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Iceland

We spent Christmas 2015 in Iceland and people are always asking me for tips of what to do, where to eat, where to buy yarn. I better write it up here so I don’t have to dig up all my notes all the time.

Yarn

Yarn is everywhere in Reykjavik. In grocery stores, in souvenir stores, at stores in the airport, in random clothing stores. The standard Icelandic yarn is Ístex Léttlopi and it is probably the only thing that is cheap in Iceland. The first yarn shop I went to was Storkurinn, which sells not only Icelandic yarn but also yarn from around the world. They moved locations and are now a bit further from downtown, but I think it is still worth a trip. In addition to yarn, the store carries an amazing selection of buttons. I bought a few skeins of Léttlopi for a shawl there but regret to this day not having bought Hélène Magnusson’s lovely Icelandic yarn. After wandering all over Reykjavik for a week and browsing online, it seems that the best place to stock up on Icelandic yarn is The Handknitting Association of Iceland, which is also where you can buy handknit sweaters and cardigans. There are two stores downtown, one of which carries more yarn. That’s where I bought enough yarn for a cardigan and a vest for the equivalent of $40.

Food

The food in Iceland was fantastic. It was also very expensive. I basically stopped trying to convert the money into Canadian dollars, and just went with the flow. Some highlights of our trip:

  • Kex Hostel – It was probably the place we went to the most. The hostel has an amazing cafe area, with a lovely patio in the summer and an amazing view of the bay and the mountains across. We went for their famous buffet breakfast, then again for lunch on another day, and then again for coffee a couple times. It’s a great place to just sit, write postcards, knit, relax. The food is excellent, the coffee is from Reykjavik Roasters, and they serve lots of craft beers. Highly recommended.
  • Mandi – I am very sorry we only discovered Mandi on our final two days in Reykjavik. It doesn’t look like the kind of place you would want to go in. It has that corner store vibe and the only sitting is bar style along the edges of the store. See link above. But if you like fish, order the Mandi Specialty Fish and then thank me later. OMG. So good. And ridiculously cheap by Reykjavik standards. Trust me. Go there.
  • Icelandic Fish & Chips – It was one of the first places we went to and it was excellent. The fish anywhere in Reykjavik was amazing. There’s a neat little volcano museum next door.
  • Reykjavik Roasters – Put simply, one of the best roasters in Europe. On any half decent list of cafés to go around the world if you are a coffee geek like me. It was busy and crowded when we went but it was still worth it. Excellent place to buy coffee beans to bring home. Excellent cortado.
  • Nora Magasin – Very high quality food here. Alan had the famous deep fried chicken and I had a fish dish (of course). It was an excellent meal.
  • Skúli Craft Bar – The place to go for craft beer. A very wide selection that included some interesting Icelandic options.
  • Sandholt Bakery – The most amazing sourdough bread I have had. Also a good spot for lunch.

What to do

It was winter, so we didn’t feel brave enough to rent a car and drive around. The weather can be very treacherous in Iceland, so ALWAYS listen when a local tell you to avoid one thing or another. There was a thick binder full of news clippings at the tourist office of tourists who died or were terribly injured because they did not listen to the locals. In the end, we booked a few day trips from Reykjavik Excursions, the same company that runs the shuttles to and from the airport. We took the Golden Circle tour with a stop at the Fontana Spa and the trip to the Blue Lagoon. The rest of the time we simply walked around Reykavik from coffeeshop, to restaurant, to cafe, to bar, with the occasional museum and opera house thrown in.

Take away

It was an amazing trip. Alan and I talked about it for months. I definitely want to go back in the summer.