A morning in Reykjavik, the capital and largest city of Iceland, brims with the vibrant energy of a new day dawning over the arctic. The heart of this energy is undoubtedly the bustling breakfast scene. As the sun peers over the horizon, painting the sky with hues of red and orange, the city’s cafés and bistros open their doors to locals and travelers alike, serving up everything from traditional breakfast in Reykjavik to international dishes with a Nordic twist. This article is a culinary journey through the streets of Reykjavik, guiding you to the 10 best spots to start your day on a high note.
The Reykjavik Breakfast Scene
Breakfast in Reykjavik is a melting pot of tradition and innovation, showcasing the city’s unique culinary flair. Icelanders take their first meal of the day seriously, and the vast array of breakfast options across the city reflects this. From cozy family-run cafés serving home-baked bread and pastries, to upscale restaurants offering gourmet breakfast menus, there’s something to cater to every palate and preference.
Icelandic breakfast often centers around hearty, nutritious ingredients. Rúgbrauð, a dense and dark rye bread, is a staple that you’ll find in many establishments, alongside proteins like hangikjöt (smoked lamb) or eggs, and dairy products like the creamy, yogurt-like skyr. For those with a sweet tooth, traditional pastries such as kleinur (Icelandic doughnuts) and vinarterta (multi-layered cake) are a must-try.
Over the years, the Reykjavik breakfast scene has also embraced global influences, adding a contemporary twist to their menus. It’s common to see variations of the English breakfast, American-style pancakes, or the trendy avocado toast. Pair that with quality coffee – Icelanders are among the highest consumers of coffee per capita in the world – and you have a breakfast worth waking up early for.
Top 10 Breakfast Spots in Reykjavik
Whether you’re a fan of a full-blown morning feast, or someone who prefers a simple coffee and croissant, Reykjavik’s breakfast scene has got you covered. In this section, we present a carefully curated list of the top 10 breakfast spots in the city. This list features a diverse mix of establishments – from hip coffee shops and rustic bakeries, to chic bistros and charming teahouses.
These spots have been selected based on their quality of food, atmosphere, service, and their ability to offer an authentic Reykjavik breakfast experience. Get ready to embark on an epicurean adventure as we delve deeper into each of these breakfast havens.
Known as ‘The Grey Cat’ in English, Grái Kötturinn is tucked away in a basement in downtown Reykjavik. With its dim lighting, book-lined walls, and rustic, homely ambiance, the café exudes an undeniable charm. But it’s the hearty American-style breakfast that truly steals the show here.
Sink your teeth into their famous pancakes served with real maple syrup and bacon, or opt for the bagels, eggs, and home fries. For a local touch, try their take on the Icelandic breakfast with smoked salmon. Be sure to pair your meal with their robust coffee, the perfect accompaniment to a leisurely morning.
As one of Reykjavik’s oldest bakeries, Sandholt Bakery is a culinary institution in itself. The moment you step inside, you’ll be greeted with the intoxicating aroma of fresh bread, pastries, and coffee. The display case is an array of dazzling baked goods, including traditional Icelandic rye bread, croissants, cinnamon rolls, and their signature ‘Sandholt bun’.
Breakfast offerings range from sandwiches and toasts topped with fresh local ingredients to more hearty dishes like the shakshuka. Their coffee, sourced from high-quality beans and expertly brewed, completes the breakfast experience.
Step into Café Paris for a slice of Parisian chic in the heart of Reykjavik. This well-established café is famed for its elegant ambiance, complete with sidewalk tables that offer the perfect people-watching perch. The breakfast menu leans towards the continental, featuring classics like French toast, eggs Benedict, and a selection of pastries.
Their ‘Paris Breakfast’, comprising a croissant, baguette, jam, ham, cheese, and a boiled egg, is a perennial favorite. Round off your meal with a cup of their excellent coffee or a selection from their extensive tea menu.
For coffee connoisseurs, Reykjavik Roasters is an essential stop. Known for their commitment to quality, they source their beans directly from farmers and roast them on-site, resulting in some of the best coffee in town. The minimalistic, hipster-chic setting forms a perfect backdrop to your morning caffeine fix.
While the focus here is decidedly on coffee, they also offer a modest but delicious breakfast menu. Enjoy their freshly baked breads and pastries, or opt for the granola bowl with skyr. Don’t miss their kaffitár, an Icelandic coffee tradition which is a treat to experience.
Brauð & Co
The vibrant graffiti facade of Brauð & Co is hard to miss in downtown Reykjavik. This artisan bakery is renowned for its organic sourdough breads and a variety of pastries, all prepared in the traditional Icelandic way. The open-kitchen layout allows you to watch the bakers at work while you wait.
