Learn all about Reykjavik nightlife in our in-depth guide. What makes Iceland's nightlife different from anywhere else in the world? When does nightlife in Reykjavik start, and what are the best bars and clubs to visit? Read on to discover the best places to go, what to wear, and the best tips for enjoying the nightlife in Reykjavik.
The Iceland party scene surprises many when they first arrive. Reykjavik is the crown jewel of nightlife in Iceland, with local and international clubs, bars, and craft breweries to suit every taste.
Reykjavik's great nightlife might not compare to big cities like London and New York. But there's a unique and quiet charm to Icelandic nightlife with good company, security, and plentiful drink options. If you're wondering if that counts as good nightlife, read on.
Photo from Guided 3 Hour Bar Crawl & Nightlife Tour
There's a lot to do in Reykjavik, and the nightlife is no exception. One of the best things about Reykjavik's nightlife is that all the popular spots are in one area.
You'll mostly find venues that are hybrids of bars, dance clubs, cafes, and restaurants. Bars in Iceland tend to have intimate atmospheres, and there are rarely queues to get into them or buy drinks.
The nightlife in Reykjavik centers around the main shopping street: Laugavegur. As you descend the main road, you'll see that Laugavegur becomes Bankastraeti, then Austurstraeti. You'll find bars all along this strip, but most of the action happens on Laugavegur.
There are few lines (small lines at most), and you can choose between quiet cafes and jam-packed party venues all within a bottle cap's throw of each other. Nightlife in Iceland is fun and inclusive, and there are few constraints on the party atmosphere.
None of the bars charge entrance fees unless they have scheduled a specific performance for that night, at which point, you should be pleased with the live entertainment. Thankfully, the lack of entry fees means you can casually stroll from one bar to another as you see fit; this can be a pleasant experience.
People fill the streets and, if you're a local or long-time resident, you're bound to bump into someone you know (a positive or a negative, depending on the person, of course).
And that's just on an average weekend downtown. During festivals and cultural events (particularly New Year's Eve), the city's partiers put on crazy outfits, crowd into the best bars in Iceland, drink even more alcohol, and start singing in celebration.
Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world and enjoys the lowest crime rate in Europe, and this includes the capital. Reykjavik is an incredibly warm and friendly city; the risk of being robbed or assaulted is extremely low.
But, like anywhere that sells alcohol, there'll always be some rowdy behavior. Any threatening behavior is usually quickly dealt with by Iceland's police, and offenders are heavily fined.
Photo from Guided 3 Hour Bar Crawl & Nightlife Tour
Most Iceland bars and pubs open in the afternoon. Recently, both Thursday and Sunday nights have become known as "little Saturdays," with more people hitting the bars. This increase has helped fuel Iceland's reputation as an excellent place for partying.
But, as in most countries, it's Friday and Saturday when the nightlife fully kicks in. Although most bars are open from the early afternoon, they're typically busiest between midnight and 2 a.m.
Icelanders tend to avoid the high bar prices by pre-partying. Nightlife in Reykjavik is on the pricier side, which is why you should make the most of the duty-free alcohol when you land at the airport. It's one of the best ways to save money in Iceland.
A pre-party in Iceland is usually a get-together at a friend's house to get drunk between 6 p.m. and midnight. Of course, it's not as easy for visitors, which is why you should either join a bar crawl or have a list of your top bars to hit for their happy hours.
The Reykjavik bars and nightclubs stop serving drinks at 1 a.m. from Sunday to Thursday, but most won't kick you out until around 2 a.m. On weekends, you can stay out even later (4:30 or even 5:30 a.m).
Note that the Reykjavik party scene ends later than the rest of Iceland. Outside of the capital, most Iceland nightclubs and bars tend to close before midnight.
There are no official after-parties in Reykjavik, but if you're lucky, you might find one with new friends you make. The festivities usually continue to someone's house, but with the small size of Reykjavik, you never know who you're going to meet.
Alternatively, all you might want to do is to find something to eat. Read on to find some late-night snack options in Reykjavik.
There's no official red-light district in Iceland, and the country has interesting laws regarding this. While soliciting sex has been legal since 2007, paying for sex was outlawed in 2009. Essentially, clients are breaking the law while prostitutes are not. Strip clubs were also banned in 2010.
