Laugavegur Street Guide: Reykjavík´s party, dining, and shopping hot-spot

  • by Neil
  • Reykjavik
  • 28 Feb 2024

Located by Reykjavík's shore, the Sun Voyager sculpture welcomes you with its elegant steel design, symbolizing dreams of hope and new beginnings. As a symbol of human exploration, this captivating artwork against the ocean backdrop invites you to reflect and feel a sense of wonder.

Laugavegur Street Guide: Reykjavík´s party, dining, and shopping hot-spot

Laugavegur is the main shopping, dining, and party drag in Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital city.  When people mention Laugavegur, they generally mean the stretch of road between Bankastræti and Hlemmur, though Laugavegur in fact extends much further east. The street has a special place in the hearts of locals, and is an easy walk from most centreal hotels. It is also a window into the past, capturing the evolution of the city from its humble beginnings to its vibrant present. It has the most footfall of any street in Iceland, and is the liveliest part of the city after dark. It is known for its fashion boutiques and tourist shops and is one of the best places to shop in Iceland.

In recnt years, the lower part of Laugavegur has been pedestrianised, to some local protests. This has helped the area become more family friendly and a more popular to while away the long summer evenings.

Laugavegur in focus

The History of Laugavegur

Laugavegur, Reykjavík, in days past

Laugavegur, one of the oldest streets in Reykjavík, has roots stretching back to the city’s early days when it was a path to natural hot springs. Its name, translating to “Wash Road”, indicates its historical use: it was where the women of Reykjavík once brought their laundry due to the accessibility of geothermal water. Over time, Laugavegur evolved from a practical route to a bustling urban center. By the late 19th century, it became known for its beautiful Icelandic-style buildings that now characterize much of downtown Reykjavík.

Shopping in Reykjavík

Laugavegur bustles with shoppers

Laugavegur is not only a historical landmark but also the pulsating heart of Reykjavik’s retail world. As you walk down this vibrant shopping street, you’re met with an array of unique local shops, fashionable boutiques, and specialty stores that cater to a variety of tastes and preferences.

Fashion Boutiques

Laugavegur is home to numerous fashion boutiques where you can discover the latest trends from Icelandic and international designers alike. These are perfect spots for fashion-forward shoppers looking to find women’s clothing that blends modern style with Nordic influences. You’ll encounter a range of garments from casual wear to high-end fashion pieces, many of which are crafted by local designers who are redefining Iceland’s style landscape.

Souvenir Shops

Among the colorful array of shops, souvenir shops are abundant, offering a selection of items that allow you to bring a piece of Icelandic culture back home. Souvenirs range from classic postcards and magnets to unique items such as hand-knitted sweaters and jewelry made from local materials. These shops offer tangible memories of your visit and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Iceland. These shops are known locally as puffin shops and their prevelance has drawn the ire of some locals who increasingly feel that the downtown area has become overwhelmed with services aimed at tourists, to the detriment of local residents.

Special Stores

Laugavegur also features a variety of specialty stores that cater to specific interests and tastes. Whether you’re searching for a rare vintage find or the latest in Icelandic books and literature, there’s a shop for you. Specialty stores on this shopping street are ideal for discovering one-of-a-kind items, offering goods that are distinct and often locally produced or curated.

What are the best cafes and restaurant on Laugavegur, Reykjavík?

Sandholt sells a range of local and international pastries

Laugavegur Street is a treasure trove for food enthusiasts, offering an array of Icelandic and international dishes. From upscale dining experiences to cozy coffee nooks, you’re sure to find flavors that excite your palate.

Notable Restaurants

Laugavegur features dozens of restaurants, with superb options for Icelandic and other ethnic foods. Try Sumac for Lebonese food. Higher end establishments include Öx Restaurant, an exclusive 17 seater joint with set menu and dining times.

Many other great options lie just off Laugavegur, including Íslenska Barinn, for Icelandic favorites, Hi Noddle, and Hosiló, whose menu changes weekly.

