- 11. Omnom Chocolate
- 10. Nature Condoms
- 9. Icelandic Delicacies
- 8. Icelandic Beauty and Skin Care Products
- 7. Icelandic Sagas
- 6. Icelandic Alcohol
- 5. Icelandic Clothing
- 4. Icelandic Fiction
- 3. Mink Viking Portrait
- 2. Lopapeysa
- 1. Icelandic Music
- Unique Places for Souvenirs
- The Icelandic Nature
- Puzzled by Iceland
- Icewear on Austurstraeti
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.
If you take a guided shopping tour, or simply walk down the main shopping street in Reykjavik, Laugavegur, you'll see that most souvenir shops focus on two things: puffin plushies and stuffed polar bears. If you want to easily get around the city and visit some of its shopping malls, we recommend renting a cheap and small car, perfect for the well-maintained roads of Reykjavik. If you're looking to stay in the capital, explore the biggest selection of hotels in Reykjavik and find the perfect room for you.
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. There are a wealth of souvenirs that you can buy that represent these qualities.
There are even some Iceland gifts you can find and take home free of charge.
- Read about 13 Amazing Icelandic Design Projects
- Find out more about Shopping in Reykjavik | A Local's Guide to the City's Originals
- Explore the ultimate guide to Shopping in Iceland
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 or Icelandic chocolate, 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 the most authentic!
Read on to discover our top recommendations for Icelandic products that could become your favorite souvenir.
11. Omnom Chocolate
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?
10. Nature Condoms
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 Nature Condom is a more unusual souvenir or gift, they're much more entertaining than a fridge magnet, a stuffed puffin, or a postcard.
9. Icelandic Delicacies
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, spread with butter. For a more gentle taste, go for dried haddock. For something more robust, go for the catfish.
Another delicacy is hakarl, a fermented shark.
Its smell is a revolting mix of fermented 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 about this country's quirky culinary culture.
If the above options do not appeal, 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.
Ensure you know any customs restrictions for bringing Icelandic delicacies back to your country.
8. Icelandic Beauty and Skin Care Products
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 algae masks from the same waters and various 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.
- Read more about Iceland's Blue Lagoon
7. Icelandic Sagas
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Haukurth No edits made.
They're also a perfect example of Icelanders' deep, long-held appreciation for the written word. This is a nation where great heroes are not just warriors but poets. 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 bookstores all around the country.
Several texts have a compilation of many of the best ones, perfect for those seeking to learn about Iceland's early history.
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 influential European writer in the medieval era.
- Read more about Icelandic Literature for Beginners
6. Icelandic Alcohol
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 a national pastime in Iceland, and now there is a wide selection.
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 fermented shark dish.
While this does not seem to speak much for its taste, it's increasing in popularity 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.
- Read about the Best Bars for Craft Beers
5. Icelandic Clothing
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.
For a more practical option, you can't go wrong with the outerwear of 66°North, established in 1926. It has been keeping Icelanders warm during cold winters for a long time.
Another place to buy classic Icelandic designs is the Varma store, located just outside the center at Armuli street.
There's a wide range of stylish pieces, from hats and gloves to coats and blankets.
4. Icelandic Fiction
Photo from Richard Chapman
Iceland has more writers, books sold, and books read per capita than most countries worldwide.
Therefore, works of Icelandic fiction are a souvenir that encapsulates this nation's literary tradition.
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 bookstores, where you can also find translations from a wealth of other Icelandic writers.
3. Mink Viking Portrait
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 booking in advance is an excellent idea.
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.
Lopapeysa 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 it's 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 are not even made of Icelandic wool) and are very overpriced.
Secondly, the cost can vary greatly depending on where you shop.
1. Icelandic Music
As a result, there are many record shops around Reykjavik where you can browse Icelandic music.
Music lovers can also take a guided iPad tour of the Icelandic Museum of Rock 'n' Roll.
Other names to look out for include Hjalmar, Skalmold, Emiliana Torrini, Dadi Freyr, Olafur Arnalds, Hjaltalin, Svavar Knutur, Kuldaboli, Flott, Amabadama, Olof Arnalds, Mum, Valdimar, Hildur, Audur, Solstafir, Quarashi, 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. 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.
Unique Places for Souvenirs
While the above choices reflect the diverse culture of Iceland, they're not the only options for 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 keep Iceland in your memory.
The Icelandic Nature
As mentioned above, Iceland's nature is there to be appreciated, not broken into pieces for everyone to take a part home.
However, the fresh mountain air is something else you can bottle for free in Iceland without doing any damage.
This is sold in souvenir shops as a gimmick, but so long as you are happy to miss 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 air and goes for much higher to eccentric millionaires.
Another quirky, free option is taking a bottle of tap or spring water. Icelandic water is naturally filtered water and 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 unsure 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 will likely find less-known Icelandic books and music, a wide array of clothes, and unique and beautiful works from local artists.
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 in Iceland and chic pieces from other parts of the world.
The prices here are also much more reasonable than the rest of the country. For example, an Icelandic frying pan designed for pancakes can be bought at half the price of competing stores.
Puzzled by Iceland
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.
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 and shipped from China.
Icewear on Austurstraeti
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 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 about the best souvenirs you've taken home with you. Feel free to keep in touch by leaving a comment below.
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