26 December 2023

Vegan in Reykjavik | Iceland

In December I visited Reykjavik in Iceland, it's a beautiful capital city surrounded by some of the most incredible scenery you'll ever see.

Approaching Christmas, almost every house and tree had warm white lights making even the cold feel cosy and Christmassy. Sunrise was around 11am and sunset/darkness around 4, but the sunrises and sunsets sort of merged into one another, with the sky glowing pink, orange and yellow hues for hours. It was absolutely breath-taking.

Day 1:

On arrival (following a 45 min bus from the airport), we (my mum and I) dropped our bags off and headed into town. Mama is a vegan spot with plenty of delicious and nourishing options. We ordered a broccoli soup and the most flavourful mushroom sandwich with a herby cream, tomato and healthy amount of rocket on sourdough bread. This spot is definitely a hub for locals, with a couple of people working from their laptops and a resident dog. One thing to note about Iceland is even vs. London prices, it really isn't cheap, we found this was reflected more on the smaller purchases where a bowl of soup or sandwich will set you back about £15 an item. So breakfasts and lunches can definitely add up quickly to your holiday spend.

After lunch we wandered down to the lake and took picture after picture of the frozen lake, sunset and surroundings, just taking in the natural beauty. We walked back to our apartment via the mountains and despite our phones temporarily dying from the cold, we successfully managed to navigate back for check-in, even passing a cafe on the way with plenty of vegan options including cinnamon rolls and oat milk hot chocolates. We stayed in a little apartment about 10 mins walk from the centre that had everything we needed, including a kitchen so we could prep some food there during our stay and before settling in, we enjoyed our cinnamon roll and hot chocolate.

Reykjavik is actually very vegan-friendly in that there are a lot of vegan options both in restaurants and in the supermarkets, but vegan options of traditional food - with the exception of baked goods - don't really exist. That said, we enjoyed a range of cuisines and had a plethora of options throughout our stay.

After a short rest and a quick booking for a few hours later we headed into town and went to Duck & Rose for dinner. They had a few vegan options on the menu but we couldn't resist the sound of the truffled mushroom rigatoni and I ordered a large glass of sauvignon blanc. The pasta was advertised as vegan but we did specify just in case when we ordered as some menu options just had a vegan option. The wine was absolutely stunning and the pasta super delicious too, rich and umami and quite a generous portion.

Day 2:

Our second day we hopped on a bus and visited a neighbouring town known for its elves. There's an app you can download to buy tickets for the bus should you wish to use it. We stopped in a cosy café and ordered Turmeric lattes and a chocolate torte before exploring the little park where elves are said to reside. The town was hosting a little Christmas market in the square and we stuck around thinking there was going to be a choir, it turned out to be more of a pantomime which was apparently quite famous, we grabbed a mulled wine and followed along for a little bit before getting the bus back to Reykjavik.

Having had a sweet breakfast we were both craving something a little more substantial and opted for Yuzu burger. Situated in a little food court, like a smaller version of Seven Dials Market in London, we ordered the Vegan Yuzu burger, fries and sauces of our choosing. It was packed with flavour and a really decent option! We were greeted upon leaving with a choir and we headed back up the hill to our accommodation via the supermarket where we picked up a few snacks in case we got hungry a bit later, as well as a couple of pizzas and snacks for our trip the next day.

The supermarket by our apartment wasn't big by any means, but had about 7 different vegan pizzas, plenty of hummus, crisps etc, as well as tofu, frozen vegan meats and plenty of vegan cheeses and dairy free milks. 

On the Saturday we'd booked a tour hoping to see the northern lights, we didn't manage to on this tour, but we did see the most incredible starry skies. If you have room I'd definitely recommend packing a small tripod for your phone/camera so you can do a longer exposure shot and capture more detail and if the lights do make an appearance you'll be thankful you do have this. I'd also recommend packing some hand warmers for this trip as it got down to -10°C. We had a lighter pair of gloves as well as heavier to make it easier to work cameras on, but it definitely is risky for your fingers which will be cold. We did run into a few people who saw the lights from the harbour in Reykjavik, so keep an eye out even when you're in the town - if they're weaker they may be more white in appearance but a longer exposure shot will reveal the green hues.

Day 3:

On the Sunday we did the golden circle day tour. We knew there would be stops for food but we weren't sure about the vegan options and often you end up taking time away from the trip if you're queuing for food. So we cooked a couple of pizzas and packed these in some foil along with tortilla chips, hummus and a couple of trek bars for the day. There were actually options at a few of the stops for vegans, but they didn't look incredible so I'm glad we opted for our picnic.

