The Nordic Cool Girl’s Guide To Reykjavik

Recently, Iceland has gone from a seemingly faraway island of isolation to an otherworldly, interconnected hot spot. And with its unique positioning smack-dab between North America and Western Europe, more airlines are offering inexpensive flights and easy stopover options. Indeed, this small Scandinavian country (population: 334,000) is in a tourism boom, welcoming nearly 1.8 million visitors last year alone. Everyone knows someone who has gone, fallen under Iceland’s spell, and flooded their social media with geyser, volcano, and glacier pics galore. And often before or after said adventures in the hinterland, travelers pop in to the cozy capital city of Reykjavik and are quickly seduced by its adventurous foodie scene, charming cafés, Nordic architecture, divine swimming pools, and rollicking nightlife, which indicate just how cool the122,000 locals are. Indeed, with every visit, it seems that clusters of new restaurants, boutiques, and outdoor arts installations have cropped up and a trip is never quite long enough.

Here, some of the city’s most stylish residents share their tourist trap–free guide to Reykjavik:

Jóhanna Maggy
Photo: Courtesy of Saga Sig

, founder of and actress, 32

This holistic health coach with an eye for wanderlust splits her time between Reykjavik, New York City, and Milan. She’s married to Italian actor, novelist, and radio host Fabio Volo, sometimes playing a fictionalized version of his wife on television.

Her spot: The Grjótaþorp area in downtown Reykjavik (pictured), where Maggy and Volo own a listed heritage home. “This area has some of the oldest houses in the city; it was the first village in Reykjavik. There is a lot of history here. We moved here when I was pregnant with my first child. It’s such a good spot to explore, if this is your first time visiting.”

Beauty fix: “Icelandic fresh air and mountain rain beading down your face. It doesn’t rain down here—it rains sideways. It’s the best facial you can have.”

Catch of the day: “The fish here is also amazing. I go to for the daily catch. I used to work in a fish store, so I like it a lot, especially just grilled or steamed with potatoes. I only eat the potatoes here in Iceland. I shop for healthy foods at a place called .”

Polar mom: “As mother, wife, and person, everything about me is very Nordic. Living mostly in Milan and New York, people are so busy and you lose contact with little things that are so important. When I got pregnant and started diving into motherhood, I realized there were so many easy fixes during the day to really change your life, your mood, your sleep. That was the idea behind Motherspell; I just want to share useful information to add into your routine. I don’t want to tell anybody to change their life.”

Reykjavik retail: “I like a lot. When I go there, it gets me in the cozy mood of the Icelandic countryside. I want to wear everything that’s in there.”

Café society: “People drink coffee all day long here, served strong—I love it. My favorite is from , where they also have great vegan foods. I call myself a flexitarian. I like to have little bits of everything; I just make sure the quality is good.”

Glowie
Photo: Courtesy of Saga Sig

, musician, 20

Already a bona fide pop star in her native Iceland, this striking singer, dancer, and model recently signed a record deal with Columbia Records/RCA and is poised to be Scandinavia’s next big musical export.

Her spot: The beach close to , where she often comes with her boyfriend (pictured). “One of our first dates we came here. It’s a special place for us and very romantic. I live near here as well.” There are also frequent daily ferries to Viðey island, which feels like going back in time.

Music notes: “The music industry is really different here in Iceland. It’s kind of a mixture of straight pop and more left-side indie music. I grew up around a family who was all in music and I listened to everything from gospel choirs to Outkast and Craig David. That made me who I am—my style and my sound. It’s a mixture of hip-hop, R&B, and Icelandic influences.”

Look: “I’ve always been unafraid to be different. I look for things that no one else here is wearing. I shop a lot of vintage stores. I only wear retro Buffalo platform shoes now. I love the ’90s—that’s my favorite style decade. When I was younger, people would say I was a mixture of Rihanna and Beyoncé. But I don’t want to be the next anybody. I want to be the first Glowie.”

My Reykjavik: “The fresh air, the clean water, the language. When I’m in London talking to people in English all day, I miss just speaking Icelandic. The architecture is really different here, too. You definitely want to explore all the new buildings downtown by the water and also the old Icelandic architecture is so cool.”

Dora Julia
Photo: Courtesy of Saga Sig

, DJ, 25

In the year since DJ Adora took up spinning at the request of her friend—Icelandic pop star Glowie—this pink-haired pixie has become one of Iceland’s most in-demand DJs with the initials (and outlandish style) to match.

Her spot: The downtown waterfront by Jón Gunnar Árnason’s Sólfarið (Sun Voyager) sculpture (photographed). “Behind us here is —my favorite place ever. I’ve hiked there every summer since I was a little girl. Reykjavik is becoming more cosmopolitan and a true city, but we keep this connection to nature. I run four to five times a week here and I feel the energy from the sea. Whenever I have been traveling, this is the first place I return to.”

Art scene: “I love the ,” she says of the glistening Henning Larsen and Olafur Eliasson–designed cultural institution and concert hall, which resembles a glacier. “I think it’s a really cool monument for Icelandic arts.”