The great news is that most places don't have a dress code in Reykjavik. Clubbing in Iceland is generally quite relaxed outside of significant festivals and events. That said, you're welcome to dress up for a night out, as many of the locals do.
In the wintertime, warmth is more important than fashion. Remember to bring plenty of warm layers with you, including a jacket, gloves, and a hat.
The legal age limit for entry to bars and drinking is 20. Be sure to bring an ID that shows your birth date and a photograph (e.g., a passport or driver's license). If you look younger than 20, you would likely get asked to show an ID.
Interestingly, Iceland was one of the last places to lift prohibition; beer was banned from 1915 until March 1, 1989. Even more intriguing is that hard liquor was made legal in 1935 and wine in 1922.
Many events spread throughout the year elevate the nightlife in Reykjavik. Major holidays, festivals, and national events are all occasions for celebrations. Partying in Iceland during these times is a different experience, so it's worth timing your visit to coincide with one of them.
There are many festivals in Iceland, and Reykjavik is home to several major music festivals, most notably:
Besides the array of festivals and underground events, certain days of the year have Icelanders flocking downtown:
As mentioned above, Reykjavik hosts the Gay Pride Festival yearly in Reykjavik in early August to celebrate the LGBTQ community. With marriage, adoption, and IVF rights equal for all, all bars and clubs in Iceland are gay-friendly.
But you can still find nightlife venues more geared towards the LGBTQ community. Scroll down to see our list of top bars and clubs in Reykjavik - we've marked them with an asterisk.
There are hardly any venues that would call themselves clubs in Iceland. At least, not in the way you might describe the nightclubs in the rest of the world.
Many of Reykjavik's clubs (and Iceland's clubs) are a blend of bar, pub, and club. Most of the nightclubs in Iceland (though more frequently bars) are also cafes during the day.
Unfortunately, it seems some of the institutional Iceland clubs have closed down. But fear not, the capital is still home to the best clubs in Iceland:
One of the oldest bars in Reykjavik, Kaffibarinn, is a hip and casual place with talented DJs playing every night. During the day, it serves draught beer and coffee with free Wi-Fi. It was heavily featured in the movie "101 Reykjavik" and is co-owned by Damon Albarn of Blur fame.
This place is packed with people all the time, cementing its popularity in the Icelandic population's heart. Musicians and "hipsters" are the primary customers, among other character types, and it plays mainly alternative and electro music.
Address: 43W9+9FG, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
One of the most popular nightclubs in Reykjavik, Paloma, was founded in 2013 and is renowned for playing good music. Its other draw is the basement dance floor with wooden beams reminiscent of a Viking ship. Paloma is popular with locals and tourists alike, with a great atmosphere and a local and international DJ lineup.
Address: 1-3 Naustin, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Pablo Discobar is on the top floor above the South American restaurant Burro. Here you'll find delicious but pricey cocktails, a stylish but fun crowd, and funky decor. It's the perfect spot to go if you're in the mood for dancing. However, you should note that they occasionally have a minimum age of 25 to enter.
Address: Veltusund 1, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Kiki is the hottest gay club in town. It's located at Laugavegur 22, an address synonymous with many of Reykjavic's past gay bars. The music is mainly chart-topping pop, Eurovision songs, and disco. It's a colorful place to dance the night away, and you can't miss its rainbow-color facade.
Address: Laugavegur 22, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
When it comes to finding the best bars in Reykjavik, well, it's all very subjective. It could be wherever with the cheapest beer or a bar that plays your favorite music. It's rare that people go out and stay in the same venue for the entire night.
The best thing to do is follow a bar-crawl, make some new friends, listen to different music genres, and maybe even stumble into that special someone.
Don't panic if you lose your friends; the Iceland bars and nightlife scene is small, and you're bound to find them again quickly.
Here are some of our picks for the best bars in Reykjavik:
Hurra has established itself as an excellent bar for live music and great DJs and continually does new things (such as movie nights).
On Monday nights, their fantastic house band plays jazz with free entry. They play all kinds of music, but mainly live artists or electro DJs.
