Only the most dedicated nightlife junkie (or the extremely photosensitive) would venture to Iceland in winter, when darkness dominates. Summer, of course, is the time to go, when the sun hardly sets and Reykjavík's streetlife is most vibrant. A note to prospective clubgoers: Weeknights are usually as sedate as weekend nights are wild, so plan your trip accordingly. Those not interested in the bar scene should consider skipping town on weekends and heading for the countryside.
Hótel Borg 9-11 Pósthússtræti; 354/551-1440, fax 354/551-1420; doubles from $184. Reykjavík's best-located and most attractive hotel, full of restored Deco details and warm 1930's ambience. Within walking distance of just about everything.
Radisson SAS Hotel Saga Vid Hagatorg; 354/525-9900, fax 354/525-9909; doubles from $179. Ten minutes' walk from the city center, just beyond the lake, this modern chain hotel has comfortable if bland rooms and the services you'd expect: spa, shops, decent restaurants, bars, business center.
restaurants & cafés
Rex 9 Austurstræti; 354/551-9111; dinner for two $111. This 18-month-old restaurant-bar is one of the city's best. Terence Conran's ultra-polished interior is stunning, and the food is fantastic (don't miss the grilled lamb). DJ on Thursday nights.
Naust 6-8 Vesturgata; 354/552-3030; dinner for two $83. An old-fashioned seafood restaurant housed in a former warehouse near the harbor. The cozy nautical-themed dining rooms are filled with dark wood and candlelight.
La Primavera 9 Austurstræti; 354/561-8555; dinner for two $100. Reykjavík's best Italian restaurant, located above Rex, and similar in look and attitude. Expensive but worth it.
Kaffi Brennslan 9 Pósthússtræti; 354/561-3600; lunch for two $33. Lively café and bar next to Hótel Borg, with friendly and cool waitstaff, great sandwiches, and 97 beers available.
Kaffi Reykjavík 2 Vesturgata; 354/562-5540; lunch for two $30. Terrific lunches—lightly fried haddock, lasagne, hearty soups—served in a historic building with exposed beams and bricks, heavy oak tables, and white lace. Transformed after dark into a noisy, crowded bar scene (but in Reykjavík, what isn't?).
bars, clubs, and discos Café Ozio 6A Lækjargata; 354/551-8811. By day a chic café, by night a thriving bar scene, with a dance club in the basement. Gorgeous staff, gorgeous patrons. Opened in July 1999, and an instant hit among Reykjavík's young and trendy.
Kaffibarinn 1 Bergstadastræti; 354/551-1588. Owned by Damon Albarn of the British band Blur, this always-packed bar-café (in a small two-story house) has the feel of an English pub. Popular with musicians, artists, actors, and, of course, Blur fanatics.
Vegamót 4 Vegamótastig; 354/511-3040. Sexy, dark bistro and nightclub with no room to dance but on the tabletops—and the soulful weekend DJ's make this an imperative.
Astro 22 Austurstræti; 354/552-9222. The granddaddy of Reykjavík nightlife: a sleek two-level dance club where the action starts only after 1 a.m. Good luck getting in with those shoes.
Skuggabarinn (Shadow Bar) In the Hótel Borg, 11 Pósthússtræti; 354/551-1247. Astro's main contender for Reykjavík's BCBG. The atmosphere is 1930's—grand Deco ballrooms, oil paintings, velvet curtains, chandeliers—but the rich, well-coiffed crowd and the music are as contemporary as it gets.
Kaffi Thomsen 17 Hafnarstræti; 354/561-5757. On the opposite end of the scale from Skuggabarinn, this rowdy bar draws a devoted dancing crowd with fast-and-furious house music in the cellar disco. Not for the faint of heart.
Additional research by James Wilk and Charles Dragazis.