Night life: You’ll often find Julia in the city’s Grandi neighborhood, a newly developed part of town in the old harbor. “I like for nights out. It’s a hostel, café, and restaurant. You’ll find me on the pink sofa when I am not deejaying. Also, the balcony bar at is so beautiful with the best city views and great cocktails,” she says of Iceland’s only rooftop bar, housed in Gamla Bio opera house and designed in homage to its Art Deco heyday.

Álfrún Pálsdóttir
Photo: Courtesy of Saga Sig

, editor, 34

As the editor in chief of the Icelandic edition of Glamour magazine, it’s all about balance for this Swedish and Icelandic mother of two.

Favorite spot: Ægissíða shoreline in the city’s 107 neighborhood (pictured), where Pálsdóttir lives and runs most mornings. “When Christy Turlington came for the marathon, we did a shoot with her and she convinced me how good running is for you. This area is perfect for it,” she says. “It’s so close to the city center. In Reykjavik, everything is 10 minutes away.”

Café society: , a beloved coffeehouse owned by well-known Icelandic television personalities. “This is were the locals go. Relaxing atmosphere, family-friendly, and the most important thing: great coffee. I get a double cappuccino during the day, a glass of rosé in the evening.”

Restaurants: “We have so many new ones now, but my longtime favorite is . They have good meat and fish and the best sushi.”

Icelandic ambassador: “Obviously, Björk is still the most powerful influencer in Iceland. On an international level, she will always be. It’s so cool that she is this strong, world-renowned woman, but we are all used to seeing her at the swimming pool. She is a really good role model and the ultimate Icelander.”

New and noteworthy: “The Grandi area. You could call it our Meatpacking District—young and fresh with good restaurants, small boutiques, and galleries. It has a nice view of the old Reykjavik harbor. I also recommend the new museum, , where you can see the work of Ólafur Elíasson,” she says of the cultural hot spot, housed in a former herring factory.

Insider advice: “My area has the best ice cream at . Remember to get what they call ‘gamli ísinn’ for a full experience.”

Fashion fix: “For my children, it’s the Icelandic brand ; for shoes, it’s ; for clothes, and my friend who designs under the label . All these brands are designed by super-strong and talented Icelandic women.”

Night out: “I like to go to a place where I can chat with friends, such as , , and

Only Reykjavik has _____? “Amazing water straight from the tap. The first thing I do when I come home after being abroad is drink a tall glass of ice-cold water.”

Erna Bergmann
Photo: Courtesy of Saga Sig

, creative director of >Blæti magazine and designer/founder of swimwear, 34

When she’s not styling photo shoots, you’ll often find Bergmann recharging at one of Reykjavik’s many thermal pools. It’s fitting, then, that she recently launched Swimslow, a sleek line of sustainable Icelandic swimwear.

Her spot: “Vesturbæjarlaugin [pictured] is my all-time favorite pool in Reykjavik. I go there every week to recharge my body and spirit. Sometimes I swim 500 meters, but I usually start with the wooden sauna—it is nice to go in with essentials oils and a face mask and relax or meditate. Afterward, I like to sit outside in the cold before entering the steam room. I do that a couple of times, and afterward, I go to the freezing cold tub. After this ritual, I relax in the hot tub. This is most refreshing experience, and after each and every time, I feel like I am reborn.”

Lunch break: “ in the harbor area. It has great soups, salads, and sandwiches; healthy alternatives; fair prices; and good coffee. Also, is a great place to start the day with very good coffee, smoothies, and healthy goods.”

Fashion find: “The Icelandic brand for their beautiful upcycled and recycled clothing and sustainable fashion selection. They have the perfect slogan: ‘Recycle or die!’ ”

Hidden gems: “Sundhöllin, the local downtown pool and the oldest public bath in Reykjavik, for the beautiful and classic architecture of Guðjón Samúlesson; it truly is amazing. And the lighthouse at Grótta. It is wonderful to go there—breathe in the sea breeze, get cold wind in the face, and ground yourself.”

Swim culture: “My label Swimslow is inspired by Iceland’s swimming and bathing culture. Icelanders have had this long relationship with the magic and healing of water. It goes back to the 12th century when bathing was first mentioned in written sources. I took inspiration from my ritual trips to the pool and mixed it with the philosophy of mindfulness. I practice yoga and like to go to the pool either before or after and my swimsuits wore out quickly. It was difficult to find beautiful swimsuits that were neither too sporty nor too sexy, so I decided to design them myself, using sustainable materials.”

Brynja Jónbjarnardóttir
Photo: Courtesy of Saga Sig

, student and model, 23

This model and economics major has been the face of Carven and Apple. She recently moved back to Reykjavik from Paris to continue her studies.

Her spot: “ [pictured] is my favorite restaurant. I come here with my boyfriend all the time. The food here is amazing, I recommend the moules frites—almost as good as Paris! I love the atmosphere and there is a tiny little jazz bar downstairs.”