Cafes and Bakeries

When your craving for coffee and pastries strikes, Sandholt Bakery offers a warm welcome. Renowned for its freshly baked goods and aromatic coffees, Sandholt is a favorite among both locals and visitors. You’ll enjoy exploring the wide selection of Icelandic and European pastries in this family-run establishment that’s integral to Reykjavik’s dining scene. Breakfast is particularly busy here.

A stone´s throw away from Laugavegur, one will find Brauð & Co, famous for its kanilsnúður, or cinnamon buns. Té og Kaffi is a popular chain of cafes with a nice branch located on Laugavegur.

Fast Food and Street Eats

For those on the go, Laugavegur serves up fast food and street eats that don’t compromise on taste. Quick bites such as the Icelandic hot dog are not only affordable but also offer a glimpse into Iceland’s local flavors. Casual eateries and food stands peppered along the street make it easy to grab a satisfying meal without pausing your explorations for too long.

For more dining ideas, see our blog on Reykjavíks best restaurants.

Reykjavík Nightlife

Kiki Queer Bar

Reykjavík is rather strange in that the vast, vast majority of bars are clustered in the center. Itæs very unusual to see bars in subarbs or in the outer residential neighbourhoods. Laugavegur street stands as Reykjavik’s central hub for nightlife and entertainment. As you wander this lively street, you’ll find that the spirited atmosphere is especially pronounced on Friday and Saturday nights, offering a diverse array of bars, pubs, and music venues to choose from.

During your visit to Laugavegur, you’re sure to encounter a variety of entertainment activities that capture the essence of Reykjavik’s spirited nightlife. Whether you’re looking for a quiet pint, a dance floor to let loose, or live music to enjoy, the choices are plentiful and inviting.

At weekends, the real party scene doesn´t start until after midnight, with many bars open until 03:00 and beyond.

Notable bars 

  • Kaldi Bar: An integral part of Laugavegur’s scene, known for its selection of Icelandic beers and cozy atmosphere.
  • Kiki Queer Bar: Celebrated as Reykjavik’s prominent gay bar, Kiki offers a vibrant dance floor and hosts some of the best local and visiting DJs.
  • Mál og Menning: Two-story bar and bookshop features live music every night.
  • Dillon: In a city that sees bars come and go, Dillon is a mainstay of the Laugavegure scene. Especially fun at weekends when great local DJs take over
  • Kaffibarinn: Legendary pub just off Laugavegur

Drinks are expensive in Iceland, with a 500ml glass of beer starting at around ISK 1400, with the cheapest wine being at a similar pricepoint. We recommend you take advantage of Happy Hour deals offered all over the city. For a comprehensive run down of happy hours times and offers, check out Happyhour.is.

 

Things to do In Reykjavík

Reykjavík and Laugarvegur is easy to explore on foot, and you can sample much of what the city has to offer in a day or two. We recommend the following tours, museums, and activities in central Reykjavík.

Nearby Attractions

The Rainbow Street, Reykjavík, with Hallgrimskirkja in the distance

The start of Laugavegur connects with Skólavörðurstígur. The lower part of this street is also known as the Rainbow Street, a symbol of LGBTQ acceptance, and is one of the most popular photo spots in the city.

Directly at the top of this street, marvel at the architectural beauty of Hallgrímskirkja Church, one of Iceland’s most iconic structures. This church, visible from nearly anywhere in the city, stands as a testament to modernist design inspired by Iceland’s natural landscapes. The church’s tower provides a panoramic view of Reykjavik, and the striking statue of Leif Erikson in front reminds you of Iceland’s Viking heritage.

Away from Laugavegur and down by the shore lies a great ocean walking and cycling path. This path features many notable attractions including the stunning Harpa Concert Hall. The Sun Voyager sculpture, better known as Sun Voyager, is a steel, to scale, artistic representation on a viking longboat. It stands as a potent symbol in Reykjavik’s cultural landscape, intertwining itself with Icelandic history while marking itself as a pivotal artwork of significance.

The Sun Voyager by artist Jón Gunnar Árnason
About the author
Neil
Neil
Neil works in sales and marketing at BusTravel Iceland. He writes content and also creates private and custom tour itineraries. A native of Ireland, Neil has lived and worked in Iceland for more than 10 years. He enjoys multi-day hikes such as Horstrandir and of course Laugavegurinn.

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