Reykjavík is party central, but what do you do the next day when the killing hangover kicks in? How can you combine hangover with sightseeing? Find the best spots to cure hangover in Reykjavík, and still enjoy the best of the city here.
Reykjavík is known as a city of great nightlife, with hardly any dress codes, bars open until 5am on weekends and 1am on weekdays, no entry fees to most bars and the alcohol flowing.
I've met many a tourist that has booked a trip to Iceland, often a short weekend trip, mainly to check out the Icelandic nature and Reykjavík nightlife. Some of those have partied so hard, that they ended up missing out on a lot of the nature due to oversleeping after a crazy night of dancing on tabletops and doing shots of Brennivín (local schnapps).
Others have simply missed their flight back home due to a killing headache and general hungover misery, but instead extended their stay and had lots of time to explore the nature - or an even greater variety of bars.
But if like me, you don't want a little hangover to get in the way of fully exploring the country and its culture, then here are a few tips on where you should go to cure your hangover or enjoy the city with minimal effort, instead of simply staying in your hotel room and ordering room service.
Read on to find out how you can party like a local, and be hungover like a local.
First of all, you'll need some nourishment. Personally, I think there's no quicker cure for a throbbing hangover headache than a juicy hamburger and a sickly sweet coke. Also, locating the best food in a new city is a great way to get to know the café and restaurant culture of the town, as well as exploring some of the hidden sights downtown on your way to said food.
But first up, to prevent the imminent misery before it happens, it's good to keep in mind to have a late night snack, and drink plenty of water before going to bed. And there are 3 places that immediately come to mind for this activity, namely Nonnabiti subs, Hlöllabátar subs and Mandí kebabs. All three are located in and around Ingólfstorg square and stay open until 05:30 or 06:00 on weekends.
If you happen to be partying further up Laugavegur, around Hlemmur Mathöll area, then Devito's Pizza is also a good option, however they only stay open until 2am (so a good option after a night of drinking out on weekdays).
Although all of these options are also available in the daytime, then you might want to step it up a notch and have your greasy hangover cure in a slightly more inviting surroundings than over-lit corner shop with tall stools and plastic tables. The quick greasy food is fine in the middle of the night when it's jam-packed with other starving creatures of the night, but for lunch you want to be able to sit down in comfy surroundings and spread out.
So my top recommendations for juicy food & cool surroundings in hip locations are:
Kröstí burger. Picture from Hlemmur Mathöll's instagram
Hlemmur Mathöll is a brand new food hall (opened in August 2017) with a variety of food options. No matter what you choose, you can sit down at a communal table, so if you go with some friends they can all choose different things from different, quality food providers but still share the same table.
If you're one of those people that craves a coffee to cure your hangover (I'm not), then head to Te & Kaffi to get your coffee fix. You're spoilt with choice when it comes to hangover cures food wise, as you can go for a Mexican burrito at La Poblana, a pulled BBQ pork Banh Mi at Banh Mi (or have the vegan option), a garlicky buttered lobster sub sandwich (with bacon!) at Rabbar Barinn or simply the signature Kröstí (Crusty) burger at Kröst.
And if you're looking for a hair of the dog that bit you, then you can also get beer or wine with your food.
Hlemmur Mathöll is situated at the top of Laugavegur shopping street, not too far away from both Sundhöll Reykjavíkur and Laugardalslaug swimming pools, with several hotels nearby (so possibly your nearest option) and close to both Lucky Records music shop, Gallerý Fold art gallery and Iceland's Penis Museum - all excellent locations to kill some time post-lunch.
Picture from Prikið
Prikið is a café, bar and nightclub that plays hip hop music and serves great hangover food. This is one of Reykjavík's oldest establishments, and the oldest nightclub in town. So perhaps you spent the night dancing away here, but it will look a lot different in daytime when they're no longer swinging those lights above the bar.
Prikið often offers some entertainment in the daytime, such as hangover cinema screenings or clothing markets in their outdoor area in summertime, and you're sure to meet some cool locals in here.
As for the food, they have an extensive burger selection (I would go for the Snoop Dogg, with bernaise sauce, bacon, pepper cheese, some greens and sweet potato fries), but if you're not feeling like a burger (why wouldn't you, you're hungover!) then there are also steak sandwiches, pork ribs, fish & chips or even a dedicated 'Hangover Sandwich' that includes ham, cheese, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, lettuce, garlic dressing and fries.
