So, remember that short trip to Iceland we took last month? And how we built a basic trip package (flights, hotel, a few pre-booked tours) with Icelandair? We knew that we would only have a short time in Reykjavik so we wanted to make sure we covered the “big ticket” items – Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle, Northern Lights and, well, Icelandic beer (!). But those trips and activities didn’t take up all our time so what else did we do?
A few days before we left for Iceland, a friend told us that we HAD to taste OmNom Chocolate while we were there. We looked it up and discovered they actually do a factory tour and tasting! I booked us in for the tour on our first afternoon (since it only runs on weekdays and it was the only time that worked – though overnight flight/ Blue Lagoon/ Chocolate Tour/ Beer Tasting and fancy meal seemed a little much for just the first day, that’s how we had to do it!) and received a confirmation email with the following information:
Please note that you´ll taste a lot of Chocolate.
Bring your appetite and thirst for knowledge.
Well all right then!
So, um, yeah. You DO taste a LOT of chocolate (we probably had roughly 12 different kinds…) and you will learn a lot about chocolate making. It’s not so much a “factory tour” because the “factory” is tiny (I can’t believe how much chocolate they make there though!) and the tasting takes part in a fairly small room (we had over 20 people in our group here as well, it felt like a lot but there was still a lot of chocolate to eat LOL!). Most of the “tour” is the tasting and learning part and you’ll get to walk through the factory space at the end (tasting some experiments in progress if you’re lucky – we got to taste hops infused chocolate which was… interesting!).
Speaking of gifts…
If you love chocolate, I’d highly recommend – even if you don’t do the tour, the prices are better at the factory store than they are around town (you’ll see the chocolate everywhere!).
When we booked this trip initially, I spent a bit of time online looking for a place to have a special meal during our time there. We had a few recommendations but those places were either booked up or were not open on the days we could go (many restaurants seem to be closed on Sunday night). Grillið, however, had an interesting looking tasting menu and is located on the 8th floor of the Radisson BLU Saga Hotel (and promised panoramic views, although at dinner time it’s dark so….).
We chose the 5 (over the 7) course tasting menu (Neil took the wine pairing and I took the juice pairing) – it was definitely not cheap (the menu alone is roughly $140CAD per person) but in the context of prices in Iceland, this actually didn’t seem to be too out of line. I opted for the vegetarian menu and Neil chose the regular menu (we like to taste a little bit of everything if we can and it’s not always possible with just two of us!). The food was beautifully presented and very flavourful and fresh (there’s a strong focus on local products and produce) though the timing of the wine pairings and food seemed a little off at times. The restaurant was not completely full but our dishes came out either really close together or with a long lag time in-between (but your wine was already poured). At the end of a VERY long day (red eye flight, Blue Lagoon, OnNom, beer tasting), this probably felt more “off” than it was but for a restaurant of this calibre it was surprising that the timing wasn’t down pat. We did mention this to our server and she refilled wine so it was there at the time of the food arriving. A sweet second server who we got chatting to later in the meal brought us a bonus dessert (featuring OmNom chocolate!) which helped end the meal on a high note 🙂
By far our favourite dish was the one pictured above – potato break with garlic soup and mushroom butter. So simple. So flavourful and SO pretty! A pretty good representation of what Grillið is all about. I’d love to have experienced this in the daytime for the views and would definitely recommend that if it’s an option (it was very pretty at night but I can just imagine how gorgeous it would have been during the day!). Definitely glad we did this, even if it made for a super long first day.
I’m a HUGE fan of walking tours when I’m in a foreign city and Citywalk Free Walking Tours (free!) came with such great reviews that it was an easy decision to book (there are LOTS of other free and paid walking tours). I mean…
The main focus is the general history of Iceland and the evolution of Reykjavík as a town. We also tell you about elves, vikings, food, nightlife, music, economic aspects and political affairs. Finally there are the funny facts about Iceland and the places you must see in Reykjavík. The tour is laid out in an informative and comic way, where there is also room for personal questions.
