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a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

Reykjavik, Iceland
By Kæsú Nevasalmi

The ridiculously small, colourful and active northern capital city of Iceland is ever changing. There are loads of venues, bars, cafés and concerts to attend, but mind you: Reykjavík never stops changing. It is not the same since your last visit. New venues pop up and old ones change their names or move to a new location every other day (or that’s at least how it feels)! Especially during the summer the nightlife gets a little crazy with the breeze of warm air and the sun staying above the horizon nearly all the time. Visiting Reykjavík is like a treasure hunt in a way when you dive in to discover the city, and the good side is to have everything you need to find within walking distance.
 The best thing in quirky Reykjavík is the music, hands down. It feels like almost everyone you meet is in a band of some sort and you can easily find all the different genres of music in an Icelandic form. As the town is small in size, some of the venues have other uses during the day, serving as cafés or restaurants for example. This is why the venues split into two categories: The one’s where you go dancing, listen to DJs and drinking, and then the ones which are more concentrated on the live performances.
 Reykjavík might be tiny in size but it is never boring. It is exciting, vibrant and beautiful, and people who visit always vow to return.


Club venues


Faktory´
Smidjustígur 6, 101 Reykjavík
Being stable in the scene for few years now, Faktory´ is the most reliable place for party. Relatively big for the city they have three different music areas during the weekends and the upstairs can be used for concerts, which they host on a regular basis. Quirky outlook shouldn’t fool you as the mood is different every time you set foot there. And they are loud!
(http://faktory.is)

Kaffibarinn
Bergstadastræti, 101 Reykjavík
Just up the street from Faktory´ lies the legendary yet mysterious Kaffibarinn. What does the London Metro sign imply? Maybe not intentionally, but it is at least as hot, crowded and loud as the tube in London. Fantastic DJ sets that go into late night / early morning have the after effect of people dancing everywhere and anywhere there is space. It is difficult to get in though, as there is always a queue, so come early or convince the doorman to let you in with magic.
(www.kaffibarinn.is)

Dolly
Hafnarstræti 4, 101 Reykjavík
Trendy two floored venue with danceable electronic tunes. It seems somewhat similar to Faktory´ and Kaffibarinn, only newer in the scene.
(www.facebook.com/dollyreykjavik)

Harlem
Tryggvagata 22, 101 Reykjavík
A new bar in the heart of town with the same location as many other bars before. Harlem is compact and colourful venue where they try to have some event going down every night, also DJs and bands playing. They like their electronic music, but at least go and check out their artsy walls!
(www.facebook.com/HarlemBar)

Prikid
Bankastræti 12, 101 Reykjavík
Reykjavík’s oldest restaurant serves good meals during the day with a soulful playlist in the background. During the weekend nights they turn the music up and change the style into more street like with electronic sounds, even hip hop. It is a true chameleon.
(http://prikid.is)


Gig venues


Café Rósenberg
Klapparstígur 25, 101 Reykjavík
Every single night there is an event here. Mostly live music of all styles, so if you want to discover an Icelandic band, then choose one of the tables in front of the stage and tune in with a glass of wine. Sounds sophisticated, doesn’t it? It is still very entertaining and enjoyable.
(www.facebook.com/pages/Café-Rosenberg)

Kex hostel
Skúlagata 28, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Yes, it is a hostel, but they do have a bar as well. Interesting to pop in whenever they host concerts of up and coming Icelandic acts together with Gogoyoko online music service. These gigs are pretty popular though, so try to get a ticket early on.
(www.kexhostel.is)

Volta
Tryggvagata 22, 101 Reykjavík
New, up and coming venue around the corner from Harlem. Owned by the same crew that runs Harlem.
(https://www.facebook.com/VoltaReykjavik)


Bars



Hemmi & Valdi
Laugavegur 21, 101 Reykjavík
Essentially it is a café and a bar but every now and then it also serves as a mini concert venue. In this old tiny wooden house on the main street you can share or eavesdrop to a conversation as it is basically just a living room.
(www.facebook.com/HemmiogValdi)

Mána bar
Hverfisgötu 20, 101 Reykjavík
Moon bar is a good place to sit down, even in two floors, and enjoy the chilled out, murky atmosphere. During the week they don’t really boast with music, but they do have a piano if you want to go for it. Weekends they have DJ’s or sometimes surprise concerts, such as a jazz night. Good place to start from here when you still want to have a chat and then move across the street to Faktory.
(www.facebook.com/manabarrvk)
.
Microbar
Austurstræti 6, 101 Reykjavík
A bar, which has all kinds of Icelandic beers from local micro breweries.
(https://www.facebook.com/MicroBarIceland)

Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar
Vegamótastíg 4, 101 Reykjavík
A nice place to sit down and relax, listening to the bubbling Icelandic conversations. Although rather spacey it can be difficult to find a seat in here, as it is well liked amongst the locals. Be sure to taste some of their local beers.
(www.facebook.com/OlstofaKormaksogSkjaldar)


Record Shops

 


12 Tónar
Skólavördustíg 15, 101 Reykjavík
The no 1 record shop of the city. They have all the Icelandic music in a very cute two storey wooden house on the street that leads up to the big church. Another location is at the concert hall Harpa, but if you want to sit down and listen to all the records while they serve you coffee and carry you suggestions what you might like, then go to the original location. These guys are golden!
(www.12tonar.is)

Smekkleysa
Laugavegur 2, 101 Reykjavik
The other great record shop. They have a bit of smaller place but you can find all the essential and new Icelandic music here and also popular international music.

Lucky Records
Raudarárstígur 6, 101 Reykjavík
Specialising in vinyls and second hand records, piles of them actually! They also sell DVDs. They have just moved into a new big space. They have all sorts of genres but you can make some nice bargains here.
(http://luckyrecords.is)


Local Bands

 

Pascal Pinon
Two girls play cute music with recorders, organs and guitars.
(http://pascalpinon.com)

Sin Fang
This is the solo project of Sindri, who you might know from Seabear (another great Icelandic band). Beautiful lo-fi music with loops and his mesmerising voice.
(www.heysinfang.com)

FM Belfast
More electronic pop, but definitely worth checking out!
(http://fmbelfast.com)

Prins Pólo
They sing in Icelandic accompanied by the catchy guitar tunes.
(www.prinspolo.com)

Ásgeir Trausti
He sings like an angel and to prove this his first album won 4 Icelandic “Emmy’s” in the Icelandic music awards. More towards folk.
(http://asgeirmusic.com)

Sóley
Sin Fang’s keyboard player Sóley has a solo project, which is dark and murky but very melodic and serene.
(www.soleysoley.com)


Misc



Reykjavik Grapevine

The local English language newspaper has news from Iceland in English, music and concert reviews, interviews and travel advice. A must grab on every visit, but you can start by getting to know them online: (www.grapevine.is)

Gogoyoko
Online music service. Their motto being “free play in music” people can buy music directly from Icelandic and other artists. Bigger names include Sigur Rós, Bon Iver and Of Monsters And Men, but really it is the best place to discover the new and undiscovered music, as you can stream for free just by signing up. Naturally buying or donating is encouraged.
(www.gogoyoko.com)


If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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