A guide to the best (and cheapest) paleo-friendly food, movement, and self care spots in Reykjavik, Iceland.
(Click the pins to find out what they are)
Though the scenery of Iceland is drop-dead gorgeous, the majority of the food can leave something to be desired. Especially when you factor in the exorbitant prices. A simple plate of meat and veggies from a nothing-special cafe can easily set you back $25 USD. When you factor in 3 meals per day ($75+) and the length of your trip, Iceland can suddenly turn into one of your most expensive trips you’ve ever taken!
I don’t want you to spend all your hard-earned money on mediocre food. That’s why I’ve compiled this paleo guide to Reykjavik. With these tips and recommendations, you can eat delicious, paleo-friendly food and enjoy the culture of Reykjavik without emptying your savings account!
HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR DINING DOLLAR IN REYKJAVIK
PACK PALEO SNACKS – AND EAT THEM FOR BREAKFAST. Icelanders aren’t really into dining out for breakfast. If they’re not eating breakfast at home, they’re likely to pick up a pastry at a cafe or bakery. That means paleo options will be limited or expensive. Spare yourself the inconvenience by filling your suitcase with a variety of snacks and starting your morning with a protein bar or two. (Looking for paleo snack ideas? Here’s a list of paleo snacks at Trader Joe’s and here’s an article with even more paleo snack recommendations.)
BRING YOUR WATER BOTTLE. Icelanders are very proud of their drinking water. Proud enough that one of the hostels I visited had a sign beside the faucet reading, “Iceland water is pure spring water. Zero additives. Zero contaminants.” So spare yourself from being laughed at by the locals and save a few dollars by packing your own water bottle and filling it at the nearest water fountain or sink.
EAT VEGETARIAN. A recommendation like this on a Paleo blog is shocking, but hear me out. Paleo hasn’t caught on in Iceland, but vegetarianism has. Reykjavik has a number of high quality vegetarian restaurants with a multitude of gluten-free menu items. The food is delicious and the prices are reasonable. Fill up on veggies and then get your protein fix with an Epic Bar or grass-fed beef jerky from your suitcase.
COOK MEALS AT YOUR HOSTEL OR AIRBNB. We all know it’s cheaper to cook meals at home rather than eat out. It’s no different in Iceland. By choosing accommodations with a kitchen, you’ll be able to cook meals at your landing pad, saving you cash. Cooking at home doesn’t mean you have to miss out on local cuisine, in fact, it can enrich your travels. Visit a local farmer’s market, neighborhood market, or flea market (like recommendation #8 below) and learn about the local specialties. For example, lamb is a very popular protein in Iceland – when was the last time you cooked lamb?
CHOOSE YOUR MEALS WISELY. When you decide to eat out, do your research to ensure you’re getting a great meal. Ask the locals for their recommendations, check out online ratings and reviews, and use guides like the one below to set yourself up for the best dining experience possible – without paying an arm and a leg!
Laugavegur 20b, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Glo has several locations, but this one in particular is a treasure trove. Not only does it house a cafe, which serves mostly-vegan street food, cafeteria-style, in a hip, casual setting, but on the lower level there’s a small natural foods market and juice bar. It’s one stop shopping!
Currently, Gló offers a chicken entree, which, when paired with one of the delectable gluten free veggie sides makes for a nice paleo meal, but inside intel tells me that will be removed from their menu soon as they transition to a 100% vegan menu. Either way, this is a fantastic place to get some fresh vegetables and soup!
Klapparstígur 37, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Gardurinn is another vegetarian restaurant serving up delicious, affordable veggie-loaded plates. Their menu is simple and straightforward with a choice of the daily soup, entree, or both. Gardurinn’s menu items are largely gluten-free and vegan, meaning you can easily stick to your gluten- and dairy-free guns with one of their meals. If it’s a sunny Reykjavik day, be sure to take advantage of the lovely like patio behind the restaurant. You’ll have to access it through the alley to the right of the building, but the colorful murals and potted plants make it a peaceful spot for a nourishing meal.
#3 KAFFI VINYL
Hverfisgata 76, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Kaffi Vinyl is currently the only fully vegan restaurant in Reykjavik. Not necessarily something to highlight on a paleo blog, but there’s your fun fact. While you can’t get your animal protein fix here, you can get a quality, gluten free, plant-based meal without going broke, which is a feat in Reykjavik. This yummy bowl of cauliflower soup and gluten-free bread set me back about $15 USD – that’s cheap.
One bonus of dining at Kaffi Vinyl is that it’s not just a meal, but also entertainment! They often have DJs spinning vinyl records so you can enjoy a curated playlist while you cry inside at the price of food.
Njálsgata 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Delicious coconut milk ice cream!!! Need I say more?! Probably not, but I will anyways.
Joylato ice cream is made from fresh, organic, and as local as possible ingredients, and they sweeten with dates, maple syrup, and/or raw sugar, making it pretty darn paleo! You can either select from one of the pre-made flavors OR you can get flex your creativity muscles and compose an ice cream flavor of your very own! That’s right, select the coconut milk base (or Iceland farm fresh cow’s milk for you Primal-eaters), choose a flavor, and pick your add-ins, and the magicians at Joylato will whip up a cup of ice cream using the power of liquid nitrogen and a mixer. And what’s more, the slice of waffle cone that comes with every cup of ice cream is gluten free – in fact, everything here is gluten free!!!