Choose from a selection of danishes, croissants, cinnamon buns, and of course, their famous rúgbrauð. Pair your choice with a cup of strong coffee for a truly Icelandic breakfast experience. Despite often having a line out the door, the quality of Brauð & Co’s offerings makes the wait worthwhile.
Immerse yourself in the urban pulse of Reykjavik with a visit to Prikið, a landmark establishment that’s stood in the heart of the city since 1951. By day, Prikið serves up comfort food staples that make it a hit for breakfast, with dishes like the ‘Hangover Killer’— a towering stack of bacon, eggs, potatoes, and beans that lives up to its name.
Their pancakes, served with syrup and whipped cream, are also a crowd favorite. With its laid-back atmosphere, retro decor, and legendary status in Reykjavik’s hip-hop scene, Prikið provides a unique breakfast experience.
At Bergsson Mathús, the focus is on fresh, wholesome food that delights the palate and nourishes the body. Housed in a charming old building near the Old Harbour, the restaurant is bright, spacious, and welcoming. Their breakfast menu, served until 16:00, offers wholesome dishes that cater to various dietary preferences.
The ‘Bergsson Breakfast’— a spread of hummus, salami, cheese, boiled egg, yogurt, fruit, bread, and a pastry— is a balanced start to the day. The ‘Vegan Breakfast’ offers a similar spread with plant-based alternatives. Their excellent coffee and homemade ginger lemonade are perfect breakfast accompaniments.
The Laundromat Café brings a dash of whimsy to Reykjavik’s dining scene with its unique concept— a café that doubles as a laundromat. But there’s more to this place than its quirky charm. The café offers a varied breakfast menu that runs until 11:30 on weekdays and all day on weekends.
The ‘Dirty Brunch’— a generous spread of pancakes, bacon, sausages, eggs, cheese, fruit, and yogurt— is a must-try. Vegetarians and vegans will also find ample options here. Enjoy your meal amidst the colorful, eclectic décor and take a peek at their impressive collection of magazines from around the world.
Experience a taste of the Caribbean at Café Haiti, an earthy, family-run café located by the Old Harbour. Owner Elda Thorisson-Faurelien brings the flavors of her native Haiti to Reykjavik, offering a warm, cozy retreat. For breakfast, choose from a variety of sandwiches, toasties, and sweet pastries, or try the traditional Haitian dish, Spicy Eggs.
The star attraction, however, is the coffee. Sourced from her family’s farm in Haiti, and roasted on-site, Elda’s coffee is some of the best in town.
End your breakfast tour on a high note at Snaps Bistro, a French-inspired restaurant renowned for its vibrant ambiance and quality cuisine. The tastefully decorated interiors and the beautiful greenhouse-style atrium make it an excellent setting for a leisurely breakfast. The breakfast menu includes a range of pastries, toasts, and croissants, as well as heartier dishes like Eggs Benedict.
For a truly indulgent breakfast, pair your meal with one of their morning cocktails. Despite its upscale vibe, Snaps maintains a friendly, laid-back atmosphere, making it a beloved spot among locals and tourists alike.
Breakfast Foods to Try in Reykjavik
Icelandic cuisine has a distinct character, grounded in the island’s rich heritage and natural resources. While exploring breakfast in Reykjavik, here are some local dishes you should sample:
- Icelandic Pancakes (Pönnukökur): Similar to French crepes, these thin, round pancakes are a sweet delight, often served with sugar, jam, or whipped cream.
- Skyr: This traditional Icelandic dairy product is similar to Greek yogurt but with a milder flavor. It’s high in protein, low in fat, and can be found in almost every breakfast spread.
- Rye Bread (Rúgbrauð): Icelandic rye bread is dense, dark, and slightly sweet. It can be eaten plain, with butter, or topped with smoked salmon for a truly Icelandic treat.
- Hangikjöt (Smoked Lamb): Although more commonly seen in traditional holiday meals, you can find this smokey, flavorful meat in some breakfast dishes.
- Kleinur: These Icelandic doughnuts are a must-try. Soft, slightly sweet, with a hint of cardamom, they are perfect with morning coffee.
Our Final Thoughts on Breakfast in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is a city that embraces the old and the new, where tradition meets innovation— and this couldn’t be truer than in its breakfast offerings. From hearty, traditional dishes that have warmed Icelanders against the harsh Arctic chill for centuries to contemporary culinary creations that showcase local and international influences, the city’s breakfast scene truly has something for everyone.
Whether you’re grabbing a quick coffee and pastry at a bustling bakery before a day of exploration, or sitting down for a leisurely brunch in a chic, urban café, breakfast in Reykjavik is more than just a meal. It’s a cultural experience that sets the tone for your day. Take your time, savor the flavors, and immerse yourself in the rhythm of this vibrant city.
Reykjavik’s breakfast scene, with its boundless variety and zest, promises a delightful start to your day. Here’s to unforgettable mornings in Iceland’s charming capital!