Address: Tryggvagata 22 101, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Gaukurinn is a fun and inclusive dive bar. This spot is the home of Iceland's drag scene (Drag-sugur). It's an alternative, artsy underground venue that hosts regular stand-up comedy nights (in English), movie nights, and live music. The lineup is available on their website's main page.
They have gender-neutral bathrooms and serve juicy, grubby, all-vegan food. The music here varies, but rock or metal nights often take place.
Address: Tryggvagata 22, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Olstofa Kormaks og Skjaldar is a great place to sit down, have a beer, and talk to your friends. They serve craft beer on tap, including the Brio beer by local microbrewery Borg. Typically, music is played at low volume or not at all. This bar is a trendy venue with the locals and worth visiting to see its old-timey decor.
Address: Vegamotastigur, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
The Irishman Pub is the newest Irish pub in town. The venue's feel is casual, and there's been a lot of thought put into the decor. It's the place to be on St Paddy's Day, and they have special drinks almost every day of the year.
It's a favorite place for football fans to watch a game. They also have a private karaoke room that you can book for parties.
Address: Klapparstigur 27, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Bravo is an Italian restaurant with a Roman-ruin decor that transforms into a fun, packed bar at night. The crowd is usually a mix of people sitting down for a beer and dancers grooving on the small dance floor. Music genres vary, but it's guaranteed to cause a head bob or two. The bar is located right below Kiki, making it a perfect stop for a bar crawl.
Address: Laugavegur 22, 101, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
The English Pub
The English Pub is an excellent all-around pub. They have a giant wheel of fortune where you can win a meter of beer, and there are often acoustic guitar players around. The best atmosphere is in the early evening or on weekdays. It's not so great for dancing, though that shouldn't stop you from trying. It also boasts the best selection of beer and whiskey in Iceland, with happy hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Address: Austurstraeti 12a, 101 Reykjavik
Bar Ananas entered the city's nightlife like a warm breeze of summer. It's the best cocktail bar in town and provides excellent escapism when the weather outside is nothing like the Bahamas. It's fully beach-themed, with sand on the floor. The music depends on the DJ each night.
Address: Klapparstigur 38, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Kaldi Bar is now very popular amongst tourists and locals alike. It's so popular that you'll struggle to find a free seat. Kaldi Bar is a sit-down and chat bar with multiple beers on tap. A place to see and be seen, but come early to grab a seat. They close at 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Address: Laugavegur 20b, 101 Reykjavik
Bryggjan Brewery is located a little out of the center of town. It's 1.25 miles (two kilometers) away by the old harbor (and past Slippbarinn, which is excellent to nip into for a happy hour cocktail if you're starting in the late afternoon).
Bryggjan is a large bar that also houses a restaurant with views over the harbor with a selection of house-brewed beers, local brews, or quirky cocktails. It hosts a relaxed atmosphere unless live bands play, with free jazz on Sunday night.
Address: Grandagardur 8, Reykjavik, Iceland
Prikid Kaffihus is a popular pub by night and a coffeehouse by day. Its red facade accompanied by the bright red and green signs gives it a very cheerful vibe. The music leans towards hip-hop, but it depends on the DJ of the night. It gets rowdy past midnight, so if you want to enjoy some quieter moments, come before that and enjoy their happy hour prices.
If you stay up late long enough, you can go back and enjoy their breakfast.
Address: Bankastrati 12, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Lebowski Bar is inspired by the movie "The Big Lebowski "and is an American diner with a Russian twist. The leather booths combined with the wood and black-and-white checkered floor cemented the all-American vibe.
Their happy hour is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and their specialty cocktail is the White Russian. The bar plays a movie at night except for Thursday, where you can test out your movie trivial knowledge at their movie quiz.
Address: Laugavegur 20a, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Nightlife in Reykjavik is divided into two sections: above Laekjargata and below Laekjargata.
The best nightlife in Reykjavik is on Laugavegur and the continuing streets from Laugavegur: Bankastraeti and Austurstraeti. The rest of the bars are on side streets (and Hverfisgata), visible from the main roads.
