Weekender: A Design Travel Guide to Reykjavík
Take in the design scene of wild, magical Iceland with these stunning Reykjavík-area hotels, restaurants, and cultural sights.
Harpa Concert Hall’s breathtaking façade, composed of more than 1,000 glass blocks, was designed to take full advantage of Iceland’s resplendent natural light. But the stunning structure—a collaboration among artist Olafur Eliasson, Henning Larsen Architects, and Batteríið Architects—is more than just a pretty face: It’s also a culture vulture’s dream, with four concert halls, exhibition spaces, a restaurant, and a bistro.
Of Oceans and Iceland
A recent addition to the city’s up-and-coming Harbor District, the 108-room Icelandair Hotel Reykjavík Marina honors the seafaring culture of the Icelandic people in the details—photographs of fishermen and harbor life from the Reykjavík Museum of Photography, a stuffed puffin collection, and books on Icelandic sagas. Despite the traditional touches, the hotel, designed by THG Architects, is as bright and modern as it gets, with all of the furniture and décor created in the country. Look for sculptures by the Icelandic artist Adalheider Eysteinsdottir dotting the lobby and near the hotel’s Slipp Bar.
Haute cuisine meets high-drama interiors at the Grill Market, built in 2011 in the style of the New Cinema, the historical theater and assembly hall that once occupied the same Reykjavík address. Chefs Hrefna Rósa Sætran and Guðlaugur Frímannsson embrace the local bounty in their eclectic dishes—think grilled redfish, smoked duck, and mini lobster and puffin burgers—making this the ultimate in Icelandic farm-to-table fare. The stark interior design by Leifur Welding builds atmosphere in the dark, rustic restaurant, with knotted-wood lounge tables and ornamental lighting by Tom Dixon.
Klaus Ortlieb’s brand-new hostel-hotel hybrid caters to both budget-minded travelers (custom bunk beds, guest kitchens, and lounges) and those who skew luxe (C. O. Bigelow bath products, flat-screen TVs, private balconies).
ION Luxury Adventure Hotel
The highlight of this scenic 45-room hotel, located within an hour’s drive of Reykjavík, is the stunning Northern Lights Bar: With floor-to-ceiling windows and modern, eco-friendly furnishings, it’s the perfect spot to take in the island’s natural beauty, cocktail in hand.
Reykjavík Lights Hotel
This recently opened hotel is a collaboration between Tark architects and the interior design team Haf. It boasts 105 sleek rooms that pay tribute to the rich history of the country, with each room and corridor named after a day and month in the ancient Icelandic calendar.
This upscale gem inside Harpa Concert Hall serves up dishes like fillet of lamb and slow-cooked arctic char in a stunningly modern dining room.
Built into a lava cliff overlooking Iceland’s famed Blue Lagoon geothermic spa, this restaurant offers traditional Icelandic fare with a twist—and a breathtaking view.
Designed by the architectural studio Krads, this roadside stop was inspired by old-school American diners. It’s in sharp contrast to the rugged landscape, which can be viewed through panoramic windows facing the fjord Borgarfjörður.
The i8 Gallery shows off the work of Ingolfur Arnarsson, who creates mostly white wall hangings done in primer and watercolor over concrete, as well as charcoal drawings on paper, that reflect the architectural space of the installation.
“I’ve Never Seen Figurative Electricity”
Abstract works by the late Icelandic sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson will be on display at the Reykjavík Art Museum Ásmundarsafn alongside the sculptures and installations of nine contemporary artists.
Katrín Sigurðardóttir: “Foundation”
Take a stroll on Katrín Sigurðardóttir’s handmade Baroque-style tiles—originally the artist’s contribution to the Venice Biennale art exhibition—at the Reykjavík Art Museum Hafnarhús.