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Kæstur Hákarl © Audrey/ Flickr

Ideal for those looking to experience something new.

Though dream holidays and bucket list entries usually revolve around sunshine, palm trees and something tropical, there’s also much to be said for pursuing the opposing extremity. Yep, clue’s in the title guys, we’re talking about nights longer than days, afforestated evergreen conifers and something subpolar in Iceland.

More specifically, it’s the food we’re focusing on today. While ‘Nordic’ cuisine as a whole has enjoyed significant publicity and praise in recent years, Icelandic fare remains something of a niche enthusiasm outside of the subregion. But those who scratch the surface just a little are richly rewarded. Let’s investigate in the county’s capital city; here are 6 must eat foods in Reykjavik, Iceland and where to try them, IDEAL for those looking to experience something new.


Fermented shark

Two words that no one thought belonged in the same sentence, and Hakarl is a national dish which certainly divides the crowd. The preparation of this infamous dish involves planting Greenland shark in the Icelandic sand, weighing it down so it loses moisture over time, and then, after around 12 weeks, unearthed and hung to dry. The result is a jerky like texture and smell of strong cheese. Mmmmm. 

Actually, this pokey guy is much more palatable with a shot or two of local liquor Brennivin. In fact, it’s really rather nice if you like your flavours bold and the hair very firmly put on your chest. You can try it on tours of the glacier and geyser packed Golden Circle (sharks may be packed below your feet!) or back in the capital…

Try at: Icelandic Street Food, Laekjargata 8, Reykjavik, 101, Iceland

Hákarl | © Chris Wronski/ Flickr


Cod jerky

Air dried, jerky like Icelandic fish isn’t reserved solely for shark. A more approachable preparation is the popular hardfiskur, which is essentially cod jerky. Most often enjoyed as a snack, perhaps with a beer or liquor, it’s almost always accompanied by salted butter (which is particularly fine in this part of the world, we think). It can also be added to soups and stews. When added to liquid, it’s like detonating an umami bomb in your dinner.

Try at: Grillmarkaðurinn, Lækjargata 2a, 101 Reykjavík, 101, Iceland or Icelandic Street Food, Laekjargata 8, Reykjavik, 101, Iceland

Harðfiskur | © Icelandic Street food/ Facebook


A traditional fish stew

Surrounded by the abundant North Atlantic sea, which boasts lobster, mackerel, herring, cod and more in droves, it’s no surprise that the focus of Iceland’s cuisine falls on fish.

Plokkfiskur is a celebration of the country’s love for the ocean and the importance of the fishing industry. This simple stew, translating as ‘plucked fish’, is made with white fish (cod or haddock is common), potato, and a bechamel sauce flavoured with plenty of aromatic herbs like bayleaf and chive. The obligatory rye bread is served on the side and many like to spread the thick stew on the bread. Delicious!

Try at: Messinn, Lækjargata 6, Reykjavík, 101, Iceland


Half a sheep’s head

Singed, boiled, brains removed, charred…it doesn’t sound like the most elegant cooking process. Neither does it look too refined when it arrives; a half sheep’s head, staring back at you. The proof, though, is in the pate, as they (don’t but should) say; a delicious, deeply flavoured experience which has you picking at head cheese ‘till the sheep come home.

Paired simply with mashed potato, this is a Reykjavik must try whose finest version is found in the unlikeliest of locations; a bus station terminal. Though it might seem lowkey, this is a taste of a unique kind of Icelandic luxury, make no mistake.

Try at: Mýrin Mathús, Vatnsmýrarvegur 10, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

Sheep’s Head | © Schneelocke/Wikimedia Commons


Icelandic hotdog

Hotdogs on the streets on Reykjavik, with the smell of caramelised onions on the nose and the first bite bringing steam from your mouth…well, it’s one of life’s most simple pleasures, we think.

To connoisseurs, it’s all in the interplay of the condiments. Take a warm bun, add your sausage, some raw and crispy onions, and then it’s up to you to choose your weapons. Normally, it’s lots of piquancy and crunch in the form of capers, gherkins, remoulade and the country’s unique brown mustard pylsusinnep. An absolute joy.

Try at: Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, Tryggvagata 1, Reykjavík, 101, Iceland


Icelandic cultured dairy

This cultured dairy product (not quite a yoghurt, and not a cheese either) has been eaten in Iceland for hundreds of years. Its popularity endures because of its reported health benefits, of which there are many. It’s high in protein, rich in nutrients and is full of live cultures.

Icelanders usually enjoy skyr cold, topped with sugar, or stirred through with porridge oats and adorned with local berries, such as lingonberries, bilberries and cloudberries. When served like that, it’s no wonder that the people of Iceland are some of the healthiest in the world; this superfood is a fantastic way to start the day. 

It’s also a superb way to end a meal. We love Matur og Drykkur’s lemon version served with liquorice ice cream…

Try at: Matur og Drykkur, Grandagarður 2, Reykjavík, 101, Iceland

Whether you're looking for the ideal restaurant to curb your kimchi cravings, need inspiration for tonight's dinner or are after advice on how to make the creamiest risotto ever, we've got you covered. Our talented team of food obsessed writers and chefs are here satisfy your foodie cravings one article at a time.

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