Food Courts in Iceland: Part I

Food Courts in Iceland: Part I

Angie Diamantopoulou Author

Text by: Angie Diamantopoulou

Is there anything better than a food court? The options are seemingly endless! Even the pickiest eaters are bound to find something for lunch in a food court. So, if you are traveling to Iceland with a picky eater, you might want to find a place like that, with many options available to you!

Iceland might not be famous for its cuisine, as its traditional dishes can be summarized in three words: boiled, buttered meat. However, in recent years, there is a culinary revolution of sorts in Reykjavik, with international and fusion cuisines in its center.

What better place to try all the goodies that the modern Icelandic culinary scene has to offer than in one of the food courts in Iceland?

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about them!


Before we begin this culinary trip to the food courts in Iceland, let's first take a quick look at what you can find in this blog:

  • where can you find the best food courts in Iceland?
  • what is the best food in Iceland?
  • what is Hlemmur?
  • some tips from a local!

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food courts in iceland

food courts in iceland

From teenagers' favorite hangout spot in a mall to hipster paradise, food courts have had a colorful and even tumultuous history. After all, it's not uncommon to see stores in a food court be replaced all the time.

However, food courts are still a favorite, not just of teenagers and hipsters, but of...well, pretty much everyone. Corporate rivalry that leads to good deals? Check. ​Multiple options? Check. Carefree atmosphere? Check. Food courts tick every box in my list.

Now, food courts in Reykjavik are a completely different story. While food courts were thriving all over the world, Iceland seemed to be lagging behind; at least until recently.

Food courts in Iceland are a relatively new phenomenon, as in the previous decades, locals rarely ate out due to the high prices. Nowadays, though, with the colossal tourism boom, as well as Iceland's newfound financial prosperity, people in Iceland seek new and interesting restaurants all the time.

​This has birthed three new places, Hlemmur mathöll, Höfði mathöll, and Grandi mathöll (in case you didn't realize yet, mathöll means food court in Icelandic).

This first part of our guide to the food courts in Iceland will take you to Hlemmur mathöll, my personal favorite! So, without further ado, let's see what Hlemmur has to offer!


Are you a foodie looking for a culinary adventure in your trip to Iceland? Check out our top-rated Reykjavik Food tour!


hlemmur food court: best food in iceland?

hlemmur food court

Ask ten Icelandic people what the best food in Iceland is and you will get ten different answers. Do keep in mind, though, that the people you will ask will have most likely been raised on a traditional diet of boiled vegetables and meat, so maybe don't listen to them; listen to me instead!

Naturally, some of the best food in Iceland can be found in the capital. Reykjavik is the mecca of international, as well as new and interesting fusion cuisines. And Hlemmur food court is perhaps the best place to visit to get a taste!

What is Hlemmur?​
hlemmur bus station

Not so long ago, Hlemmur food court was, in fact, Reykjavik's central bus station! The building's past facade is virtually unrecognizable, as you can tell by the photo above. 

Once Reykjavik's central bus station relocated, Hlemmur was left empty. Therefore, the city decided to turn it into a food court, in what is perhaps the most genius move on the government's part in all of world history (at least for those of us who can't get enough of food).

With its convenient, central location, and its perfect size -not too big, but not too cramped either -Hlemmur is ​one of the best food courts in Iceland, if not the best. So, let's see what restaurants make it the best place to visit!

Bánh Mí​
Banh Mi Hlemmur

It's hard to find good pho in Iceland. Many restaurants offer modified versions of our favorite, which are more suited to Icelandic taste buds

When you walk into Hlemmur food court, you will find Bánh Mí to your left. You will also find some pretty darn good pho.​ With an amazingly savory broth, the perfect generous pinch of cilantro, and the option to add more spice to your pho, Bánh Mí is the place that gets it right. 

