At Hidden Iceland we love coffee! There’s no doubt about it. In fact, one of the founders (me) started out as a coffee shop barista many moons ago. So we definitely appreciate a well made cup of joe. It would seem most of Iceland does too, being the 3rd largest coffee consumers per capita in the world. So this blog post is dedicated to the best coffee shops we’ve tried in and around Reykjavik. After all, an adventurous day out should always begin with the right caffeinated motivation.
Why we make sure that coffee is part of our tours
Hidden Iceland’s tours are personalised, adventurous and, as we always say, run the way we would want to take our friends and family around Iceland. That obviously means stopping at the best spots, finding some hidden gems, and adding in a bit of adventure. But we are also acutely aware that it’s not a race. Not everyone wants to cram in as much as possible to each day. A time to reflect and unwind is just as important as taking that perfect picture. And, considering my Dad drinks coffee like water and my Mum consumes tea like it’s about to go out of fashion I think it’s safe to say that there should always be at least one coffee stop throughout the day. Not to mention most of our guides enjoy a tasty brew as well. We’ve got to keep our staff happy too after all.
So this short list of best coffee shops (which will be updated the more places we test out…tough job, I know) covers a few of our favourite spots within Reykjavik and a few out of it too. Some of the countries best sights are within a day trip from Reykjavik so adding a few coffee shops outside of the city is likely just as important to you, the traveller, as coffee shops in the city. In fact, within a 3 hour drive of Reykjavik you can make it to the Golden Circle, hike on a glacier and walk deep into a lava cave. Not all at the same time of course. So it’s probably best to share a few of the coffee stops outside of Reykjavik too.
The places below are chosen for their taste but also their cosiness and uniqueness. From drinking coffee inside a tomato greenhouse to cosying up to the resident cat in a converted school bus, this list has a few unique options for sure.
BEST COFFEE SHOPS IN REYKJAVIK
Café Ó-Le (Downtown Reykjavík)
Café Ó-le is the newest member of the speciality coffee scene in Reykjavík, and a truly welcome one. With their specialty coffee and delicious pastries, it’s quickly become a new favourite for us.
Reykjavik Roasters (Downtown Reykjavik)
For pure taste, this coffee shop is one of Iceland’s best. If you have half a day to spare in Reykjavik then make sure to pop in and sample the goods. Seriously, I have never seen a coffee so carefully crafted. From the meticulous measurement of the coffee grains using a tiny scale, to the precise temperature of the milk, it is no surprise that I can virtually guarantee a perfect coffee here.
The best word to describe the staff at Reykjavik Roasters is ‘professional’. It’s clear they care about their craft very much. You can really taste the difference when this level of passion is added to each brew. The café itself has a minimalist, almost hipster vibe with great music (often played on a rustic record player). The 3 cafes dotted around the central area of Reykjavik are a welcome relief after climbing to the top of the Hallgrímskirkja church or walking the length of the Laugavegur shopping strip looking for the best souvenir.
Perlan Coffee House (Öskjuhlíð, Reykjavik)
This luxurious café is on a rotating glass dome on top of a 4 story science and natural history museum. Do I need to go on? How about the breathtaking view? This rotating coffee shop gives you a 360 degree view of Reykjavik on a clear day. Enough incentive yet? Well the coffee and the homemade ice cream are to die for too.
This café is a little out of the way (on top of a big hill south of the main high streets). So what I tend to do to get my caffeine fix here is take advantage of the museums free hourly shuttle bus from Harpa Concert Hall (downtown Reykjavik). Upon arrival I’ll spend the first hour nestled into one of the comfy couches with a well made coffee, taking in the views. I’ll then spend the next few hours making my way down the floors, exploring the museum, including their man-made ice cave, and then simply get the elevator back up to the top floor to get another glimpse of the view… and of course a second coffee and incredible chocolate cake. Also, if it’s a nice day outside it’s worth walking around the little forest surrounding the museum on top of the hill.
Klambrar Bistro (Hlíðar, Reykjavik)
This Bistro is a Norwegian style café hidden inside the uniquely designed Kjarvalsstaðir Art Museum. This isolated café is right at the edge of a tranquil, open park where the locals are found walking their dogs and playing frisbee golf.
Sitting outside with a fantastic coffee watching some of the local kids play in the park is surprisingly relaxing. The large windows inside give you just as great a view on the chillier days. Make sure to try their vegan chicken waffle if you get a chance too. All their meals are inspired by Scandinavian cuisine and all ingredients are sourced with this in mind. Think delicious cakes, smorrebrod and heartwarming soups. Once you are done with your lunch then be sure to take in impressive Art Museum honoring one of Iceland’s most revered artists and then wander around the park.
Kaffihús Vesturbæjar (Vesturbær, Reykjavik)
I would cautiously suggest that this café is the most likely to be filled with locals, rather than tourists. It’s away from the main tourist streets of Reykjavik. Actually, most people will stumble across this café if visiting one of our favourite local geothermal pools or on their way to the solitary Grótta Lighthouse on the western tip of the peninsula.