With a small ice cream starting at 650ISK ($6 US), it’s a little pricy, but absolutely worth it!
Óðinsgata 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
I stumbled on this cozy cafe at the recommendation of a Reykjavik local. Tucked away on a side road off one of the main drags in Reykjavik, Systrasamlagid can be a little hard to miss, but it’s well worth the hunt.
This peaceful little hole-in-the-wall is both boutique and cafe, run by two yoga-practicing sisters. The front half of the store, the boutique, is stocked with a variety of high quality yoga clothing, equipment, and holistic skin care products and essential oils. It’s clear that great care and attention has been put into the selection of every item in the store.
The same goes for the cafe in the back half of the store. Offering a menu of thoughtfully crafted coffee and tea drinks, like a turmeric latte made with coconut milk, and a selection of small eats like chia seed puddings, superfood bars, acai bowls, and a non-dairy version of Iceland’s specialty, skyr, this cafe the perfect spot of a quiet breakfast or a low-key mid-afternoon treat.
#6 SÆMUNDER Í SPARIFÖTUNUM
Óðinsgata 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
This casual, speak-easy styled restaurant is located in the Kex Hostel. Don’t let the fact that it’s in a hostel deter you! This restaurant is frequented by locals and travelers alike because the atmosphere, food, and cocktails are top notch. Grab a table beside a bookshelf with a stack of dusty tomes or get cozy on one of the lounge couches and put your feet up on a vintage trunk.
While you’re at it, order the Spicy “Freedom” Burger (sans bun) with the Icelandic Ísbúi cheese (a traditional Icelandic cheese made from cows milk). Not only is this spicy burger insanely delicious – it’s almost like chorizo – but the restaurant lists the specific Icelandic farm that the beef came from, noting that it’s grass-fed and free range beef!
#7 HAMBURGER JOINT
Geirsgata Geirsgötu 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
If you want a cheap, fast, American-style hamburger, the Hamburger Joint is for you. In fact, its been voted the best hamburger in town by The Washington Post. Located in the Old Harbor neighborhood of Reykjavík, the Hamburger Joint is everything a local fast food spot should be. They’ve got years of decaying American movie posters plastered to the walls and Christmas lights lining the ceiling. Most importantly, they make a solid hamburger and they even have the option of sweet potato fries!
Tryggvagötu 19 , Old Harbour, Grófin, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Dying to try the Icelandic specialty, fermented shark? This is where you’ll find it! Kolaportið is a flea market with vendors selling everything from food to clothing and it’s only open Saturdays and Sundays from 11-5pm so plan accordingly. In true flea market fashion, you’ll find everything from food to clothing to tchotchkes, but the highlight is the food. They’ve got all the Icelandic specialties including fresh seafood, freeze dried cod, smoked fish, fermented shark, fish eggs, skyr (Icelandic yogurt), and the list goes on. The fun is in exploring the unique offerings at each vendor stall… and then challenging your friends or hostel-mates to eat them!
#9 FREE YOGA
Loft Hostel Bankastræti 7, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
The Loft Hostel offers a free community yoga class in the common area every Sunday at noon. You don’t have to staying to the hostel to take advantage of this free class! Just be sure to get there early so you can snag a yoga mat before they run out.
#10 REEBOK CROSSFIT REYJAVIK
Faxafen 12, 108 Reykjavík, Iceland
Home to some of the top CrossFit athletes in the world, CrossFit Reykjavik is a massive, state-of-the-art CrossFit facility welcoming drop ins for a $24 fee. They offer an extensive list of class times, as well as a hot tub, cold tub, and an infra-red sauna. Get a taste of how the pros workout!
Sundlaugavegur 105, Austurbær Reykjavík, Iceland
You don’t have to go to the Blue Lagoon and drop $60+ to take advantage of Iceland’s geothermal pools. For a fraction of the price (free if you have the Reykjavik City Card), enjoy the Icelandic tradition of relaxing at one of Reyjavik’s pristine public pools! Laugardalslaug is the largest public swimming pool in Reykjavik, featuring cold pools, hot pools, steam rooms, and a geothermal pool. Just be prepared to shower in your birthday suit (yes, naked) alongside the other swimmers in the locker room!
#12 NAUTHOLSVIK BEACH
101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Balance out your time in the hot tubs at the city pools with some cold thermogenesis in the ocean! Visit this man-made lagoon pumped with geothermal water to keep the ocean water a bearable 59-66*F. For an entrance fee of just $6, Nautholsvik has everything you need for a comfortable swimming experience like changing facilities, showers, hot tubs, and steam baths. Though it was a ghost town when I visited, this gorgeous beach gets packed in summer!
#13 ODDSSON HO(S)TEL
Hringbraut 121, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Looking to keep your meditation practice up while traveling or connect with like-minded people? Meditation classes offered every Sunday night from 8-9pm for a small drop in fee.