Prikið is located right downtown Reykjavík, in amongst all the shops and right opposite you'll find Reykjavík's only (or at least only one downtown) arcade, Freddi arcade. Definitely a great hidden gem where you can kill a couple of hours playing games. Depending on where you're walking from to reach Prikið, you will also be able to see some of Reykjavík's main sights, such as Hallgrímskirkja church, Harpa Concert Hall or Tjörnin City Pond.
Juicy vegan sandwich. Picture from Kaffi Vínyl instagram page.
But what if you don't like bacon? Don't despair, there's a fantastic all vegan café on Hverfisgata that has the cure to your hangover. Not only does Kaffi Vínyl serve mouth watering vegan dishes, they're also a record shop - often throwing on some live gigs inside the bright café.
My number one recommended hangover cure at Kaffi Vínyl: The garlicky, mushroomy, avocado-y Kawai won't disappoint. But they also have some killer noodles and a hearty lasagna.
The café has large windows and cosy sofas indoors, so it's the perfect place to kick back and relax and do some people watching. It's situated on Hverfisgata, that in my opinion is the newest up and coming 'cool & arty street of Reykjavík'. On it there are dozens of galleries, designer shops, Iceland's National Theatre and Reykjavík's only art house cinema Bíó Paradís (often screening cult classics as well).
To get a touch of culture, and to get your coffee fix, simply pop in next door to Bismút café that also has small art exhibitions.
Kex Hostel is a hostel, café, bar and music venue. It's located inside an old biscuit factory, right opposite Kaffi Vínyl. This is a great place to meet people, most likely in the same state of mind as you are, as it's likely to be filled with backpackers eager to explore exactly the same things as you are. Also a good place to stay, if you're looking for a fun but affordable place to crash at night.
Kex Hostel is probably best described as a slightly sophisticated hipster party hostel. It gets packed with people exploring the nightlife, but closes early to allow its residents to get some decent sleep, they often have concerts - including weekly jazz sessions on Tuesday nights and they have a very decent menu, popular with both its night guests as well as locals.
Brunch is served on weekends from 11:30-17:00, perfect for those that are sleeping in very late. Although it's still the burger that I recommend here.
Depending on what time of year you're in Reykjavík, you might be lucky enough to catch Kex Festival, their annual music festival in summertime.
Picture by Iceland Mag
Coocoo's Nest is a great café in the up and coming Fishpacking District of Grandi, right by Reykjavík Harbour. Brunch is served from Fridays to Sundays from 11:00-16:00 and it's sure to whet your appetite! Sourdough breads, eggs in various forms - scrambled, poached, omelettes, blueberry pancakes and mimosas on the side. You can also add bacon to all dishes for an extra fee.
If you happen to be there at some other time than a brunch-y weekend time, then you can check out their Tuesday Tacos, sourdough pizzas on Wednesdays and Thursdays - or their Italian happy hour Aperitivo time, every day from 16-19.
In the area you're spoilt for choice of what to do after your feeding. You could check out Bryggjan Brewery, or the Maritime Museum. You could have a Japanese tea at Kumiko Tea House or check out the artwork of Ólafur Elíasson and other Icelandic artists at the Marshall House Living Art Museum.
Or you could simply enjoy the views of the harbour or explore the wealth of stunning street art that's found in the area.
Picture by Mostly Amelie
Bike Cave is a mouth watering burger joint (that also does fantastic vegan and vegetarian options!) that isn't smack down in the centre of Reykjavík. So unless you happen to be staying somewhere in the west part of Reykjavík, or close to the domestic Reykjavík airport, then it's a bit of a mission to get to.
But the trek, or the bike ride, is worth it - especially if you're looking for a gluten free or vegan option, as they cater juicy burgers to everyone.
To go there however, it's recommended to bike over - or you can rent a scooter from them when you arrive. This is a dream place for any biker, both those on motorbikes and those on bicycles, as it's a DIY bike fixing shop in addition to being a great burger place.
And nearby there are great biking trails taking you to Nauthólsvík beach area, Perlan at Öskjuhlíð hill or Grótta lighthouse. So if your hangover isn't too bad, then a leisurely bike ride is a great way to fill up the day.
Unfortunately you can't really spend the whole day eating, so you'll need to fill the day with some other non-strenuous activities as well.
Above I've mentioned a few great options, such as checking out films at Bíó Paradís, explore Reykjavík's galleries or museums, go for a bike ride, play games at Freddi arcade, eat & drink around town or admire the street art.
But I haven't mentioned the number one activity for hungover people in Reykjavík yet, and that is:
Go To The Swimming Pools.
Reykjavík has in total a whopping number of 17 swimming pools, so no matter where you're staying in town, there's surely a lovely swimming pool close enough for you to be able to drag yourself out of your comfy bed and get your ass over there.