The lighthouse is on the north west side of the city (a great Northern Lights location FYI). It’s within walking distance of the city centre but if you’re aiming for evening star gazing then a car is generally preferred. Rather than going to this café just to try the coffee (though it is worth it for that reason alone), I would recommend making it part of your day out as you wander along the coastline. The food is also incredible. My personal favourite is Eggs Benedict and Carrot Cake with a well made Latte. The menu changes regularly though so it’s always a pleasant surprise to learn about a new dish when you arrive. Cosied up in this well lit cafe while watching the locals and the bustle of ‘West Town’ outside is all part of the charm.
Mikki Refur (downtown Reykjavik)
At the time of writing this is the newest cafe in Reykjavik, barely 2 weeks old (November 2020). It’s very bold to try and open any new business in the middle of the global pandemic so they are worth giving a little love right from the start.
Thankfully, even after such a short time, the reputation of the coffee being brewed in this quaint little café made us check it out. Trust us when we say, it didn’t disappoint. For pure coffee lovers, wanting a great coffee with no fuss then this is the place for you. They are newly opened so things are changing quickly. They now do heart-warming soup, as of yesterday! Located on Hverfisgata (downtown), this is the perfect spot to stop in if you are in shopping mode that day. They also sell great wine too if you are in no hurry to get to the next place.
BEST COFFEE SHOPS OUTSIDE OF REYKJAVIK
I was very tempted to stop short and only include the Reykjavik coffee stops. But then I thought, how often do coffee shops outside of Reykjavik get the same love? Not enough in my opinion. So, below are some of our favourite spots that we do our best to stop at on some of our day trips out of the city.
Skool Beans (Vik, south coast of Iceland)
This unique little cafe is a converted American school bus that was previously repurposed as a glacier guiding vehicle. Just as it lost its thirst for adventure Holly, the owner, rescued it from the scrap heap and turned it into south Iceland’s first micro-roaster and tea lab.
All coffee beans are roasted by her in the village. The owner, Holly, has also become something of a magician when it comes to coming up with new recipes for hot chocolate too, so don’t only fixate on the admittedly brilliantly roasted coffee. This little cafe is bursting with charm, except for part owner, Jeffarious Edward the first (resident cat), who will do his best to ignore you while you yearn for some of his attention in front of the fireplace.
Hidden Iceland stop in here on many of our private trips along the south coast or on our 2 day tour if daylight allows. We always recommend it if you are self driving. Holly’s coffee shop has only been open since summer 2020 and yet her menu has expanded to include various different coffee beans, hot chocolates, exotic teas and delicious bagels with lots of toppings to boot. Many people order to-go on their south coast journey but I prefer to relax a little in front of the open fire while I warm my toes on the colder days. Plus, Holly is always up for a chat when it isn’t too busy.
Friðheimar Tomato Farm & Horse Stables (Reykholt, Golden Circle)
Have you ever had a coffee surrounded by 21 ft high tomato plants and buzzing bees…in the middle of winter…in Iceland…powered by the heat of a volcano? I didn’t think so. Friðheimar is an absolute must when you are visiting the Golden Circle in Iceland.
It has predominantly tomato based lunches (tomato soup, mozzarella pizza, ravioli pasta etc) are worth the visit alone. But add in the prospect of a tomato based coffee (yes, you read that right) and it’ll become the highlight of your day. They do of course have normal flavoured coffee for those reading this, who don’t like the idea of their coffee taking on a slightly different aroma. For the brave ones, I actually do recommend trying it. As they say, when in Rome…or in this case, when in a geothermal greenhouse. After lunch make sure to walk around the greenhouse and pop over to the horse stables to say hello to the friendly Icelandic horse (just don’t call them ponies).
Hidden Iceland includes this restaurant on our Golden Circle: Platinum tour and on our Golden Circle with Northern Lights private tour.
Narfeyrastofa Restaurant (Stykkishólmur, Snaefellsnes Peninsula)
This cafe/ restaurant is the furthest away from Reykjavik on this list, located north of Reykjavik within the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Make sure to dedicate a full day, or more, to this excursion as Snaefellsnes has far more than just this sleepy little fishing village to visit.
This restaurant is as Icelandic as it comes with its sheep wool coverings and traditional style. Many of the locals will grab a sociable coffee in here before the busy lunch and dinner rush begins. I personally recommend grabbing lunch along with your coffee here. The coffee is well made and the setting is warm and comfortable. You’ll find yourself wanting to hang around long after you get to the bottom of your cup under the inviting hanging lights. The staff are also knowledgeable and friendly. If you intend to have lunch (recommended) then take your time to study then menu. You’ll likely notice that most of the meals are sourced right around the corner in neighbouring farms and harbours.
Hidden Iceland visit Narfeyrastofa on our Snaefellsnes Peninsula day tour as well as on many overnight northern lights private tours.
Best coffee shops in Reykjavik & Surrounding Areas
So there you have it. This short list is just some of our favourite spots. It is by no means exhaustive so if you can think of any other places worthy of our attention then please mention it in the comments below. Let’s just say it won’t take much to convince us to go and try out a new coffee shop.
Stay safe and stay caffeinated!
Hi, I am Ryan Connolly; Co-Founder and Marketing Manager of Hidden Iceland.
I’ve guided in multiple countries around the world and stepped foot on all 7 continents. My passion for the outdoors, science, nature, glaciers and volcanoes has led me to study and write about Iceland. I have been interviewed in Forbes, Conde Nast Traveller and Travel Pulse on various subjects.