The Ultimate Restaurant Guide of South Iceland

Por Jonathan Duffy, Arctic Meta

There are many ways to get to know a country. You can visit, you can explore its monuments and attractions, you can spend some time with its people or even learn its native language; however, by far, one of the most rewarding ways to get to know a country is through its food. 

Iceland might not be the first country people think of when it comes to culinary greatness, but it’s certainly a country that can tantalise the taste buds. Iceland’s modern relationship with good food was actually born out of a great deal of hardship. 

When the first settlers arrived over 1000 years ago, the country appeared, at first, to be full of opportunity. The area around what would become the nation’s capital, Reykjavík, was covered in lush birch forests, and with absolutely no competition, the Viking settlers would have thought that they stumbled upon a jackpot. 

It didn’t take them long to realise that they were incredibly wrong. After they had cut down most of the forests to build their homes, they soon discovered that Icelandic birch grows much slower than the trees they were accustomed to in Norway. They also found out that volcanic soil and incredibly long, dark winters don’t really create the ideal conditions for growing crops. 

To say the early settlers were starving is an absolute understatement. 

The total population of Iceland was almost completely wiped out several times due to starvation, plague and natural disasters. Historically, Icelanders have spent far more time without food than they have with it. 

After the Second World War, an influx of foreign troops brought with it things that they hadn’t really seen or tasted before. The country started to have access to new foods. Their diet had traditionally consisted of fish and dairy in the past but now included more vegetables.

Flash forward to today, and the modern Icelander regularly enjoys a mixture of traditional and modern cuisine. The country’s famous greenhouses help to grow many vegetables in an effort to become more self-sufficient, and trade and immigration have paved the way for an affection for international foods. 

If you’re planning a visit to Iceland and would like to make sure you can taste the best the country has to offer, one area of the country to base yourself on would definitely be the South Coast. 

The South Coast of Iceland is home to some of the country’s most spectacular attractions. Its close proximity to the capital and ease of navigation make it a great place to visit for those who want to get the most out of their time in Iceland. The South Coast is also a bit of a hub for foodies. 

So let’s find out where the best places to eat on Iceland’s South Coast are, some tips for eating out and a little bit about Icelandic delicacies. Bring an empty stomach cause we’re about to dig in.  

Great Places to Eat Along Iceland’s South Coast

The number of options for eating on the South Coast of Iceland can seem almost limitless at times. Depending on your budget, time commitments and tastes, there’s something to suit just about anyone. Below is a list of options for foodies of all kinds to help you plan your snacks and feasts as you travel the wondrous roads of the south coast.  

The list of Restaurants is in an order from the south ring road from West to East.

Ölverk Pizza & Brugghús, Hveragerði

Also located in Hveragerði, Ölverk is a pizza restaurant and microbrewery that was opened by a group of locals in 2017. Ölverk combines a love for woodfired pizza and Icelandic beer to create the perfect casual dining experience for lunch or dinner. 

It is located within the famous Golden Circle tourist route, which includes a number of famous attractions like Gullfoss Waterfall, the Geysir Geothermal Area and Þingvellir National Park.  

Ölverk offers quality pizzas at a reasonable price, but they also produce their own beer and regularly host tours of their traditional brewery. 

Opening Hours: 11:30 to 21:00 Daily

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan, Fish. 

Kaffi Krús, Selfoss

Kaffi Krús is housed in a beautiful, unassuming yellow, corrugated metal-clad building that’s quite typical of the time it was built, 1931. This cosy café offers meals and snacks across a broad range. They specialise in pizza, pasta, sandwiches, salads, burgers and seasonal main courses. 

They also offer takeaway meals for those on the go, which can be especially handy if you have a lot of sightseeing to do. 

Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday 11:00 to 21:00

Friday & Saturday 11:00 to 22:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan, Fish. 

Tryggvaskáli, Selfoss

Tryggvaskáli is a restaurant rich in local history. The building it is housed in was once owned by Iceland’s first-ever CEO, Tryggvi Gunnarsson. Their menu has a focus on creating quality dishes from local ingredients. One thing that really sets them apart from a lot of other places is that they have a special brunch menu on weekends, which isn’t something you typically see outside of Reykjavík. They also offer a takeaway menu. 

