Sarah takes on Iceland: 5 places worth visiting in Grandi (The Old Harbor)

I like to think of myself as trendy. In reality, it is probably only me thinking this. Regardless, to fulfill this self-prophecy, I am always seeking out up and coming spots to hang out. I read about The Old Harbor/Grandi in one of the city’s newspapers and figured it was worth a visit. I was also eager to get away from the crowds of people that linger around the Reykjavík city center. Grandi Harbour is only about a ten-minute walk from Reykjavík’s main street, yet it feels very removed and peaceful. However, I doubt this serenity will last long because what I found in the converted fisherman huts and seaside restaurants of Grandi is a collection of top-notch establishments.

Although the area frequently smells of fish (I mean, this is a harbor we’re talking about), it wasn’t enough to deter me from enjoying the delicious cuisine of the many new restaurants. And even if you arrive with a full stomach, a clear day offers stunning views of the surrounding bay area, worthy of a stroll. I have since returned to this sanctuary of fishing boats and aquamarine warehouses to decipher which businesses are most worthy of a visit.

Kaffivagninn

When I first arrived at this waterside café, I was one of three guests. I ordered a cup of coffee and congratulated myself on finding a secret gem in the old harbor. About 20 minutes later, as lunchtime rolled around, the café filled up with people and I was feeling lucky to have snagged a window seat. Nonetheless, Kaffivagninn’s large windows stretching across three walls ensure that everyone gets beautiful views of the harbor. The glass display leading up to the register presents a great selection of deli sandwiches and pastries, but there’s also a full menu for breakfast and lunch. Naturally, with a waterside location, Kaffivagninn specializes in fish. You can choose from the classic fish & chips or a more sophisticated fish dish—can fish be sophisticated? You probably shouldn’t listen to the girl who doesn’t eat anything that once roamed the sea. But from the amount of people that frequent this café for lunch, Kaffivagninn must be doing their fish right. For other vegetarians out there, Kaffivagninn also offers a chef’s daily vegetable dish. So we can still be social and brunch with our friends! The café closes by 6 pm, so this is the perfect place to stop for breakfast or lunch before heading out to explore.

Naturally, with a waterside location, Kaffivagninn specializes in fish. You can choose from the classic fish & chips or a more sophisticated fish dish—can fish be sophisticated? You probably shouldn’t listen to the girl who doesn’t eat anything that once roamed the sea. But from the amount of people that frequent this café for lunch, Kaffivagninn must be doing their fish right. For other vegetarians out there, Kaffivagninn also offers a chef’s daily vegetable dish. So we can still be social and brunch with our friends! The café closes by 6 pm, so this is the perfect place to stop for breakfast or lunch before heading out to explore.

Kumiko

Kumiko is a Japanese inspired teahouse, and the creators weren’t messing around when they said Japanese. As soon as you walk in, your attention is drawn to the anime style woman painted behind the service counter. On further investigation, you’ll see the traditional byōbu separating the two rooms, Japanese lamp stands, and all of the employees wearing kimono inspired uniforms. Kumiko is known for its tea, pastries, and cake, so I chose the white chocolate cheesecake and took a seat by the window. Straying from the Japanese theme a bit, Kumiko plays a nearly exact replica of my indie folk playlist from Spotify. As I sung the lyrics to The Head & The Heart and Little Green Cars (in my head of course) I took tiny bites of my cheesecake, trying to prolong its mouthwatering satisfaction.

Fork bites can only get so small and eventually the delicious slice of heaven was gone. Nonetheless, I lingered for a while longer in the café, soaking up the mellow vibes of a peaceful haven far from the bustle of the main street. It didn’t hurt that they offer unlimited free WiFi. Just when I thought the decor couldn’t get any more Japanese, I took a trip to the loo and discovered the serene chirping of birds playing on a track. I’d never peed to the sound of singing birds before, but I can’t say I wouldn’t do it again. Kumiko is definitely worth a stop for some afternoon tea and sweets.

