all shops: Paying with plastic in Reykjavik
If you can't buy currency (ISK) before travelling to Iceland you can pay by credit/debit card practically everywhere in the city - even for small purchases like coffee or even at the famous hot-dog stall. In the UK it has become very hard to get hold of ISK before travelling to Iceland so the option to use plastic makes life very easy.
But remember you may also pay a foreign transaction fee (also called a loading fee) on purchases. Some UK cards do not incur a loading fee (e.g. the Halifax Clarity Credit Card doesn't charge extra, you only pay the exchange rate) so its worth checking in advance what your bank will charge in addition to the exchange rate. If you are going to pay a transaction fee on each purchase it might be worth taking out enough ISK in one go from an Iceland bank/ATM rather than incur lots of extra charges on small transactions.
Some popular purchases in Reykjavik not currently available with a credit card are :
- Local bus services in the capital area - although you can buy books of tickets and season tickets from specific offices using a card
- Parking meters - but "pay and display" meters do take credit cards
- Some stalls in the Kolaportið flea market
So dont feel embarrassed to use your card for small items. Unlike me, the first time we visited the Glacier Lagoon I felt embarrassed paying for just 2 coffees with my card, so also bought 2 small fridge magnets to bump up the order - but the lady behind the desk then put them through the till as 2 separate purchases (they must keep the cafe takings separate from the shop takings) so I ended up with 2 small purchases instead!
- Business Travel
- Luxury Travel
- Arts and Culture
most stores: VAT refund
Iceland is part of the Schengen agreement, but not a member of the EU. So for the first time in several years I was allowed to get VAT back. Most stores have the necessary forms, you just have to tell the cashier. You must spend more than 4000 ISK , have the forms ticked and signed, give your data and then you can claim VAT back at the airport.
A word of warning: If you want to do that, be at the airport with much time to spare. When I arrived at the counter there was a long line and it took about half an hour.
You can choose between getting the money in cash or as credit on your credit card. I chose the credit card and the money was transfered there within two weeks.
Bonus: Just a regular, normal supermarket
Our tourguide from the city tour gave us this tip about the Bonus supermarket. She said it's a normal supermarket where everybody shops, not just tourists. She also mentioned they'd have the traditional Iceland Christmas cake.
I went there and got some and my only regret is that I only bought one cake. I should have bought at least two or three.
I also got some Icelandic chocolates there as a gift for my family at home. Again this was a tip from our tour guide, she had told us that the chocolate there was cheaper than in the duty free shop in the airport. I compared the prices later and she was right.
I didn't take any picture, everybody knows what a supermarket looks like.
- Budget Travel
Little Christmas Shop: Special Christmas items
We were in Reykjavik end of November and the Christmas decorations and lights in the streets were out. It looked great, especially since a large part of the day was dark.
I bought some souvenirs in the Little Christmas Shop. It was very crowded and I was afraid I'd break something just by moving around - the word "little" is really fitting.This shop is full of delicate, fragile items.
As always there were some beautiful things and some corny ones, I got some very nice Christmas baubles.
The shop also had some pictures and books about the Icelandic Christmas traditions with the Christmas trolls.
- Family Travel
Hagkaup, Nettó, 10-11, Iceland: Grocery stores which are open 24/7
Here is a list of grocery stores open around the clock in Reykjavík and the Great Reykjavík area:
Eiðistorg, Seltjarnarnes (grocery store only)
Engihjalli 8, Kópavogur
Hjallabrekka and Dalvegur in Kópavogur
Staðarberg and Melabraut in Hafnarfjörður
What to buy: Groceries.
What to pay: Most expensive of the 24/7 stores is 10-11, then Hagkaup, Nettó and Iceland in this order.
Hagkaup.: Hagkaup - supermarket.
Hagkaup is one of our most popular supermarkets. It used to be owned by the same owners as Bónus, but is more expensive with a wide selection of food, clothes, shoes, a perfume apartment, toys, books, electronic devices, furniture etc.
It all started with just one store, but now they have expanded and there are 11 Hagkaup supermarkets in Iceland, 7 in the Great Reykjavík area and 4 in other places of Iceland. The pictures I have added here are taken in the Hagkaup supermarket at Holtagarðar. The locations of Hagkaup supermarkets and grocery stores are:
Eiðistorg (grocery store only) (open 24/7)
Garðabær (open 24/7)
Kringlan (shopping center)
Skeifan (open 24/7)
Smáralind (shopping center). This is where the largest Hagkaup supermarket is located.
