I’m often contacted by worried travelers that have read that supermarkets are scarce and difficult to find in Iceland. The truth is that there are a lot of supermarkets spread around the country but they are not all created equal. Reykjavík has a pretty good selection of supermarkets in all price ranges (well, cheap isn’t really a price range we are familiar with but cheap for Iceland is a range we know) but once you drive out of the city the options are somewhat lacking.
There are obviously more supermarkets and convenient stores available around the country but these are the main ones – listing everyone would be too time consuming and this has already taken a while. Below the map you will find a short explanation of each chain and if you follow the links you will find opening hours for most of them.
View Grocery stores in Iceland in a larger map
Bónus is probably the best known budget store in Iceland and it’s usually considered the cheapest. The interiors are quite spartan and the selection not great but it should fulfill your basic food needs. This is where the boyfriend and I usually do our shopping for the home.
Budget brand: Euroshopper
Like Bónus, Krónan is a budget store and is usually considered among the cheapest. The Krónan stores are usually a bit bigger than Bónus and have a bigger selection – especially when it comes to fresh meat and fish. They have a considerably big health section that will serve many people with dietary restrictions well (no gluten, no preservatives etc. ).
Budget brand: First price
Nettó is a budget shop that started in Akureyri and has just recently started opening up shops around the country (although the store in Reykjavík has been around for a while). It’s on the cheaper end of the spectrum and sells all kinds of other stuff like yarn and board games.
Budget brands: X-tra and Coop
Víðir is a new chain of stores in Reykjavík and the surrounding areas that offers fresher fruit and vegetables than most of the other stores and a wide range of healthier options. It’s a bit more expensive than the budget stores but still reasonable considering the quality. By far my favorite store.
Another chain that is only located in Reykjavík is Nóatún. It’s like the Rolls Royce of Reykjavík supermarkets when it comes to prices but with a homely corner store feel. They have hot food that you can buy by weight at noon which is surprisingly cheap but the rest is a bit pricey. Also have all kinds of gourmet sauces and spices and meat and fish counter where you can by fresh meat and fish by the kilo.
Hagkaup probably comes closest to being a hypermarket like you can find in many countries around us. It offers everything from food to cosmetics and home appliances. It’s also one of the best places to buy lopi if you can’t go to the Álafoss outlet or run out of lopi in the middle of the night since some of their stores are open 24/7. Food is expensive-ish – other things are mid-range.
When you leave Reykjavík you will notice that you will see more and more supermarkets that start with the word Samkaup (either Samkaup Úrval or Samkaup Strax) and less and less of the bigger budget supermarkets like Bónus and Krónan. They are considerably more expensive than the bigger stores and out of the two, Samkaup Úrval has more variety and shorter opening hours.
Samkaup Strax is Samkaup Úrval’s little sister and offers fewer items and longer opening hours. Both stores are a part of the same company that owns Nettó and Kaskó and it’s probably somewhere in between in prices. Most people that live in towns that only offer these stores will drive to a bigger supermarket to do their bulk purchase because it’s that much more cheaper.
Kaskó comes from the same family as Samkaup Úrval and Samkaup Strax and is the budget option in that family. Since there are only two stores, in Húsavík and Keflavík, I don’t know how the prices compare to others and I’ve never even been into one. I do know they carry the same budget brands as Nettó.
I want to say that 10-11 is the most expensive store in Iceland but I don’t have anything except my feeling to back it up so I won’t. It’s all over the place, even in Keflavík Airport, and it’s the kind of place where you pick something up if you don’t have time to go somewhere else but you don’t do your shopping there. You will notice when you go in there that the snack shelves take over most of their stores and most of them are open 24/7 (others till 24:00).
I have to admit that I’ve never been into a Kjarval store and know very little about them. So little, in fact, that I almost forgot them on this list. They are only in the south of the country and on their website they say they focus on products from the area and keeping the prices down. They are also the only store out of all of the ones mentioned in this post that has their website in English also.
Melabúðin, Sunnubúðin, Pétursbúð and Kjötborg are all reminders of a different time when little corner shops were owned by people and not corporations. They all have their unique charm, personal service and above average prices but it doesn’t matter because you feel like you are supporting an endangered specie. Somebody made a marvelous little documentary about Kjötborg that you should definitely check out.
Kostur is a privately owned supermarket in Kópavogur that sells a lot of American products that you won’t find anywhere else and in bulk. They are fairly cheap and align themselves with Bónus and Krónan in their marketing efforts. They have pretty good daily offers but in my mind they are more of a novelty shop than a place I do my shopping
This post and map were last updated on July 30th 2015