Opening Hours: Wednesday & Thursday 16:00 to 21:00

Friday 16:00 to 22:00

Saturday 11:30 to 22:00

Sunday 11:30 to 21:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan, Fish.

Krisp Restaurant – Selfoss

Krisp is a newer player on the South Coast restaurant scene. It has very quickly become one of the top rated places to grab a bite according to locals. The establishment was founded by Sigurður Ágústsson who used to compete in international culinary competitions for Iceland. With his wife, Birta, they have created an incredible dining experience that is often described as a ‘Must See.’

Their menu is quite extensive. They offer starters, mains, burgers, wraps and sides covering a range of flavours all at a very reasonable price. 

Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday 11:30 to 21:00

    Saturday 12:00 to 22:00

    Sunday 12:00 to 21:00

Dietary Options: Great vegan options.

Ingólfsskáli Viking Restaurant – Selfoss 

Ingólfsskál isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an experience. This is a place specifically designed with Iceland’s rich history in mind. The restaurant is named after Iceland’s first settler, Ingólfur Arnarson and is modelled after a traditional Viking longhouse. 

The idea behind their menu and experience is to bring the old days back to life. Their dishes are inspired by Viking classics with a little bit of a modern twist. This is the kind of place where you can eat a hearty meal as you drink some fine ale from a horn. It’s also considered to be the best Viking dining experience you can have in Iceland. 

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 18:00 to 22:00 (Reservations are mandatory)

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan

This venue is also able to host Viking themed celebrations of up to 250 people in their main Longhouse, and 180 people in an additional Longhouse. 

GK Bakarí – Selfoss

GK Bakarí is a cheerful bakery in the seaside town of Selfoss with a bit of a difference. Just one look at their instagram will tell you that this place has a fun, young vibe thanks to its vibrant owners. The decor and energy of the place is something you would probably expect more in a place like Reykjavík. If you want to find a place that locals genuinely love, it doesn’t get more authentic than this place. Icelanders love their pastries and even have their own unique creations like the snúður which is their version of a cinnamon bun. GK Bakari makes incredible snúðurs and even boasts the best vegan snúður in the whole country. 

Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 07:00 to 17:30

Saturday 08:00 to 16:00

Sunday 10:00 to 14:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan.

Rauða Húsið – Eyrarbakki

Not far from the centre of Selfoss is the tiny seaside town of Eyrarbakki. About 200 years ago this place was the centre of all trade between Iceland and Denmark; today it has a population of about 550 and is a lovely place to visit if you want to catch a glimpse of Icelandic History. 

Rauða Húsið translates directly to ‘The Red House’ and their menu is stepped in the towns lobster fishing history. This is a great place to visit for seafood lovers who want to enjoy some of the local fruits of the sea in an incredibly peaceful surrounding. 

Opening Hours: Wednesday to Friday 18:00 to 21:00

Saturday and Sunday 12:00 to 21:00

Reservations are strongly recommended

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan, Fish. Also most of their dishes can be made gluten free, just ask the friendly staff when making a reservation.

Árhús, Hella

Árhus is primarily a campsite and accommodation spot, but they also have a restaurant on site that caters to those staying on their grounds as well as visitors. Their menu includes pub favourites like burgers, chicken wings and BBQ ribs, but they also offer pizzas. 

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 11:00 to 22:00

Sunday 17:00 to 22:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan, Fish.

Miðgard Base Camp – Hvolsvöllur

Miðgard is the Icelandic world for the realm that humans live in which is an appropriate name for this venue because it’s bursting with activity. The restaurant is attached to a hostel. Their menu includes some simple dishes done incredibly well. Their motto is ‘Feel Good Food’ and they offer some incredibly ‘feel good’ burgers. 

Miðgard is also known for its nightlife. The venue has year round events that include things like live music by local and international acts and karaoke. This is the perfect place to come for dinner and hang for a while if you feel like letting your hair down while on the South Coast. 

