Where do the locals go shopping in Reykjavík? What shops are Reykjavík's originals and where do you find them? Read on and discover the unique shops and boutiques that are fundamental to maintaining downtown Reykjavik's distinct character.
Despite its modest size, Reykjavík is a booming and modern capital in a constant flux of urban upgrading. Because of the incredible number of visitors the city receives every year, this growing metropolis is constantly undergoing rapid and radical changes in its scenery and public spacing.
Any visitor to Iceland will at some point or another have found themselves on Laugavegur, Reykjavík's main shopping street. This is the artery of the inner city and at all times the most crowded street in town, showing just how bustling Iceland’s capital can get.
Developing a city in perfect response to the needs of both visitors and locals is no easy task, as the longing for growth can overpower the need for preservation. While chains of new bistros and souvenir shops sprout all over, the locally-run businesses that furnish the city's heart and soul are in constant danger of being driven out.
There are, however, some shops that always seem to thrive and survive in this turbulent sea of urban development. We have, therefore, gathered a comprehensive list of the wonderful old originals that can still be found nestled on the streets of the world’s northernmost capital, and some newer shops that maintain the city’s character.
These are the spots that give the city character and, furthermore, allow you a first-hand glance into Reykjavík's local culture.
So read on and discover a colourful cluster of shops to better acquaint yourself with the mindful, authentic and local approach to shopping in Reykjavík.
Kolaportið, Reykjavík’s only flea market, may not officially be a shop, but it is one of the largest and most competitively priced places in Reykjavík to shop for souvenirs. With everything from stuffed toys to old books, records to clothes, national foodstuffs to historical memorabilia, Kolaportið truly has something for everyone.
The flea market is located near both the town centre and the Old Harbour, making it easily accessible for most visitors to the capital. It should be noted that it is only open over the weekend, and canny locals usually go later in the day when prices are likely to be lower.
Photo by Yohan Cho
Positively the most charming tobacco shop in town, Björk is a friendly neighbourhood stable that has occupied the same spot in Bankstræti since 1928, originally going by the name Bristol when it doubled as a candy store.
You don’t have to be a smoker to enjoy a visit to Björk, as it is also the ideal spot for souvenir and gift shopping; with everything from postcards and stamps to flasks that the jeweller next door can personally engrave.
The gentleman who has run the store for the past years is possibly the friendliest and sweetest clerk you will ever do business with. He knows all his regulars’ names by heart and services you with a smile that most people reserve for their families and closest friends.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by GDK. No edits made.
Iceland is a nation of book lovers, whose cultural heritage largely resides in the great Sagas of the 11th and 12th century. A true Icelandic cultural institution, Mál og Menning is a grand bookstore that has been running, at intervals, since 1940. The current store boasts three levels, each displaying an array of both local and international titles of all possible genres.
Back in 2010, Danish magazine Berlingske Tidende named Mál og Menning one of the top twelve bookstores in the world, placing it alongside such fixtures as Shakespeare & Company in Paris and Hatchards in London.
Rúblan Café is located on the top floor, where you can glance through paperbacks and magazines or observe the bustling street life on Laugavegur below you.
If you are looking for the classic Icelandic souvenir - be it fridge magnets, toy puffins, Viking rune necklaces or books on national culture - look no further than The Viking.
The Viking began as a tailor in the northern town of Akureyri in the 1950s; now, it has four locations across the country and caters to guests looking to take home something that reflects classic Nordic culture. It differentiates itself from the other classic ‘tourist shops’ by having respectable restraint when it comes to marketing Iceland; it doesn’t, for example, sell itself with life-sized models of polar bears outside its front doors when they are not even a native animal.
Although Reykjavík might be a small capital on a global scale, the city centre has no shortage of quality record stores. The largest one, nesting right by Hlemmur Square, is Lucky Records, a labyrinth of treasures that any avid hunter for vinyl can happily explore for hours on end.
Voted by BA Highlife as one of the top six record shops in the world, Lucky is the ultimate hang-out spot for music lovers, where the knowledgeable staff practically call the place home.
Head there for a complimentary cup of Marley Coffee or a live concert, or simply rummage through the back vaults for rarities and classics.
Going by the backbiting name of ‘Bad Taste’, Smekkleysa is a record store titled after an infamous record label that contributed immeasurably to Iceland's alternative culture for more than fifteen years.
Their official manifesto promised to reward tastelessness and waste, quoting Pablo Picasso by declaring that good taste and frugality are “the main enemies of creativity.”
As punk rock as that sounds, the myriad of music, poetry, novels, films and even greeting cards that the company released over the years is nothing short of a treasure trove of anarchic brilliance.
Singer Björk Guðmundsdóttir herself was one of the founders of the label, so when you want to buy music in Reykjavík, why not do it in the one shop that has the historical value of Manchester’s very own Factory Records?
