competitions in a quest to find the best espresso-based coffee drinks. The pure Icelandic water also enhances the taste of the coffee and gives it an extra unique and delicious flavour. Rather refreshingly, one won’t find a Starbucks or Café Nero in Iceland, meaning that coffee spots here are authentically Icelandic. The country’s most prominent coffee chains are Te og kaffi and Kaffitar, both of which are strong advocates for fair trade and sustainably sourced coffee produced in the most humanitarian way possible and implement strict quality control over the coffee producing process, ensuring the best quality for the consumer.
If you’re visiting Reykjavik and looking to try some of the capital’s finest coffee in pleasant surrounds or if you need a nice place to work from your laptop and don’t mind a bit of background music and chatter, then read on to discover the city’s must-visit coffee houses - those providing both the best in great quality coffee and ambience.
Reykjavik Roasters Brautarholt
Chief coffee roasters, this place is among the elite when it comes to good quality coffee. This particular spot is a light and spacious neighbourhood coffee house about a 5-minute walk away from the main strip in Reykjavik. The staff are lovely, there are plugs for laptop chargers and you can even put on a record or two. Communal tables are available for sprawling out your stuff or sitting together if there’s a group of you, as well as taller, bar-like tables and stools and smaller table and chairs. A spot that’s hard to beat. Find Reykjavik Roasters also on Kárastígur 1, 101 and Freyjugata 41, 101 in Reykjavik.
Mál og Menning
One of my personal favourites. Once just a bookstore, this cosy and inviting space has recently been transformed into a live music venue – but still sells books in the day, with both Icelandic and English titles available. There is an abundance of tables and chairs on both floors with a bar on each serving both coffee and alcohol. There is also free wifi, plugs for laptop chargers and large windows upstairs overlooking the main street. So come here to work, browse the bookshelves and read, or discover new music – with everything from rock to reggae – as bands take to the stage each evening from 8pm onwards. Low key and cosy – would definitely recommend
Just a short walk down from the iconic Reykjavik landmark, Hallgrimskirkja church, this coffee spot is hard to miss with its bright orange and blue paintwork. Homely, quirky and eclectic, this lovely little place is adorned with funky knick-knacks and provides a unique, relaxed vibe. It also has a roof-top deck which is a popular hang-out on warmer summer days. It offers a European cuisine with delights such as lasagne, chilli, grilled sandwiches, hearty soups and a delicious variety of cakes and desserts. I had the vegan carrot cake which was a dream, but this place is renowned for its cheesecake apparently! Come here for breakfast, lunch or dinner as the café is open from 8.30am – 9pm on weekdays and till 10pm Fri and Sat.
I love the vibe here; simple but cosy with nice lighting and comfy leather chairs. Being Iceland’s second largest coffee chain, the coffee is great quality and they also serve a good selection of other speciality drinks such as matcha lattes (a personal addiction) like most coffee houses in Reykjavik. The lovely barista there recommended having my matcha latte with almond milk which turned out to be a delicious combo! The café has a spacious south-facing terrace which means that you can also enjoy a coffee outside in the summertime here and available for purchase are a selection of coffee making equipment and bags of Kaffitar’s flavoured coffee (such as coconut or chocolate and almond!). I also love the street Borgatun that this coffee place is situated on – there’s something about the layout of the road, built up office area and red lampposts that I find really satisfying (maybe it’s just me).
New in town, Kaffi O-le is a slick coffee house situated next door to the Radisson Blu 1919 hotel. Come and appreciate it’s aesthetically pleasing décor and try the café’s speciality coffee, croissants and amazing sandwiches. The oat milk matcha latte I ordered was also one of the best I’ve ever had in my life. It has a communal table, higher bar-style tables with stools along the window and sofas and armchairs to relax on with low coffee tables through the arch. Just don’t walk into the mirror at the back as I nearly did (it is deceiving).
Another one of my favourites, Kaffi Vesturbæjar is a lovely little neighbourhood café situated in Vesturbæjar, which is a bit outside the centre but well worth the visit. This charming place has a shabby-chic style, cosy surrounds with candlelight on each table and great atmosphere. In addition to having mastered the perfect cup of coffee, the food here is also top quality and delicious, with vegetarian and vegan options available. The vegan burger is supposed to be extra special but is only available on weekends apparently. Laptop use is only allowed on the side of the room along the window and large communal table in the middle. Come here also to dine till late as the place closes at 11pm every evening.
A little gem of a coffee house situated just off the main street Laugavegur, serving the finest Italian coffee and delicious food. This place has a great ambience with candlelight on every table, is adorned with cute plants that you can buy and always has good music playing – a must visit!
Having been around since 1958, this is one of Reykjavik’s oldest cafes and was apparently the first in the city to serve espresso in a proper machine. Another local favourite, situated just down the road from Hallgrimskirkja church, it is small and quaint with an interior that doesn’t look like it has changed much since the fifties. You can also find displays of art exhibitions on the wall. Mokka not only serves great quality coffee but is somewhat renowned for its waffles that are to be had with jam and whipped cream
Text: Ella Berger Sparey
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