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 minuscule metropolitan is constantly undergoing rapid and radical changes in scenery and public spacing.  

Hallgrímskirkja Church watching over the centre

Any visitor to Iceland will at some point or another have found himself on the Laugavegur, Reykjavík's main shopping street; this is the very artery of the inner city and at all times the most crowded street in town. 

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. 

Reykjavík seen from Hallgrímskirkja

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 Iceland’s capital.

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, arranged in alphabetical order, and acquaint yourself with the mindful, authentic and local approach to shopping in Reykjavík

12 Tonar

12 Tónar on Skólavörðustígur

A record store and an independent record label since 1998, 12 Tónar rests in a small, corrugated iron house on Skólavörðustígur. A visit there ensures you two stories of Icelandic and international music titles, a complimentary cup of espresso and an open library of rock’n’roll literature. 

Spend an afternoon amidst music lovers and local musicians, in an intimate setting of retro living room furniture and stacks of vinyl. The establishment doubles as a regular concert venue, often hosting live shows in their backyard on sunny days. The label is faithfully connected to its releases and has a knack for picking out fresh talent, having released over 70 albums from local artists since 2003. 


  • Address: Skólavörðustígur 15
  • Opening hours: Monday - Saturday 10:00 - 18:00 | Sundays 12:00 - 18:00 

Aftur

Unique - Stylish - Sustainable - LocalPhoto by Aftur

High fashion teams up with sustainability in Aftur—a special kind of clothing store. Established in 1999, Aftur 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 is more is that shopping there ensures that you are supporting the local economy, as well as respecting the planet we all share. 


  • Address: Laugavegur 39
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 11:00 - 18:00 | Fridays 11:00 - 18:30 | Saturdays 11:00 - 17:00

Bjork

WARNING - Tobacco Shop AheadFlickr Photo by 'gamene' 

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.


  • Address: Bankastræti 6
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 10:00 - 18:00 | Saturdays 11:00 - 17:00

Brynja

The Brynja house in the Icelandic flag coloursFlickr Photo by: 'El Coleccionista de Instanted Fotografía & Video'

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 Street, where its identifiable sign of two large keys and its iconic mechanical window displays invite 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.  Do you need to copy a new set of keys for your space cadet of a flatmate? Do you wish to hang your cat's portrait on your wall? Does your kitchen need a fresh coat of paint? Then this is your stop.

There is not a single resident of Reykjavík that doesn't know Brynja and its friendly atmosphere. Head there for all your hardware wants and needs.  


  • Address: Laugavegur 29 
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 09:00 - 18:00 | Saturdays 10:00 - 16:00 

Drekinn

Here be dragons Flickr Photo by 'El Coleccionista de Instantes Fotografía & Video' 

If you long for life's simple pleasures—a pack of smokes, a greasy burger or daiquiri-flavored vape juice—get your fill in Drekinn, your shady but friendly neighbourhood corner shop.

Having run continually since 1991, the red corrugated iron house with the blue tin roof and dragon graffiti feels as monumental to Reykjavík as the neighbouring Hallgrímskirkja church.

A few months back, the establishment expanded and opened a connecting vape shop next door, where members of the self-titled Vape Nation can blow smoke clouds to their heart's content while downing energy drinks and Dr Peppers. 


  • Address: Frakkastígur 15
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 09:30 - 23:30 | Weekends 11:00 - 23:30

Freddi

Wasn't The Wizard just The Rain Man of video game movies?Credit: Freddi Facebook Page

“Iceland’s only arcade”, Freddi, is a toy store and retro game centre in the heart of downtown Reykjavík, modelled after a venue with the same name that stood on Hafnarstræti but closed down some fifteen years ago.

Freddi is a time machine. As soon as you set foot on the burgundy carpet and are greeted with the sparkling display of flashing pinball machines, you have stepped into the times of Pac Man and American Girl Dolls—The good old 1980s.

The establishment offers console rooms for rent, where you and your friends can leave the dramas of adulthood by the door and while away the hours on such classics as the Nintendo 64 and the Sega Megadrive.

The venue’s multi-box boasts of over 2000 games and the spot doubles as a toy store, where you’ll find authentic figurines and collectables fit for Fred Savage. And yes—they have Donkey Kong. 


  • Address: Ingólfsstræti 
  • Opening hours: Every day 12:00 - 00:00 

Geisladiskabud Valda

Note the Pink Floyd inspired window decoration

Are you hunting for rare NES games or obscure heavy metal records? Do you want to find out what your sister's Buffy the Vampire Slayer VHS collection is worth?

Geisladiskabúð Valda, or ‘Valdi’s CD Store’ is every collector’s heaven. It 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 downloading and Netflix

When you enter through the store’s crooked door frame, you find the 50 m2 floor thoroughly utilised—as stacks and boxes of CDs, DVDs, cassettes, games, vinyl and Blu-ray cover the cramped space from top to bottom. 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.  


  • Address: Laugavegur 64
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 12:00 - 18:15 | Fridays 12:00 - 18:30 | Saturdays 12:00 - 17:30

Gjafir Jardar

Let the healing beginCredit: Gjafir jarðar Facebook Page

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. 


  • Address: Laugavegur 48b
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 11:00 - 18:00 | Saturdays 12:00 - 16:00

Herrafataverzlun Kormaks og Skjaldar 

Do I smell tweed?Photo Courtesy of Herrafataverzlun Kormáks og Skjaldar  

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 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 warm and fabulously dapper in the Icelandic terrain.

