You can learn so much about a place from its food. The ingredients used to create a dish offer a unique insight into its culture, history and traditions. They even provide clues for things like landscape and what type of weather to expect. A virtual tour of the country sits right there on the plate, a story waiting to be told.
The very best restaurants tap into all these things and offer a chance to get acquainted with authentic flavors. From recipes that have been refined over the years to produce that showcases the talent of artisans, fishermen and farmers who make a living in their hinterlands, ingredients are skillfully combined to make works of art that often challenge and always delight.
As you’d expect from a place where a significant proportion of the population can be found in the capital city, Reykjavík’s restaurants dominate the country’s food scene. Yet, not every best restaurant in Iceland is found there.
We’ve shortlisted some of the most innovative and successful places for you to try. In your 4x4 campervan rental, there’s nothing stopping you from visiting all five.
Let’s begin our roundup of the best restaurants in Iceland in Reykjavík, the country’s gastronomic hub. Foodies will have no trouble finding excellent places to eat, but if you’re really dedicated to pleasing your tastebuds, then the country’s only Michelin-starred restaurant is a must-visit.
DILL is a labour of love for chef Gunnar Karl Gíslasson- so much so, in fact, that when it was unexpectedly stripped of its star, he flew back from New York to win it back. This exceptional restaurant prides itself on putting sustainability at the heart of everything it does.
Fresh ingredients, many of them foraged and most of them local, are combined to create an exciting and innovative menu. Adding an extra dimension to the dining experience, the kitchen team themselves interact with guests as they explain the thought processes and creative inspiration behind each dish.
The focus of DILL has shifted slightly from its Nordic cuisine origins to a menu that prioritizes Iceland and its unique landscape. This is not just encapsulated in the food itself: even the preparation and cooking techniques are carried out the traditional way. This is Iceland on a plate, in its simplest and purest form.
The restaurant serves up many surprises, though for travelers who’ve experienced the vagaries of the local weather, you could argue that too is typical of Icelandic and its unpredictability. You might be served smoked Arctic char with fennel, salt-baked rutabagas or pickled rhubarb chocolate. Whatever’s on the menu, you can be sure of one thing: you’re in for a real treat.
This harbor front favorite is another strong contender if we’re considering the best restaurants in Reykjavik. It’s easy to track down thanks to a vibrant shade of teal on its exterior cladding, and in summer, the flower-filled window boxes and harbor views make it a popular choice with visitors.
Inside, Kopar is just as appealing. The interior features cladding and exposed brick heavily, though the large windows overlooking the harbor ensure you’ll always have one eye on what’s going on outside. Upstairs, exposed beams, wood floors and buttoned leather banquettes create a stylish, rustic contemporary vibe.
The menu’s a strong one, with plenty to entice you to make more than one visit. On weekends, the bottomless brunch is a crowd-pleaser, but the restaurant’s versatility is equally suited to a weekday lunch or a leisurely dinner after the day’s sightseeing.
Capitalizing on its Reykjavík's Old Harbor location, there’s also a package that combines a yacht trip to nearby Viðey and Engey with a three-course meal afterwards.
Though seafood is a specialty, Kopar offers tasty dishes from land too. Start with their delicious seared tuna or a warming bowl of pumpkin soup. The main course selection will have you dithering over whether to order the langoustine and crab risotto or a grilled rack of lamb. One tip: pace yourself so you don’t miss out on desserts such as tiramisu and date tart.
One of the best restaurants in Iceland outside of Reykjavik is Randulff’s Sjóhús (or Randulff’s Sea House in English), an East Iceland gem located beside Eskifjörður. It takes its name from a Norwegian called Peter Randulff, who built a fishing station in this coastal spot in 1890. Located right on the shore, a sizeable herring catch was landed and processed here for several decades.
By 1930, the number of herring in the fjord had dwindled, and the fishing station became commercially unsustainable. Though they returned in the late 1950s, it was too late and the fishing industry had changed for good. Larger ships trawled much further offshore and a lot of the catch was taken to ports in North Iceland instead.
The building stood empty all that time until, in 1980, the Sjóminjasafn Austarlands (East Iceland Maritime Museum) bought a stake and oversaw the restoration of the building’s exterior and jetty. The venture was a success. The lack of an alternative purpose for an extended period meant that there was much to present.
In 2003, it became a restaurant, with a museum preserving the herring fishermen’s quarters on the upper floor. In summer, this place is one of the area’s best eateries, delighting diners with an authentically Icelandic menu.
Start with local specialties like shark meat and dried fish or pan-fried puffin and follow up with reindeer meatballs or catfish caught in the fjord. Round off your meal with a decadent chocolate cake if you still have room.
Located in Húsavík, this characterful place is a down-to-earth, family-run restaurant that’s at the top of its game. The owners have breathed new life into what was a rundown place. From the minute you set eyes on its bold yellow exterior to the moment your chairs scrape on the homely wooden floors of its dining room, a meal here will certainly cheer you up.
Naustið is a seasonal restaurant that specializes in seafood, so time your visit carefully to this charming North Iceland town if you want to try it for yourself. The signature dish is a spicy fish soup made with vegetables, but you can try all kinds of Icelandic fish dishes. the kind that goes perfectly with a cold glass of Icelandic beer. That includes hákarl (fermented shark), dried fish, mashed fish, grilled fish, salted fish and much more.
One of the best things about Naustið is the considerable attempts it makes to avoid food waste. The ingredients for each dish are listed on the menu; if there’s anything you don’t enjoy, you can let the kitchen know and they’ll leave it off. In a similar vein, they’ll do anything in a smaller portion if you haven’t a big appetite.
LAVA and Moss at the Blue Lagoon
You’ll be spoilt for choice if you intend to make a reservation to eat at Iceland's most famous geothermal spa, the Blue Lagoon.
At LAVA, floor-to-ceiling glass maximizes the stunning view over the spa. The food has to work hard to compete with that famous blue water and lava backdrop. Fortunately, the kitchen team know their stuff and make special creations out of fresh local ingredients.
This casual place doesn’t compromise on quality but doesn’t stand on ceremony. At LAVA, you’ll appreciate the relaxed vibe as you savor classically Icelandic dishes such as langoustine soup, lamb fillet cooked to perfection and cod or Arctic char that’s barely out of the water. If you thought you were only here to pamper yourself on the outside, think again.
Moss, too, is a real treat, tied to the luxurious Retreat hotel. The brains behind its exceptional tasting menus are the talented Agnar Sverrisson and Ingi Þórarinn Friðriksson, who know a thing or two about Icelandic fine dining.
The dishes that arrive at your table are remarkable, the flavor sensations incredible. Moss also boasts an impressive wine cellar housed in an underground lava chamber.
Reykjavík's top eateries
Dining out is sure to be one of the most memorable aspects of your Icelandic holiday. Want to understand why? All you have to do is grab the keys to your campervan rental and get to one of the best restaurants in Iceland in time for your reservation.
No matter where your journey takes you, you won’t have to worry about going hungry.