Eating out in Reykjavík is great but it can also empty out your wallet pretty quickly. Shopping at supermarkets is a clever alternative, and here's the only guide you'll need:
Updated on December 31st, 2018.
If you are staying in the city center chances are you’re at an Airbnb or a hostel, or somewhere with access to a kitchen. With restaurant prices what they are, it can be tempting to stay in, cook for yourself and save a few krónur. Access to downtown grocery stores is pretty good, though the selection is limited and here we have mapped out the main locations, along with some specialty stores.
There are two things you should never buy when shopping for food. Firstly, there is bottled water. Cold tap water is perfectly safe and just as good anywhere you go. Second, alcohol. Alcohol is only sold by the state-run liquor shop (mentioned below), so if you really want to get hammered, avoid grocery stores, because they only sell non-alcoholic beer and wine.
Bónus is Iceland’s best known and cheapest supermarket chain. They have four locations in the city center area. The prices are low and the selection good enough to cover your basic household needs. Their logo is a piggy bank with a black eye (nobody knows why).
10-11 is probably the first convenient store you’ll find downtown. These neon-green, overlit tourist traps are something you should only visit if you’re in desperate need for something small and simple in the middle of the night. The name comes from what were originally their opening hours, but now 10-11 is a 24 hour supermarket, which is probably the only reason they’re still in business.
Krónan is another low-cost supermarket. Although slightly pricier than Bónus, Krónan also sells some specialty items and take-away. They have pretty wide opening hours, but their two locations are not exactly at the heart of the city.
Kjöt og fiskur (Meat and Fish) is a store where you can buy meat and fish. This butcher’s shop is not too cheap, but always fresh, and also has a neat selection of condiments.
Sandholt Reykjavík or Brauð & co. is where you should go for fresh bread. These two bakeries specialize in sourdough and both excel in their own way. It’s by no means the cheapest bread you can find, but in our opinion it is some of the best bread you can find.
Vínbúðin is the only place outside bars and restaurants where you can buy alcohol. Iceland’s only liquor shop is state-run, and is somewhat of a golden goose, so the government is not exactly eager to loosen alcohol regulations, allowing beer in grocery stores. Fortunately, they have a decent selection of beer and wine.
Prices is high by international standards, but in Iceland they are the standard. (Pro tip: If you’re not travelling too much around during your first few days in Iceland, but plan on drinking, buy wine at the arrivals hall at Keflavík airport. Wine there hasn’t gone through customs, so it’s less taxed and the price is lower.)
The best travel recommendations come from locals. Check out these Wanderguides from Iceland by locals sharing their travel tips and hidden gems.