With food being such an important part of our daily lives and culture, is there a better way to get to know a new city than to eat your way around the most delicious and unique spots? We don’t think so!
When we decided to forgo driving Iceland’s Ring Road, instead mostly basing ourselves in Reykjavík, it was entirely down to the number of fantastic options based in and around the capital city, including the Wake Up Reykjavík food tour (which consistently ranks top on Trip Advisor). We knew that if we were to spend a fair bit of time in town, we’d want to know the best spots to eat at so booked onto a Wake Up Reykjavík food tour on our first full day in Iceland.
Tip: Try to book your Wake Up Reykjavík food tour towards the beginning of your visit if you can so you’ve got plenty of time to revisit your favourite spots over the rest of your trip.
From our initial emails with Egill, it was clear that this wasn’t your ordinary foodies tour. The Wake Up Reykjavík team are serious about fun and incredibly passionate about what they do. Started by two local friends keen to show visitors the very best of Icelandic cuisine (and we’re not taking about the traditional sheep’s head and fermented shark – though there is an opportunity to try the later should you choose), the team will help you eat your way around the capital city, munching on the very best Iceland has to offer.
As instructed, we met our host, Gabríella at the entrance to one of Reykjavík’s most beautiful buildings, Harpa. The city itself is relatively compact so makes for an easy walk, even in the snowy, windy conditions we faced. Be sure to rug up warm with lots of layers though as you’ll be in and out of the weather as you duck into each new location on the tour.
We started the tour with one of my favourite stops of the day – an amazingly flavourful lamb soup which was served with with delicious fresh bread. This soup is a traditional favourite in Iceland, varying depending on the part of the country you’re in – some areas serves it as a broth whilst in other parts of Iceland it’s more like a stew. This one was somewhere in the middle and the lamb melted away instantly – it was the perfect start to our afternoon!
Next came the opportunity to try the very traditional fermented shark. Due to the long, harsh winters Iceland used to face with limited resources, eating all manner of things became a necessity and fermented shark fell into this category – maybe not the tastiest thing around but nutritious and somewhat a right of passage for visitors to the country. Described as being pungent and somewhere between fish and cheese, everyone in the group tried it but me (someone had to take the photos, right?) and the reactions varied from “well, I wouldn’t do that again” to surprise at how good it tasted. I don’t think anyone was in a hurry to have a second nibble but it was great to be given the chance to try something so unique to Iceland.
On we continued to our next location where we sampled a range of local cheeses and meats. Not traditionally a cheese making country, Iceland is proud of how far it’s come in a short space of time and their cheese speaks for itself – gouda, brie and blue, all creamy and delicious.
They are better known for their high quality meat though and it didn’t disappoint – lamb, goose and horse (the later of which I didn’t try but Nathan loved) were all served up in bite-sized portions.
With a beautiful view of the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, we again sat down, this time to the most surprising dish of the day. Without telling us what it was, Gabríella encouraged us to dig in and though we had no idea what we were eating at first, we all agreed that it was delicious. It turned out to be an unexpected combination of bread and ice-cream – that’s right, rye bread crumbs baked again and mixed in with freshly made ice cream, topped off with fresh whipped cream and rhubarb syrup. It sounds like a strange combination (and it’s face it, it is) but it was amazing – flavourful, sweet and a little chewy – yum!
Already feeling pretty chocka, we were presented with our next treat as we walked back down town. Skyr is a local milk-based product, similar to greek yoghurt but when flavoured it tasted a bit like a creamy strawberry yoghurt. It’s high in protein and a real Icelandic staple for many families – when you visit Iceland, be sure to pop a tub in your trolly at the supermarket (or even better, join this tour!) but don’t be fooled into picking up the original flavour unless you like things on the sour side.
Marching on, we visited Reykjavík’s first fast-food stall where they dish up incredible hotdogs. There was an obvious line even when we visited mid afternoon and people there just to take photos so we knew we were onto a good thing and man were we right! Lamb hotdogs, fresh bread rolls and a combination of delicious sauces (one which was similar to a honey mustard and another almost like mayonnaise), what isn’t to love? When offered a second one almost all of us excitedly said yes – they were really that good!
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Icelanders love their lamb and for good reason – it’s amazing! They’re not just about their lamb though – puffin, whale, reindeer, stingray, goose – there’s not much they won’t eat.
One thing the locals are known for is lobster soup and of course our food tour swung us by one of the local spots known for this dish. Piping hot, served in a broth with lots of fresh bread and butter it was the perfect warmer everyone needed having braved the cold all afternoon.
After wandering through a gorgeous part of town, complete with Christmas lights and an iceskating rink, we arrived at our last stop for the day – a converted old pharmacy designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, the same architect that created the iconic church at the top of town. There we were served hot chocolate, tea and coffee along with the most amazing dessert concoction which combined apricot with caramel mousse and a hazelnut base alongside passionfruit and mango sorbet. At first it sounded like an odd pairing but our tastebuds were easily convinced otherwise. What a way to finish!
Throughout our tour we learnt a great deal about Iceland’s history, tourism industry, produce, education and political system and about what it’s like to live in Iceland. My favourite of all though were the stories from Iceland’s past – gods, trolls, elves and all sorts of mythical creatures add a touch of magic to a part of the world that is obviously filled with it.
Our guide, Gabríella, was knowledgeable, approachable and had a great sense of humour. She did an excellent job of bringing the group of us together and was incredibly considerate our our needs (she even surprised us with an Icelandic chocolate bar each at the end of the tour)! She was an awesome example of what we found Icelanders to be – warm, friendly and keen to share their passion for their beautiful country.
We whole-heartedly recommend Wake Up Reykjavík for foodie fun in Iceland’s capital. Together with other like-minded travellers you’ll visit the best restaurants, delicatessens and and food stalls around and with their their expert help, you’ll be set up with delicious dining options for the rest of your visit.
Thank you to Wake Up Reykjavík for so warmly welcoming us as their guests on this tour. Nathan came away saying that food tours are one of his favourite things to do on holiday now, so you know we were well and truely sold! As always, all thoughts are our own.