* = favorites
– * Vegan Búðin
The world’s largest all-vegan store is located, that’s right, in Reykjavík, Iceland! Check them out and stock up on everything you could possibly need. Eating out is super expensive in Iceland, so it’s helpful to buy your own food as much as possible. Thankfully, Vegan Búðin shops around to make sure you’re getting the best price, so you can relax knowing you are getting everything you need all in one place, and for a fair price!
– * Jömm
An innovative vegan food startup that started as a sort of pop-up (imagine a food truck with no wheels) but now their products are carried in many grocery stores. They also opened a counter-service restaurant at the Kringlan mall where you can grab some of their incredibly food and sit down to eat in their food court.
– Aktu Taktu
If you want to enjoy the convenience of eating at a drive-thru like a normal human being, Aktu Taktu is a popular (often late-night) drive thru (and sit-down) fast food restaurant with a vegan burger served with vegan cheese, vegan mayo/sauce, and a vegan patty! And it actually tastes pretty darn good!
You read that right! All KFCs in Iceland now offer a vegan chicken, with vegan mayo! It’s called the “Ekki Kjúkling” (“not chicken”) and you can get it on a bun, on a twist, etc… You’re welcome! You can have KFC again as a vegan here in Iceland!
– JUST GOOGLE IT!
Seriously, things change SO much in Iceland from one year to the next. It seems that every time I go, I need to redo this entire list. So just use Google Maps, search for “vegan” and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Honestly, there are SO many vegan places and vegan options since my last visit there, I haven’t even bothered to add them to this list. I would honestly say Iceland is one of the top ten MOST vegan-friendly countries in the world.
– Ice Cream! (Brynja)
Careful, there are some places in Iceland that advertise “vegan ice cream”. And then you get there and realize – it’s just sorbet. *sighhhhhhhh* But there is a place called Brynja that has vegan ice cream, including vegan soft serve. They once even custom-made me an Oreo milkshake at my request! Find them on Facebook here.
– Ólis (24 hours)
Icelanders will be like “Why are you recommending that place???” It’s a gas station, but with some groceries and a small kitchen and grill. The only reason I mention this place is because it’s open 24-hours. If you absolutely NEED a place to eat or congregate when all else is closed, this place is there as an option. You can order many non-vegan sandwiches, but this place added a vegan burger to their menu. It’s not the tastiest vegan burger patty you’ll find — if you’ve ever had that sort of Dr. Praegers veggie burger – the blah kind they serve in most NYC diners – but in recent years they’ve really dressed it up with vegan cheese, onion rings, pickles… It’s a pretty impressive, loaded burger! This is sort of where people in Iceland would go after a night of drinking if they need to get a hot meal to soak up the alcohol. So that’s kinda what you can find here, but seriously, in recent years even this vegan option has become a pretty competitive (read: delicious) option. I do recommend it!
– FRENCH FRIES!
When I tell Icelanders that you can’t eat McDonald’s french fries, they find that so odd. “But they’re just potatoes fried in oil with salt!” I’m not sure where else in the world we have to avoid their fries, but in Iceland, you can safely assume fries are always vegan. Here’s some interesting trivia! Iceland used to have McDonald’s. But after the economic crash of 2008, badasses that Icelanders are, they basically gave McDonald’s the boot, said they could no longer afford them, but they kept all the buildings and recipes and the general concept. So somehow, McDonald’s agreed to let them continue to operate, now called “Metro”. If you walk into a Metro, you’ll find it eerily similar to a McDonald’s, but with noticeable differences as the menu has been innovated and bends a bit more towards Scandinavian fare. But when I first visited Iceland as a vegan, I loved going to Metro and gorging on fries! JUST REMEMBER THIS ABOUT ORDERING FRIES!!! At most places (especially drive thrus) if you order a “large order of fries”, you will get basically half a grocery bag filled with fries! Here, it is assumed when you ask for a “large order” of something you are asking for enough to feed a family. So just start with whatever portion they recommend. Also, Icelanders almost ALWAYS eat french fries with a spice called Kartöflukrydd (“potato spice”). I can’t explain it, but it’s delicious and anywhere you order fries, you’ll usually be offered a little spice packet of this stuff.