High fashion teams up with sustainability in Aftur—a special kind of clothing store. Established in 1999, the store has, from the beginning, made use of recycled textile for its items; creating sleek, urban clothing of irresistible allure.
The company is not only environmentally aware and noted for treating their employees with first-rate decency, but their apparel is also exemplary for Icelandic design.
The prices might be deemed high for the average shopper, but each piece is an original that will last you a lifetime. What's more, shopping here ensures that you are supporting the local economy, as well as respecting the planet we all share.
Since its establishment in 2005, the Icelandic clothing brand Farmers Market has beautifully reflected the contrasts of Iceland in its designs, combining the urban with the rural, the cutting edge with the traditional. Its entire range, with a selection of other products, can be found at Farmers and Friends, a fantastic shop to browse items such as the classic Icelandic wool sweater, or lopapeysur, designed with modern fashion in mind.
The Farmers Market was created by designer Bergthora Gudnadottir and musician Jóel Pálsson, and thus has deep ties to all parts of the artistic community in Iceland. It utilises as much recycled and local material as possible to ensure that each garment and piece is as forward-thinking in its ethos as it is its look.
Farmers and Friends also sell souvenirs and gifts such as candles, accessories, records and books.
Dons and Cavaliers take heed, your dream attire awaits in Herrafataverzlun Kormáks og Skjaldar, Reykjavík’s ultimate gentlemen's store. Established over two decades ago by the two life-long friends Kormákur and Skjöldur, the store's selection is greatly inspired by 50's British apparel and made out of quality materials such as wool, keeping you both warm and fabulously dapper in the Icelandic weather.
Shopping in this store takes you back to romantic times. The staff here sincerely and genuinely care about your visit and will guide you on your quest of being dashing, whether you require a tweet tie to go with your bowler hat or a knitted vest with the perfect pouch for your grandfather’s pocket watch. The prices might be steep, but you get what you pay for when you enter as a pauper, and exit as a prince.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, photo by the Auckland Museum. No edits made.
In the early nineteen-hundreds, it was almost unheard of that an Icelandic woman would open and run a business. That didn’t deter widow and entrepreneur Elísabet Foss from opening Lífstykkjabúðin in 1916, a ladies undergarment shop that has stood the test of time.
The items were originally produced in a resident sewing factory, but today, the selection is more modern and offers high fashion products imported from abroad.
The name of the shop translates to The Corselette Store, even though their production of corselettes has long since ceased. Now, it is simply a venue where you can get your hands on quality underwear, swimwear, nightwear and fashion wear, but the historical value is undeniable, and Laugavegur wouldn’t be the same without the presence of this charming emporium.
For more than 25 years, Spúútnik has provided the fashionistas of Reykjavík with quality vintage wear. Whether you’re looking for a pair of Converse originals, a sparkly gala gown, luscious fur coats or washed 90s overalls, this is the go-to spot for all things chic and smart to further develop your personal style.
The shop beckons you in from Laugavegur with its techno tunes, where the regulars provide for an excellent example of just how trendy the youth of Reykjavík is.
The prices, however, have somewhat skyrocketed in the last few years, which is in great part due to the shop’s increasing popularity and growing market from tourism. But don't worry, you can always head to their outlet Fatamarkaðurinn by Hlemmur, where you have to do a bit more rummaging to find the more fairly priced treasures.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by MoMu. No edits made.
All city walkers recognise Stella—a fashion shop with an alluring display of multi-faceted stockings adorning its windows at all times. The store opened in 1942 and is still going strong, with owner and regular clerk Edda Hauksdóttir having run the show for the past three decades.
Although you’ll find beauty products, accessories, perfume and fashion wear in the small but captivating boutique, the store is primarily known for its unrivalled selection of fabulous leg coverings, where you’ll find everything from thermal winter stockings to illustrated nylons and high-fashion labels of French hosiery.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Adam Wood. No edits made.
Another gentlemens’ clothing store in the heart of Reykjavík, Verslun Guðsteins Eyjólfssonar has been run by the same family for the greater part of a full century. Originally opening in Grettisgata in 1918, the store moved to its current location at Laugavegur 34 in 1929, where it still stands.
After the passing of Guðsteinn himself, his siblings ran the store until his children took over the family business. The owners have been dealing with the same trusted manufacturers for decades, which keeps the prices fair and the selection secure.
Additionally, Reykjavík's centre wouldn't be the same without the monument of a mural showcasing necktie-instructions in the alleyway of the shop.
Photo by Anne Nygård
The presence of Vinnufatabúðin is a prime example of the closing of the generation gap. Þórarinn Kjartansson opened the store at the very house he built on Laugavegur 76 in 1940, and ever since his descendants have kept the business running.