Opening Hours: Daily 16:00 to 21:00 (the bar is open till 22:00 or later depending on events)

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan. 

Gamla fjósið (The Old Cowshed), Undir Eyafjöllum

Gamlafjósið is a family-run restaurant in an interesting location. The building was once a barn to keep cows in the winter, and today it has been converted into a cosy dining area at the foot of volcanic hills. 

The menu has a focus on locally sourced ingredients, particularly meats. They offer a range of dishes from hearty to light as well as cakes and desserts, and despite the emphasis on cows, all their sandwiches and burgers also have vegetarian options. 

Opening Hours: Daily 11:00 to 21:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Fish. 

Elsdtó Art Café, Hvolsvöllur

Elstó Art Café and Restaurant actually began its life as a humble pottery workshop way back in 1999. It has since become an artistic hub and popular dining spot for the locals of the Hvolsvöllur area. The menu offers the standard coffee, cakes and snacks, but they also have an interesting selection of three-course group menus at a very reasonable price. 

The entire café has a ceramic themed aesthetic, and many of the handcrafted pieces on display are available for sale. 

Opening Hours: Daily 12:00 to 21:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan, Fish. 

Country Hotel Anna Restaurant, Ásólfsskáli

The Country Hotel Anna was named after a fascinating Icelandic woman who spent most of her life exploring the world on a shoestring budget and writing about her experiences. Today the Hotel’s restaurant offers many traditional Icelandic dishes using local ingredients and meats depending on the season. If you’re stopping for coffee and cake, their rhubarb pie or skyr cake is highly recommended. 

Opening Hours: Daily for breakfast 08:00 to 10:00 and dinner 18:30 to 21:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Fish. 

Hótel Skogafoss Bistro and Bar, Skógar

This restaurant is situated very close to the famous Skogafoss waterfall it’s named after. They cater to most meals, including; breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between. If the weather is nice, they have a nice veranda to sit on and eat while enjoying a view of the waterfall. 

This bistro and bar offers a mixture of traditional Icelandic favourites and international flavours. 

Opening Hours: Daily for breakfast 07:00 to 10:00 then lunch and dinner 11:30 to 20:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan, Fish. 

Sveitagrill Míu (Mia’s Country Grill), Hella

This entry should be considered as the little country van that could. Mia’s Country Grill isn’t so much a restaurant as it is a roadside food van, but it has an incredibly solid reputation for providing both tourists and locals with quality meals. In fact, they have been so beloved by the public that they received a ‘Travellers’ Choice Award’ from Tripadvisor in 2020. A particular favourite for many customers is the fish and chips. 

Opening Hours: Daily 12:00 to 16:00

Dietary Options: Fish. 

The Black Beach Restaurant, Reynisfjara

The Black Beach Restaurant is situated not far from one of the jewels of Iceland’s South Coast, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. The restaurant has a view of the famous Dýrholaey Sea Arch. Their daily menu always includes two soups, one vegetarian and one meat, accompanied by homemade bread. 

They also have regular lunch and dinner items like burgers, fish and pasta, as well as a fine selection of coffee and cakes. 

Opening Hours: Daily 11:00 to 19:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan, Fish. 

Suður Vík, Vík ý Mýrðal

Suður Vík’s name literally means ‘Southern Vík’, and it is an incredibly popular eating spot in the southern town for both locals and tourists. They have a diverse menu that includes starters, snacks, mains and also pizzas. If you’re planning on having dinner here, it’s highly recommended to book a reservation. Although this place might look cosy and quaint on the outside, it definitely fills up at night. 

Opening Hours: Daily 12:00 to 21:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Fish.

Halldórs Kaffi, Vík

Like many of the restaurants in Vík, Halldórs Kaffi aims to offer something to suit most tastes. There are some traditional Icelandic items like lamb and salmon, but there are also some modern dishes like burgers, sandwiches and pizzas. The ambience of the restaurant is charming and cosy, with some hints of the old Icelandic farm life thrown in too. 

Opening Hours: Daily 12:00 to 21:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan, Fish. 

