Are there restaurants open Christmas day in Reykjavik? Where can you dine on New Years Eve, and are any open for the whole Christmas season? Continue reading to know which restaurants are open in Reykjavik over Christmas and New Year.
Christmas in Iceland is a beautiful time. Snow starts falling around the country, buildings are adorned with sparkling lights to counter the scarce daylight hours, and the smell of delicious Icelandic cuisine wafts from every window.
Stories of the troll Gryla and the thirteen Yule Lads are a great introduction to Icelandic Christmas culture, while many tours tailor their activities to the season. The fact the festive season coincides with the appearance of the Northern Lights and ice caves makes Christmas a very popular time for travellers to the country.
An ice cave tour is the ultimate winter adventure
Visitors who want to fully indulge in Iceland’s culture over the Yuletide wouldn’t want to be unprepared and find their plans scuppered because of the public holidays! On the 24th, 25th and 26th many shops, services and attractions will be closed, and though New Years Eve is not a holiday, many companies treat it as one.
This is even the case in the capital, Reykjavík. Though it is an increasingly modern and bustling city with plenty of both diverse and unique cuisine, it is still small. Because of this its services over public holidays suffer. During the festive season, you’ll want to be aware of which restaurants are closed and which are open.
Though not all will be open over Christmas, many are. Furthermore, many of these will adapt their menu for the season, using seasonal ingredients to allow you to enjoy both Icelandic and international festive feasts. Combine this with the decorations most restaurants invest in, there are few better places to get into the Christmas spirit.
Although restaurants in Reykjavík are generally expensive, those open cover a range of budgets. Some of them are upmarket, Michelin-star winning venues with meals cooked by world-renowned chefs; others are affordable cafés, or bars that sell classic pub food.
Regardless of the food on offer and its price, almost all restaurants will require you to make a reservation over the Christmas period, with some booking up very quickly. Be sure to do this as early as possible, especially on Christmas Day and New Years Eve. If you do not, you’ll be put on a waiting list with no guarantee that anyone will cancel.
Reykjavik looks its best at Christmas
If you book a culture tour involving a restaurant stop that goes over this period, your reservations will be made for you. Of course, these also fill up quickly, so plan well in advance.
Smoked meat is a common Christmas meal in Iceland
In spite of much of Iceland’s capital shutting down ― in terms of commerce and trading ― on the public holidays, some of its finest restaurants continue to welcome guests.
Those who don’t want to miss out on a massive traditional dinner with all the trimmings on the actual day have nothing to fear. Even those who don’t celebrate Christmas will be able to find a convenient place for a pizza or pasta.
Those who want to see Reykjavík’s incredible fireworks display on New Years Eve will have a place to fill up before midnight. Which will be particularly rewarding for those planning to enjoy the city’s thriving nightlife after.
One of the most spectacular things to see in Iceland is the firework displays on New Year's Eve
The table below lists the best restaurants in Reykjavik Iceland open on Christmas day, Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Years Eve. The table also details what kind of cuisine they offer and additional notes.
A statue of the poet Tómas Guðmundsson by the pond in Reykjavik
Though many restaurants in Reykjavík will shut their doors for some of the festive season, many will still be open for Christmas lunch or dinner on the 25th. Of these, many will have specific menus presenting classic Icelandic Christmas staples, such as smoked lamb and ptarmigan. Others will keep their standard menus, which may be preferable for those with certain dietary requirements.
Due to the fact that these restaurants in Iceland open on Christmas Day are closed throughout some of the rest of season, we highly recommend booking a table early.
On New Year's Eve the night sky in Reykjavik lights up with fireworks
As a side note, you may have noticed that a majority of Reykjavík restaurants open on Christmas Day are closed on Christmas Eve. This is because in Iceland this is the night where Christmas is officially celebrated and families open their presents.
Many families spend the evening reading books they were given for Christmas. This tradition is part of the Icelandic Christmas Book Flood. Iceland is one of the world’s most literate nations and has been throughout much of its history. One in ten Icelanders have a published work, and over the Christmas season, book sales rise.
Downtown Reykjavik covered in snow
Many of Iceland’s restaurants close on Christmas Day, either as a mark of the Christian holiday or simply to let their staff spend time with their families. Some however, promise to be open for at least a part of the holidays. Allowing you to enjoy winter feasts in a warm, ambient environment on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, or before your New Year's Eve celebrations.
The restaurants catalogued below are largely only open in the evenings over the Yuletide. While this suits the plans of travellers who have tours planned during the day, those with Northern Lights tours booked may have to do some rescheduling. The shorter opening hours also further necessitate you getting a reservation early.
Hallgrimskirkja church during the fireworks on New Year's Eve
The amount of restaurants open on Christmas in Reykjavík provides a wealth of choice for those who book early enough. Even though some of the city’s most popular restaurants, such as The Cuckoo’s Nest, Askur and Geysir Bistro, are closed. Those can still be visited in the days leading up to the 24th, and from the 27th to the 30th. You won’t have to miss out on the best culinary experiences in Iceland.
Eating out in Iceland may be a little pricey, but is an essential experience. The restaurant industry has blossomed in recent decades and the country has become quite the destination for foodies. Furthermore, many Icelandic restaurants only use locally sourced ingredients in their dishes, allowing you to have a Christmas dinner that is not only delicious but also sustainable.
We hope you’ve found the perfect restaurant in Reykjavik to dine out on Christmas. As previously stated, remember to book early at one of the restaurants open Christmas day in Iceland. Happy holidays from Guide to Iceland!