Shopping in this store takes you back to romantic times. The staff here sincerely and genuinely cares 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 west with the perfect pouch for your grandfather’s pocket watch. The prices might be steep, but you get what you pay for. Enter as a pauper, exit as a prince. 


  • Address: Laugavegur 59 & Skólavörðustígur 28
  • Opening Hours: Weekdays 10:00 - 18:00 | Saturdays 11:00 - 18:00 

Hokus Pokus

Enter as a civilian, exit as a witch or a werewolf!

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 Halloween season, the shop has impressively survived for nearly three decades by providing the locals with all the fancy dress they need 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. 


  • Address: Laugavegur 69
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 10:00 - 18:00 | Saturdays 11:00 - 17:00

Lifstykkjabudin 

I do remember a vague disappointment when I entered the store as a teen looking for a corselette for a Halloween outfit...

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. 


  • Address: Laugavegur 82
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 10:00 - 18:00 | Saturdays 10:00 - 16:00

Lucky Records

Here you see the wild Reykjavík hipster in their natural habitatPhoto courtesy of Lucky Records 

Although Reykjavík might be a small capital on a global scale,  the city centre is not in 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 will be happy to 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 calls 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. 


  • Address: Rauðarárstígur 10
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 10:00 - 18:00 | Weekends 11:00 - 17:00 

Mal og Menning

The chessboard inside Mál og MenningPhoto by Flickr user 'Nurettin Mert AYDIN'

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 capacious bookstore that has been running, at intervals, since 1940. It has 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 12 bookstores in the world, placing it alongside such fixtures as Shakespeare & Company in Paris and Hatchards in London.

Rúblan Café is on the top floor. Here you can glance through paperbacks and magazines or observe the bustling street life of Laugavegur below.


  • Address: Laugavegur 18
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 09:00 - 22:00 | Weekends 10:00 - 22:00

Sandholt

A ridiculously photogenic cakeCredit: Sandholt Facebook Page

Treat your taste buds to heavenly delights in what is arguably the best bakery in town—and one of the oldest. Since its opening in 1920, Sandholt has been a family-run establishment and is currently run by the fifth generation of bakers who make use of both traditional and new methods.

Icelanders are known for their sweet-tooth, and you’ll find bakeries all over the city, but the selection in most of them is pretty monotonous. The crew at Sandholt, however, thinks outside the box and dares to go beyond. They not only serve pastry but warm food, ice-cream and hand-made chocolates, as well as producing most of their ingredients from scratch.


  • Address: Laugavegur 36
  • Opening hours: Monday - Saturday 07:00 - 21:00

Smekkleysa

You think the toxic green paint-job is in bad taste?Flickr Photo by 'Erwin Bernal'

Going by the backbiting name of ‘Bad Taste’, Smekkleysa is a record store named after the infamous record label that contributed immeasurably to the 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?  


  • Address: Laugavegur 35
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 10:00 - 18:00 | Saturdays 10:00 - 17:00 | Sundays 12:00 - 17:00

Spuutnik

When in doubt - go vintageCredit: Spúútnik Facebook Page

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 very own style. 

The shop beckons you in from Laugavegur with its musky smell and techno tunes, where the regulars provide for an excellent example of just how trendy the youth of Reykjavík can be.

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. But don't worry. You can always head to their outlet by Hlemmur Square, where you might have to do a bit more rummaging to find the fairly priced treasures.


  • Address: Laugavegur 28b | Outlet at Laugavegur 118 
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 10:00 - 18:30 | Saturdays 11:00 - 18:00 | Sundays 13:00 - 18:00

Stella

The last house on the left

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. 


  • Address: Bankastræti 3
  • Opening hours: Monday - Saturday 10:00 - 18:00 

Verslun Gudsteins Eyjolfssonar

The how-to wall of neck-tying - no it's not graffiti!Photo by 'Adam Wood' - Wikimedia Creative Commons 

A gentlemen's clothing store in the heart of Reykjavík, Verslun Guðsteins Eyjólfssonar has been run by the same family for the greater part of a 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.  


  • Address: Laugavegur 34
  • Opening hours:  Weekdays 09:00 - 18:00 | Saturdays 10:00 - 16:00 

Vinnufatabudin 

At the same spot for 70+ yearsPhoto from 101Reykjavík

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.

The store deals in classic menswear, while Þórarinn’s grandson currently runs the Gallabuxnabúðin in Kringlan Shopping Mall—a popular fashion and jeanswear shop for the younger generation.

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. 


  • Address: Laugavegur 76
  • Opening hours: Weekdays 09:00 - 18:00 | Saturdays 10:00 - 16:00 / 18:00

Vinberid

Heart-shaped lollipops in the window of VínberiðPhoto courtesy of Vínberið

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. 

Although some of us regulars mourned the recent renovations, where the interior received a modernised makeover after not having changed in decades, the treats inside never fail to deliver.  Perhaps you shouldn’t judge chocolate by its wrappings.


  • Address: Laugavegur 43
  • Opening hours: Every day 11:00 - 18:00 

Laugavegur: Reykjavík's Main Artery                

Shops come and go but this street is forever

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 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.



A view down Skólavörðustígur from Hallgrímskirkja Church Tower

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 a 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 country side. 

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. 

Downtown close to Reykjavík Pond in 1949Photo by 'Valgerður Tryggvadóttir' - Wikimedia Creative Commons 

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 merchant’s 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!