Systra Kaffi, Kirkjubæjarklaustur

SystraKaffi definitely has a reputation for being a welcoming place to eat with an exceptionally diverse menu. They offer starters, small meals, mains, soups, salads, desserts and pizzas. Systra is also particularly interesting to those who love meat and fish as they regularly introduce seasonal specialities into their menu. All of this is within a beautiful space in Kirkjubæjarklaustur

Opening Hours: Daily 12:00 to 20:30

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan, Fish.

Freysnes Gas Station Café, Skaftafell

Gas stations don’t typically make it onto restaurant guides, but in Iceland, it’s possible to have a decent meal at the same place you fuel up your car. Freysnes Gas Station Café is a popular stop for people visiting Skaftafell National Park not just because it’s convenient but also because it’s a great place to get a nice bite to eat for a reasonable price. 

There’s a range of food options available, from salads, soups, main meals to fast food, hot dogs and snacks. They even have a selection of pastries, coffee and cakes. 

Opening Hours: Daily 09:00 to 20:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian. 

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Café

When visiting the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, it’s incredibly easy to stop your belly rumbling as you take in the beauty of the magnificent icebergs. The Glacier Lagoon Café offers lots of different refreshments. Their sandwiches are made fresh every day and happen to be their number one seller. They also have tea, coffee, hot chocolate, sweet treats and a delicious seafood soup that is sure to warm you up in the brisk fresh air of Vatnajökull National Park

Opening Hours: March to May – Daily 9:00 to 18:00

June to September – Daily 9:00 to 19:00

October – Daily 9:00 to 18:00

November to February – Daily 9:00 to 17:00

(the café may be closed on some public holidays)

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Fish.

ÚPS Restaurant – Höfn

Úps is the Icelandic way of saying ‘oops’ and this quirky restaurant is an unexpected golden find in southeastern Iceland. The town of Höfn has been traditionally known for its seafood and lobster but the owners of this restaurant decided to add some variety to their table. 

Their interior is the kind of place people thirst over on instagram and their menu has equal vegan and non-vegan options. Úps is basically what would happen if the coolest and most inclusive person you know opened a really fun restaurant. This is literally the kind of place where almost anyone can find something delicious to eat, plus as an added extra they also brew their own beer, make their own clay tableware and regularly host evening events. The restaurant is super vegan friendly with 70% on their menu are vegan options. Oh, and they’re also dog friendly. 

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 17:00 to 22:00 

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan.

Pakkhús Restaurant, Höfn

The town of Höfn is famous within Iceland for its incredible seafood, in particular its lobster and langoustine. Pakkhús Restaurant is probably one of the most famous and popular restaurants in the area. During summer, it’s possible to see people lining up around the block in this tiny country town, just to wait for the chance of getting a table. 

Their menu is extensive, but most people visit Pakkús to delve into some local seafood. Just remember that they don’t ever take reservations, so if you want to definitely get a seat, your best bet is to arrive as close to their opening time as possible. Some would say that waiting for a table at Pakkhús is a right of passage, but they do have drinks and cocktails, so there’s definitely something to keep you occupied while you wait. 

Opening Hours: Daily 17:00 to 21:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Vegan, Fish. 

Íshúsið Pizzeria, Höfn

The last restaurant on this list combines the experience of a quaint seaside village and Icelandic fishing with a good old fashioned pizzeria. Ishúsið Pizzeria is located by the harbour in the town of Höfn (right next to Pakkhúsið). The restaurant was started by two local brothers who saw a need for more international cuisine options with a local twist. 

Ishúsið offers quality pizzas in an incredible atmosphere. The building that houses the restaurant used to be the town’s icehouse. Just one meal here is enough to see why Íshúsið consistently receives rave reviews from locals and travellers alike. 

Opening Hours: Saturday to Thursday 17:00 to 21:00

Friday 12:00 to 21:00

Dietary Options: Vegetarian, Fish. 

Eating Out on a Budget

Most people who have done a little bit of research know that Iceland isn’t the cheapest country in the world to visit. When travelling often daily meals can be one of the highest costs after accommodation, but there are some tips to help save some money on food. 