Reykjavik by foot: “I love to walk around the 101 area, our downtown, which is also called Miðborg, to the . It’s a beautiful way to see the city and best to do while the sun is setting. I also recommend a walk in the botanical gardens.”

Happy hour: “My go-to place on weekdays is the student cellar at the University of Iceland; I’ll have one drink after a long day. I also like a café/bar called .”

Beauty remedy: “I always use the cream and serum from Icelandic brand —its products have been a total lifesaver for my skin.”

Local look: “Here, people really dress the way they want and are really free,” says Jónbjarnardóttir, who prefers a put-together, polished style. “It can get a bit cold, so my must-haves are warm coats in different colors and big scarves.”

Icelandic ambassador: “Whenever I’m working abroad and tell people I’m from here, they immediately become very curious. Most have not met someone from Iceland before. People at castings would always remember me, because no one else was from Iceland. But there are small groups of us in lots of cities now and we tend to stick together.”

 Saga Sig
Photo: Courtesy of Saga Sig

, photographer, 30

As one of Iceland’s top fashion photographers, with campaigns for Nike and H&M under her belt, Sig recently returned to Reykjavik from living in London to start her own magazine: Blæti (Icelandic for fetishes).

Her spot: “The Einar Jonsson [pictured] is my happy place—it’s outside the museum as well as close to the big church Hallgrímskirkja.”

Shop talk: “To be honest, the center of the city is becoming a bit touristy. But I recommend going to Skólavörðustígur Street to check out my favorite stores, for amazing print dresses, for beautiful knits, for jewelry, and for amazing vintage pieces.”

Dine out: “Try , , , and for high-quality Icelandic food.”

Café society: “For coffee, I go to . You can find locations all around Reykjavik, but I recommend going to the one in to see all the Nordic books and magazines. One of my favorite things to do.”

How to be Icelandic: “Every day you must go to our swimming pools. My favorite ones are Vesturbæjarlaug or Neslaug.”

Icelandic guilty pleasure: “Chocolate with licorice! And vegan ice cream from . Icelanders eat ice cream year-round, even when there’s a blizzard outside.”

Culture club: “Check out the singer Jófríður. The is doing amazing things, too.”

Fashion find: “I love my friend Sola Karadottir’s brand —incredible dresses and eveningwear.”

Only Reykjavik has ______?: “The mentality of Icelandic people of ‘Þetta reddast,’ which means everything is going to be okay. Somehow, everything is so easy here.”

Helga Ólafsdóttir
Photo: Courtesy of Saga Sig

, founder and creative director of children’s label , 42

This ultimate Icelandic mompreneur has taken her flair for artful design and hygge, applying it to the country’s most well-known childrenswear label.

Her spot: Skólavörðustígur Street, where Ólafsdottir has her flagship Iglo & Indi store. “When this cute house became available on my favorite street in Reykjavik, it was a dream come true. All my other favorite shops are here in this neighborhood and our place has a very homey vibe.”

Must-see: “I love being near church, which is such an architectural monument here in Reykjavik and super Scandinavian in design. It’s wonderful to see even in the winter when it’s dark. It’s a really special place and having a view of it from my shop is so wonderful.”

Café society: “My favorite place for coffee is , right around the corner from my store.”

Fish fix: “Seafood is my absolute favorite, and it’s so good here in Iceland. I recommend classic spots , , and .”

Icelandic inspo: “The colors of the sky and sea here—every day I look at it and it has a lot of influences on my style and my line, color-wise.”

Steinunn Eyja Halldórsdóttir
Photo: Courtesy of Saga Sig

, fashion designer and sales associate, 26

This local fashion plate recently graduated from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts. While she prepares to launch her own line, she works at established designer Hildur Yeoman’s multi-brand concept shop.

Her spot: “I’m often here at Yeoman [pictured] where I’m learning a lot about the business side of fashion. This store has a great edit of Hildur’s collection plus a number of special finds from Scandinavian designers. It’s an inspiring place to be. We have created a cute and welcoming little universe of flowers, crystals, and beautiful Nordic things you won’t find anywhere else in Reykjavik.”

Fashion fix: “For a long time, we didn’t have access to a lot of fashion or different stores here. You had to be creative, go to the Red Cross thrift stores, or make things yourself. That really helped me form my style, which is about experimenting and putting random things together to create a look. I used to work at one of the best vintage stores here, called Nostalgia.”

Dine out: “I really like before a night out with friends, is a really tasty spot, and is a restaurant that has been around and family-run for 30 years.”

Go-to excursion: “The Westfjords is my favorite place for an escape from the city.”

Classic cocktails: “ has an old-world ’70s vibe and is a great place to stay or have a drink. But my ultimate favorite place is , a horrible sports bar in the 105 area. I love to go there on the weekends for karaoke, though. That’s where you’ll only find us Icelanders.”

Source : https://www.vogue.com/article/nordic-cool-girl-guide-to-reykjavik-iceland

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