The opening hours are weekdays and Saturdays from 10-20 and Sundays from 12-20.
What to buy: Food, clothes for women, men and children, shoes, perfume, toys, books, electronic devices, furniture etc.
What to pay: Hagkaup is more expensive than Bónus, but less expensive than some other grocery stores.
Fríða frænka (Aunt Frieda): A quaint cosy little antique store.
Fríða frænka is one of my favourite antique stores. You can find almost everything there, most of it coming from Icelandic estates.
It is such fun just browsing there looking for hidden treasures and the store owner Anna Ringsted, who has been behind the counter since the store opened in 1981, makes you feel most welcome. Unfortunately her husband died last year, so this store will be closed down in 2014.
This store is a true gem well worth a visit while strolling down-town.
What to buy: All kinds of antique.
10-11: Grocery shopping 24/7.
10-11 (pronounced "tíuellefu") is a chain of grocery-stores and used to be owned by the same owners as Bónus and Hagkaup. This is the most expensive chain and most of their stores are open 24/7. All together there are 24 stores around Iceland, 19 of them are in the Great Reykjavík area scattered all around Reykjavík and the Great Reykjavík area. I rarely go there as they are very expensive, but if you need to buy something at night then it is good to know that something is open.
The 10-11 stores in the Great Reykjavík area are located in:
Arnarbakki (open 8-24)
Eggertsgata (open 7-24)
Laugavegur 116 (open 9-24)
Grensásvegur (open 8-24)
Hjallabrekka and Dalvegur in Kópavogur
Staðarberg and Melabraut in Hafnarfjörður. Also in Fjörður (open 9-24)
Outside of Reykjavík 10-11 is located in:
Akureyri - center
Keflavík - Hafnargata 55
Keflavík airport - Inspired by Iceland (open when there is a flight). And 10-11 arrivals which is open 24/7.
What to buy: Groceries, food and drink.
What to pay: Much more than in Bónus and a little more than in Hagkaup.
Vínbúðin-ÁTVR.: Our state run liquor stores.
Alcohol, wine and beer is only sold in state run liquor stores (monopoly) here in Iceland and not in the supermarkets. Only light-beer or pilsner with the alcohol content 2,25% is sold in the supermarkets. There are 48 liquor stores in Iceland. There are 11 stores in the great Reykjavík area and they are called "Vínbúðin" in Icelandic. The one foreign visitors are bound to run into is the one in Austurstræti street down-town. The other ones are f.ex. in Skeifan-area, Skútuvogur, Kringlan and Smáralind shopping centers, Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður, Seltjarnarnes, Mosfellsbær and then some in the suburbs of Reykjavík.
When we go to the liquor store, we don´t say that we are going to Vínbúðin, but "ég er að fara í ríkið" or I am going to the state.
Opening hours are: Mondays-Thursdays: 11-18, Fridays 11-19 and Saturdays 11-18. The stores in Dalvegur, Skútuvogur and Skeifan are open 10-20 week-days.
Alcohol is very expensive in Iceland, the taxes are way too high - imagine how much a beer cost before our Icelandic króna collapsed in 2008. If you think it is expensive now, then it was double the price for foreigners back then!
We don't really have a wine-culture and beer-drinking was forbidden here until 1989, imagine that!! From 1915 until March 1st 1989 (I remember that day vividly) there was no beer allowed in the country! It started with a general liquor ban, but 7 years later wine was allowed - and in 1935 hard liquor was allowed, but not beer. Talking about Big brother watching over you - beer was banned as it was believed that the nation would drink more otherwise. On the day they lifted the ban 340.000 cans of beer were sold - and we are a nation of 320.000!!
I refer to my custom tip on Icelanders drink a lot for more information on our "wine culture".
What to buy: Alcohol.
What to pay: A lot!
Bónus.: Bónus - a discount grocery store.
