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Iceland Mag

Food & Drink

Five “hidden” Cafés in Reykjavík

By Magnús Sveinn Helgason

  • Hannesarholt One of the hidden cafés of Reykjavík, located in the downtown neighbourhood of Þingholtin, the café is located in the former home of Hannes Hafstein, first Minister for Iceland, responsible to the Icelandic parliament, Althingi. Photo/Iceland Magazine.

There is no shortage of great coffee houses in Reykjavík. The two Icelandic coffee house chains Te & Kaffi and Kaffitár have several locations downtown, there are bookstore cafés and several small independent cafés lining the busiest streets and squares. But if you have either visited all of the most popular places, or are looking for a cup of coffee somewhere off the beaten path we have picked out five very different, but all really great, cafés which are definitely worth visiting!

1. Café Flóran
Café Flóran is located in the Reykjavík Botanical Garden in the Laugardalur valley. Laugardalurinn is one of the most popular recreational areas in the Capital region, with the Laugardalslaugin pool as well as a number of sports facilities in addition to the Petting Zoo. There are, in other words, plenty of reasons to visit Laugardalurinn! The valley derives its name (Laugardalurinn translates as “Bath valley”) from the old geothermal baths which were constructed by the many hot springs which were in the valley. You can visit the baths, which were used to wash linens and clothes until the 1930s. The steam plumes rising from the geothermal pools in Laugardalur also gave Reykjavík its name, “Smokey Bay”. Today the water level in the hot springs in the region has dropped, as they are used to provide hot water for the city. 

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Kaffi Flóran Enjoying the a beautiful fall day at Café Flóra in the Reykjavík Botanical Garden Photo/Iceland Magazine

Café Flóran is a beautiful small café with a excellent brunch and lunch menu, inside and outside seating, which is lovely when the weather is nice. A perfect day would include a brunch at Café Flóran, followed by a stroll through the Botanical Garden or a visit to the Petting Zoo and refreshing swim at the Laugardalslaugin pool (make sure you try the sea-water tub, heated with geothermal water pumped from a hot spring just off the coast).

Opening hours:
Every day 10:00-22:00

2. Reykjavík Roasters, Borgarholt
Reykjavík Roasters probably offers the best coffee in Reykjavík. Its café by Kárastígur in the old part of town is also one of the most popular cafés in Reykjavík. And no wonder, not only is the coffee great, the café offers a cosy and somewhat quirky atmosphere, just one block from Hallgrímskirkja church. Due to the location and the fact that the café is always packed with travellers as well as locals and regulars, which disqualifies Reykjavík Roasters from this list. 

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The best coffee in town Reykjavík Roasters is off the beaten path, across the street from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts. Photo/Iceland Magazine

So, why are we still including Reykjavík Roasters on this list of hidden cafés, you might ask? The reason is that Reykjavík Roasters opened a second store this summer, which is still relatively hidden! The décor is rather minimalistic, as opposed to the eclectic quirkiness at Kárastígur. The customers at both locations are a mix of smart young professionals and local hipsters. Located in Brautarholt, across the street from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, a couple of blocks east off the Bus Stop Square at the end of Laugavegur shopping street, it is a great place to stop to have an early-bird cup of quality coffee before you head down-town.

Opening hours (Both at the Kárastígur and Brautarholt locations):
Weekdays 7:30-18:00
Weekends 9:00-17:00

3. Systrasamlagið
Systrasamlagið is not just a hidden gem of a café, it is also one of the smallest cafés in Reykjavík. Small might even be somewhat generous: with only two tables it is more properly described as tiny! Located by the Seltjarnarnes swimming pool Systrasamlagið is both an organic café, offering both coffee and tea, as well as a variety of organic boosters, treats and snacks – as well as a tiny little health store selling both yoga-goods and organic goods. 

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Systrasamlagið A tiny but friendly café and health store by the Seltjarnarnes public pool, Photo/Systrasamlagið.