Skál!​
skal restaurant in hlemmur matholl

Deeply ambitious, extraordinarily creative, mouthwatering food. There is no better way to describe Skál! (Cheers! in English). The brainchild of two Icelandic chefs and entrepreneurs, Skál is an experimental bar and restaurant that specializes in traditional Icelandic recipes with foraged Icelandic ingredients

Foraging is becoming increasingly popular within Iceland's restaurant circles, and Skál is perhaps the restaurant that does it best!​

Kröst​
Krost Hlemmur

With one of the chefs behind it having earned his reputation and position in Grillmarkaðurinn (often considered Iceland's best stakehouse), Kröst is bound to impress you. French wines, cured meats, and grilled goodies take center stage on the menu of this restaurant. 

A little pricier than most food court establishments, Kröst is the perfect place to have a bit of a fancier dinner or go on a semi-casual date!​

Fuego​
fuego

It was a sad day in Iceland when the best taqueria in town closed. Thankfully, Fuego came to fill that void with their mouthwatering tacos!

With a limited, well-crafted amount of options, Fuego is the closest thing you can find to an LA taco truck in Reykjavik. Make sure you try their fish tacos! They are adored by every customer!

Jæja​
jaeja hlemmur

Looking for a quick lunch? Craving something healthy, that is not just a bunch of lettuce on a plate? Visit Jæja!

With their delicious, fresh, innovative salads, and their crispy sandwiches, Jæja is the perfect place to go to if you are short on time. They also have beer and schnapps on the menu to accompany your lunch!​

Rabbar Barinn​
rabbar barinn hlemmur

With a focus on the freshest ingredients, Rabbar Barinn brings you locally-grown vegetables straight from the farms. 

Grab one of their hearty soups or one of their scrumptious sandwiches, and complement your meal with one of their delicious, fresh juices!​

Flatey Pizza​

Fresh, simple ingredients and authentic Italian recipes. Flatey Pizza will transport you to Napoli with their thin crusts and buffalo mozzarella!

All the while, their pizzas will keep you -relatively - healthy, as the restaurant is very health-conscious and uses nothing but the simplest, purest ingredients!​

Brauð & Co​
braud and co hlemmur

An artisan bakery, Brauð & Co is renowned in Iceland for its organic sourdough bread and its cinnamon buns (or snúðir in Icelandic). 

While you are ordering your treat, you can watch the bakers at work, ask them about the process and the ingredients, or even make some small talk! Icelandic people love to talk about the weather!​

Jómfrúin​
jomfruin

The best part about Jómfrúin is not trying to pronounce its name. It is, in fact, their open-faced sandwiches

Jómfrúin's specialty and only offer on the menu is smørrebrød (Danish open-faced sandwiches). Their traditional recipes are combined with new, local ingredients for a delectable little marriage of Icelandic and Danish cuisine.

Te & Kaffi
te og kaffi

You have probably seen a few of Te & Kaffi's stores around Reykjavik (or you will if you have not traveled to Reykjavik yet). Te & Kaffi is a popular coffee shop chain in Iceland, with fair trade coffee and several sweet and savory goodies!

This particular one gets its coffee from a roaster just a few blocks away, making it super fresh!​


some tips from a local

I definitely recommend Hlemmur food court, especially if you are staying in a hotel or AirBnB downtown. ​You can't beat its location and accessibility!

I would suggest, though, that you try the restaurants (as well as any restaurant in Iceland) during lunch, as they have lunch offers! Iceland can be very expensive, and eating at restaurants is one of the biggest costs for tourists. So, it's always a good idea to chase the offers!​


some final words

What did you think about my guide on Hlemmur food court? Have you tried any of the restaurants? Do you have a favorite? Let me know in the comments!

And, as always, don't forget to share with fellow foodie travelers!​

Is there anything better than a food court? The options are seemingly endless! Even the pickiest eaters are bound to find something for lunch in food court. So, if you are traveling to Iceland with a picky eater, you might want to find a place like that, with many options available to you!

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