Reykjavík. The northernmost capital city in the world has a small-town Scandinavian feel, complete with colorful buildings, tree-lined streets, and romantic views of the ocean and the distant mountains. It’s a lively city, with a new coffee culture, trendy bars, a vibrant arts scene, and lots of good places to eat.
Thanks to its proximity to the ocean, Reykjavík of course specializes in seafood. It is also a country that has no qualms about eating puffins, reindeers and rotten sharks. But despite all this, it’s also surprisingly easy to find options for those who eat meat-free or other dietary restrictions. Here are five spots that not only offer some good selections for vegetarians, but also the opportunity for visitors—vegetarian or not—to get off the beaten path and enjoy Reykjavík with the locals.
One of the trendiest cafés in Reykjavík, Gló specializes in vegetarian and vegan dishes and has a menu that changes daily. With every entrée ordered, a patron gets to pick three “salads” from a wide variety of pasta salads, fruit salads, or potato salads. Helmed by award winning raw food chef Solla Eiríks, Gló has multiple locations throughout Reykjavík, all sleek and modern in décor.
The Coocoo’s Nest
A cute cafe located in the revitalized old harbor district of Reykjavík, The Coocoo’s Nest has an evening meal theme that changes each day of the week. Wednesdays and Thursdays, the designated pizza nights, offer a couple of delicious vegetarian pizzas. They have a fresh margherita, as well as a pizza for the more adventurous—mozzarella, blue cheese, apples, organic honey, and hazel nuts. Their Tuesday Taco night offers seasonally rotating tacos, typically with at least one vegetarian option. They also have a lunchtime menu, happy hour, and brunch on the weekends. As an added plus, they are located right next to Valdís, one of Reykjavík’s most popular ice cream shops.
As one of three Laundromat Cafés worldwide, this iteration of the restaurant is located in Reykjavík’s city centre. The appeal of the Laundromat café is just as much in its funky vibe as its food. World maps, framed pictures, posters with political slogans, and bookshelves filled with paperback novels decorate the café. Patrons bring their laptops to sit, eat, and browse the Internet. The café’s early and late brunches (offered at staggered times during the day) include several options for the lacto-ovo vegetarian. For later in the day, they also offer a veggie burger and an avocado sandwich. If you fancy something truly local, try their Icelandic skyr dessert. Skyr, a popular dairy product similar to yogurt, can be hard to find outside Iceland.
Iceland is a country that has made the pylsa (hot dog) something of a national dish. For the vegans and vegetarians who want to taste pylsa (or pulsa?) without compromising your dietary restrictions, there’s Pylsa/Pulsa, a restaurant at Hlemmur Square specializing in vegan-friendly, European style hand-made sausages.
Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you have to skip out on the desserts. Located in downtown Reykjavik is Vladis, a fun ice cream parlour serving vegan ice cream. Constantly touted as the best ice cream place in the city, their Italian style gelatos and sorbets are hand made every morning.