The Reykjavik Bar Crawl with Wake Up Reykjavik

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.


Stop #1

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.

Stop #2

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.

Stop #3

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! 

Stop #4

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.  

Stop #5

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!).

- Andrea Williams

9 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Iceland

On a whim (and cheap airfare find), my friends and I booked a trip to Reykjavík, Iceland.  Iceland has become a tourist hotspot in recent months due to affordable airfares offered by WOW Air.  Since WOW is an Icelandic airline, it uses Iceland as a hub before flying to other destinations in Europe.

I found a cheap flight with WOW to London and since there was a stopover in Iceland, I figured I could get more bang for my already-significantly-discounted buck by exploring Iceland on the way back home. Makes sense, right?

When I mentioned I’d be heading to Iceland, I was asked nothing short of the following:

  • “Why are you going to Iceland?”
  • “Are there black people there?”
  • “What is there to do?”
  • “Are you going just because it’s a layover?”

Well, the ticket was cheap, I’m always interested in going new places and frankly, I’m always looking to up my vacation ante.  So Iceland it was.

As soon as I exited the airport and got on to the bus taking us to our apartment, I was captivated by what Iceland had to offer.  It was unlike anywhere I’ve visited before.  It was quaint, quiet and simply beautiful.  So here’s what you should know for your visit:

1. It’s a beautiful & complex country.

Mountains, volcanoes, and hot springs? Oh my!  Iceland had every type of landscape I could ever imagine.  It was like God’s little playground. Seeing Strokkur, the geyser, erupt every few minutes was pretty fantastic.  And Gullfoss Waterfall is absolutely breathtaking.  As you’re driving along the countryside, you can’t help but to be in awe of Iceland’s beauty.

Be sure to go on the Golden Circle Tour that takes you to some of Iceland’s most beautiful, not-so-best kept natural secrets.  I also did an ATV tour, which was way more intense than any other ATV excursion I’ve done.  We rode through volcanic rock to the top of some inactive volcanoes.  Pretty awesome.

2. Icelanders are very friendly people.

I’m not sure what I expected, but everyone I encountered was very friendly.  As we were looking for our apartment, my friend and I were standing on the street with our luggage.  A man got out of his car – with encouragement from his wife – to ask if we needed help.  We knew that was a sign of good things to come.

3. They take pride in being Icelandic.

Did you know Iceland has had a woman president?  (Come on U.S., you can do it too.)  I also saw on a water bottle that the Icelandic people live longer than any other nation.  Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but if so, they should be proud of both those accomplishments.

4. The food was delicious.

I was pleasantly surprised by Iceland’s restaurant scene.  There seemed to be something for everyone.  The seafood was so fresh; probably some of the best I’ve ever had.  If you’re looking for a great meal, check out Kol Restaurant and the Seafood Grille.  You won’t be disappointed.

Even food from food trucks was delicious.  Try the lobster soup from ‘The Lobster Truck’ (near the center of town) and mini donuts from ‘Dan’s Donut Truck’ (near the Icelandic Phallological Museum).

5. It’s expensive.

This goes with the territory of being an island, but most things were expensive…most notably, the alcohol.  I paid $17 for one watered down drink.  Boo.

(Pro-tip: bring alcohol with you or buy it duty-free at the airport upon arrival.)

6. It’s a very safe place to travel.

At no time did I feel concerned for my safety.  Apparently, most crime consists of drug offenses or burglary.  But violent crime is virtually nonexistent.  I’m not saying you should be oblivious of your surroundings, but you can let down your guard a little.

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7. The water really does smell like eggs.

The water contains sulphur so any time you shower, the smell of rotten eggs takes over the room.  While this is the unfortunate truth, it’s apparently good for your skin.  In any case, it smells awful so don’t forget to open a window before you leave.

8. You should pack for any type of weather.

One day it was cold and rainy, and the next it felt like a wonderful spring afternoon.  It was never easy to tell how to dress but my advice is to dress in layers.

Keep in mind that I traveled during Iceland’s summer.  I imagine that during their winter the weather reaches one temperature: COLD.

9. Reykjavík has a booming nightlife.

Apparently, Quentin Tarantino and Charlie Sheen go to Iceland just to party.  That should give you an idea of how hard they go.

If you’re looking for a hip-hop spot, check out Prikid.  It’s a diner that turns into a party spot later in the evening.  Locals go around 1 a.m.

(Pro-tip: Prikid has a great breakfast for the morning after a night out too.)

I’m glad I ignored the naysayers and visited the Land of Fire and Ice. Iceland’s natural wonders alone make it worth a visit.  Everything else is just icing on the cake.

Have you been to Iceland or plan to go? Found these tips helpful? Please leave a comment!  Check out more of my pictures below!