Our first stop was at Kerid crater, with a short walk of many many steps down to the crater, or you can walk around the top and admire the views with the surrounding mountains.

Our second was at Gullfoss falls, being mostly frozen the air was noticeably colder on this stop. It's one I would love to see in the summer, when the lower levels are open too.

Our lunch stop was at a geyser, where we sat on a bench and enjoyed our pizza - we'd gotten a 'ham' and mushroom one and a Mexican style one - the Mexican one was a firm favourite and I wish they sold it in the UK! We saw a few eruptions and got closer with the hopes of getting a video, you can anticipate when it's going to erupt by watching the water bubble over, my mum also said she could feel it in the ground. It's definitely worth spending the time by the geezer by packing a lunch, rather than eating inside for lunch if you can.

Our final stop of the day was the national park lakes, which we didn't realise we'd been to the previous night looking for the lights, it was breath-taking in daylight and well worth a visit. 

After a long day we felt like a chill night, so we got some additional snacks, finished off our pizzas and found mamma Mia on the TV. We had a glass of (non-alcoholic) ginger beer, as it turns out they have pretty strict alcohol laws and wine is only sold in certain shops, none of which were open at 5pm on a Sunday. But we ate, we played a bit of dobble and we relaxed! 

Day 4:

By Monday we opted for a lie in before heading to Chickpea, a falafel place before catching the bus to the Sky lagoon.

I ordered the spicy falafel pitta with kimchi and it was incredible, so flavour and a really great balance of textures, it had a big kick of spice too, which was perfect for the -5°C weather outside. My mum ordered a chickpea salad bowl and we both had their house made kombucha. 

We then got a couple of busses over to the Sky Lagoon which is the area's newest lagoon. We'd booked this over the blue lagoon prior to any issues with the volcano, but luckily we had as the blue lagoon was still closed when we visited. 

We arrived for 2pm and the lagoon is absolutely stunning, built like an infinity pool overlooking the sea, with a very natural feel to it. The water was perfect temperature and we also completed the seven step ritual which I would recommend doing. We then got a glass of fizz and found a seat in the rocks to watch the sunset. We got chatting to a few people and next thing you know it's dark and we've been there for hours. The sunset was incredible and the view of the stars wonderfully impressive. Laying back and looking up at 360° of clear stars, it was on of my favourite things we did in Reykjavik.

There are plenty of taxis outside which were reasonably priced for the 15 min drive back to Reykjavik at around £20-25 and definitely worth it if it's a both icy and dark around the lagoon. It was almost 9pm by then so there weren't a huge amount of restaurants still open on a Monday so we opted for Loving Hut, a series of franchise's around the world which often have an Asian cuisine. I had a spicy chick'n dish with rice and my mum the pad Thai. It was hearty and pretty tasty, but as you'd expect not the most authentic food, but it did hit the spot and I'd still recommend it. 

Day 5:

Our penultimate day we had a bit of a lie in and I popped up the road to an all vegan coffee shop for some chai lattes as well as a carrot cake and a traditional Icelandic Christmas cake which was like a ginger cake.

We then spent the day wandering around the town, through some of the tourist shops as well as vintage and second hand clothing shops. We returned to Yuzu burger for lunch, this time I ordered a side of kimchi and added this to the burger which really levelled up an already delicious combo.

For dinner we wandered down into town and it started to snow. Snow rarely settles in Reykjavik due to the increased ground temps from the geothermal activity, though it did get a little icy our final few days. We ate at Dragon Dim Sum and ordered a few different dishes. They had plenty of vegan options, including dumplings, noodles and donburi. Take notice when they tell you the aubergine and mushroom donburi is spicy though...after a ordering an additional side of rice, udon and the incredible creamy sesame sauce that came with the broccoli, we managed to enjoy some of it, and I love spicy food! The cauliflower bites were also delicious.

Day 6:

Our final day it was raining pretty heavily, so we checked out, and headed down the street to Emilie and the Cool Kids, a US inspired coffee shop with plenty of vegan options. The bagels were delicious, as were the chai and turmeric lattes. We settled there for a little and ready our books, watching the world go by. 

After wandering round a few more shops we found a Vietnamese place opposite our bus pick up spot for lunch and ordered wonton soup. It was flavourful, refreshing and I'd definitely recommend it. We took a final stop at 10 11, a convenience shop to pick up some snacks for the airport before catching the bus back.

 Our flight on the way home offered the best surprise, once we were above the clouds my mum spotted the northern lights. They were more visible through a long exposure shot, but it was the absolute perfect end to our trip.

Reykjavik was an incredible place to visit and one that I imagine would be a very different experience depending on the season and I hope to be able to visit more of Iceland one day, to experience all it has to offer!

Cassidy xx