Bónus is our discount grocery store and very much appreciated as such as food here is very expensive. The first Bónus store was opened in 1989 by a father and son and at first people were reluctant buying there, but now it has become one of the most popular grocery stores in Iceland with 26 stores around the country and ca 850 employees. We are very thankful for this store as the difference in prices for the same item is vast. In 2009 after the financial crisis hit Iceland very hard these stores came into the possession of the state owned banks. The Competition surveillance has ordered the bank to sell Bónus, Hagkaup and 10-11 seperately as these chains rule 50% of market share in Iceland.
The supermarket is based on no frills to keep the cost down, so don't go there if you want some luxury, I add a tip on other stores, where you can get a much wider variety, but expect to pay much more. They keep the milk and meat in a cooler area, you go in there and chose your food, the rest of the store is heated.
The best time to shop in Bónus is shortly after they open at 11:00, the worst time to shop is during the rush-hour on Friday-afternoons. In all grocery stores in Iceland you pay for the plastic bag ca 20 ISK, the money is used for good cause, f.ex. planting more trees in Iceland, but all profit from Bónus bags (20 ISK) is used for buying equipment for the Childrens' Hospital. You also bag your own grocery in all the grocery stores in Iceland and in Bónus it can be a a bit stressful as the grocery keeps coming quickly and before you have finished bagging it they start serving other customers, so you need to be quick.
The opening hours are Mondays-Thursdays 11-18:30, Fridays 10-19:30, Saturdays 10-18 and Sundays 12-18 in most of the stores, some smaller ones are closed on Sundays though.
In the Great Reykjavík area the Bónus stores are located in:
Kjörgardur on Laugavegur
Hallveigastígur off Laugavegur
Smáratorg in Kópavogur
Smiðjuvegur and Ölduhvarf in Kópavogur,
Kauptún in Garðabær
Tjarnarvellir and Helluhraun in Hafnarfjörður
In other parts of Iceland there are Bónus stores in Ísafjördur, Akureyri, Borgarnes, Akranes, Egilsstadir, Reykjanesbær, Hveragerdi, Selfoss and in Stykkishólmur. If you want to see an exact location for a Bónus store go to símaskrá and type in Bónus, there you get a list of all the stores with a map and a phone number.
Many of the employees in Bónus are Polish, as when the financial boom was here in Iceland until October 2008 a lot of foreign workers came to Iceland and Bónus supermarket employed a lot of Polish people who didn´t speak Icelandic at the time. So there were jokes at that time that before going grocery shopping we would have to learn Polish.
What to buy: Groceries.
What to pay: Much less than in other grocery stores.
Brauðhúsið, Grímsbæ (The Breadhouse).: The best health-food bakery in Reykjavík
I absolutely love this bakery!! It is called Brauðhúsið bakery and was founded by two brothers, Guðmundur and Sigfús Guðfinnssynir, and is Reykjavík's best whole-food bakery. I used to live in this area for decades and lived on their sour-dough bread. It is ever so yummy, my favourite is sunflower seed sour-dough bread. It only keeps fresh for one day though, the day after it is like a rock, so put left-over bread in the freezer.
The brothers use no chemical baking products and only use organically grown ingredients and a lot of spelt and Icelandic barley.
There is a also a small health-food store in the bakery selling organic food.
The brothers sell their product in all the health-food stores in Reykjavík and in some supermarkets as well (see my tip on Vegetarian Reykjavík).
What to buy: Organic sour-dough bread and cakes.
What to pay: Health-food is more expensive than it should be, I say.
Bensínstöðvar - gas-stations.: Buying gas in Reykjavík.
There are 7 different gas-stations in Iceland, 4 of them are self-service only and are thus a bit cheaper than the big companies, Olís, Shell (Skeljungur) and N-1.
The cheaper ones are Orkan, Ego, AÓ (Atlantsolía) and ÓB (ódýrt bensín, which means cheap gasoline).
I add their websites so you can see where they are located as with the price of gasoline being sky-high it is worth buying gas at the cheaper gas-stations.
The gas stations are open daily from 8:00-23:30, but of course there is self-service 24/7. You can pay at the pump with cash and a credit card.
What to buy: In this case it would be gasoline, the Icelandic term for it is bensín.
What to pay: Ca ISK 268 for one liter gasoline and ISK 265 for one liter diesel. The price changes constantly with the fluctuations of the Icelandic króna and the price of oil in the world. The price has gone up so high that some of us have stopped driving. And I think the gas-companies have become one of the greediest companies here in Iceland! I am forever updating this tip to add new prices.
