Perhaps it’s the long winter nights, or maybe it’s the growing beer scene (illegal between 1915 and 1989), but Reykjavik nightlife is quickly gaining a reputation as some of the best in Europe – with Iceland a top destination for a legendary night out. If you’re wondering what to do on a cloudy night in Reykjavik, with little chance of glimpsing the magical Northern Lights, then here’s our guide to nightlife in Reykjavik.
What’s Reykjavik nightlife like?
One of the many reasons that Reykjavik’s nightlife is so great is simply down to it’s size: Reykjavik is a small city (population: 122,1410). This is a town made for bar hopping, with most of Reykjavik’s bars and cities located on the same strip – one big mash up of high end clubs, cool bars and dark, underground basements interspersed with food trucks and restaurants. Bars and clubs stay open late, there’s not much of a dress code and you’ll rarely have to pay an entrance fee, making it a fun night for all budgets.
Local tips on what to do in Reykjavik in the evening
If you’re wondering what to do in Reykjavik at night, then here are a few pro tips from the locals:
- Drinks in Iceland are pricey! The best way to start the night in Reykjavik? With a few pre-drinks at someone’s house (or at the hotel).
- Many Icelanders don’t go out until later in the evening, sometimes not before 1am! So don’t expect to find a lively atmosphere in the clubs until then. Instead, why not try out a local beer tour (a great way to meet other travellers) or visit one of the cool bars or bistros in the meantime.
- Download the Reykjavik Appy Hour app for tips on where to find the best drinks deals!
- Consider picking up some alcohol in the duty-free store before you arrive, it’s cheaper than buying it locally.
- Curious about the Reykjavik nightlife dress code? Smart casual is best, but make sure you have a warm jacket for the walk between venues!
- The drinking age is 20 in Iceland, and although entry age varies between venues the average age is 21 and above.
Why is Reykjavik nightlife so expensive?
One thing that may come as a shock to many people visiting Iceland is the price of a drink – alcohol is considerably more expensive here than elsewhere. Why is alcohol so expensive in Iceland? Taxes, pure and simple. It costs the government a fair amount to provide all the fantastic cultural service and institutions you’ll find in Reykjavik (not to mention decent welfare) and Iceland’s population is tiny! Save yourself some money by purchasing alcohol in the duty-free stores and taking advantage of the local happy hour deals!
Which hotel in Reykjavik should I choose?
If you love to be right in the heart of everything then look for a hotel in the Miðbær district of Reykjavik. Essentially the city centre, this is where you’ll find the best shopping (Laugavegur street), the majority of museums and most of the best bars and restaurants. Perfect for an easy night out, you’ll be able to save money by walking everywhere here. Keep in mind, however, that bars in Iceland can stay open as late as 5am – not ideal for light sleepers wanting an early morning start.
If you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter to spend the night, that won’t take you too far away from the action, then settle for somewhere in the Vesturbær area. You’ll be looking at a 20-30 minute walk home on a night out, but you may find rooms are cheaper and a taxi home at night won’t break the bank either.
Where to go out in Reykjavik
A short guide to the best bars and clubs in Reykjavik.
Kaffibarinn is easily the most popular bar in Reykjavík, frequented by both locals and tourists alike. A great spot for electro and alternative music.
Gaukurinn is a great alternative venue and home of Iceland’s drag scene. The music here tends towards rock and metal but varies depending on the night. On certain nights you’ll also find an underground art scene, stand-up comedy (sometimes in English!), movies and live music.
Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar is a very popular spot amongst the local population for a sit-down beer and a chatty evening with friends.
Pablo Discobaris and Bar Ananas are the top spots for a fun night of dancing and disco. Both serve up some great cocktails and a fun crowd.