Vinnufatabúðin promises long-lasting, high-quality garments fit for people of all professions; hence their name translating to The Worker’s Clothes Shop. The service is always personal and extremely helpful, so if you want to shop for classic attire, do it here and support a 75-year old family-run company.
66° North is now one of the most recognisable Icelandic brands across the world, due to its excellence in combining fashion and style with quality protective clothing, suitable for all kinds of weather. If you are seeking to get out into Iceland’s nature and enjoy your activities regardless of the cold, but want to look fabulous while doing so, then this is the shop for you.
In spite of the modern flair of its pieces, 66° North has a storied heritage. Founded in the Westfjords of Iceland in 1926, its initial goal was to provide protective clothing for local fishermen who had to face incredibly tough conditions season after season as they braved the stormy seas. As Icelandic industry shifted from fisheries towards tourism, it has blossomed into an international business that continues to celebrate its traditional roots.
There are 66° North shops across the Reykjavík, including on the main street of Laugavegur.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Helgi Halldórsson. Photo cropped.
Akkúrat is a fabulous design store located right in the centre of downtown Reykjavík. Selling select products from the most contemporary Icelandic and Nordic designers, it is the perfect shopping destination for those looking to bring some style and elegance to their homes.
Not only is Akkúrat a fantastic place to shop for art, clothing, furnishings and homeware, but it is a place to meet like-minded individuals with a passion for style; there are regular exhibitions all are welcome to enjoy. Though relatively new, only opening in 2017, Akkúrat is a fabulous showcase of Icelandic culture and a great addition to the historic downtown area.
Photo by Brynja Eldon
Brynja, a hardware store with a soft heart, is undoubtedly the oldest running establishment of its kind in Iceland. Established in 1919, this family-run enterprise nests in an old and rust-red house on Laugavegur, where its identifiable sign of two large keys and its iconic mechanical window displays beckon you inside to a neighbourly atmosphere.
Because Brynja has been doing business with the same manufacturers and suppliers for decades, the prices remain incredibly fair. Need to copy a new set of keys for your space cadet of a flatmate? Wish to hang your cat's portrait on your wall? Does your kitchen need a fresh coat of paint? Head to Brynja for all your hardware wants and needs.
Epal is a celebration of Nordic and European style, and its products have been inspiring Icelandic interior design for 35 years. With both local and international contributions, it offers shoppers a range of stylish curtains, rugs, lights, ornaments, kitchenware and kitschy gifts.
Epal has several branches; the most accessible to the downtown shopper is the one in on Laugavegur, though you can also find their stores in the mall Kringlan, the concert hall Harpa, and Keflavík Airport.
Geysir is not just the name of Iceland’s most famous exploding hot spring; it is also the name of a clothing and home decor chain that has a wide range of Icelandic design products available. Geysir Home is a relatively new addition to the franchise and the perfect shopping destination for those with a passion for Icelandic style.
Selling everything your home could need, from statement pieces that reflect the lava landscapes of the country to ornaments with quotes that reflect the national flair, Geysir Home is an essential stop for those looking to liven up their house’s decor with a little bit of Iceland.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Bryan Ledgard. Photo cropped.
Hrím is the go-to place in Iceland to go if you are seeking to freshen up your home decor with a quirky new piece. Be it a whimsical new set of salt and pepper shakers or a striking geometric rug, a funky new tea-set or a homemade soap kit, Hrím has a wide range of products primarily designed by Icelandic and Scandinavian talent.
Hrím is impossible to miss on the high street, with its brightly coloured exterior and eclectic storefront. The range of potential gifts and trinkets within also includes many skincare products, so why not treat yourself to some wild rose body lotion or a eucalyptus sea salt scrub while shopping for that perfect addition to your home.
Kirsuberjatréð, may not be the most historic shop on this list, but it is an excellent place to go it you want to support a locally run business, see the works of some talented individuals, and embrace modern Icelandic culture. Run by eleven artists, all women, the store is otherwise known as ‘The Cherry Tree’ and it has a wealth of special, handmade pieces that each tell a story about Iceland.
With purses made out of fish-skin using old traditional methods, jewellery created with unconventional materials found across the country, beautiful ceramics and darling music boxes, hours can be spent marvelling over the artistry that went into each trinket at Kirsuberjatréð.
Kirsuberjatréð also prides itself on mostly using locally sourced and recycled materials.
Photo by Les Triconautes
Dimm is a family-owned homewares store and one of the newest players in the market. It was founded in 2017 and has a great online store but also an incredible physical store not far from the centre of Reykjavík. Dimm's focus is on home goods from the most innovative and fresh Scandinavian designers. Not only do they sell homewares, they also showcase a great collection of children's toys and clothing.
Their main focus is to provide quality products that were previously unavailable on the Icelandic market. Dimm's products have quickly become popular here and it won't be long till their products are must-haves for every Icelandic home.
