Iceland has some great food! But if you're on a budget, finding cheaper options and good deals can be a bit stressful. Here are a few tips on how to eat great – and relatively cheap – in Reykjavík.
Food is great, right? Honestly, one of my favorite things about traveling is being able to indulge in all of the great meals I usually wouldn’t get to enjoy. But let’s be frank here – whenever I’m traveling, it’s actually food expenses that usually stress me out the most. So as much as I love eating, I’m constantly trying to be as creative and as cheap as possible with my meals. Yes, if you have noticed, Reykjavík is incredibly expensive as far as food goes! But there’s also plenty to eat, so let me help direct you towards some budget-friendly options.
One way to save money is to take some meals to go. Perhaps you’re heading out on an excursion for the day, and you need some fuel to sustain you during that Golden Circle tour? Or hey, maybe you’ve just had a long day of wandering out town, and you need a granola bar, STAT. Here’s where convenience stores come in handy. You can stop by a few takeaway shops around the city, such as 10-11, which has 20 locations around town, all open late and some even open 24 hours. These convenience shops are speckled around town and offer grab-and-go options, prepared and chilled for you.
These are great options if you are walking around town and you want to save money by not having a meal in a proper restaurant. There are plenty of benches and parks around Reykjavík where you can take a seat and munch on everything from sandwiches, salads, and even some hot food options. Also offering plenty of snacks and prepackaged foods, these shops are convenient if you also want to grab something for a road trip or to stock up in your hotel room, too.
Here’s where eating gets particularly fun in Reykjavík: you need to check out the awesome street food scene. It’s a great way to grab a relatively cheap meal, for instance, there’s no shortage of fish and chips options, including the Icelandic Fish and Chips Wagon at Geirsgata, and Fish and Chips Vagninn, located at the picturesque old harbour.
For more seafood options, you can also search for the Fish & Co truck. For something a little different, there’s also the Lobster Hut found near Harpa. These trucks really are a great way to take advantage of fresh-caught, proper Icelandic fish. And hey, this is just scratching the surface here – around town you can find food trucks for everything from soups to waffles. Explore away!
Okay, but what if you actually want to sit down and chill somewhere? It’s cold, and you want a warm atmosphere where you can catch your breath. Cafés are of course the ideal option for this – if you have a bit of time to spend in town, you can grab small bites and a cup of coffee and stay for quite a while. If you’re walking around town and find yourself drawn to the colorful Café Babalú, definitely pop in – they offer some reasonably-priced quick bites, and they have amazing coffee.
If you’re able to, stay in for a while and take some refills – the place has got a really great vibe, so you’ll totally enjoy your rest there. You can find it at 22, Skólavörðustígur, and it is open from 9:00-23:00 every day. For a more extensive look at the coffeeshops in Reykjavík, check out this list of cafés that have particularly chill and productive vibes!
That’s not to say you can’t visit restaurants if you’re on a budget. There are plenty of options around town for a quick, casual bite. One of the best deals to grab is probably a burger – and you’ve certainly got your choice, from Hlöllabátar to Vitabar. If you like Middle Eastern food, definitely also check out Mandi.
In the mood for some fun food? You can try Reykjavík Chips (for, yeah, chips!) or Icelandic Street Food, which offers traditional Icelandic dishes, fast food-style. And hey, if you find yourself famished after a late night out, and you feel like you’re needing some comfort food, don’t miss Hlöllabátar, which is known in particular for its subs and sandwiches. A major perk? They are open all night long on weekends, and from 10:00 til 2:00 am on Mondays through Thursdays.
There are also Café Haiti by the old harbor, which also has some great deals on proper meals, and is open from 6:00-18:00 Mondays, until 20:00 on Tuesdays through Thursdays, and 7:00-21:00 on Saturdays and 7:00-18:00 on Sundays. It’s a great place to grab a traditional breakfast before wandering around the harbor and enjoying the breathtaking views of Esja.
Let’s swing back to the opposite end of the spectrum, though – what is the absolute cheapest means of eating? Of course, the least expensive way to eat in Reykjavík – or for any city you’re traveling to, for that matter – is to simply grab some groceries. Whenever I travel, the first thing I do is look up the nearest and cheapest grocery store. Here, your best bet will likely be Bónus. There are 12 locations around the Reykjavík, 4 in Kópavogur, plus several others around the country. Their hours are Monday through Thursday 11:00 - 18:30, Fridays 10:00 - 19:3, Saturdays 10:00 - 18:00, Sundays 12:00 - 18:00. Another budget supermarket option is Krónan, which also has locations around Reykjavík and Kópavogur, open everyday with hours depending on the store.
Make up a shopping list, grab some ingredients and snacks, and prepare your own meals to save cash. For more tips, you can also check out this Guide to Grocery Shopping!
Animal lover? Same here... never fear. For all the fish and meat options, there are a surprising amount of veggie-friendly options. What’s actually quite nice is that often non-dairy substitutes are not particularly expensive! For instance, if you go to grab a pie at Dominos Pizza, you can easily swap for vegan cheese, at no extra cost. Seriously! That’s unheard of, in the USA, at least. Even better, Dominos has a special offer on Tuesdays - one pie for 1000 ISK!
There’s also plenty of reasonably-priced veggie burgers and salads around town – my favorite burger is at Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar, at Geirsgata Geirsgötu 1, 101 Reykjavík, open daily from 11:30-21:00. If the weather is fine, I definitely recommend grabbing a burger and fries to go, and eating it while walking around the harbor. Down the road from there, actually, is also the popular Ramen Momo, which has vegetarian and vegan specials, with nice portions for reasonable prices. Their winter hours at 11:30-14:00, 17:00-21:00 weekdays and 12-21 Saturdays. What’s better than a hot bowl of ramen on a windy day? Nothing. That’s perfection.
As a very important reminder, do not waste money (or plastic!) on bottled water! The tap water here in Iceland is superb. Truly. Grab a reusable bottle and fill it up throughout your trip. There was actually a recent announcement by the Icelandic government formally discouraging tourists from purchasing single-use water bottles! Your wallet will thank you, the environment will thank you… take our advice: drink from the tap.
After spending so much money on airfare, souvenirs, and excursions, I know that the food prices here can be an added stress. Don’t worry – as long as you wander around and keep an eye out for good deals, you can still indulge in the delicious food Iceland has to offer! Want to dive deeper? Check out this handy Foodie’s Guide to Reykjavík!
Photos: Mae Kellert