REMINDERS ABOUT FOOD
- Food is like PROHIBITIVELY expensive in Iceland! When you go to a restaurant, you might be shocked to realize the cost of a veggie burger is nearly equal to $20 USD! But before you panic and complain that things are overpriced here, keep this in mind: The price you are paying INCLUDES the tax, and includes not only the TIP, but basically includes a living WAGE for your server or cashier, and everyone else who had any part in preparing that meal for you. AND they’ve got health care! So remember that when you are paying $20 for a meal, you are basically paying EVERYONE what they deserve. That said, Icelanders generally prepare their own meals at home BECAUSE food is so expensive, and rarely eat out. So you’d honestly be much better off just stopping at a grocery store and making what you want. Remember, Vegan Búðin is the world’s LARGEST all-vegan store, and they check around to make sure their prices are competitive, so you can buy everything all in one place and know you are getting a fair price! Bónus is the cheapest grocery store, but with slightly more restricted opening hours. That’s where I go if I want to stock up on cheap energy drinks. Which reminds me — there’s a European brand called Euroshopper which is their discount “generic” brand. So you can find Euroshopper Energy Drinks for LESS than $1 USD!!! This is basically impossible anywhere in the United States! So stock up and take advantage! Lastly, Hagkaup (pronounced “HAHG(h)-koyp”) is more middle-of-the-road and is sort of like — if you combined a Target with a grocery store. They always have a nice selection of all the vegan essentials: meats, cheeses, milks, ice creams, microwavable/frozen meals, etc… It’s rare that I need something that Hagkaup doesn’t have, plus several locations are 24 hours. So they are my go-to late night store when I need something, but everything else is closed. They’re also fun for people watching.
ABOUT BEVERAGES (get used to this…)
- ICE – Icelanders (ironically) just DO not use ice. It’s not something people keep on hand in their homes. It’s not something people generally expect, want, or ask for. You’re more likely to find ice cubes at like a bar, but even then, they’ll be pretty sparing with the ice cubes. And forget iced coffee. You just aren’t going to find it. Nobody drinks iced coffee. MAYBE at Joe & The Juice but again, ice is just not something Icelanders are used to using. Get used to drinking coffee hot. Or if you’re like me and you almost EXCLUSIVELY drink iced coffee, just get used to asking for and accepting hot coffee poured over ice.
- LARGE? NO. LET IT GO! – You just aren’t going to find “large” drinks in Iceland. And if there are drinks labeled as “large”, they’ll be what you would normally consider a “small”. Be prepared to pay a good sum for a coffee, and then be handed a laughably small cup in return. When I argue with Icelanders about the fact that I can’t just get a LARGE (meaning 32 OUNCE!!!) cold beverage to walk around with. They basically consider a 16 ounce a “large”. And if you try to explain to Icelanders that life would just be BETTER if you had a LARGE drink, and ask what you’re supposed to do when you finish your 16 ounces, they say “Well just go buy another one then.” …….NO, BITCH!!!! This is homophobic!
WHAT TO DO FOR RECREATION
Sure, there is lots to do in Iceland, but I can really only recommend doing the things that I go there to do.
- Laugardalslaginn (pronounced “LOY-ghahr-dahlss-LAH-yin”) – This is the giant public (HEATED) swimming pool downtown, with five different hot tubs with increasing temperatures, and a “sjópottin”, meaning a “sea hot tub” which has sea water piped in directly and heated, so you’re basically floating in sea water and I can’t tell you how rejuvenating it feels! Also this pool is joined with WorldClass, an enormous professional gym. So if you like to work out, I recommend joining world class and then you’ll have FREE access to the heated pools and hot tubs (and steam baths and saunas) after each and every workout!
- Sky Lagoon — I haven’t been yet, but I hear that this place is much nicer and much more beautiful than the Blue Lagoon. I’ve been to the Blue Lagoon enough times that I’m no longer really all that impressed. But I hear Sky Lagoon is truly remarkable, and unlike Blue Lagoon which is nearly 40 minutes from the city, Sky Lagoon is located just next to Reykjavík in Kópavogur.
- Fly Over Icleand — it’s a 3D simulated “roller coaster” type ride. Literally, it requires no explaining. It’s like you’re literally flying over all the best parts of the country’s incredible nature. GO! SEE! IT!!! I’ve visited Iceland 8 times since 2003 and I did this in July of 2021 and I was like – sobbing the entire time – it’s that breathtaking!
- Golden Circle Tour – basically the “Golden Circle” refers to three natural sightseeing spots you can see within a short drive from the city. They include Þingvellier, Gullfoss, and Geysir. The thing about Iceland is, you really don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They know what you came there to see, and there are more guided tours than you will need. Just do the basic touristy stuff and you’ll be satisfied. I realize in New York City this would not be great advice. But it is in Iceland.
- Drag & Nightlife – Iceland hasn’t really had a drag “scene” for the last 20 years. But a local group of drag performers have banded together to form a large drag scene in Iceland. Some of these performers (Gloria Hole, Gógó Starr) have gone solo and are doing solo gigs around town. Google Dragsúgur or Gloria Hole or Gógó Starr, or find them on Facebook, and GO SEE THEM! There is plenty of drag and plenty of raucous nightlife. Pick up a copy of the Reykjavík Grapevine (the local English newspaper) to see what’s going on around town that week.