The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular and renowned sites, particularly due to the unique minerals and algae in the waters which are said to contain healing properties. Luckily, these properties can be bottled and bought at the Blue Lagoon shop in Reykjavík.
The store offers a range of products, such as algae masks, bath salts, body lotions, foot scrubs and oils. Not only are many of these said to have anti-ageing, moisturising and rejuvenating properties, but some are great for skin conditions such as psoriasis.
The Blue Lagoon shop has a classic and chic Icelandic decor, with a friendly staff eager to help you find your perfect product.
Are you hunting for rare NES games or obscure heavy metal records? Do you want to find out what your Buffy the Vampire Slayer VHS collection is worth? Look no further; Geisladiskabúð Valda, or ‘Valdi’s CD Store’ is every collector’s heaven.
The shop has inhabited its tiny shack on Laugavegur 64, ever since its opening in 1998. It’s where treasures are bought, sold and traded, just as they were before the age of streaming, downloading and Netflix.
When you enter through the store’s crooked door frame, you find the small space thoroughly utilised, with stacks and boxes of CDs, DVDs, cassettes, games, vinyl and Blu-ray cramped in from floor to ceiling. Valdi himself be standing behind the counter, eager to talk about your findings as if you were an old friend.
Every city needs one of these stores, and we sincerely hope Valdi’s will stand forever.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon
A new-age spiritual shop established over a decade ago, Gjafir jarðar (Gifts of the Earth) promises healing and well-being to the local patron.
The folks that run the store are dedicated followers of the spiritual path. The venue boasts of a treatment centre on its second floor, where one can enjoy the benefits of astrological charts, Bowen therapy, chakra studies and tarot card readings.
The store carries an impressive inventory of incense, crystals, healing jewels, candles, tarot cards, books on spirituality, meditation music and essential oils. This is the go-to spot for any travelling Psychonaut longing for a fix of spiritual delights. The energy is vibrant, and the service genuine and friendly.
Photo by Haley Phelps
If you’ve walked down Laugavegur Street at any point in time between now and the mid-eighties, you will most definitely have noticed the bizarre window instalments of Hókus Pókus; a fancy dress shop that feels as belonging to the popular shopping street as the pavement itself.
Be it 80s night or fright night, they’ve got the costumes, makeup, wigs and accessories. Although only packed during the season of Halloween, the shop has impressively survived for nearly three decades by providing the locals with all their fancy dress needs, and always in the same charmingly tacky manner.
The establishment is completely family-run, so support your local enchanter by bringing a lava lamp home to mum.
Photo by Amit Lahav
Established by a local merchant in 1976 and run by his children and in-laws ever since, Vínberið was originally a grocery store, which in the mid-nineties shifted its attention to the confectionery all city dwellers know and love today.
The shop offers an impressive selection of handmade chocolates and local candy produce, ideal for gift shopping if you want to bring something sweet back home from your travels.
The shops we have listed above are but a fraction of what the Laugavegur shopping street has to offer. It is a cultural hub of urban life, travellers, restaurants, bars, cafés and homes. It's where the old town thrives and survives, and come the darker hours of the weekend, it turns into a bash of adult festivities.
The history of the street itself is captivating but often misquoted. The story usually goes that the women of Reykjavík once walked this street to get to the hot spring valley of Laugardalur to wash their laundry. As straightforward and romantic that sounds, it’s far from being the whole story.
Since ‘laug’ means pool or hot spring in Icelandic and people did indeed use Laugardalur for laundry washing until the 1930s, most take this explanation for granted. This definition is however only somewhat accurate and doesn’t explain how the street became the leading shopping artery of the city, which in many ways was an entirely unexpected development.
Reykjavík was facing an economic crisis back in 1885, and people were in dire need of work, so the town’s then-existing Poverty Committee suggested the construction of the street to combat unemployment. The town council agreed, and so the development of Laugavegur began.
At the time, Reykjavík's main shopping district was located in Kvosin and Hafnarstræti, the area between today’s City Hall and the Old Harbour. These shops were to a large extent run by Danish merchants, and Laugavegur was to serve as a means to reach them when travelling into the city from the countryside.
When farmers started moving to the city in large flocks, small-time merchants saw ample opportunity for setting up shops and services on this busy lane, to lure in potential countryside customers before they would reach the larger stores.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Valgerður Tryggvadóttir. No edits needed.
The idea spread like wildfire and soon enough, Laugavegur was dotted with small and locally run establishments. The history of Laugavegur can, therefore, be said to go hand in hand with Iceland’s fight for independence from Danish rule. It was the place where local merchants fought against Danish trade monopoly.
It's hard to argue against the beauty and charm of Reykjavík's centre, and we would like to think that the original aspirations that make up its history are a big part of its allure.
Did you enjoy our list of Reykjavík’s original shops? Do you know of any additions we should include? Let us know in the comments below!