It’s a good idea to plan ahead. If you know where you are going to travel for the day, take the time to look at what time or where you might want to stop to eat. Most restaurants along known tourist routes in Iceland have websites with their opening hours and menus available, so it can help to check this before you head out. That way, you won’t suddenly be starving and have no choice but to take a seat at a Michelin star restaurant

The kind of food you are looking for can also determine what cost you can expect to pay. In most parts of Iceland, places that specialise in burgers, pizza, sandwiches and soups are on the cheaper side of the spectrum. If you take the time to pop into a grocery store to buy snacks and basic items to ‘fill the gap’, this can save you lots of money too. 

Often when you buy soup or coffee in the country, they offer free refills, so it doesn’t hurt to check. Some hotels also open their breakfast buffet to people who aren’t staying there, so for a fee, you could fill up on breakfast and not worry about what you’re going to eat till dinner. 

You never need to buy bottled water in Iceland. The water there is basically the cleanest in the world, so all you need is a bottle and even filling it up in a gas stop bathroom will still get you ice-cold glacial water. 

Best Picnic Spots Along Iceland’s South Coast

There are almost an endless number of great places to have a picnic on Iceland’s South Coast, but there are a few things to keep in mind when picking the right one. 

The best picnic spots are generally located near attractions like waterfalls, national parks or glaciers. They are signed with an obvious picnic table symbol. The reason these places are better for picnics is that they generally are closer to facilities like toilets and trash cans. Most of the places you visit on the south coast are protected, so it’s important to remember to leave things as you found them and take care of any trash you have. 

Always remember that it is illegal to just pull over and picnic wherever you feel like, much like camping; it needs to be in a designated area. Remember also to check the weather if you’re planning on having a picnic lunch, and be prepared for the fact that you might end up eating your sandwiches in the car.  

What Icelandic Food Delicacies Should You Try?

There are many different delicacies you should try on a trip to Iceland. They range in looks, origins and taste from lovely and delicious to downright disgusting, but here are a few of them. 

Kleina 

Kleina is Iceland’s most adored pastry. It’s a little bit like a doughnut and is normally flavoured with cardamom or vanilla. This is the kind of thing grandma would bring out when you come to visit, and she wouldn’t be satisfied till you ate every last one. 

Skýr

This dairy snack is basically the Icelandic version of yoghurt. It can be flavoured or plain and is actually quite good for you. You can find Skyr in every supermarket in the country. 

Flatkaka – Rye Flatbread

This is like the Icelandic take on flatbread. It’s like somewhere between a tortilla and a pita, but it’s usually smoky in flavour. 

Icelandic Beer

Iceland has an incredible beer culture, and they use their incredibly glacial water to create some of the best draft brews imaginable. Beer was actually illegal in Iceland for almost a century until March 1st 1989. Whenever you are in a bar, check out what local flavours they have on tap. 

Brennivín

Brennivín is sometimes referred to as ‘The Black Death.’ It is a clear spirit that is supposed to be drunk as a shot, iced cold. It is brewed with caraway seeds which give it a robust and crisp flavour.

Hákarl – Fermented Shark 

This is probably the one food most people have heard about. Hákarl is fermented Greenland Shark. Many centuries ago, the early settlers discovered (probably the hard way) that the Greenland shark has such a high uric acid content that to eat it without fermentation would be fatal. 

The shark is fermented for a very long time. The end result is a very pungent smelling meat that, to most people, neither looks nor smells like it should be eaten. Hákarl is typically served in a small cube on a toothpick along with a shot of Brennivín to wash it down. Try it if you dare. 

Conclusion

There are an incredible array of options for food when visiting the south coast of Iceland. Most foodies would agree that the best way to enjoy them would be with an open mind and an empty stomach. 

Of course, basing yourself in a luxurious cabin with incredible views of the surrounding nature of the south, like the Panorama Glass Lodge, would probably make this culinary journey even more enjoyable. 

Disfruta de una noche bajo las estrellas

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