One of the most popular items sold by Systralagið are the Float water therapy products. Systrasamlagið also offers organized collective float sessions at swimming pools around the Capital Area, as well as offering Float products for rent. If you are planning to float into relaxation, Systrasamlagið is clearly the place to start!

Read more: Float into complete relaxation

In addition to Seltjarnarnes swimming pool, which is one of the best swimming pools in the capital area, there are great hiking opportunities close by. The walking path which runs along the shore offers a easy and relaxed walk, with a magnificent view of the ocean and the mountain ranges around Reykjavík. At the tip of Seltjarnarnesið is the island of Grótta, which has a large bird colony and can be reached by land on high tide. You can spend a great afternoon walking around the shore, counter clockwise, visiting Grótta, and then ending at Systrasamlagið to power up with organic indgo coffee or chia pudding before taking refreshing swim at Seltjarnares swimming pool. Or just soaking in the hot tubs!

Opening hours:
Weekdays 9:00-18:00
Saturdays: 10:00-16:00

4. Hannesarholt
Even if Hannesarholt is smack down town it is far enough from the beaten path to remain mostly undiscovered. Which is a real shame, because Hannesarholt is one of the most beautiful cafés/restaurants in Reykjavík.  

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A historic building The Café is located in the living room, the dining room and the library of Hannes Hafstein, first prime minister of Iceland. Photo/Iceland Magazine

Hannesarholt is located in one of the most beautiful houses in the Þingholtin neighbourhood (the old down-town area, bordered by Skólavörðustígur street, the lake and Hallgrímskirkja church). The house is one of the oldest stone buildings in Reykjavík, built in 1915 following the great Reykjavík fire of 1915. The house was built by Hannes Hafstein, who was a celebrated poet, Member of Parliament and one of the heroes of the Icelandic struggle for independence. Hannes also became the first prime minister of Iceland, in 1904. His statue stands in front of the Prime Minister’s office by Lækjargata street.

Hannesarholt is not only rich in history, it serves a great breakfast and lunch menues and concerts and musical performances at night. The food is both simple and honest, made with fresh ingredients. You should stop by for a breakfast of Icelandic skyr with homemade muesli or lunch for traditional Icelandic fish stew. If you are walking around down-town looking for a café you should definitely take the few extra steps to visit Hannesarholt, rather than stumble into one of the crowded cafés along the main shopping streets.

Opening hours:
Weekdays 8:00-17:00 (breakfast is served 8:00-11:00, Lunch 11:00-14:30)
Weekends 11:00-17:00

5. Bike Cave
Close to the down town Airport, Bike Cave is probably not just the most interesting hidden small café and burger joint in Reykjavík, it is also the most reasonably priced. At a time when prices at most cafés and restaurants have climbed ever higher, whether that is due to inflation or gold-rush attempts by restaurateurs to milk every last penny out of the growing tide of foreign travellers, Bike Cave still offers prices which seem to come out of the 1990s. A cup of coffee costs less than 300 ISK! 

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Eclectic and homey Bike cave can serve as an excellent base for travellers, whatever transportation they prefer. Photo/Bike Cave.

But Bike Cave is not only a charming small café and bistro, it is also a great travel centre, offering various services to travellers. You can find everything from scooter-rental and a short term car rental, for running errands around town, to a laundromat and shower facilities. You can grab a reasonably priced burger or beer while you wait for the laundry, or wash off the dust from the road. In addition Bike Cave is a Self Service Pit Stop for anyone traveling by bike or bicycle. A bicycle stand and motorbike lift, loaded tool chests, an automatic tire changer and computerized balancing machine – again, all reasonably priced.

Located in the small neighbourhood of Skerjafjörður, which is more like a village within the city, Bike Cave is within walking distance from the Nauthólsvík geothermal beach.

Opening hours:
Every day 8:00-23:00
 

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