Over the past few years, Grandi harbour has transformed into a cultural fixture of Reykjavík. Bursting with shops, restaurants, and museums, the former fishing-district has invigorated downtown life, while paying homage to the fishing roots that allowed this small town to grow into the capital of Iceland.
Before heading out for a day of exploring Grandi’s many galleries, museums, and shops, stop into the historic Kaffivagninn for a hearty, traditional Icelandic breakfast. Built in 1935, the restaurant initially served sailors before a hard day at sea, and their meals are still packed with all the best ingredients to satisfy a healthy appetite. But for those who are more farm-to-table minded, the Coo Coo’s Nest is an ideal venue, boasting an extensive menu of seasonal vegan and vegetarian offerings.
For a late lunch, stop into Búrið Delicatessen, The Icelandic Pantry, a quirky cheese shop offering jams, cured meats, olives, chutneys and other nibbles. Búrið also periodically holds wine and cheese classes.
Marshall Restaurant, housed within Marshall Húsið, offers tantalising brunch, lunch, and dinner combinations. Constructed inside an upcycled fishmeal plant, it is now home to a multi-gallery art space and dining room, as well as the studio of famed Icelandic environmental artist Ólafur Elíasson.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and brunch, Bergsson RE is known for its savoury rotating menu, and has been called ‘the best lunch in town’. Similarly, Matur og Drykkur is an atmospheric local hotspot offering a new spin on traditional Icelandic dishes like fish stew, sheep’s head, and fresh-caught cod, as well as innovative hotdog ("pylsa") topping combinations. Bryggjan Brugghús—a spacious brewery and restaurant--offers tours of its brewing facilities in addition to tasty bistro bites and craft beer straight from the tap.
For those with a bit of a sweet tooth, a visit to the Omnom chocolate factory might be in order. There, you can take a tour of their chocolate-making wonderland, complete with endless samples of their tasty creations.
Icelanders eat ice cream year-round, and Valdís is a local favourite to satisfy a craving for adventure. In addition to their more traditional offerings, Valdís also offers flavours like Tyrkisk Peber, lavender, and beer.
Last, but certainly not least, cake-and-tart shop 17 Sortir is a sumptuous addition to any trip to the harbour area, and with cupcakes, muffins, and everything in between on offer, it’s a can’t-miss for pastry aficionados.
No trip to Iceland is complete without a little bit of learning, and the Grandi harbour area has no shortage of museums. The Saga Museum brings history to life through its Viking exhibition, complete with wax figures in historical garb, brandishing weapons and everyday objects made by hand using traditional methods.
The Reykjavík Maritime Museum, formerly the site of a fish processing plant (in homage to its roots), gives visitors a unique look into the long-time economic pillar of the Icelanders: the fishing industry. The museum’s permanent exhibition, Fish & Folk:150 Years of Fisheries, walks you through the history of Icelandic fisheries from the time that open-decked rowing boats gave way to more sophisticated vessels, setting a century of industrialisation and prosperity into motion.
Similarly, the Whales of Iceland museum serves to educate visitors about the fragile and beautiful whales that swim in the waters around Iceland. Current exhibitions include life-sized models of whales, a downloadable audio tour, and a relaxing beach where you can grab a bite to eat, all while learning about the many underwater worlds of these majestic creatures.
To round off your trip to the area, the Northern Lights Centre at the Aurora Museum offers interactive Northern Lights displays, complete with scientific and historical information, as well as creative retellings of the folklore that surrounds them. The centre also provides introductory aurora photography courses, which you can pair with a recommended Northern Lights tour during your stay in Iceland.
Those art practitioners and aficionados among us will certainly enjoy a visit to Marshall Húsið. The institution is home to not one, but three art spaces, including the mesmerising Living Art Museum (Nýlistasafnið), Ólafur Elíasson’s Studio (who works with air, light, and earth to design his monumental artworks), and Kling & Bang, a gallery that aims to introduce emerging and established artists to the public.
The harbour is also a veritable waterfront district, bustling with designer goods and clothing. Farmers Market, an Icelandic design label founded in 2005, specialises in wool clothing but offers trendy trousers and accessories to complete the look. They characterise their design as the nexus of countryside and city.
But Grandi’s shopping district isn’t limited to wool. Icelandic designers STEiNUNN and Krínólin specialise in high-end clothing, the latter offering exclusively women’s fashion. STEiNUNN also sells select home goods and participates regularly in art and fashion exhibitions.
Once you’ve procured a comfy sweater to read in, take a walk over to the somewhat inconspicuous Forlagið Bókabúð, the warehouse bookstore of Iceland’s largest publisher. The shop has an excellent view of the coast and offers books in English, Icelandic, and a few languages in between.