The beauty about Iceland's swimming pools is multi-layered. For the first thing, Icelandic swimming pools would be called spas in most other countries in the world. Nonetheless, in such a pricey country as Iceland, it's one of the cheapest activity you can do.
If you only go once, then a single entry fee is around 950 ISK. However, if you go a couple of times, and if there's more than one of you, then you can buy a card with 10 entries for 4400 ISK - dropping the price down to 440 ISK each time. Many people can share the same card.
This is an activity that feels like it was made for people that had one too many drinks the previous night. Not only can you clean all those sweaty alcoholic fumes off, and open up your pores in the saunas, leaving you regenerated and fresh - you'll also feel like you accomplished something by doing 'an activity', even though it mainly consists of sitting in hot water and chatting with other people around you.
And it doesn't matter at all what the weather is doing! It's just as nice in a snow blizzard as it is on a sunny summer's day.
No matter which pool you choose, it will have a warmed up swimming pool (mostly outdoors, sometimes also indoors), several hot tubs and at least one sauna or steam room. You're not obliged to actually go for a swim while visiting the swimming pools, chilling out in the hot tubs is enough activity for many attendees.
The most central swimming pools are Sundhöll Reykjavíkur, Vesturbæjarlaug, Laugardalslaug and Seltjarnarneslaug.
Secondly, if you're into animals, but feeling a bit too rough for a horseback riding tour or bracing the seas on a whale watching tour (both of which are only half day tours, so you can go in the afternoon after a good sleep in!), then you can opt to check out Reykjavík Zoo and Reykjavík Botanical Garden, or simply head towards Reykjavík's only cat café (due to open in early 2018).
María Callista, performing for Dömur & Herra. Picture by Dömur & Herra.
Lastly, if you're still feeling a bit tired by nightfall, but want to drag your ass out for some fun - or if you simply want to go out for a night of belly laughing, then check out the Drag, Cabaret or stand up shows at Gaukurinn.
Drag-Súgur is Reykjavík's biggest drag community, but it's gotten so large that regular drag nights weren't enough and they added another regular event: Drag-Lab. They have regular shows at Gaukurinn, but sometimes elsewhere in town. Check their site for an updated schedule.
On Monday nights there is always stand up comedy in English at Gaukurinn with the Golden Gang - and if you're in luck there might also be some theatre improv in English at Þjóðleikhúskjallarinn (they have weekly shows on Wednesdays, but normally in Icelandic). The yearly Reykjavik International Theatre Improv Festival takes place in March.
Reykjavík Kabarett is the original Cabaret group in Reykjavík, but like Drag-Súgur they've also become so big that there's another offspring of the cabaret scene, a different group called Dömur & Herra (or Ladies & A Gentleman). The two groups often collaborate, mix and mingle. They have regular shows at Gaukurinn or Þjóðleikhúskjallarinn. Luckily, these shows are mostly visual, so even if you miss a few puns in Icelandic, you'll still have a grand time watching all the physical comedy.
And if you're really in luck, you might catch a night at Reykjavík's Poetry Brothel, but they only have a show year-quarterly - so the next ones coming up are March 2018, June 2018, August or September 2018 and November or December 2018. Those are performed visually, in Icelandic, English and sometimes several other languages.
All of the above are also likely to have shows at the Reykjavík Fringe Festival, taking place in July.
Finally, in case all you want to do is keep on drinking, then there are several establishments that allow you to do just so. I'll just mention some of the basics, as you will surely know about all the bars already.
Iceland is not a cheap country, and especially not when it comes to alcohol. In order to keep the cost down in daytime, it's recommended to make a pit stop at Vínbúðin, the only shop where you'll be able to buy alcohol in Iceland. (If you bought some 'beer' in the supermarket, I hate to break it to you, but that wasn't beer but 0-2% alcoholic lager).
Picture of people drinking at Austurvöllur square from Wikimapia
It's a bit sad to buy your beers at the shop, and then go back to your hotel room to drink them - but if you happen to be traveling in Iceland during summertime, and the weather is actually nice for a change, then it's perfectly acceptable to drink outside (it's also acceptable in winter, but probably too cold to do so). Head to Austurvöllur square, the one right outside the Icelandic parliament, sit down on the grass and join the herds of people that are doing the exact same thing.
If you on the other hand would like to sit inside a bar, then go for a little bar hopping journey, just make sure that you're following all the Happy Hours in town. There's even a handy app to tell you where and when they are (and how much the beer is) - it's called Appy Hour.
Happy drinking and recovering times in Iceland!