Kringlan: Kringlan - Shopping Center.
We have got 2 malls in the Great-Reykjavík area, Kringlan and Smáralind. Kringlan was our first mall, it opened in 1987 and expanded in 1999. It is located in what is called the new Reykjavík city center.
There are ca 150 stores in Kringlan, clinics, salons, pharmacies, banks, cinemas, supermarkets, a health-food store, a shoe-maker, Vodafone and Síminn phone-companies, souvenir shops, music-stores, jewellery shops and a lot of fashion-clothes stores.
The opening hours at Kringlan are:
As a foreign visitor at Kringlan you can get up to 15% tax refund. Just remember to ask for a Tax Free Cheque in each store and you will get your Cash Refund instantly at the Service Desk in Kringlan!
What to buy: I had added all the stores in Kringlan here but there have been so many changes since the crisis that it is best to refer to their website. But the supermarkets there are Hagkaup and Bónus.
Restaurants and cafés:
Ben & Jerry´s, Booztbar/Ísbar, Café Bleu, Café Konditori Copenhagen, Café Paris, Café Roma, Domino´s Pizza, Ísbúðin in Hagkaup, Bakery of Jói Fel, Kaffitár, Kringlukráin, NK Kaffi, Rikki Chan, Sbarro, Serrano, Subway.
What to pay: As much as you want ;)
Smáralind Mall: The biggest Shopping Mall in Iceland.
Smáralind Mall is one of two malls in the Great Reykjavík area, this mall belongs to Kópavogur. It is on 3 floors and has got a cinema, restaurants and cafés, more than 80 shops and The Wintergarden where a lot of happenings take place, shows, concerts and exhibitions. The Wintergarden closed down in October 2011 and an amuzement park will open up there in November 2011.
As a foreign visitor at Smáralind you can get up to 15% tax refund. Just remember to ask for a
Tax Free Cheque in each store and you will get your Cash Refund instantly at the Service Desk in Smáralind!
Across the street from Smáralind is the only "scy-scraper" in Iceland :) You can see a photo of it in my Reykjavík-travelouge.
Under construction is The North Tower which was supposed to be 15 storeys' high and to be connected to Smáralind. Due to the crisis the construction work was stopped - hopefully temporarily.
What to buy: Amongst the stores in Smáralind are Benetton, Zara, Debenhams, Hugo Boss, Body Shop, Oasis, Coast, Tous, Karen Millen, Levi’s, Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Bianco, Vero Moda, Jack & Jones, Vila, Exit, Joe Boxer, Warehouse and Dressman. Some of these stores have closed down due to the crisis.
There are also jewellers, 66° North, Eymundsson bookstore, Hagkaup supermarket, banks, a big bakery, liquer store (Vínbúðin), a shoemaker, cosmetic stores and Síminn and Vodafone phone-companies to name some.
Skólavörðustígur.: The Icelandic artists' street - Icelandic design.
Skólavörðustígur street is the main street down-town for Icelandic designers with both clothes' stores and galleries. The whole street from the beginning to the end (by Hallgrímskirkja church) has got Icelandic designer stores and galleries on both sides of the street.
It is a lovely street with galleries, clothes' stores, tourist shops, jewellers, a big book-store, the old jail, a health-foold store and a gourmet cheese delicatessen store, small quaint cafés, see my tip on Babalú, and stores selling imported shoes and clothes. But mainly there are Icelandic stores there.
It is well worth a visit and it will lead you straight from Laugavegur to Hallgrímskirkja church. It has got this artisty feel to it which I think Laugavegur, our main shopping street, is lacking. And here are no discos or bars so this is a much quieter place than Laugavegur on weekends.
Skólavörðustígur used to be the main road to town before Laugavegur was built.
What to buy: Here you can shop for Icelandic design. Both clothes made by Icelandic designers and bags and boots made from fish-skin, which is turning into a very popular commodity here in Iceland as well as by tourists and a very good idea, I think (even though I am allergic to fish).
- Book now for big savings!
- Hotels.com Outstanding choice of hotels all over the world at fantastic prices.
- Book online.
- Hotels.com See maps & reviews for over 140,000 Hotels worldwide!