Iceland is known for many things: sweeping landscapes, breathtaking waterfalls, hot springs, and, perhaps, ice. But what may be a surprise for some is the booming nightlife scene in the capital city of Reykjavik.
While researching things to do ahead of my visit, I came across Wake Up Reykjavik, an event-planning company that organizes bar crawls and tours through the most happening scenes in the city. After a seamless email chain with the owners, Dan and Egill, my friends and I embarked on an unforgettable night during our Icelandic vacation.
The night started at a spot called Loftid, a low-key, dimly lit cocktail lounge with rustic décor. It was here where we met up with Dan and Egill, along with two other participants, and had our first set of drinks for the night.
First up was 'My Sweet Fire,' also known as the 'Spicy Black Death' cocktail. Black Death is another name for Iceland’s signature spirit, Brennivin. With a menacing name like that (and a dash of Tabasco sauce to boot), I was expecting instant inebriation. However, a combination of lemon and orange juice in the cocktail helped to take the edge off. I tasted more sweetness than spiciness, which made this concoction superb to my senses.
Next was a Risky Sour, a distinctly sweeter cocktail made with blended vodka, sugar syrup, lemon juice, and Maraschino liqueur. If you are into cloyingly sweet drinks like whiskey and Midori sours, you will definitely enjoy this mix.
The next stop was Islenski Barinn, a Viking bar that gave us a chance to blend in with locals. The space was smaller and tighter, as patrons sat at one of their long wooden tables and listened to live music. We started off with Icelandic brews and enjoyed the atmosphere.
Then came a challenge. A server came by with pure, unadulterated shots of Brennivin (Black Death, remember?) and cubed bites of fermented shark inside of a Mason jar. I said a small prayer before consuming either. The shot was gross, but surprisingly smooth going down. The shark only added to the pungent party going on in my mouth with its harsh after taste. I risked the snapping of my braces brackets for the most necessary gum chew of my life.
After braving wind, rain, and snow all in a five minute walk to our next spot (gotta love Iceland’s volatile weather), we ended up at the quirky and fun Lebowski Bar. As indicated in the name, the bar’s theme was inspired by the movie, The Big Lebowski.
The DJ played pop and R&B hits from the 80’s and 90’s, including BBD’s “Poison”, which excited all of us. The featured drink at this stop was the White Russian topped with Cocoa Puffs cereal. This was my first time in life eating Cocoa Puffs (#teamFruitLoops4life) and I loved it!
From here, we walked to a legendary hot dog stand to try an authentic Icelandic frank.
Fun fact: The hot stand has been in the same spot for 78 years, but was recently moved 3 meters due to hotel construction.
I personally prefer hot dogs straight off the grill, but this one was not half bad. The toppings, including onions, ketchup, a sweet brown mustard, and remoulade, made for a very tasty treat.
The last stop was Auster, one of the biggest nightclubs in Reykjavik. The DJ spun some current top 40 hits and house music. Due to the long day behind and the next one ahead of me, I opted to sit in a VIP section that one of the bouncers was nice enough to let us have. My friends, however, went out to the dance floor and enjoyed about 10 minutes of dancing (and pushing lol). It’s safe to say, Icelanders know how to party!
If you are planning to visit Iceland in the future and want to experience a night on the town, Dan and Egill of Wake Up Reykjavik will do an outstanding job of showing you around! This was not only entertaining, but, at times, educational. I felt I learned more about the Icelandic culture by way of bar-hopping. Visit their website or Instagram for more information (and tell them I sent you!).