I was thrilled to discover that there are in fact food tours in Iceland! I enjoyed eating my way through Iceland’s capitol city in this 4 hour tour by The Reykjavik Food Walk.
Our meeting spot was the beautiful and modern Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik. You literally can’t miss it. I loved the shimmering green glass exterior perched on the edge of the beautiful harbor (also known as Stinky Bay), and it lights up in a myriad of colors at night.
Our first tasting began at The Icelandic Bar, which has a lovely dark wood interior with a cozy pub atmosphere. We were welcomed in and given lovely rye bread with Icelandic butter, and a piping hot bowl of meat soup. Icelandic meat soup is lamb and vegetables, and there are 1000 different recipes for it. It just so happened that our food tour fell on the first day of winter on the Icelandic calendar, which is the day of the Meat Soup Festival.
Next we headed up the street called Skólavörðustígur which has the most direct and amazing view of the Hallgrimskirkja. The cheese and gourmet shop called Ostabudin provided our next tasting. We sampled 3 kinds of cheese: Black Gouda, Gull Ostur, and blue cheese which was very strong. I love blue cheese, so I thought the intensity was delicious.
After the cheeses, we sampled lamb, horse, and smoked goose topped with a dollop of beautiful pink raspberry champagne vinaigrette sauce. The sauce was so delicious that I bought a couple of jars to bring home. It paired surprisingly well with the smoked goose.
Next, at the top of the street looking directly at Hallgrimskirkja, is a little place called Cafe Loki. This is a restaurant that serves traditional Icelandic food, and it’s a great place to try sampler plates of various Icelandic treats like mashed fish, smoked lamb, and even fermented shark if you dare. It was on my list of meals to try, but sadly I ran out of time and didn’t get to eat there. However, I was so happy that there was a dessert tasting here on the tour! We sampled their famous rye bread ice cream, which sounds odd but it is absolutely delicious. What a great way to use the leftover rye bread. It actually had the texture of oreo cookie ice cream. The sauce on top was not caramel, but in fact rhubarb!
Next stop was a visit to the city pond called Tjörnin where we got to enjoy the view and watch all the birds (SO many birds, ducks, geese, and swans). Here our guide Anna Sara produced containers of blueberry Skyr out of her backpack for us! Skyr is a staple of Icelandic life, and many people eat it on the go just like we were doing.
No visit to Reykjavik would be complete without a visit to one of the most iconic eating spots in the city: the famous hot dog stand! Baejarins Betsu Pylsur literally means “The Town’s Best Hot Dogs” and our guide informed us that this tiny little food stand brings in more income than all the restaurants in the downtown area (and there are some really nice ones). The hot dog is basically Iceland’s national dish. I really was not aware of their obsession with hot dogs until I got there, but it is very interesting, and makes a lot of sense since it’s basically the most affordable meal you can buy. Icelandic hot dogs are made with lamb, and they have a wonderful taste that is quite different from our American dogs. If you order it with “everything”or “ein með öllu”, it consists of mustard (a sweeter version than our yellow mustard), ketchup, a mayo based relish called remulaði, raw onions, and crispy fried onions. These crispy onions are AMAZING and should be on everything.
Moving right along to the old harbour of Reykjavik, there are old buildings that used to be fish warehouses. Nowadays it’s an amazing section of town known for great seafood restaurants and coffeehouses. We visited Kopar for some delicious, rich rock crab soup with shrimp, spinach, and bean sprouts. It was served with great bread and butter topped with violet salt! Yes, violet salt in the prettiest shade of lavender. Our guide explained that once all the restaurants in Reykjavik had mastered great bread, the competition has now moved on to the best and most creative butter.
So sad! Our tour was down to our very last stop. But it was incredible because we went for dessert at the swanky Apotek restaurant nearby. I was floored that a restaurant like this was included on a food tour. This restaurant is a very high end experience and would be perfect for a special occasion or a splurge. Still, it had a very comfortable vibe which I found throughout Reykjavik, as it’s not a stuffy place in my brief experience. Apotek is gorgeous, and housed in a very historic building in the old town, in what used to be a pharmacy–hence Apotek, like “apothecary.”
We were seated on the side of a large dining room with chandeliers and brown leather seats and paneled ceilings. Everything was so gorgeous. We were served fancy coffee with cream, and a completely stunning dessert: a raspberry chocolate mousse rose with sorbet.
I was so thrilled with this tour, and I highly recommend it if you’re in Reykjavik. Food tours are a very efficient way to sample a great number of local foods that you would otherwise never discover yourself in a short period of time. The only reason they don’t last longer is that you’re totally full by the end! If you love being introduced to new foods, great restaurants, with an ongoing history and culture lesson along the way, food tours are for you!
Thank you, Reykjavik Food Walk!!