My favorite thing about visiting any new country is trying the local cuisine. Locations like France and Italy hold my heart (and my stomach, but let’s be real, those are basically the same thing). When heading to Iceland, I didn’t have high expectations for the quality of the food- but I did expect to be able to try some dishes that would be very different from what I’m used to. Turns out that some of those odd foods I was excited to try are also crazy delicious. If Iceland is on your list, a Reykjavik food tour is a Must. I recommend booking with a tour company (shout-out to my guide, Valor) which usually provide food plus fun facts along the way, but if you want to go at it on your own, be sure you don’t miss these Icelandic goodies!
I’ve heard many people express moral objections to eating puffin. I get it, they’re really cute and because Iceland is known for them it’s probably comparable to eating a Bald Eagle (though technically the national bird of Iceland is a Gryfalcon). If you are one of those people, I totally respect that. If you aren’t, let me tell you… these adorable little birds are also delicious!
The meat itself was very similar to beef jerky, in that it was super salty but much less dry. It tasted delicious alone, but dipping it in the crowberry/blueberry mix sauce cut through the salt and added a sweet finish.
Icelandic fermented shark is a hot topic for adventurous foodies visiting this region. Not because it’s delicious, but because it’s actually poisonous. When this shark is first fished from the ocean, it’s ammonia levels are too high for human consumption. Give it some time to ferment though and it becomes ever so slightly more edible. Be warned, even though the version of the shark you will be eating in Reykjavik is actually much less potent than the stuff you can get further out from the city, it still tastes strongly of ammonia. Also, biting into it kind of feels like chewing on a rubber band.
If that description doesn’t sell you on investing in a full container of diced shark meat (I know, I make it sound super appealing), don’t fret! Take a walk over to the Reykjavik Flee Market- Kolaportio- and try a very small sample of this unique fish. The market also has a bunch of other foods you can sample, from various types of (non-fermented) fish to chocolates and meats. It’s basically an entire Reykjavik food tour under one roof. They also have clothing, jewellery, and other fun knick-knacks for your perusal.
Down by the docks, there is a small restaurant, Seabaron, which was owned by a former Icelandic Coastguard chef. Originally, it was a fresh fish store. But since the only people who visited the docks at that time were the fishermen, you can probably imagine how well that went. Business took a turn for the better one day when a fisherman asked the chef to cook his fish for him. The concept caught on, and business boomed.
Years later, when the chef was ready to retire, he gave the restaurant to one of the waitresses who had been with him for many years, completely free of charge. His only condition was that, regardless of how busy the place was, there would always be a chair available to him. The waitress made good on that deal. Even today, years after the chef passed away, there is still a chair reserved for him…
Beyond being a good story, the Seabaron also has really tasty food. I recommend trying the whale, because honestly how often do you get a chance to eat whale? The whale is sustainably harvested, so no worries about endangering the species.
Iceland is known for making good lamb because frankly, they make good lamb! Our ever-trusty tour guide, Valor, tried lamb stews all over the city before determining that the best one for his Reykjavik food tour could be found at a restaurant called Hressingarskalinn (yup).
This stew is perfect for when you want to escape the cold weather and enjoy a relaxing meal.
If you’re feeling brave, back at the flee market there’s another fun lamb treat… lamb testicles. It comes in an airtight rectangular wrapping and looks like, well, lamb testicles smushed into an airtight wrapping. This one wasn’t officially on the Reykjavik food tour, but because Valor is the man, he agreed to purchase it for me if I promised to try it.
In case you were curious, we determined it would taste excellent on a salad.
I love hot dogs! It might even be a little bit of an obsession. Not joking. I didn’t mean to become dedicated to eating hot dogs around the world, but it just so happens that there are a lot of fantastic ways to make them. With every new city comes a new, unique hot dog. Like in Copenhagen with goat meat and rosemary. Or in Amsterdam, where you can get a hot dog topped with cheese and thick-sliced pepperoni at midnight near the Red Light District. In Reykjavik, they prefer their puppies made with pork, laid on a bed of crunchy onions, topped with sweet mustard.
I had two. Then I went back at midnight and had two more. Don’t judge me.
Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt that is just slightly more sour than greek yogurt. It comes in a variety of flavors and you can get it just about anywhere as you wander Reykjavik. If you are looking for a sweeter, dessert variety, check out the restaurant Saeta Svinid. It has a ceramic pig out front and is also where that super pretty Puffin dish came from. They serve a Skyr that comes with fruit jam and a strawberry slice.
This version is creamier than what you would find in a grocery store around Reykjavik and less sour. I recommend trying both because they are each fantastic and need to become a staple near me ASAP.
Reykjavik is one of the hottest tourist destinations right now. Many people go for the Northern Lights, glacier climbing, or to soak in one of its many beautiful hot springs. If you are planning to head to Iceland soon, make sure you don’t miss out on the unique food experience Iceland has to offer. Also, don’t forget to check out the Iceland Packing Guide for all your backpacking needs!