you. Feel free to keep in touch by leaving a comment below.