A quick look at the map below may help you navigate the city's favorite drinking establishments:
Otherwise, Reykjavik has 24-hour taxi companies that operate within the city:
Before you get on any taxis you hail on the street, remember that all the taxis should have official taximeters.
The bus routes 101, 102, 103, 105, 106, and 11 still run between 1 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. The nearest stops to downtown are Stjornarradid or Hlemmur. You can find out more about them and bus travel in Reykjavik in our Reykjavik bus guide or check the route on the official Strato website.
To be in the center of Reykjavik nightlife, the best place to stay is along the main street Laugavegur. The compromise is that the locations nearest to the bar can be noisy. You can take a look at our recommendations for where to stay in Reykjavik and see which one best fits your budget and preference.
Not up for hitting up bars and clubs? There'snightlife in Reykjavik not related to partying.
These might not run as late as you'd like them, but various venues across downtown Reykjavik host live shows led by local musicians, poets, and other artists. Some of them have a cover charge for specific events, so make sure you check their social media or website.
Kex Hostel hosts regular live music events. The most notable one is their annual Kexport Festival. It's a nice bar to sit down and enjoy good music and decent food. Every Tuesday, there's live jazz here with free entry. Kex is a hostel bar, so it doesn't stay open until late and closes between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Kex Hostel is located in an old biscuit factory on the street next to Hverfisgata street. It's a block away from the city's central bar activity hub. On the way downtown, it's good to make a stop at Dillon (rock bar) or Boston (a lounge bar with trendy decor but a party atmosphere).
Another hostel on the list, Loft Hostel, has a bar that often has live music at night to accompany their happy hour. You can check their Facebook page for upcoming lineups or join them for Friday Karaoke if you're up for being the one to provide live music.
Lucky Records is a vintage-style record store in downtown Reykjavik and the largest record store in Iceland, selling both CDs and vinyl. Their upcoming events can be found on their FB page, featuring musicians of all mediums and nationalities.
The Classical white facade of the Gamla Bio dates back to 1906, and the name means "old cinema" in Icelandic. It was the seat of the Icelandic Opera until they moved to Harpa Concert Hall in 2011. They have regular evening shows, including live music and musicals.
Mengi is a music venue and art event space that doubles as a record store. You can check the events page on their website for upcoming music or art shows.
Are you interested in Icelandic films? Bio Paradis is the first art-house cinema in the country. Their latest showings start at around 10 p.m, and you can find some international movies as well.
Are you feeling hungry after a night of dancing and drinking? You're not alone. Luckily, there are some late-night Reykjavik eateries that can satisfy your pre and post-party cravings.
Dubbed as the best hot dog in Iceland, it's the closest Iceland has to a fast-food chain with a few stands scattered around the city. Baejarins Beztu Pylsur is also one of the cheapest meals you'll find in Iceland. Unlike regular hot dogs, these are made with lamb sausage drizzled with sweet sauce. The nearest one is on Tryggvagata, a short walk from the main street.
Address: Tryggvagata 1, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Nothing quite hits the spot like Middle Eastern food late at night. Mandi is a family-run restaurant with late-night food staples falafel, shawarma, salads, and burgers. The Veltusund is their first restaurant, and they now have two others with the same menu, but neither stay open as late as this.
Address: Veltusund 3b, 101 Reykjavik
Islenski Barin serves up some unconventional authentic Icelandic dishes if you prefer more local fare. Be prepared to expand your palate with food like whales, fermented sharks, and reindeer burgers. It's quite a popular place, so if you want to go for dinner at a regular time, it's worth making a reservation.
Local tip: Try their Icelandic pancake!
Address: 1a Ingolfsstraeti, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
The American Bar is a diner combined with a sports bar that provides a typical American nightlife experience with great burgers and music. They also have live music every night and a dance floor on the weekend. Plus, a wheel of fortune for those who are feeling lucky.
Address: Austurstraeti 8-10, 101 Reykjavik
We've covered a lot of ground on everything related to nightlife in Reykjavik.
To help you keep track, here's a summary:
Seeing as there is no entry fee to most of these bars, make sure you check out as many as you can before picking out your favorite ones! The nightlife in Reykjavik has the perfect variety to suit your preferences. Let us know your main haunts in Reykjavik below!