Reykjavik is easily the best place in Iceland for shopping. Like the population, Iceland's retail outlets are more densely concentrated here. Navigating your way through what to buy and where to find it can feel daunting, however, so take a look at our brief guide to Reykjavik shopping before you make any purchases.
Where to shop
The main shopping area of Reykjavík spills across three streets: Laugavegur, Bankastræti, and Skólavörðustígur. Laugavegur is the longest and best known. Throughout downtown, you'll find a mixture of stores, with chain outlets interspersed with one-off boutiques and independent art galleries. It's worth browsing first to compare what's on offer before handing over your cash. Don't rule out shopping while you're at other attractions. For instance, Perlan has a great gift shop where you can pick up a souvenir of your stay in Iceland.
Reykjavik also boasts a number of shopping malls. Kringlan is the largest in the Icelandic capital with in excess of 150 shops to keep you occupied. You'll find clothing, sports gear, homewares and techy stuff all under one roof. There's also a wide choice of eateries, a cinema and an adventure playground for little children.
Smáralind is another sizeable shopping centre, with more than 90 shops and businesses spread over three floors. As with Kringlan, there are plenty of restaurants, a cinema and a couple of kiddie playgrounds to keep everyone happy in between doses of retail therapy.
Many travellers either choose to self-cater or to top up their meals with snacks. That means most of them will find themselves inside an Icelandic supermarket at some point in time. One of the most affordable chains is Bonus – with its easy-to-spot logo of a pink pig, you won't have trouble locating one of its many branches in the capital region (there's even one on Laugavegur). Krónan, too, will help keep your food budget under control. It's another popular discount supermarket and again has a large number of stores in and around Reykjavik.
What to buy
One of the items you should put high on your Reykjavik shopping list is a lopapeysa. You'll see people wearing this traditional knitted woollen jumper all over the country. Lopapeysas can be found in many stores, but check the label to make sure it's a genuine article and has been made in Iceland rather than elsewhere in the world. A good place to buy an authentic lopapeysa is at The Handknitting Association of Iceland.
Alternatively, check out the range on sale at Icewear, a popular Icelandic chain that started out as a knitting factory in Hvammstangi more than five decades ago. If your budget doesn't stretch to a new one, try calling in to a thrift shop such as Verzlanahöllin. On weekends, head over to the Kolaportið indoor flea market, where you can also source secondhand sweaters at a discounted price. Particularly if you're travelling outside the summer months, it makes sense to buy it early in your trip so that you can wear it while you're here – you might want to check out the outdoor gear in Icewear or Fjällräven for the same reason.
Icelanders have a legendary love of reading. Some of the country's most unique customs, such as the Jólabókaflóð tradition on Christmas Eve, revolve around books. Reykjavik itself was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2011. As a consequence, you'll find a number of excellent bookstores in downtown Reykjavik, many of which have an extensive selection of English-language editions for those who don't speak Icelandic. If you've been wowed by Iceland's incredible landscapes in Perlan, a picture book makes a great souvenir, as does a collection of traditional recipes to recreate at home.
You might want to read the Sagas of Egil or Njal to get acquainted with Icelandic history or explore the country's relationship with huldufólk. Visit stores like Mál og Menning on Laugavegur, which pairs reading material with live music – check its website for up-to-date listings. Another place worth seeking out is Penninn Eymundsson, a nationwide chain with several branches in Reykjavik.
Chocolate and candy
If you have a sweet tooth, then you might wish to stock up on some Icelandic chocolate or candy before you head home. Liquorice is a firm favourite with locals. Try a bagful of Þristur, one of the brands that dominate the market – it's a fudgy, chewy chocolate with a liquorice centre.
Alternatively, shop for Kúlusúkk, which is soft liquorice coated in chocolate, or Djúpur, which are liquorice balls that are also encased in chocolate. Speaking of which, one of the most popular Icelandic chocolate brands is Omnom. Though factory tours have been paused, it's still possible to find this tasty chocolate in their store close to the Old Harbour. Among the variety of flavours you can choose from are caramel, liquorice and sea salt or cookies and cream.
Hraun is another brand name you'll quickly become familiar with during your stay. The name means lava, and this chocolate bar stuffed with puffed rice is an addictively tasty treat. And if you like biscuits, then you need to seek out Æði bitar, which are bite-size chocolate and coconut wafers.
Souvenirs inspired by the Icelandic landscape
As you'll have no doubt seen when you stopped by Perlan, the Icelandic landscape is packed with drama. The exhibits at Perlan cover a range of environments, from chilly ice caves to fiery volcanoes. The country's no shrinking violet, and it stands to reason that it commands the attention of makers and artisans as well as tourists. That translates into a wealth of gifts and goodies that are inspired by nature.
Make a pitstop in Perlan's gift shop, located on the fourth floor, which stocks a carefully curated range of high-quality souvenirs. Stores focused on design, lifestyle and art are also littered throughout downtown Reykjavik, so there's no excuse not to treat yourself, your friends or your home.
You'll find pieces of lava creatively transformed into beautiful jewellery in stores and stalls across the city; try Lava Rock Reykjavik at the Kolaportið market or upscale brands such as Aurum on Bankastræti. Portable products like skincare also tuck easily into your suitcase. Pay a visit to the Blue Lagoon store on Laugavegur for its geothermal seawater line, even if you aren't planning on visiting the spa itself.
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