Who doesn’t want to learn about all those things? 😉
Our guide, Disa, was super knowledgeable, funny and efficient – we covered the approximate 2km of the tour at a leisurely pace but with lots of time for questions despite the large (20) group size. I’ll admit that when I saw the large group I was a bit skeptical as to how effective one guide would be but Disa was excellent at managing the large crowd.
We did this tour on the second day of our trip and it was an excellent way to situate ourselves (even in tiny Reykjavik!) and it also gave me a good idea of the layout of the city for my long run two days later.
The tour runs twice a day (10.30am and 2pm) so I’d definitely recommend you book one for the day you arrive, especially if you only have a few days – it’s a really great way to get the lay of the land and also some recommendations for food and drink and shopping (the essentials!).
Don’t be a blockhead – book your free Reykjavik walking tour! (Tours run rain or shine so make sure you have an umbrella and warm clothing if you are there in the winter).
Directly after the walking tour, we headed for a snack. And, when in Reykjavik…
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hotdogs
From the website:
(English: The best hot dog in town) often shortened to simply “Bæjarins beztu”, is a popular hot dog stand in central Reykjavík, Iceland. In August 2006, the British newspaper The Guardian selected Bæjarins beztu as the best hot dog stand in Europe.
The majority of Icelanders have eaten at Bæjarins beztu. It’s downtown near the harbor and has been open since 1937. Foreign visitors are often brought to the stand to introduce them to the hot dogs there, which are often called “the Icelandic national food.” Among famous people who have eaten at Bæjarins beztu are Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, and James Hetfield, vocalist of the popular heavy metal band Metallica.
We’d read about these and been past the stand on the walking tour and it WAS lunchtime so Bæjarins beztu it was… Doesn’t look like much but it’s definitely up there with some of the best hot dogs I’ve eaten! Order it with “the works” or “everything” (ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remolaði, a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish) and you won’t regret it! Highly recommended!
Brauð & Co
When David Lebovitz tells you to visit a bakery (I’d posted on Facebook that we were headed to Iceland and he made this suggestion), you put it at the top of your “must do” list!
Braud and Co has a few locations in Reykjavik and it’s a must visit if you love baked goods and bread.
We went for the cinnamon buns and pretzel croissants and were not disappointed. The location we went to (Frakkastígur) doesn’t have a place to sit and eat but some of the other locations do… In any case, walking along the street with a warm cinnamon bun with a chilly wind is a pretty great way to enjoy the city!
Run to coffee – Reykjavik roasters
Everywhere I go, one of the first things I do is to Google “best coffee” and if I’m doing a long run, I’ll always try to end my run at a coffee shop LOL! When I did this for Reykjavik, I came up with Reykjavik Roasters and so I planned my long run around ending at one of their locations 😀 Really EXCELLENT coffee and the location I went to (Kárastígur) was an adorable space whose couches beckoned (but I needed to get back to the hotel and shower). I definitely should have make an effort to go there more than once during our few days there!
Post run, post coffee, post shower and pre-flight, I was in need of something substantial so we popped around the corner to …
Yeah, there really is a laundromat in Laundramat Café outpost in Reykjavik (this is a chain from Denmark). More importantly, there is excellent food (we had brunch only), good coffee and it’s a comfortable (and fun) space to hang out.
bonus: Icelandic Punk Museum
Yup, the Icelandic Punk Museum is located in a former public toilet space in the centre of Reykjavik! Opened in 2016 (by Johnny Rotten), this museum, though tiny, displays photos, posters, musical instruments, clothes and memorabilia from the 80-90s punk scene in Iceland. I did not visit here but big punk fan Mr Neil did and was not disappointed! There’s a small admission fee but apparently “totally worth it”!
So, there you go – those are the other things we fit into our short time in Iceland on top of the “build a package” items from Icelandair…