Omnom Chocolate

For those of you who like chocolate, wait who am I kidding, for all of you reading this, a trip to the Omnom Chocolate factory is a must. Omnom offers tours every weekday at 14:00 of their cute little factory at the end of Grandi. The tour starts with a presentation on the science behind chocolate and how that hard, brown cocoa shell turns into an edible bar. We got to sample raw cocoa nibs, nibs ground with sugar, a chocolate beverage, and four of their popular chocolate bars. Just as I was nearing chocolate comma, we were taken into the factory itself in order to see where the magic happens and sample even more forms of chocolate.

After feasting on chocolate covered malt balls and dark chocolate dipped in almond butter, I lost track. Then, once the tour finished in the Factory Shop, we sampled even more chocolate bars—their Spiced White & Caramel, Lakkrís & Sea Salt, and Coffee & Milk. I thought I’d consumed enough chocolate to last me a week, but I was already missing that Omnom creaminess halfway through my walk home. This tour is the perfect way to stock up on gifts for friends back home (their packaging represents everything beautiful about Scandinavian design) while also rewarding your stomach and getting a mega blast of sugar energy.

The Coocoo’s Nest

This small family owned restaurant is a part of the old fisherman huts in the harbor that have been converted into shops and cafes. It’s a place you can’t walk by without noticing the cute charm—a warm glow radiates from the floor length windows, adorned in white string lights. The inside has a casual yet fashionable feel, with cream-colored wood paneling on the walls and a pastel blue roof above the shack-like kitchen. Their menu changes based on the day of the week— ranging from sourdough pizzas on Wednesday and Thursday nights to tacos on Tuesdays. They have a daily happy hour and brunch every weekend.

Once you experience the cute charm of The Coocoo’s Nest, you’ll be tempted to come back and try every different menu. While I have neither the time nor the money to do so, I ventured out to Grandi on a Wednesday night and indulged in the margarita pizza. The sourdough crust is made fresh daily in Coocoo’s kitchen and you can taste the quality. My pizza had the perfect harmony of that savory, cheesy indulgence one expects in a pizza balanced by fresh ingredients and artful presentation. With the repurposed wood walls and candlelit tables, I felt like I was sitting in a California beach town café (so long as I avoided looking at the blizzard outside the window).

Valdís

You can’t have a pizza or pasta dinner without gelato. We don’t want to go offending the Italians. The old harbor obviously understands this rule as they’ve put Valdís, a gelato shop, right next door to The Coocoo’s Nest. All of their gelato and waffle cones are made in shop and they offer an impressive list of flavors, from Toblerone to Green Apple to Salted Caramel and Peanut. I didn’t expect this place to be too crowded on a cold weeknight, but the line was virtually out the door. I saw local families, couples, large groups of friends and tourists, so it was clear that every type of person could find a flavor they love here. I went in telling myself I’d only get one scoop (I mean, I’d just eaten a whole pizza to myself), but I was too tempted by all the options. Oh well, you only live once. I’d rather be glutinous but happy.

Sarah takes on Iceland

This post is a part of a series of posts where Sarah, our 23-year-old Coloradan blog-helping-elf, shares her findings during her 5-week stay in Reykjavík. Before Sarah joined us here in Reykjavík she spent a year in New Zealand where she got a taste for the sweet life of travel. After Reykjavík she’s headed south again to spend a year in Australia.

Read more of Sarah Takes on Iceland here.

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5 thoughts on “Sarah takes on Iceland: 5 places worth visiting in Grandi (The Old Harbor)”

  1. Anne Ritchey says:

    5 weeks in Reykjavik in October, 2015, and I missed Omnom?? I can’t believe it. We’d walked the entire area many times (or grabbed the bus if it was raining too hard). Valdís is great. On my third visit, I decided to get a large soft serve –too much (I ate it, though). They also have great gluten-free, vegan options.

    1. Auður says:

      I think they only opened last year 🙂

  2. Nadine Claes says:

    Sarah,
    You should also try the soup and the homemade pastry at café Retro. You walked past by them at your tour around the harbour.

    1. Maryanne in SC says:

      Indeed! the soup and the coffee there was magnificent!

  3. Kumiko Matter says:

    Coolest post ever because my name is KUMIKO!!! Was pretty rad seeing there is a cafe in the world with my name… although I wish it was around when I went to visit Iceland a few years ago. T_T Will gladly go back again though to eat there!

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